Wednesday, May 21, 2014

As much as the people of the USA want to stop suffering in the world, there are some stark realities that have to be realized.

To begin West Africa is not North Africa. The USA interests in those areas of Africa are different. Not to say the problems in these countries should be ignored, but, the national security interests of the USA and NATO are different.

Compassion for suffering does not interpret into national security interests, nor should it.

May 21, 2014 10:31 pm
By William Wallis in Abuja
In the not so distant past (click here) Nigeria’s armed forces claimed to be the linchpin of west African security, better equipped and better resourced than their peers and under the control of generals who took pride in their role as regional policemen.

Fifteen years after military rule ended and soldiers handed power back to elected civilians, Nigeria’s army and police force are struggling to keep the peace at home in the face of a widespread breakdown in law and order....

Lamenting for 'the old ways' does not solve the problems the people of these countries face.

North Africa is a security concern for NATO, the Mediterranean and the commerce within those waters. Whether anyone wants to realize it or not allowing these countries to struggle with internal security allows breathing room for The West. A well armed North Africa does not serve the purpose of NATO. To that end the French maintain an active interest in providing troops and otherwise to established governments to maintain some degree of stability. But, the greatest threat to The West lies with terrorists and their ability to carry out suicide attacks. 

To arm the governments of these countries is only going to return dictators such as Mubarak and we are all back where we started from; huge unrest within a nation and extremists seeking to move against The West and their own governments. 

The best venue for helping any of these nations in any part of Africa is to address health problems. Safe food sources, water, medicine, clothing and housing. With a healthier population the people can grow their economies. The Mideast is the best example of local economies that work for the people, namely in pilgrimages. The pilgrimage of these people are a very viable economy that does not at all conflict with the strong religious culture dominating the region. 

The people have to find their own path, but, in order to do so they have to at the very least have health and well being. War does not deliver health and well being to these people and the recent Iraq War is a very dramatic example of that.

Another stark example of how invasion and war victimizes people; is Iraq. Where was the USA successful in maintaining a degree of peace? The Green Zone. What does that tell the average person in the USA? It should tell voters and citizens that when the USA enters a country with multiple nations of people based in ethnic and religious differences the best it can do is set up ZONES of control. The USA cannot conquer a country. It is not possible.

Where there any forces that surrendered during the Iraq War? 


The Iraq War was carried out on false pretense, killed thousands of Americans and even more Iraq civilians, spawned terrorist networks globally. There were huge power vacuums in Iraq and after a time some of the 'Iraq military units' were effective, but, basically the power vacuums still exist and anarchy is still the law of the day. Except, of course, for zones of control. Iraq's best outcomes will be viewed as concluded when there are three autonomous provinces able to govern themselves. The provinces are split among ethnic and/or religious lines. It is the way it is. No war is going to dissolve that movement of people toward their own best interests and a peace they long for from each other. The greatest problem within that movement is continued extremists seeking power differently than the majority. Those 'strains' of militancy will dissolve over time. Generations.

The case with Nigeria is that the current government is not the past government. It does not have the power of the past government because the past government not only was a force to contend with in West Africa, it killed it's own people on a right regular basis due to rebels interfering with oil production. 

I can understand a government taking aim at rebels IF the oil production was actually working for the people, but, it NEVER did. The Nigerian government was killing their own people to secure contacts and wealth for a limited number of power brokers within the government. The people of Nigeria were trampled by their government. So, to realize the current government is weaker than the old government is not really the issue. The problem now is how is Nigeria going to answer the continued problems of it's people? 

President Goodluck Jonathan is not really a bad guy. He is just like most other African leaders in that they are blunted through lack of military power to deal a sincere blow to the so called militias and militants. Power vacuums and rebels and anarchy is everywhere. Yes, there are elections, but, realize even after elections there are uprisings that result in deaths of citizens. So, to say things are settled in African nations because of elections is a vast myth.

Africa is riddled with rebels with causes and it usually interprets into survival. The rebels exist because of guns. If the rebels didn't have guns there would be a far less power vacuum and more peace. However, removing the guns is only part of the answer. Poverty is the largest driving force to any rebel group and to that point, they do solve their own problems. They find natural resources, stake their claim and proceed to find a way to survive. That is exactly what is occurring within northern Nigeria today. Boko Haram wants their own nation. Why? Because President Jonathan's answer to unrest is to round up people and stick them in prisons that result in their deaths though neglect and ack of dedicated resources. 

Nigeria needs resources, but, not that of gold or oil; it needs resources from a brain trust that speaks words like PRISON REFORM. Nigeria needs to own up to the human rights abuses within it's prisons that is the focus of their rebels. Sending in troops to kill the rebels, or what Jonathan likes to call terrorists, is not going to end the problem. More dead rebels only begets more rebels.

I am NOT saying Boko Haram is a benevolent group of guys but just grossly misunderstood. But, their historical leaders were non-violent. That is not the case today. There have been brutal killings and now with Jonathan refusing to negotiate prisoner release, which would help unburden the prison system, there is all out declaration of war between the rebel group and the Nigerian government. 

Did refusing to negotiate with the rebels protect the people of Nigeria? It would not seem the case. Did going to Paris and communing with other African leaders to give the USA a thumbs up and 'atta boy' stop the danger to the Nigerian people? Nope. Will sending in the troops stop the danger to the Nigerian people? Not likely.

The only real resolve of the Nigerian government should have been to meet with the rebels, secure the release of the girls, release prisoners that have not committed crimes and sought to end the violence while returning trust within the people. Calling them rebels and waging war is too easy and achieves nothing. 

The best outcome now? Bouy. The rebel leaders have to be taken in abstentia before the courts. That sort of scenario worked just fine for Jordan. Yes, the country of Jordan.

by Rana Husseini

Dec 29, 2013 | 22:59

AMMAN — The Criminal Court (click here) handed down the death sentence in absentia to two brothers after convicting them of murdering their married sister in one of the governorates earlier this year, senior judicial sources said on Sunday.
The two brothers, aged 20 and 23, were found guilty of complicity in the premeditated murder of their sister at her home in June and were handed the maximum sentence by presiding Judge Awad Abu Jarad last week, a senior judicial source said....

Such a designation brings about an understanding of the reason the rebels are sought for crimes. Rebels have to be brought to justice for the crimes they commit otherwise they are viewed as powerful men with clout among the people. The lives of the people killed have to be elevated and valued above the lack of ability of the government to retaliate.

Jordan, by the way is not a wealthy or powerful country. It has strong ethnic divides, but, it does practice peace and welcomes refugees. There is no reason why the African governments cannot act in the same way and push their people into stronger ties to law and order rather than identities with rebel causes.

What can happen in Africa once there are judicial findings? 

Ever hear of Private 'for hire' military unites that operate within a country to solve it's problems? So long as African governments are seeking out sincere criminals for apprehension and not simply rounding up people and killing the oppressed angry with their government's neglect; law and order might even have a chance.

Training Nigerians as if Iraqis is a losing game. It won't happen. Nigeria and nations like it need ready trained soldiers. Nigeria needs 'strike forces' that actually know how to carry out arrest warrants to bring profound criminals to justice. It is too late to train anyone. The shift has to occur and until there is something positive happening for the people to close power vacuums while they advance their society; the idea a USA unit is going to achieve long term stability is not at all the answer.

The problem as it exists today? NEGOTIATIONS and prisoner releases to bring the girls home. It is too dangerous otherwise and the girls won't make it home.

This is some of the best news I've heard all day. Returning local control to parents, school boards AND TEACHERS!

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – State Rep. Joe Dorman, (click here) Democratic nominee for Governor, expressed outrage with Mary Fallin’s veto of House Bill (HB) 2625. The bill would give local control to teachers and parents by allowing their input on children moving to the fourth grade. The legislation overwhelmingly passed the legislature with bipartisan support.

Dorman said that Fallin failed Oklahoma’s children by vetoing the bill. “We have seen time and again that Mary Fallin just doesn’t care. From supporting more and more unfunded mandates, to her unwillingness to add new resources for common education, including adequate funding for remediation, she’s shown how out of touch she is with parents and educators throughout this state. While I would like to eliminate the high stakes 3rd grade test all together, HB 2625 is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Dorman said that Fallin fundamentally rejects Oklahoma’s education system. “Now is not the time for more tests, but for real solutions and investment in our future. I’m committed to finding solutions to these problems. I’m committed to giving our education system the proper resources to ensure that our children don’t fall behind, including giving teachers a long overdue pay raise. Oklahomans deserve better and I promise that I will do better,” said Dorman....
Every state in the country should follow Oklahoma's Joe Dorman. It is time to turn control back to local authorities and rely on teachers to know their students. 
The Oklahoma legislature overrode the Governor's veto in an overwhelming majority. I am proud of them.
I have friends in Oklahoma and I know for a fact they are tired of being dominated and second guessed as to what is best for their children by an insensitive state government. This is great news.

First Lady Michelle Obama's accomplishments have been incredible

Disney announced (click here) that it will require all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on various Disney-owned media channels and online destinations and theme parks to meet nutritional guidelines that align with federal standards to promote fruit and vegetables and limit calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat by 2015....

When considering where the country was with escalating diabetes among children and young adults and only five years later there are commitments across the country to improve the food quality Americans eat.

Disney should have accomplished this long ago. Their best customers are children and a child's well being on all fronts should have always been the highest priority for Disney. But, it took real leadership to bring Disney's value system to a higher goal.

There is no one who even tried to raise the moral content of our children's diets, except, the First Lady. She is more than great and full of love for this country's children; she is a sincere leader with successful goals.

First it was Obamacare, now Benghazi is looking less and less promising, so let's attack the VA instead.

The hubris of 'old age' Republicans can be intoxicating. 

May 21, 2014
Aaner Madhadi
USA Today

WASHINGTON -- With the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, (click here) the GOP now has a crisis to dig into that has some substance.
Heading toward the November midterm elections, Republicans have made clear that they plan to take aim at Democrats by striking at President Obama over his administration's handling of 2012 attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, and by continuing their assault on the president's signature health care law.
Within the Republican ranks, there is wariness about making Benghazi a centerpiece issue. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who is set to retire, reportedly warned colleagues after the GOP-controlled House voted earlier this month to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that they could be headed down a "rabbit hole."
And after dozens of GOP attempts at repealing Obamacare, polls increasingly show that Americans -- while still not completely sold on the health care overhaul -- are more interested in hearing about fixes than repeal....

Before any formal charges can be leveled there needs to be Senate hearings whereby family members are allowed to give testimony. Along with the testimony the medical records of those suspected to have died on a waiting list have to be submitted. The medical records need to be complete, including any outside records.

Quite frankly, I think this warrants a Special Prosecutor. This isn't about misconduct alone, it is about the death of our veterans with complaints of gross negligence. 

71-year-old Navy vet Thomas Breen (click here) died of Stage 4 bladder cancer. He went to the VA hospital in September, but his family wasn’t contacted about an appointment to see a doctor until a week after his death. 

The families of those that died in Phoenix should already have submitted copies of medical records to the White House to impress the importance of this investigation.

71 years old is too young to die. Below are the survival rates of bladder cancer according to the American Cancer Society. 

The 5-year survival rate (click here) refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is found. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years. Five-year relative survival rates assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the cancer. This is a better way to see the impact that cancer can have on survival.

Nigeria has a belligerant president that won't negotitate and troops are not the answer.

The USA is sending troops and the President of Nigeria is cheerleading from Paris. Now, President Obama can be blamed for the deaths of 270 girls while Johnathan won't negotiate with terrorists. The prisoners Boko Haram wants freed were people rounded up. They are not criminals. I don't think they have even had a trial.

West African presidents meet at the invitation of President Francois Hollande of France.
May 21, 2014

Eighty American (click here) service members are on the ground in North Africa to oversee drone operations in the search for the 276 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, the Obama administration said Wednesday.
The White House formally notified Congress that the troops are in the neighboring African nation of Chad. The mission includes 40 people to operate and maintain the Predator drone and 40 more to protect the force.
“These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” President Barack Obama said in a letter. “The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required."... 

It isn't going to look very presidential when the hostages are dead and the prisoners are found to be lacking a trial and innocent of any charges. How do elected officials become dictators? This is witness to that.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience arrive for a dinner with the French President and other dignitaries in Paris in December. The president's wife said this week she didn't believe the girls were abducted and that it was a plot to give her husband's government a bad name. (Reuters)

CBC News 
Posted: May 08, 2014 10:03 AM ET 
Last Updated: May 08, 2014 10:52 PM ET
...President Jonathan, (click here) who earlier this year thumbed his nose at the West by promulgating one of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world, has now apparently broken down and asked the U.S., Britain, France and China for help, according to the latest reports....

Do something for the USA always means 'send troops quick.' It never means examine intelligence to find out the best way to do something. 

JOS, Nigeria occurred because the president backed out of his negotiations. Now, Boko Haram has declared war or jihad or whatever they do. Welcome to Iraq. The Americans are there and I'll guarantee the militants in Libya and Somalia and Mali and Yemen are already on their way. It will be another Mogadishu.

The Associated Press

JOS, Nigeria -- Boko Haram (click here) assaulted three villages in northern Nigeria, killing 48 people, residents said Wednesday, hours after twin bombings claimed at least 118 lives in this central city in an attack the government blamed on the Islamic extremists.

One of the villages attacked between Tuesday night and early Wednesday is near the town of Chibok, where more than 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped last month by Boko Haram, according to residents and a state intelligence agent who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to reporters.

Apagu Maidaga of Alagarno said residents of that village hid in the bush and watched while the extremists set ablaze their homes of thatch-roofed mud huts....

This is wetting the whistle of John McCain and the Neocons that will demand more and more and more involvement, especially when USA troops are slaughtered. This ain't about girls no more it is about the burgeoning demand of the USA right wing for increased military spending. Girls were the excuse, now war is the answer.

Go ahead, Barak, be a bipartisan hero! 

Retreating to higher ground in the face of unknown odds is a good call by a Commander and Chief, by the way. Reassess, sir. The USA was handed another bad hand by an absent Nigerian President.

End NC Fracking! And end the North Carolina Republicans from sneaking around behind the voters' backs.

 May 20, 2014

...Fracking isn’t legal in North Carolina yet, (click here) but already legislation is moving through the Senate that would criminalize anyone who discloses trade secrets “received in connection with permitted oil and gas activities.”

This afternoon two Senate committees passed S786, the Energy Modernization Act, a giant bill which would make the state’s ride on the fast-track to fracking less safe. The bill is expected to go before the entire Senate later this week.

And during the hearing, the committee chairman, state Sen. Rick Gunn, (R-Burlington), stated twice that all recording equipment needed to be registered with the sergeant-at-arms, before it could be used, even though this was a public meeting. 
This restriction is unprecedented; in fact, committee meetings held in Rooms 540 and 643 of the Legislative Office Building have audio feeds that allow the public to stream the hearings on the Internet. The commerce meeting was held in Rooms 1027 and 1128 of the Legislative Building, which can accommodate large crowds, but is not streamed live.

(The Sergeant at Arms confiscated the audio recorder of Rose Hoban of NC Health News , after she did not register her recorder, reports The Progressive Pulse. However, reporters in the chamber with smart phones, which also can record audio and video, did not have to register their equipment.

With press freedoms curbed, the bill, which also packs in some substantial incentives for drilling companies, now goes to the Senate Finance Committee....

The Democratic members of Congress along with President Obama has built the strongest economic engine for our country, "The Return of Housing."

This letter to the editor from the US Treasury Department is no lie. There is a nationwide movement to place people back in homes and there is every indication it is working. It protects and grows neighborhoods and stabilizes local economies.

To the Editor: (click here)

In his May 9 Op-Ed article, “What Housing Recovery?,” Peter Dreier accurately identifies a continuing threat to our housing market: persistent and severe negative equity. For those households deeply underwater, their lack of equity in their homes makes them, and their neighbors, vulnerable to foreclosure for years to come.

What Mr. Dreier has not adequately captured are the efforts the Obama administration has taken to help these families. The Making Home Affordable program has modified more than a million mortgages, giving these homeowners an estimated $26.8 billion in savings over the last five years (a median savings of approximately $542 per month).

Our servicing standards have transformed the industry, indirectly assisting millions more by setting higher standards and changing industry practices that have led to more affordable and sustainable private modifications.

Forcing lenders to write down underwater loans may seem appealing but could have substantial long-term negative effects on the cost and availability of mortgage lending in the future.

Instead, we believe that incentive-based programs, such as Making Home Affordable’s principal reduction program and those administered by states participating in the Hardest Hit Fund, which provides substantial incentives to reduce negative equity, have proved to be an effective way for homeowners to restore a path to equity. They also help lenders reduce their long-term risk.

Making Home Affordable is available through Dec. 31, 2015.

Chief of the Homeownership Preservation Office
Department of the Treasury
Washington, May 13, 2014

NeighborWorks actually does work. (click here)

Neighborhoods are the very basis of local economies. Stabilizing neighborhoods and putting residents into homes returns function to the USA economy. The more neighborhood stability occurs in the USA, the better it's outcome to it's economy. Housing is the American Dream. It grows wealth and in that, it grows the economy. The Democrats have lead the way since 2008 and it works.

May 21, 2014
New Report Shows Alliance Benefits Wisconsin Communities by Significantly Impacting State Economy, Leveraging More Than $182 Million in Total Economic Impact

GREEN BAY, WI--(Marketwire -07/17/12)- Today NeighborWorks America (click here) launched the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin, an agreement between 6 regional housing and community development organizations dedicated to improving housing opportunities and building strong communities for all Wisconsin residents. This alliance is formed by member organizations of NeighborWorks America, which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities. A new report released this week shows the organizations of the NeighborWorks Alliance of Wisconsin to be effective and productive small businesses, significantly benefitting the Wisconsin economy by creating jobs and generating income and tax revenue....

Following 2008 the poverty rate in the USA climbed to historic rates. What was the country going to do to recover? Leave them in limbo forever and simply state, "This is the new America, the two Americas have now become the three Americas; the Rich, the Poor and the Poorer. The driving force to economic return of the USA was to 'go where the people are' and bring them out of the deepest recession in this country's history. President Obama and the Democrats did exactly that regardless of the obstacles in their way. The result is working. 

May 18, 2014
Jim King, Special to The Courier-Journal

...Over the past year the NeighborWorks Alliance of Kentucky (click here) has helped more than 562 families get into homes. Housing is a proven way to increase economic activity, but it needs some help.

First, support down payment assistance programs and affordable housing partnerships. Down payment assistance grants from the private sector, government and the foundation community are an essential tool to revive first-time homeownership, which is critical to a healthy housing market. A recent survey from the Federal Reserve showed that credit standards remain tighter than is necessary for a safe and properly underwritten housing market.

Nick Diedrichsen, a 35-year-old middle school band director and Morehead, Ky., resident at Rowan County Middle School in Morehead, knows firsthand the assistance NeighborWorks provides in Kentucky. Frontier Housing built a home for Nick and originated the loan through Just Choice Lending, FAHE’s lending department. A percussionist, Nick plays drums in the band Electric Edge, which will perform during the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Louisville today....

Housing was the ONE PLACE austerity could not stop economic growth. It was the one true investment that could not be undermined by the Republicans. The access to the housing was a greater challenge when public employees were forced on to unemployment, but, with people accepting work when it was available that didn't destroy their hopes for their future. So long as Americans could get a toe hold, the drive to fill housing was going to work.

The reason there hasn't been a vibrant return to housing price (value) growth is due to austerity. While the work in putting Americans back into homes has continued since 2008, there were huge set backs when Republican politics preyed on 'voter instincts' rather than 'economic facts and figures.' 

The Republicans pretended they knew what was best for the country when they played with budgets and tax structures, but, the fact of the matter is they were hurting the USA's return to economic strength. The Republicans played on the idea a Household Budget was the same as the National Budget. It is only within the past year or so have Americans finally come to terms with what defines economic growth as they support increases in the Minimum Wage and Health Care for all Americans. 

They also supported efforts such as The Buffet Rule. 

Americans need proof and in that is the truly patriotic American. When Americans are given facts and they can relate to it in their own understanding of life, it becomes a beautiful thing. Fear works politically, but, it will never hold up when the truth comes to roost. The housing market and it's creep to the return of being the American Dream again is proof of the tenacity of the American people and what they know instinctively is right and wrong. 

The voters were again disappointed.

The return to the GOP stalwart is a retreat by the electorate because their hopes were never achieved.

I remember when Sarah Palin first appeared as the great GOP hopeful and then proved herself too incompetent to lead, the initial reaction by many, including Democrats and Independents, was "Yes!." In that exclamation was a clear understanding everyone was looking for a paradigm shift from the standard "Wall Street Sponsored" politician.

Catalina Camia, USA Today
9:05 a.m. EDT May 21, 2014      
WASHINGTON — Maybe the GOP (click here) establishment has figured out the Tea Party.Voters sided with business-oriented, mainstream Republicans in key states Tuesday night, picking nominees who have a better chance of winning in November than some Tea Party insurgents of he past. By doing so, the GOP is fielding a team that could help the party reclaim the power that eluded them in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Some lessons learned from the most consequential primaries to date...

The retreat by the voters in the GOP primaries was due to the realization that extremism was worse than what existed before and Mitch McConnell is the prime example. He has been in the US Senate since the dinosaurs and he is more "Inside DC" than Richard Nixon.

...Fred Wertheimer, (click here) a longtime supporter of campaign finance regulation, was then a lawyer for Common Cause. He vividly recalls the weeks leading up to April 7, 1972, before a new campaign finance law went into effect requiring the disclosure of the names of individual donors. “Contributors,” he said, “were literally flying into Washington with satchels of cash.”...

By George Lardner Jr.
and Walter Pincus

Washington Post Staff Writers

Thursday, October 30, 1997

While presidents (click here) have long bestowed U.S. ambassadorships on big campaign contributors,
Richard M. Nixon put a specific price tag on the practice.
"My point is, my point is that anybody who wants to be an ambassador must at least give $250,000," the president told White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman on June 23, 1971, according to a newly transcribed tape.
"Yeah," Haldeman agreed, and then proposed a minimal donation threshold. "I think any contributor under $100,000 we shouldn't consider for any kind of thing."
Nixon pointed out that "we helped" Fred J. Russell, a millionaire California real estate baron and Republican donor who would soon be named ambassador to Denmark. "But from now on," the president continued, "the contributors have got to be, I mean, a big thing and I'm not gonna do it for political friends and all that crap."...

Yes, indeed. Money from individuals for ambassadorships so they can wheel and deal with the international crowd. Money from corporations to protect their foothold of control over the American populous and it's powerful economic clout. Today, the corruption is not only recognized but touted as a status symbol. The Koch Brothers are proud of their influence to rule the three branches of government to completely corrupt the country and not simply hiding it as 'money under the table.'

The players may be different than from the Nixon years, but, the game is worse than it's ever been and the people are left with STILL 'choosing the best of the the worst' to legislate their country.

The facts are sad but true, the right wing conservatives are disillusioned by their own priorities and the defeat of Tea Party candidates is proof. The GOP electorate is measuring it's success at the polls against the success of their agenda. The extremist turn under the Bush/Cheney administration which resulted in conservative activism, even to the extent of the Supreme Court, has the conservatives wondering, "What the heck are we doing by putting all this stupid stuff in our party's platform." In stepping back from the tragedy of Iraq going forward those that identified with right wing candidates are now looking at their own sad realities post 2008 and re-evaluating their paths.

The even sadder truth is the candidates chosen in the primaries aren't that much different from their Tea Party opponents. They are so close a match the Tea Party threw in with them immediately with endorsements for November. The right wing is walking back to the left, but, their steps are far slower than they actually would like them to be. Sincere extremism still lives in the GOP and their base still holds a majority of those extremists as those they can motivate.

The Democrats best focus is to bring the electorate up to speed on what a sincere economy is and what it is not. What a healthy nation looks like and what it does not. The truth that Democratic morality is still the driving force of this country and it works for aspects of our government.