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Fidel Castro – Death of a Titan

Fidel Castro’s death removes from the global scene a political genius who transformed Cuba whilst securing its independence from the US, and who played a key role in bringing about the fall of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Alexander Mercouris

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The death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has provoked the usual praise of him from some and condemnation of him from others. 

What no one denies is the colossal impact he has had, not just on his own country but on the world.

This fact bears repeating because it is so remarkable.  Cuba – the country which Fidel Castro led – is small (its current population is 11 million) and relatively poor.  It has no great wealth of natural resources, and no great industries.  At the time Fidel Castro came to power its social services were primitive, its school and health systems hugely unbalanced and undeveloped, and much of its population was illiterate. 

By no conceivable stretch of the imagination is Cuba a Great Power, and before Fidel Castro became its leader it occurred to no one to think of it as one.

That the leader of such a small country was able to have such an extraordinary impact on the world stage is little short of astonishing, and says a huge amount about Fidel Castro’s personality as incidentally it does about Cuba and about the revolution he led. 

Suffice to say that by comparison the nations led by Mao Zedong, Ho Chih Minh, Ruhollah Khomenei and Nelson Mandela – the four other great revolutionary leaders of the post Second World War world – China, Vietnam, Iran and South Africa – are by comparison with Cuba all giants (in China’s case a titan) and it is not therefore surprising if their revolutionary leaders were therefore able to command world attention.

It is true but it is also trite to say that one reason why Fidel Castro and Cuba attracted so much attention was because in the 1960s they became the focus of the Cold War, with the USA and USSR almost going to war over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis on 1962.

It is trite because Cuba only became so important in the Cold War because Fidel Castro made it so. 

There have been many other left wing and revolutionary leaders in the Caribbean and Latin America before and after Fidel Castro.  None of them – not even Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez – have ever come close to matching Fidel Castro’s political stature, or managed to make their countries the centre of superpower conflict in the same way.

The reason Fidel Castro succeeded in doing this was because he was prepared to do things in the Caribbean and Latin America – the US’s backyard – that no other Caribbean or Latin American leader has been prepared to do.  Unlike them he carried out in the 1960s a genuine revolutionary transformation of Cuban society, something that no other Caribbean or Latin American leader has ever done.

What that means in practice is that there is no institutional continuity between pre-Castro Cuba and the Cuba of today. 

The army, police, state bureaucracy, media and judiciary, are completely different, the wealth – including the lands and factories – of the old Cuban oligarchy, has been subjected to a comprehensive revolutionary expropriation, and the economy, health and education systems have been entirely taken over and recreated in Fidel Castro’s own image.

To say that this was controversial would be a gigantic understatement.  In fact it remains the main charge and grievance against Fidel Castro of the people he displaced to this day, and explains the relentless quality of their hostility to him.

It is also the reason for the US embargo. 

The revolutionary changes Fidel Castro carried out in Cuba in the 1960s made it impossible for his government and revolution to be reversed internally – the fate of every single other Caribbean and Latin American revolution before and since – because it deprived the US of the usual tools it uses to reverse such revolutions. 

The US – which never tolerates anything that remotely resembles revolutionary change in its Caribbean and Latin American backyard for very long – has been struggling to come up with a response ever since. 

The embargo it imposed on Cuba was one such attempt at a response.  Though it long ago visibly failed, the US’s habitual obstinacy and petulance and the powerful vested interests which support the embargo mean that it has continued ever since.

To say that it was the revolutionary transformation of Cuban society that Fidel Castro carried out in the 1960s that accounts for his survival and success however begs the question of how it was done?

Part of the answer undoubtedly lies within Fidel Castro’s personality.  It is clear that he possessed to the highest degree the clarity of vision, the determination and the unsentimental ruthlessness that no revolutionary leader can succeed without.

It is however important to say that Fidel Castro was able to do it because of the support of Cuban society.  The reason for that is in part because of a peculiar feature of the Cuban revolution, which is bound up with Cuba’s unusual relationship to the US.

I discussed all this two years ago in an article I wrote for Sputnik, and I will set it out here again

“The breakdown in relations between the United States and Cuba was the consequence of the Castro Revolution of 1959. This was a revolution launched from the countryside against a corrupt oligarchic elite based in Havana.

That elite in turn had extremely close connections with the United States. These extended back decades to Cuba’s liberation war against Spain in the 1890s. The United States intervened in that war in a manner that achieved for it a dominant position in Cuba right up to the point of Castro’s revolution in 1959. It would not be an exaggeration to say that throughout this period Cuba was essentially a protectorate of the United States. 

It should be clarified that this was a relationship that differed significantly from the one the United States has with nearly all other Latin American countries. The United States has been the dominant political influence — in effect the not so silent partner — in the political system of every Latin American state for most of the last century. However in no other Latin American state or country, save Panama and Puerto Rico, has US political engagement been so direct and open as it was in Cuba.

This form of US domination had important practical significance. Not only did the United States acquire a major military base at Guantánamo Bay (which it retains still) but it achieved total domination of Cuba’s economy and political system in a way that made both in effect appendages of the economy and political system of the United States.

As is well-known Cuba gradually evolved into an important playground for the American rich and not so rich. From the 1920s to the 1950s Havana became a US holiday and gambling centre to rival Miami and later Las Vegas. Moreover, many wealthy Americans had second homes there. These included the writer Ernest Hemingway and the wealthy Dupont family whose former villa Xanadu was one of the inspirations for the palace of that name in the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. It remains a landmark in the holiday resort of Varadero to this day. 

This was the period when the Tropicana nightclub in Havana achieved its heyday, when the Capitolio building in Havana was built in direct imitation of the Capitol in Washington, when the US Hershey chocolate company built an electric railway to service its sugar plantations and when Havana became a byword for tropical hedonism and vice.

This US political and economic control went together with considerable corruption. Its status as a protectorate was incompatible with democracy and at no time before the Castro Revolution in 1959 was Cuba in any true sense one. At the time of the Revolution Cuba was actually a dictatorship led by a former staff Sergeant Fulgencio Batista. 

Behind the facade of a dictatorship the true power in Cuba actually rested, as it had always done, in an oligarchy of wealthy families (some tracing their origins back to the period of Spanish rule), the military, the US embassy and US businessmen, several of whom were well known gangsters.

The two key figures amongst the latter were the mobsters Meyer Lansky and Santos Trafficante, with the former often regarded as the true ruler of Cuba during this period.

The immediate pre-revolution period in Cuba was one of chronic impoverishment and neglect of the Cuban countryside combined with a frenetic construction boom in Havana itself.

This period when the Tropicana nightclub in Havana achieved its heyday and when Havana became a byword for tropical hedonism and prostitution was also a period of growing inequality and of social unrest. 

In fairness it was also a time of considerable cultural achievement, of the emergence in Havana of a substantial middle class and of the construction of a highway system of a sort unknown at this time in other Latin American states.

These intense connections between Cuba and the United States explain much about the subsequent period of protracted hostility. 

For the Cubans many of their societal problems became explicable by reference to their subordinate position to the United States, which to a proud people was humiliating and exploitative. The Castro Revolution was in a sense Cuba’s declaration of independence from the United States.

(Bold Italics added)

In the same article I discussed the various US attempts to overthrow Fidel Castro and how – precisely because the Cuban revolution was effectively Cuba’s declaration of independence from the US – they actually consolidated support for Fidel Castro and his revolutionary government

“The consequence has been five decades of struggle by the United States to bring Cuba back under its control. This has involved an economic blockade and unrelenting attempts to destabilise and overthrow the Cuban government. 

On occasion this had had its farcical aspects such as the plot to murder Fidel Castro with an exploding seashell or the recent attempt to recruit Cuban hip-hop artists in a plot to overthrow the government. This should not however detract from the enormous material and psychological damage done to Cuba.

The US economic and political war against Cuba has been further extended by the powerful vested interests in its perpetuation.

Anti-Castro groups managed to achieve political control of the Cuban community in the United States in the 1960s and the perpetuation of the US’s undeclared war against Cuba served both to cement their control of that community and their political influence within the United States.  Allied to various political and economic groups in the United States that were also opposed to reconciliation for ideological, economic or political reasons, they formed a powerful political lobby resisting any rapprochement between the two countries. 

However, the conflict between Cuba and the United States also serves as a case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable obstacle. 

Precisely because the Cuban revolution was in a sense Cuba’s declaration of independence from the United States, US political pressure upon Cuba in the end served to consolidate support for the Cuban government rather than undermine it.

(bold italics added)

It is of course also true – as I also discussed in this article – that Fidel Castro and Cuba could not have won through without the critical support in the 1960s and 1970s of the USSR. 

However saying this, though true, is also trite, because the reason the USSR was willing to commit itself to Cuba in the way it did – and which it never did to any other Caribbean or Latin American revolution – was precisely because of the comprehensive revolutionary change that Fidel Castro carried out in Cuba, which showed to the USSR that Cuba’s revolution would be lasting and was for real.

Fidel Castro’s genius was that he was not only able to secure this Soviet support to carry out revolutionary change within Cuba, but that he was also able to leverage the USSR’s support to carry out revolutionary change in southern Africa.

The importance of Cuba’s involvement in the wars against the apartheid regime in Angola and Namibia has always been recognised by the leadership of the ANC (including by Nelson Mandela himself), though in the West it has gone completely unacknowledged, and is disputed by some people in South Africa itself. 

My opinion, having personally discussed this issue with eyewitnesses of the fighting in Angola and with people involved in the anti-apartheid struggle, is that its importance cannot be overestimated, and that the Cuban victory at Cuito Cuanavale in 1987 was crucial – as Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela and many others have always said it was – in acting as the catalyst for the end of the apartheid regime.

To be clear that regime would sooner or later have fallen anyway.  Fidel Castro’s and Cuba’s intervention were however decisive in causing it to fall when it did.  Given that the apartheid regime’s further perpetuation into the 1990s would have been a total disaster for the people of southern Africa, that is something that they – and the rest of the world – have huge cause to be grateful to Fidel Castro for.

As Fidel Castro on numerous occasions admitted, Cuba’s intervention in the wars in southern Africa could not have happened without the support of the USSR.  It was Fidel Castro’s brilliant skill in obtaining that support, and the outstanding use he made of it, which was however decisive.  Since the USSR was a superpower, it was Fidel Castro’s skill in leveraging its support which for a time made Cuba a Great Power.

In recognising the colossal scale of Fidel Castro’s achievement, it is however also necessary to admit that his revolution has run its course, and that it did so some time ago.

Though the revolution has transformed Cuba – especially its formerly impoverished countryside – and has provided Cuba with what are by any standard exceptional health and education systems, the degree of political and social control Fidel Castro was forced to impose on Cuban society in order to safeguard his revolution has by all accounts been causing increasing frustration within Cuba itself, as an immeasurably better educated, healthier and far more self-confident generation of younger Cubans increasingly feels – whether rightly or wrongly – that the existing system does not give full scope to them to develop their abilities.

Despite perennial Western criticisms of Cuba’s human rights record, Fidel Castro never carried out  the sort of Terror in Cuba that has been such a feature of other revolutions carried out elsewhere, and in a region where political repression continues to be common, and where life is still cheap, life in Cuba under Fidel Castro has been immeasurably safer and more secure for the vast majority of Cuba’s people than it has been in any of Cuba’s neighbours.

Nonetheless the great challenge for Cuba today is to move forward, despite likely continued US hostility, in order to make Cuba a freer and less controlled society – one better adapted to the present needs of its people – whilst preserving its independence, and the massive social gains of Fidel Castro’s revolution. 

That is something that Cuba almost certainly can achieve but which – as Fidel Castro always knew –  given Cuba’s vulnerability and limited resources, it can only achieve with external help. 

The huge changes underway in the international system mean that the potential for such help is now there.  Already in response to Fidel Castro’s death there are signs of a willingness to provide it.

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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative


The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.


Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.

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Via Zerohedge


Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Via Paul Craig Roberts…


Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50932.htm

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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