February 27, 2018

Common Sense Gun Control


This is a post I never wanted to write. When I started this blog back in June 2003 I was hoping to showcase stories and poems. 9/11 had left me emotionally shattered. I had watched from half a world away the deaths of thousands. It took weeks before we even had a correct figure on the death toll. I have seen many painful moments in my life, but 9/11 left me feeling completely useless. It took years for me to be able to read a newspaper, open a news channel, or pick up a news magazine. I felt as if shadowy forces I would never comprehend had taken complete control of my world, my nation, and my life. It was only much later that I learned three people I knew had died in the initial inferno and two more were in the street below when the towers came tumbling down. By June 2003 I was barely a shell of my former self and I hoped this blog would help me write my way back to sanity.

At first, I focused on games and anecdotes from life in Tokyo. I did not even want to think about the wars in the Middle East. Instead, I did my very best to ignore the entire world by immersing myself in online games. Sadly, the cruelty and sadism of the larger world invaded the games I was playing. MMORPGs morphed almost overnight from glorious virtual reality chat rooms into vicious battlegrounds where people of all ages fought for supremacy as well as hot markets for internet sales of stolen virtual merchandise. My pleasant, virtual diversions had become the core environment far too many people depended on to destroy as many lives as possible in order to validate their own self-worth. In about 2005 or 2006 the raw anger and unmitigated cruelty of newcomers to the world of MMORPGs had completely shattered my delusion that humanity had finally perfected itself. I learned the hard way that "common sense" ethics and morality did not extend to online gaming. This confused me terribly. I had long believed that humanity was on the verge of a new era of spiritual enlightenment, social progress, and individual tolerance. Yes, in those days I believed in Unicorns.

For a couple of years I wandered aimlessly trying to find some kind of social safe harbor. None existed. Then Barack Obama, an unknown freshman Senator from Illinois, was heralded by Time Magazine as America's first foreign born politician. His Kenyan birth, his young life in Malaysia, his adolescence in Hawaii were trumpeted high and low as the harbingers of a new era of global tolerance and governance. He was thrust into the forefront of American politics as a new kind of presidential candidate, an educated man with a global mind who had seen firsthand the struggles of the world's poor. There were whispers the Dalai Lama had declared him Buddha reborn. Was this the new Messiah who would lead the world into the final Age of Aquarius?

In 2008 I returned to the United States for the first time in over twenty years. I had spent my entire adult life overseas. Now that my children had become young men I decided it was time to return to my homeland and help my nation move forward into this new age of enlightenment. I was shocked and horrified to discover almost no one understood a word of what I was saying. I was speaking English, but they heard only gibberish. I did what I have always done in that situation: I shut up and listened!

Listening helped me learn to focus down on facts. Raw, undisputed facts. Solid facts. Rocks, tree, confirmed death counts, injury reports, catalogs of findings. 2008 to 2010 were years of sudden advanced learning in a school I had completely ignored: the school of life. I listened to people who denied Barack Obama had been born overseas, and I listened to people who insisted he had been born in Kenya. I listened to people who said America needed nationalized medicine and I listened to people who said nationalized medicine was a precursor to plague and starvation. I listened to people who said aliens had destroyed the World Trade Center and I listened to people explain exactly how and why jet fuel could burn hot enough to weaken steel girders. I learned both the history of Christianity and the precepts of Maliki Jurisprudence and how the centuries old conflict between the two had made 9/11 inevitable. It took me two years of quiet listening to find my way back. Along the way the most important lesson I learned was how to recognize the difference between facts and interpretations. This, in turn, helped me learn to recognize false conspiracy theories and fake news reports. I poured what I was learning into this blog. 132 posts in 2009, my record year.

One of the great shocks upon my return to the United States in 2008 was the discovery that two schools of thought existed about our Constitution. In one school of thought, it was a flexible legal document of idealistic proposals subject to frequent amendments and daily reinterpretation. In the other school of thought, it was a sacrosanct document intended for direct literal application to the Federal Government in order to prevent the Federal Government from ever overwriting the rights and prerogatives of the individual States. I learned that the real reason for the Southern Succession and the Civil War was the increasing tendency of factions within the Federal Government to impose their will on the new territories joining the Union. The rights of slaveowners were set into direct conflict with those who sought to defend the rights of slaves. Property versus community, common law versus common sense, a progressive elite backed by industrialization that sought to liberate slaves from agriculturalists who could not imagine surviving without slave labor. Both sides claimed that "common sense" guided their priorities and "God above" led their campaign.

Between combat, disease, and displacement, nearly a million Americans died in that conflict. The slaves gained their freedom, but the social fabric of the nation has never recovered. All of the political and social divisions present in the United States today are a direct result of the hatreds and prejudices that locked the nation on a path to Civil War. A million dead in a war that we are still fighting today. Now, instead of bullets and burnt crops we are using words that flash around the world at the speed of light. Even the social upheaval that destroyed my joy of gaming was a direct result of our nation's inability to agree on whether we are one democratic nation undivided or a loose federation of states organized as a constitutional republic.

Without even knowing it, I have been fighting this battle my entire life long. My family's deep roots, going all the way back to Jamestown and Plymouth Colony, has created in me a very deep patriotism and an unshakable faith in the United States as a people and as a nation. When you factor in the intermarriage with women from native tribes and the one crazy ancestor who enjoyed raping his slaves, the history of my family is the history of America. We have been here from the very beginning. We have fought in every war. We fought on both sides of the Civil War. The blood that this nation is built upon is our blood. That perspective has given us a vested and very real interest in both the creation and the interpretation of the Constitution. The same philosophical divisions that divide the nation also divide us. Some of us are literal Constitutionalists while some of us are interpretative Constitutionalists. Some of us vote straight Democratic Party tickets in every election while some of us vote straight Republican Party tickets. And yes, just like in the greater community of Americans, some of us vote independent of party affiliation. This is a perspective all you newcomers who arrived at Ellis Island and after can never understand. Your perspective is not wrong or bad, it's just lacking tens of generations of blood and guts that you did not have to participate in. By the time you folks arrived, the place was pretty much settled and the worst of our barbarism had worked itself out on battlefields you can visit but can never own the way we own them. That blood staining the grass on Bunker Hill, Cemetery Hill, Little Big Horn, and Wounded Knee? That's our blood, not yours. Yes, it does make a difference.

So when some self-righteous Senator or angry young man goes on CNN and blathers on about "common sense", those two words mean something much different to me than they do to them. "Common Sense Gun Control" in my family is dry powder, a clean firearm, and six shots on a six-inch plate at one hundred yards with open sights. This definition is never going to change. It can't change. We have lost too many loved ones, taken too many lives, and won too many hard fought battles that we could just as easily have lost, to think of "Common Sense Gun Control" as anything except good preparation and proper training. We built this nation. We built it on the blood of our brothers and sisters and the deaths of our enemies. Almost all of us are NRA members, even the ones who agree with you about limiting or restricting "assault weapons" and "high capacity magazines".

This is why the "gun control" debate had reversed direction ever since the rise of the information age. We know what you're doing. We share what we learn about your plans and tactics. We have been analyzing intelligence and finding weak points in our opposition for almost three hundred years. You had us on the retreat when you controlled the information flow, but now that control is broken. Scream all you like. Call us names. Tell us we lack "common sense" or "insight" or "intelligence" or "compassion". Treat us like peasants and label us "deplorable racists". None of that changes anything. We built this country brick by brick with our blood, our sweat, and yes, our "common sense".

You can't win this fight. Stop screaming at us about dead children. We see their broken bodies and it breaks our hearts just as deeply as it does yours. Do you really want to compare how many children your family and mine have lost to violence? We know your pain. It is because we know your pain that we resist your efforts to limit our access to the tools we need to survive. Self-defense is a human right. An AR-15 with a 30-round magazine is indisputably the best tool for self-defense, bar none! Maybe you trust the police and the FBI and the ATF, but we are the police, the FBI, and the ATF. We've been doing these jobs since the foundation of the U.S. Marshalls service. Before that we were Texas Rangers, "American bobbies", foot soldiers, commanders, judges, justices, and even a few felons. My father was a Police Officer who wrote many of the policies and procedures that his former police department is still using. One member of my family is an FBI agent, another used to work in the FBI genetics lab. I was in the U.S. Army during the Reagan years.

Stop waving the bodies of your dead children in our faces. We understand your pain. We feel your pain. Our guns are not the problem. We're not giving them up because you feel frightened every time some broken Democrat that you've bullied and mistreated goes on a shooting rampage. Maybe if you stopped bullying one another and learned to listen you would stop creating these violent madmen?

Common sense gun control? From where I sit, that means liberal progressives (Democrats and Republicans alike!) need to stop emotionally abusing people who disagree with them. That definitely seems like a good "common sense" solution to me.





February 19, 2018

Everyone who is Demanding Gun Control is Creating the Next Mass Murderer


Here is how is works:

Progressive parents convince their children they are gods.

Children of progressive parents go to public school feeling like gods.

Abused children, children of bankrupt business owners, children of farmers forced off their land by environmentalists, children of conservatives with successful small businesses, and children of moderately successful hardworking Americans, all attend public schools with the little gods.

The other children are much different from the little gods, so the little gods laugh at them, bully them, make fun of them, and do everything in their power to remind the other children they are not gods.

Teachers admire the academic success of the little gods, so they support them and refuse to accept reports of their tyranny and terror.

One of the other children, probably from abusive parents, gets so angry they buy a gun, build a bomb, or both.

The angry child returns to the school filled with self-righteous anger at how the little gods treated them and then kills as many other children, both little gods and outcasts, as they can manage. Probably a few heroic teachers get killed too, but the angry child does not care as long as everyone is punished.

After the dust settles, the children of progressive parents (little gods one and all) go on national and international news media demanding someone do something while their progressive parents look on with pride.

Liberal fascism is the real problem. Both bullies and their victims are most often from homes filled with "progressive" ideas, regardless of the economic status of the homes. Progressives create the disenfranchised, then when the disenfranchised lash out violently, progressives quickly blame conservatives.

I am exhausted by both the violent lashing out and the condescension of the liberal fascists. It is liberals who are creating these violent children, and the violent children themselves are primarily from liberal homes.

It's not the gun.
It's not the NRA.
It's not the conservatives.

The real problem is fascism, and in the United States, the behavioral fascists are liberal progressives filled with self-righteous anger at social inequalities they themselves have created and reinforced.

When you demand people mimic your worldview you are telling them they are unimportant. If you tell them often enough, they begin to believe it. Once they begin to believe it, then violence is the only avenue they have left for self-expression.

If you believe some people are scum, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe there is no such thing as second place, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe you are are far more intelligent than everyone around you, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe everyone should behave like you do, feel like you do, and have the same opinion as you do, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe the government is the solution to every challenge, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe humans are all essentially good, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe humans are all essentially bad, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe some people are just better by nature than others, then you are part of the problem.
If you believe you are right and everyone else is wrong, then you are part of the problem.
If your favorite response to someone who disagrees with you is, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," then you are part of the problem.

We are each individual humans. Being human gives us certain needs and certain natural rights. Being human also gives us the ability to make choices. Being human also means our family, our society, the food we eat, the climate we live in, the quality of our teachers, and the skills we develop on our own, will all have direct, immediate impact on who we are, what we believe, and how we behave. Hatred is what drives mass murderers. They learn that hatred from everyone around them.

Somewhere along the line we forgot to be human. Economists and business leaders forgot that if people don't have jobs, then they don't have any way to participate in society, they don't have any way to acquire new skills, and they don't have any hope of a better life. It starts all the way back in elementary school when some well-meaning teacher convinces poor academic performers that they are stupid and incapable of learning so they shouldn't bother trying to study. For every winner there must be a loser and participation trophies only reinforce the idea that losers are lesser human beings than the winners.

Success should not be an excuse for condescension. Success should instill in the winner a responsibility to help others, not give the winner a reason to condemn and criticize. Success that creates humility is good for humanity. Success that creates arrogance is the most destructive force in all of human history.

Work hard, do your best, always look for ways to help those who are less successful without being condescending and without blaming them for their limited achievement.

Encourage. Lift up. Lead with humility. Arrogance and condescension is what creates mass murderers, not the tools available to them.

You reap what you sow. Every single time. Don't ask where mass murderers got their guns or how they learned to build bombs. There is no realistic answer to that question. It is irrelevant to finding a solution. Instead, ask yourself what kindness you can show to the angry, ostracized, socially isolated person sitting next to you. They probably won't appreciate it. They will probably assume you are trying to take advantage of them. But they will remember it and that memory will make them a tiny bit less likely to lash out in hatred. It takes a great deal of kindness to overcome a lifetime of social isolation. That kindness must begin with someone, so it might as well begin with you.





February 16, 2018

Mass Murder is a Human Problem, not a Gun Problem


As everyone knows, there was another school shooting a day or two ago. A high school in Florida. Seventeen dead. Naturally the news media and all of the smart people with their long resumes filled with fancy degrees and academic awards are all demanding the President "do something". By "do something", what they really mean is, "go sign an executive order demanding the ATF confiscate all the guns until the owners can prove they won't go shoot up a school, or a night club, or a holiday banquet, or whatever." It's perfectly sane for a woman to put a vagina hat on her head and label me with terms like, "toxic masculinity", and "sadistic gun nut", but somehow I'm the crazy and dangerous one because not only do I own a safe full of firearms along with a couple thousand rounds of ammo, I am also a Patron member of the NRA.

But I've decided I'm going to buck the trend. I'm not going to write a long blog post about why the Second Amendment exists and why 99.987% of American gun owners will never injure or kill another person with their firearms. I'm not going to point out that over half the so-called "gun violence" in the United States is suicides by people who find shooting themselves more practical than mixing rat poison in their morning coffee. Nor will I waste time and energy once again spending hours and hours compiling data points at the FBI UCR website demonstrating that in the United States well over 90% of all genuine crimes involving a firearm take place in cities that have "world class" gun control laws. Nope. I'm tired of using facts to refute raw emotion.

I feel a deep sympathy for everyone who lost a friend or loved one in the shooting. I really do. We have more in common than you will ever know. However, taking away my firearms or charging me a sin tax every time I buy ammo will not ease your pain, will not bring back your loved one, and will not prevent the next mass murder. The gun is neither the problem nor the solution.

Here, click on a few links, do some reading.
Battle of Little Big Horn
Massacre at Wounded Knee
Armenian Genocide
The Holocaust
Khmer Rouge Killing Fields
Jonestown
Waco Siege
Oklahoma City Bombing
Columbine High School Massacre
9/11 Attacks
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
November Paris Attacks
December San Bernardino Attack
Orlando Night Club Shooting
October Las Vegas Shooting
Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

This list does not amount to even a tiny drop in the vast ocean of our violent history. The history of humanity is a history of violence, massacre, revenge killing, assassination, and so on. Human beings are incredibly violent animals. Despite our high intelligence, our beautiful art, our deeply felt poetry, and our soaring music, for some reason every time we feel socially isolated we lash out in massive waves of murder and mayhem. This is the problem we need to solve, not private firearm ownership. How do we lessen our very human tendency to explode into mass murder without destroying the strength, determination, and personal empowerment that separates humans from animals? Because, you see, we need this violent side of our nature. Our ability, no, our willingness to lash out and destroy everyone who opposes us is exactly the trait that has put us at the top of the global food chain. No other species has the creativity, the resourcefulness, and the intelligence to build cities, form trade pacts, negotiate peace treaties, found schools, and establish hospitals. Humans, in sheer terms of scale if nothing else, are absolutely the most unique and innovative species on our planet. Our violence is just as overwhelming as our creativity and unfortunately, the two of them are so deeply intertwined they cannot be separated. We are all Shiva, both destroyers of worlds and creators of universes. Also, differences of scale are not differences of causation. A single murder and a wave of genocide both spring from exactly the same human impulses.

The shooting in Florida the other day was a terrible tragedy. The pain being felt by millions of people around the world is very real. The pain being felt by the families and friends of those who were so brutally slain will never completely abate. Yes, it will happen again. It does not matter how often or how virulent the social debate. It does not matter if every firearm in America is confiscated nor does it matter if every family in America is ordered to own a firearm. The problem is not the gun. The real problem is that the human animal is the most violent animal in all creation. That violence is inseparable from both our creativity and our intelligence. Violence, creativity, and intellect are, in fact, the three qualities that make us human. For not only are we brutal killers, we are also brutally creative and brutally efficient killers.

Recently I've been watching "Ancient Aliens". One of the questions that always arises is, "Why did they leave and when are they coming back?"

They left because our violence horrified them. If they are as intelligent as everyone believes, then they are never coming back. If anything, Planet Earth has a bold label on every star map and at the opening of every database entry, "Access Forbidden: Violent and unpredictable inhabitants who are prone to mass murder".





February 12, 2018

Truth or Consequence: Kim Yo Jong in American Media


CNN: Kim Jong's Sister is Stealing the Show at the Olympics
Fox News: CNN Slammed for Glowing Puff Piece About Kim Jong's Sister
NY Times: Kim Jong-un's Sister Turns on the Charm

Long ago and far away, my siblings and I used to play a game called, "Truth or Dare". What we did not know was that this cute game taught to us by our parents began as a radio show they had listened to as children: Truth or Consequences. Today's kids with their "knock-out game", "slender man challenge", and "Tide Pod challenge" will never understand the pure joy of being dared by your sister to pet the neighbor's constantly barking dog and then doing it. Eating a Tide Pod is just stupid. Sucker punching an old man with his arms full of groceries is just sadism. Being dared to face your fear, accepting the challenge and succeeding at it, creates a sense of genuine accomplishment that filling out a Pokedex can never provide. If I miss anything from my abused, neglected, and dysfunctional youth, it is the one time I beat my sister at Monopoly and the pounding of my heart as I offered my hand to the neighbor's barking collie. Simple, childhood challenges that I carry with me even now. Looking out at the generations coming up behind me with their video games and their stupid mimicry of the "Jack Ass" series fills with a genuine sense of foreboding. The blind Neo-Marxism of the founders of every modern tech giant only confirms my worst fears. These new generations, or at least the public presentations of them, are not prepared for the challenges of the modern world.

North Korea is a cesspit. It is a shithole country. In so very many ways, it is the epitome of shithole countries. It has been ruled over by three generations of absolutely ruthless dictators who control their postage stamp country with the kind of blind adherence to personality that Stalin and Lenin only achieved in their dreams. Even Vladimir Putin, with his iron lock on Russian media and politics, is only half as much a tyrant. The three Kims are the ideal that pre-World War Two European fascism fought to achieve and never quite managed. North Korea is the perfection of multi-generational tyranny. No one has ever done it better. Probably no one ever will.

I first heard the name "Kim Yo Jong" when Japanese news media announced she would be the diplomatic face of North Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics. I have watched with absolute horror the drift of South Korea under the magic spell of Kim Jong-un, the third and most recent Kim to rule North Korea. From the moment he ascended the throne, South Korea has looked for ways to idolize and adore him. It is truly horrifying to watch. As Kim Jong-un slaughtered family members and advisers, the South Korean press declared this was a necessary step to the liberation of the North Korean economy and politics. In op-eds and editorial narrative they declared this would be the Kim who brought North Korea out of the shadow of tyranny and into the light of democratic freedom. Even when Kim Jong-un killed South Korean soldiers and their family members in an unprovoked artillery strike on a border island, the South Korean press excused his actions as youthful enthusiasm. "He wanted to fire the big guns," they declared, "he had no idea the guns were pointed at our military base."

I was not the least bit surprised to see protests outside the Olympic Venue both for and against Kim Yo Jong's visit even as the South Korean press praised her keen fashion sense and the warmth of her smile. When CNN began reporting on it, poor Amara Walker simply could not contain her joy. I have never seen her so bubbly as when she read off her teleprompter about how warmly Kim Yo Jong had been received and how easily she had upstaged Vice President Pence. I don't know which impressed her more, Kim Yo Jong's invitation to President Moon Jae-iin or Vice President Pence very pointedly moving away from her when the South Koreans placed his chair below and directly in front of her at the opening ceremony. For those of you not privy to Asian etiquette, the placement of Kim Yo Jong and Mike Pence was no accident. It was a deliberate insult against the United States of America and a clear signal to Kim Jong-un that President Moon was in favor of discussing reunification without the presence of American diplomats. Yes, it's true, Asian culture is keen to pick up such signals and exploit them.

On the other hand, the blistering, explosive response by Fox News is idiotic. Yes, idiotic! "Fair and balanced" does not mean hurling insults and innuendo when something as overt as the placement of Vice President Pence at the feet of Kim Yo Jong takes place. For anyone with an understanding of Asian culture the insult is blatant, there is no need to trumpet it high and low in a fit of self-righteous fury. When the voice of conservative America explodes in rage it reinforces Kim Jong-un's sense of profound joy at seeing how warmly his sister was received and how deeply America was insulted. Yelling at a bully encourages the bully. Although, when it comes right down to it, I suppose I should not be surprised. The United States of America has been encouraging the Kims and reinforcing their narcissism for half a century. Every time we flood their country with relief supplies in response to a promise they have no intention of keeping after an overt provocation designed to strike fear into the hearts of their southern cousins, it tells the Kim family that America is easily manipulated by threats and insults. For fifty years our policy toward North Korea has consistently reinforced the power and prestige of the Kim family. Our liberal press is correct in this assertion. Shaking a fist at one of the Kims or passing a package of economic sanctions is exactly the response their grandstanding is intended to invoke. As long as we are reduced to fury and insults, they can go back to their people and insist the Kim family is the only protection North Korea has against the predatory interests of greedy American capitalists.

We should never acknowledge the existence of North Korea. Our politicians and foreign policy should be treating North Korea as a Chinese province. Every time they launch a missile, every time there is a flare-up at the DMZ, every time they threaten to take South Korea by military force, an American diplomatic pouch should be sent to Beijing asking them to please rein in their unruly country cousin. We need to approach North Korea as an internal Chinese disturbance that has had a negative impact on their foreign relations. South Korea will not like this one bit, and Japan will be horrified, but for every reference to Taiwan as an independent country there also needs to a equal reference to North Korea as a province of the People's Republic of China. We must return to full recognition of Taiwan as an sovereign nation and we must also begin treating North Korea as Chinese territory. We must do this to show the Chinese that we are not buying into their delusional worldview and to demonstrate clearly to the Kim family that they are of no consequence whatsoever on the world stage.

Asian culture is a spiderweb of symbol and allusion. Everything in life, no matter how small, carries centuries of history and tradition. This ancient baggage is acknowledged in countless tiny ways. Things as simple as how to hold a tea cup or as complex as how to lay out a computer motherboard carry the impact of two thousand years of recorded history. In Asia, one's ancestors are as close as each new dawn and as distant as each sunset. Most people (not everyone, of course, but most people) know exactly where their family has lived for the past two or three centuries. Many people know exactly where their family lived a thousand years before Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. History is very real in Asia. It is as close as the corner shrine and as commonplace as the table setting for the family dinner. The United States needs to do a much better job of navigating this complex cycle of birth and rebirth. We need to stop treating Asian nations as something new, exciting, and exotic. These cultures are very old, with countless traditions that have served them well for two millennia. We must not copy these traditions, for they are not ours and will not help us in any way, but we must recognize and acknowledge their importance to Asian people.

There is a solution to the aggression and oppression of the Kim family, but it is a Chinese solution, not an American one. We must encourage China to remove the Kim family from power and incorporate North Korea more closely into their economic and political life. This is the only road that will eventually lead to North Korea rejoining the South. As long as the Kim family is allowed to use 25 million people as their personal puppets, they will continue to be belligerent and demanding. The only way to remove the Kim family is to take the North Korean people away from them. The only world power with the geographic and political leverage to do this is China. If China invades North Korea, removes the Kim family, modernizes the country's infrastructure, and creates a more liberal economy, then we can begin discussing ways to bring North Korea and South Korea back together in a way that neither threatens Chinese sovereignty nor disrespects Korean pride.

Korea is a very old society, with a long history of great achievement and dismal failure. Their land has been destroyed nearly as often as Israel by nearly as many different players. It is a war-torn realm that has not known peace since the collapse of the Sung Dynasty. It is time to recognize the prerogatives of the Korean people themselves and the very real importance the Korean Peninsula holds for the safety and security of China. If we can ignore the partisan propaganda of our modern press, both liberal and conservative, and focus our attention on the voices of the Korean people themselves, then a way can be found to permanently remove the Kims from power and restore the unity of Korea. The end result will not be a replication of American Constitutional Republicanism, but neither will it be a replication of Chinese Communism.

It is time for the Korean people to pursue their own destiny, without the Kims and without the Americans.