Saturday, March 14, 2009

Seven Avoidance Indicators

Seven Avoidance Indicatorsby Ralph Nader on

Indicators of avoidance are what come to mind while absorbing the various rescue, recovery, stimulus and guarantee programs coming out of the Obama Administration to slow and reverse a splintering and shattering economy. If the Obamites do not act now when the political time is ripest, to put into motion forces of deterrence and prevention, the casino capitalists of tomorrow will again be able to de-stabilize our economy.

Follow that link above, and you'll see a list of seven things that should be happening, but aren't. Of course, when you realize that Wall Street was the biggest group of donors to the Obama campaign, as well as being the group of early donors that were so vital to getting his campaign started, its no surprise at all that tasks such as "comprehensive law enforcement against the Wall Street crooks" and "shifting power to shareowners and investors" (instead of the CEOs where it resides today) aren't being acted on at all by Obama and the Democrats.

What Obama and the Demcocrats are really doing is making sure that the people who stole money during the Bush years get to keep it. And that the people who stole money during the Bush years don't face any prosecution or prison time. On top of that, the Obama administration keeps pouring trillions of dollars down the rat-hole of making sure these Wall Street firms don't go under.

Sure, Obama and the Dems throw out a few hundred billion for infrastructure projects, and not all their tax cuts go to the wealthy. But they still give huge tax cuts to the very people who've gotten every benefit over the last decade or more. The screaming from the Republicans and the wealthy is only because they aren't getting all the money like they are used to, so they howl bloody murder when they only get most of it.

So, follow the link above to read Ralph Nader. The suggestions he makes are very sensible and practical. And of course, they are hugely different from anything the Republicans or the Democrats say, as Wall Street owns both those parties.

Obama Administration Abandons Enemy Combatant Label, Invents New Rationale

Obama Administration Abandons Enemy Combatant Label, Invents New Rationale

A memorandum filed by the Justice Department today reveals that the Obama Administration is abandoning the “enemy combatant” label for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, while maintaining that they can continue to hold them on the basis of executive authority.

Obama is rather pointing to the international laws of war as a basis for indefinite detentions, as well as the joint resolution passed by the 107th Congress in the wake of 9/11, which does not contain the word “detain” or “detention.”

Where Obama and Bush differ: They use different PR terms to describe the people they illegally detain.

Where Obama and Bush agree: Both try to stretch the 9-11 resolution to support the illegal detention of anyone they don't like.

Remember, it is estimated that beyond Gitmo, the US still holds some 26,000 people in its illegal, secret prisons around the world. Now that's a highly 'anti-American' act. The founders of this country would be shocked. Then they would swear their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to make sure it ended.

Then there's this ... Obama Justice Dept. defends Rumsfeld in torture case from

In a brief filed Thursday evening, Obama Justice Department lawyers extended many of the same arguments made by Bush attorneys -- that top government officials have qualified immunity from prosecution and that Guantanamo detainees do not have constitutional rights to due process.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss ...

American citizen critically injured after being shot in the head by Israeli forces in Ni’lin

American citizen critically injured after being shot in the head by Israeli forces in Ni’lin by International Solidarity Movement.

For those who might not know, the International Solidarity Movement is a group of people from around the world who journey to Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in order to stand with the Palestinians in non-violent resistance to the occupation. In this case, several members of the ISM were with members of a Palestinian village that is having the Israeli wall built right through the middle of it.

This raises the question of how much can be accomplished by non-violent resistance. A couple of posts below, you'll find Dr. Martin Luther King's famous quote about violence. And that is a philosophy that I agree with. But, there also seems to be limits to what can be accomplished with non-violence.

In order for non-violent resistance to succeed, it appears that one of two things must occur. One is that the opposition must respect it and not respond with violence of its own. If you read this article, you'll find that four residents of this village have already been killed by Israeli forces. Also, over the years, this is at least the fourth member of the ISM to be either killed or to suffer serious injuries from Israeli violence.

The other way in which non-violence might be successful, even in the face of violent suppression, is if the citizens of the country or the world see the violence and object. This was the result of Ghandi's march on the salt mine. The marchers were violently beaten by the English military. But the citizens of England couldn't tolerate the news that their soldiers were viciously beating unarmed protesters. Likewise, Dr. King was successful with his non-violent resistance in the south because Americans of the 1960's objected to the images of police dogs and fire hoses being used on non-violent demonstrators.

Today, this has two problems. The independent news media that used to report on the violence used against non-violent resisters is no more. When hundreds of thousands of people go into the street to peacefully protest, it is ignored or derided in the corporate press. In this case, a visit to CNN shows stories like what Prince William feels on Mother's Day without Diana, but nothing about this story. A search on the name Tristan Anderson shows no stories on CNN at all about this.

And when the news does get through, like with Rachel Corrie, another ISM voluteer murdered by the Israelis while peacefully protesting home demolitions in Gaza, the people of both Israel and the United States seem not to care about the murder that is committed in their name.

What to do? Well, first off, the rest of us can try to raise our voices in protest. Even though its officially ignored, we must trust that it really isn't. One thing that is for certain is that the day before our final victory, the corporate media will be failing to report on that coming victory and it will be telling us that our cause is hopeless and doomed to defeat. Only after we win will we see the magnitude of our cause and our victory. We must continue to act trusting that what we do will be effective, and ignore the corporate voices that tell us its hopeless.

But beyond that, there rises a question of submission or violent resistance. If non-violent resistance is met with violence and murder, that's the only choice left. When people are pushed so far that their very survival is threatened. Or when people have strong moral beliefs that they must oppose evil, then submission is not a valid alternative. The only course left then is violence.

In some ways, that's what Dr. King is saying, but from the other side of the fence. When a government decides to meet non-violence with violence, it starts or continues a death spiral that leads to more violence on all sides.

If the governments of the US or Israel of the rest of the world expect the Palestinians to end their violence, then they must give the Palestinians non-violent alternatives. When non-violent demonstrators are shot down and killed, then violence becomes the only alternative.

Meanwhile, we must try to do whatever we can to let our governments know that this is not acceptable.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Return of Socialism?

The Return of Socialism? editorial from Socialist Worker.

With all the Republican nonsense about how Obama's Republican-like or Republican-lite policies are really 'socialist', its always interesting to go hear what the real socialists are saying.

Certainly, activists need to be fighting for reforms in the here and now--opposing racist police violence, organizing unions, demanding that LGBT people have the right to marry and more.

But unless we ultimately uproot an exploitative system that gave us crazed financial speculation, enormous inequality, a gravely damaged environment and endless imperial wars, we will have to fight the same battles over and over again.

The socialist transformation of U.S. society won't come through a vote in Congress, Republican hype notwithstanding. It will be the product of countless struggles taking place now and in the future, which give rise to a militant, working-class left in the U.S. and internationally that can organize a fight to turn the very structure of society upside down.

Such a perspective may seem distant from today. But as the economic slump continues and the U.S. government rushes to take previously unthinkable measures to bail out the financial system, there's an increasingly urgent debate over what to do next. It's time to put socialism--the real thing--into the mix.

So the Republicans say that Obama is a socialist? Yeah, right. This sounds so much like Obama that I can't tell the difference .... not!

The Ultimate Weakness of Violence

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. . . Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. . . . Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; Only love can do that." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Budget deficit reaches $765B in 5 months

Budget deficit reaches $765B in 5 months by AP

Lower tax revenue and massive government spending on the bank bailout pushed the federal deficit to $765 billion in the first five months of the budget year, well on its way to hitting the Obama administration's projection of a record annual imbalance of $1.75 trillion.

The Treasury Department also said Wednesday that the February deficit reached $192.8 billion. That's a record for the month and up 10 percent from a year ago, but below analysts' expectations of $205.7 billion.

With seven months left in the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30, the deficit already has shattered last year's record annual gap of $454.8 billion.

As some one who was recently laid off, I have some recent experience in what to do when revenues suddenly drop. YOU STOP SPENDING!

If you read this article, what is the one word that never appears? "War" is the word that never appears. Yet, this is exactly where we could immediately cut back our federal spending. Obama and the Democrats have proposed a $22 billion increase in the Pentagon budget. This is in ADDITION to the money being spent on the war, which is still officially 'off-budget' for Obama and the Democrats. (That also means the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan isn't included in this $765 billion figure in the headline ... remember, the wars are 'off-budget').

Obama and the Democrats have also proposed spending over $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between the Pentagon budget and the supplemental war funds, Obama and the Democrats want to spend about $750 billion. We simply do not have that money. We need to end both wars as soon as possible and stop spending there. We need to cut the Pentagon budget drastically. We simply can't afford it.

And this $750 billion isn't even all we are spending on 'defense'. It doesn't include for instance the billions that the Energy Dept is spending making 'nuclear sustainment' our 'top priority'. It also doesn't include the intelligence agencies like the CIA or the National Reconnaissance Office, which spends billions launching and maintaining spy satellites such that the US can spy on anyone in the world. I think I saw Winston Wheeler (writing on estimate that last year the real 'defense' budget was over $1 Trillion. And Obama and the Democrats just keep raising every aspect of this, when instead they should be cutting hundreds of billions of dollars here. We are borrowing all of this money, and we simply can not afford it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009



Well, after a stink was raised, some people who support single payer were actually allowed into this 'Summit' staged by Pres. Obama. Not that they were allowed to actually speak, but there were allowed into the building.

In sum, I came out of the White House Health Care Summit with conviction that single payer that is, publicly funded, privately delivered health care, which removes the wasteful for-profit, private health insurance companies as middlemen, remains the only solution that can guarantee access to comprehensive, quality health care with choice of doctor and hospital, and reduce overall cost. Single-payer, an improved and expanded Medicare-for-All, is the gold standard against which all other proposals for health care reform should be measured.

Advocates need to focus on Congress during the next few months. We need to make the case that co-sponsorship of H.R. 676 raises its legitimacy as a gold standard, and that single-payer advocates should be called to testify at congressional hearings.

The one thing that gets me is that people elect Democrats, then expect them to act like Greens. Very few Democrats have backed single-payer in the last decade or so. This is striking to someone like me who grew up listening to Democratic rhetoric where 'national health insurance' was one of their key talking points back in the 70's. So, its no surprise that in a Congress full of these pro-corporate Democrats, single-payer advocates barely can get in the door, and have to beg to even speak at a hearing.

Face it, except for a few exceptions, the Democrats don't support this. That simply means that the majorities of Americans who respond favorably to the idea in poll after poll need to stop voting Democrat. The few Democrats who support this, we should of course support. But we should also realize that for most Democrats, the (D) after the name just indicates an auxiliary employee of the big health corporations.

If you are a part of the majority of Americans that feels this is the solution, then go find your local Green Party.


Here in CO, a group called Health Care for All - Colorado is pushing the state legislature to consider HB09-1273. There's a key hearing on March 18th if you happen be passing through this neck of the prairie.

Nuclear sustainment is top priority

Nuclear sustainment is top priority from Middle East Times

OK, most of this article is just double-talk. I notice that the word 'sustainment' in the headline isn't even recognized as a word by my spell-checker. Be wary of anyone who makes up big new words. They probably just want to steal your money.

The scariest sentence in the article is this one...

Thomas said nuclear sustainment, ... requires proper attention to provide "war-winning capabilities to the war fighter," according to a press release.

The ellipses are there because the reporter makes the article very confusing by referring to something completely irrelevant for half the sentence. Cant' tell if that's just incompetent writing, or a deliberate attempt to mask the very scary impact of the quote from the general.

The US military views nuclear weapons as 'war-winning capabilities', while most of the rest of the world views them as the ultimate terror horror that we wish had never been unleashed. And the US military feels these terror-horror weapons should always be available to 'the war-fighter.' Note how far away this is from the old cold-war notion that these weapons of mass terror were only there as a deterrent. The words 'deter' or 'deterrent' never appear in this article.

Our economy is crashing. We've borrowed too much money already, and now we need to borrow trillions of dollars more to try to prop up the collapsing financial system that's left after the crooks stole all they can. Yet, the US government and the US military view these horrible weapons of ultimate terror as a 'top-priority' for our nation.

If you don't agree, stop voting Democrat or Republican. Check out for a different vision of the world. Are you for that vision or against that vision?

Message from Charles Freeman

Message from Charles Freeman by Charles Freeman in the Wall Street Journal

The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United State

I'm old fashioned enough to believe that the US government should be following policies that help the American people and improve the lives and security of the American people. I would call it 'treason' for individuals in the US government to be working for the benefit of a foreign nation.

ADDENDUM: I've reread the last words a few times since I wrote and posted them. Its striking that those of us on the left who care about and love our country and try to move towards what we see as the best future for it, we are often accused as being 'traitors' by those who disagree with us. Meanwhile, we have people with power and influence in this country that set policies that favor another nation at considerable cost to our own.

Can anyone think of a country who's economy is in the tank, and that is borrowing money like mad, which could use $5 to $10 Billion a year to pump up our own economy and help take care of citizens who are struggling through tough times? That's roughly how much we give Israel every year. Regardless of what you think of Israel, its time to bring that money home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Open Thread


U.N. report says U.S. rendition policy broke international law

U.N. report says U.S. rendition policy broke international law from McClatchy newspapers.

A U.N. expert is accusing the United States and some of its allies of breaching international law for the so-called extraordinary renditions and subsequent alleged torture of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration's global war on terrorism, and is launching a probe into the detention of suspects.

Of course, this is still refered to as the 'Bush administration's global war on terrorism' even though the Obama administration deliberately refused to stop this policies in its executive orders.

This means two things legally to the Obama administration. One is that it is the responsibility of government officials to move to investigate and prosecute breaches of the law. This is a report from a "U.N. special rapporteur and expert on international law" to the effect that international law (and most likely US law) has been broken. This places an obligation on the Obama administration officials to investigate to see if crimes were committed, and to prosecute them if they were.

Secondly, since the Obama administration deliberately refused to stop this practice of extraordinary rendition, then it may very well be breaking international law as we speak. The Obama administration needs to move quickly and decisively to make sure international law is obeyed in this area.

So, we add to the list of impeachable offenses being committed by Obama. He is refusing to follow the oath he took to 'uphold and defend the Constitution'. He is refusing to properly investigate and prosecute people who've violated the law. His administration is likely continuing to break the same laws. Add this on top of his launching of illegal strikes into the sovereign nation of Pakistan, the refusal of the US military to obey the SOFA with Iraq, and his continued detention of some 26,000 prisoners in the CIA's secret gulag.

Officials: Iran does not have key nuclear material

Officials: Iran does not have key nuclear material by AP

Actually, the headline undersells this a bit. By saying 'key nuclear material', they act like they are just missing one of several materials. But the 'key nuclear material' that they are missing is the essential stuff that goes BOOM to make a nuclear bomb.

Kinda like calling flour a 'key material' for a cake. Or maybe calling 'eggs' a 'key material for 'scrambled eggs'.

This is the most important thing to watch in the discussions about Iran and nuclear weapons. Do they have the highly enriched uranium that they need for a bomb? Don't let the corporate media confuse you on this. There are two dramatically different levels of enrichment for a nuclear power plant and a nuclear weapon. A nuclear power plant require enrichment to around 3% U-235. A nuclear weapon requires enrichment to somewhere around 95% U-235. The two aren't even close. Doing one doesn't mean that they've done the other. Doing the 3% enrichment (referred to as 'low-level' in this AP piece) doesn't even mean that they are capable of doing 95% enrichment.

Inspectors should be able to tell if a facility has been used to enrich beyond 3%. As just one example, they could test trace residues left on equipment or in pipes and see if there is more U-235 than they would expect from low-level enrichment. I won't say that's completely certain, but it seems like a massive amount of work would need to be done to scrub an industrial facility to hide that sort of high-level enrichment.

The key point is that at no time has the IAEA ever said that they've found more than 3% enrichment in Iran. And here you have the leaders of US intelligence saying they have no evidence that Iran has gone beyond 3% enrichment.

This is the key fact to watch. Ignore a lot of the other BS that the killers throw around to justify another war. If you don't ever see PROOF, rock-solid proof, that Iran has gone to bomb-grade, 95% or so enrichment, then you should assume that its just the lying killers who used phony fears of a non-existent nuclear weapon to start that war trying to do it again.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Maples said Tuesday that Iran has only low-enriched uranium — which would need to be refined into highly enriched uranium before it can fuel a warhead. Neither officials said there were indications that refining has occurred.

See Also: Muslim Weapons of Mass Destruction by Eric Margolis

UN inspectors report Iran has produced 1,010 kg of 2–3% enriched uranium (LEU). Iran insists it is for energy generation. Theoretically that is enough for one atomic bomb.

But to make a nuclear weapon, U-235 must be enriched to over 90% in an elaborate, costly process. Iran is not doing so, say UN inspectors, though they have raised certain technical questions about Iran’s nuclear process. Some believe Iran may go up to "breakout position," that is, having the components to assemble a weapon on fairly short notice.

Mr. Margolis is mostly very accurate in this piece. But I strongly disagree when he says 1000 kg of 2.5% enriched Uranium is 'theoretically enough for one atomic bomb.' You can have all the 2.5% enriched uranium you want and it will NEVER be enough for a bomb. Because to have a bomb you need it enriched to somewhere in the 90% range. Since he goes on to say something similar in the next sentence, I'm hoping maybe bad editing got to Mr. Margolis on that sentence.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Guantánamo Under Obama

Guantánamo Under Obama by Stephen Lendman on

Despite Obama's EO, "conditions at Guantanamo have not improved" and continue in violation of the law. Since it opened in 2002, CCR enlisted over 500 pro bono lawyers to represent hundreds of detainees. This report is based on "direct accounts from (them) and their attorneys," as recently as January and February 2009. The results are deeply disturbing.

Current Guantanamo Conditions

In a word, they're unchanged, outrageous, and illegal. Inmates struggle for their sanity and say conditions are like living in a tomb. The Pentagon and Obama administration deny it and describe isolation as greater "privacy" and "single-occupancy cells." Conditions, however, "speak for themselves."

Much more detail in the article, so I'd encourage you to follow the link and read it. There is so much I could quote, but I'll stick to just this one other part that really strikes me.

'By its own admission (then and likely now), the US government (is detaining up to) 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests that around 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.' The Bush administration's response (at the time was) silence." So far, it's no different under Obama.

On February 22, the UK Independent's Stephen Foley headlined: "Very Bad News - Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base Will Be Obama's Guantanamo." It's to undergo a $60 million expansion to hold 1100 more prisoners, above the 600 now there, and nearly five times the 240 at Guantanamo. Other than occasional ICRC visits, human rights groups and journalists are barred from a facility notorious for the worst of mistreatment, according to the few former inmates released.

Twenty Six thousand prisoners. 26,000! Stop and think about that huge number for a minute.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

To Nationalize or Not to Nationalize

To Nationalize or Not to Nationalize on Bill Moyers Journal blog.

"People talk about nationalization – I just call it restructuring. Restructuring is part of capitalism. That’s how the airlines get restructured when they go through bankruptcy, or how you deal with the auto industry, how you deal with venture capital projects. Do the same thing with the banks... I think the notion of ‘nationalization’ has been a little bit of a PR spin. Restructuring is what you do in capitalist economies to maintain function and continuity. Nationalization evokes the specter of the state seizing the means of production, like Che Guevera is about to take over or something... The government just becomes the stockholder until such time that they sell the stock back to the market and get paid back a little bit for all the lost support that they’re creating for these banks." - economist Robert Johnson

US says 12,000 US troops to leave Iraq by Sept.

US says 12,000 US troops to leave Iraq by Sept. from AP

So, Obama's promise to remove a combat brigade every month has transformed into a vague promise to remove a few troops from Iraq six months from now. Of course, we have to wait six months to see if this token withdraw really occurs, or if we are then told the situation is maybe 'too unstable' for us to leave. Given Obama's record of breaking campaign promises ....

Meanwhile, what does the presence of US troops in Iraq mean for Iraqis ...

U.S. forces kill citizen, relatives say was executed from Aswat al-Iraq.

“The dead man was in his thirties, and he was shot in the chest,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
“The U.S. side of the story is that he was a gunman who attacked a U.S. patrol in central Baiji suburb (35 km north of Tikrit), and the patrol responded and killed him instantaneously,” he said.
Ahmed Abdullah, one of the dead man’s relatives, said “U.S. forces conducted a raid operation on al-Taameem neighborhood and killed the 37-year-old man in front of his family after entering his room.”
“The victim was detained by U.S. forces and released three days ago,” Abdullah added.
No comment is available from the U.S. side.

What's beyond me is how the so-called 'anti-war' Democrats can be perfectly happy with these sorts of deaths? It may be all a game to them, with their personal accumulation of power as their goal. But its life-and-death for others.

Obama lawyers argue to drop Yoo torture suit

Obama lawyers argue to drop Yoo torture suit in SF Chronicle.

President Obama's Justice Department defended former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo in a San Francisco federal court Friday, arguing that a prisoner formerly held as an enemy combatant had no right to sue Yoo for writing legal memos that allegedly led to his detention and torture.

"We're not saying we condone torture," department attorney Mary Mason said at a hearing on the government's request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Jose Padilla. But any recourse against a government lawyer "is for the executive to decide, in the first instance, and for Congress to decide," not the courts, she said.

"You're not saying that if high public officials commit clearly illegal acts, a citizen subject to those acts has no remedy in this court?" asked U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White.

Not unless Congress has expressly authorized a lawsuit, Mason replied. She cited the argument the Justice Department made in Yoo's case last year, with President George W. Bush still in office, that courts should not interfere in executive decision-making, especially in wartime.

So lets see, the Democrats in Congress have been remarkably steadfast for two years now in refusing to prosecute Bush era crimes. And the Obama administration has been strongly on the side of making sure there are no prosecutions of Bush era criminals. And now they argue that the VICTIMS of the crimes have no ability to seek any justice for Bush era crimes.

Remember, top Democrats were secretly briefed on this during the Bush years. They did nothing to oppose it. Remember, most of this came out into public during the Bush years, but still the Democrats in Congress did nothing to oppose it. Now that the Justice Dept and the CIA are under Democrat control, they do everything possible to make sure that the torturers are not punished.

And, the Democrats started extraordinary rendition during the Clinton years, and Obama has refused to end the practice. What this really means is that the US still tortures. Only, we don't hold the blade or throw the switch to the electricity ourselves. Instead, we give the victim to someone like Egyptian intelligence. Then we stand there and listen to the screams while they wield the knife or apply the electricity. Then we look all pompous and proud as we use the technicality that we didn't wield the blade ourselves to say that we don't support torture.

Gotta love them Democrats.