Subject: “Rice is Tasked to Fall on Her Sword”
Re: “Condi Lousy: Why Rice is a bad national security adviser.”
Date: Fri Apr 9 1229h
One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice’s testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser—passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.Actually, what is clear to me now—after watching Rice’s testimony and then reading some of the more astonishing quotes from it last evening in various news reports—is that Rice isn’t a national security adviser at all. That is, her job—unlike that of all the others, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Poindexter, Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger—was, and is, not to give the president national security advice but instead to carry out orders given by those who actually were devising national security policy: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith.
Rice was simply a glorified supervisory bureaucrat. Her job was to take and carry out orders—or, as she repeatedly put it, to be “tasked”—to carry out this or that bureaucratic aspect of the national security policy set by Cheney and Rumsfeld with the input of Wolfowitz and Feith. Rice was almost as much out of the loop as was Richard Clarke; she was present at these principals’ meetings, but only to receive her marching orders.
Rice didn’t get Clarke a meeting with the principals because Rice couldn’t get Clarke a meeting with the principals. Rice didn’t order the FBI director to “shake the trees” of that agency—nor even to notify the field offices of the stunningly clear indications from al Qaeda intercepts about a very, very, very, very big and imminent terrorist attack possibly within this country, or even inquire whether the field offices that were tracking al Qaeda cells within this country had any information that, viewed in light of the intercepted messages, might help pinpoint any such plot within the U.S.—because Rice lacked the authority to do so on her own.
Nor, apparently, did she even have the authority to decide on her own to demand that the FBI director (and later the acting FBI director) do so. Apparently, she lacked the authority even to notify the FBI director of the threats—excuse me, of the non-threats—about some “unbelievable news in coming weeks,” about a “big event” that will cause “a very, very, very, very big uproar,” about the announcement that “there will be attacks in the near future”.
And she didn’t have the authority—or maybe the proper word here is clout—to persuade Bush meet not just with the CIA director but also with the FBI director. In that dramatic exchange between her and Ben-Veniste in which Ben-Veniste demanded a yes-or-no answer to his question whether Rice had told Bush “at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of al-Qaida cells in the United States” although Rice herself had been told of this in early 2001, she answered, finally, that she didn’t recall whether or not she had done so.
Rice wasn’t tasked to tell the president of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States, and so she didn’t. Rice was tasked with furthering Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s goals of pushing the missile defense system’s funding and development and of toppling Saddam Hussein.
The threat posed by Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. didn’t further either of these two goals, and in fact hindered the first of them; a big argument against the obscenely expensive and scientifically unperfected missile system was precisely that with the end of the Cold War, the biggest security threat to the U.S. was the potential for terrorists to wreak havoc simply by infiltrating the country. So Rice, untasked to tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S., didn’t tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S.
Bizarre though it was, her weirdest statement was not the one in which she says that the intercepts about “a very, very, very, very big uproar” that will be caused by “unbelievable news in coming weeks” about “attacks in the near future” were “[t]roubling, yes,” but because “they don’t tell us when; they don’t tell us where; they don’t tell us who; and they don’t tell us how” they were not quite troubling enough for her to task herself to notify the FBI director and the field offices about them.
No, of all the many bizarre comments Rice made yesterday, the loopiest, in my opinion— and anyway the most starkly factually inaccurate—was her incessant claim that because of “structural” and legal prohibitions, the CIA director couldn’t tell the FBI director that there were certain known al Qaeda operatives who had entered the country.
Is she claiming that at the “battle stations” shake-the-trees meetings that Clarke and others say occurred in late 1999 among the various national security “principals” including the CIA director and the FBI director didn’t really occur because of structural problems? Or that those meetings occurred but that the CIA director didn’t tell the FBI director any valuable information he had because it would have been illegal to do so? Or that the CIA director did pass along to the FBI director the information he had, and that his doing so violated the law?
Good heavens. What law, pray tell, is she talking about? What law would have prevented George Tenet from giving to the FBI director the pertinent information he had—about the contents of the al Qaeda intercepts and about the few al Qaeda operatives the CIA knew already had entered the country?
“Every day now in the Oval Office in the morning,” Rice said in answer to a question about whether the structural problems that hampered communications between the CIA and the FBI had been resolved, “the FBI director and the CIA director sit with the president, sharing information in ways that they would have been prohibited to share that information before.” Indeed. And that’s precisely what Clarke said transpired during the Clinton administration in the weeks before the millennium, in order to try to thwart any planned terrorist attacks then. And it’s exactly what Clarke says he tried to communicate with Bush, via Rice, that he, Bush should do.
Perhaps the most revealing answer Rice gave yesterday was in answer to a question inquiring about the steps, if any, Bush took in response to the information in the Aug. 6 security briefing that said [according to Bob Kerrey and Ben-Veniste] “that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.” Rice said Bush met every day with the CIA director.
Not with the CIA director and the FBI director. Just with the CIA director. The structural problem that kept the FBI director and the CIA director from communicating the most critical information to each other during the months preceding 9/11 was, in other words, a structural problem of the Bush administration’s own making.
That structural problem was, in turn, created by a truly profound one, a thoroughly stunning one—even to me. It’s a structural problem revealed most starkly by Bush’s failure, upon being told on Aug 6, 2001 that “that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking” especially in light of George Tenet’s warnings to him throughout that summer that al Qaeda intercepts were speaking of a very, very, very big event.
The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 “PDB”—the presidential daily briefing—wasn’t given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet’s daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration’s national security agenda and therefore wasn’t interested in them.
Thus Rice’s constant references to policy rather than to responding to—acting in light of—information being received. Rice wasn’t tasked to attempt to learn of the nature and locale of the impending very, very, very big event al Qaeda was planning because the policy regarding invading Afghanistan, and what they thought was the requisite of getting Pakistan on board, wasn’t yet in place.
Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is “incurious.” But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn’t have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.
But now, thanks to Rice’s testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn’t tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney—or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.
I had thought throughout the Clarke controversy, until yesterday, that the real political damage to Bush from would come from the recognition by a majority of the public, finally, that it makes us less rather than more safe—both physically and economically—to have a strong-’n-decisive leader whose strength-’n-decisive leadership amounts to determining policy based purely on ideology and patronage rather than on the actual needs of the county and on facts, and who forces through these polices irrespective of circumstances and evidence about their actual effects on the country.
But I think now that that, even more than that, the political damage Bush will suffer will come from the ultimate epiphany that the most damning caricature of this president is true: He’s jaw-droppingly stupid, and so Dick Cheney is the actual president. Cheney isn’t obsessively secretive for nothing.
Troubling, yes. Very.
Condi Rice was asked to fall on her sword in order to try to keep this secret from escaping. She obliged and destroyed herself, but didn’t succeed in her mission.
Can’t score a marriage certificate from the county? Just step inside the Temple of Elemental Evil or—if you’re able to hold out a few more months—The Sims 2, reports Clive Thompson (“The Game of Wife: Gay marriage comes to video games“). Sim veteran BML attests that while the first Sims may not have extended full-on marriage rights to gays and lesbians, it showed a striking resemblance to Burlington, Vt.—with less fleece:
You could fall in love with another man in the first Sims. Marriage was off the table, but if you asked a friend of the same sex to move in, flirted and then kissed him, a wonderful Bert and Ernie situation developed. Thompson jumps into the Fray to comment, remarking that
And if you played your cards right, you could even adopt. Though I don’t think you could get the couples into the heart-shaped bed.
I’ve talked to some people who tried an interesting experiment with the Hot Date expansion pack to The Sims. They set up a game with only men—no women—then set it running. Sure enough, all the guys paired up and starting making out. Thompson goes on to suggest that such possibilities are made more plausible by a less linear, less formulaic game:
It’s sort of amazing that Will Wright had the wherewithal to design the game so open-ended, actually. One of the reasons so many games have purely “straight” plotlines is that they have, well, *plotlines*; for all their pretensions to allowing tons of freedom and variety for the player, they are essentially just TV shows with a few dozen scripted endings, in an attempt to make it seem “interactive.” Fray lurker extraordinaire, Chiastic, wonders, “why waste time picking apart the ‘latent’ (homo)sexuality of cartoons?” For Chiastic, discussions like Thompson’s are symptomatic of something larger:
Our cultural obsession with ferreting out all things male and queer is truly a wonder to behold. Too feminine? Gay. Too masculine? Gay. Well-groomed? Gay. Let that stubble grow a few days between shaves? Gay. Don’t show enough interest in women? Gay. Hit on anything with breasts? Gay. Close friends with another guy? Gay. Close friends with a woman? Gay. Flamboyant? Gay. Reserved? Gay. But for fulminous here, (“I’ve been a hardcore gamer, (tabletop AND video, I must admit) for probably 15 years now. Yes, I’m gay.”)
I think the gay-marriage option is pretty damned funny—and it’s incredibly refreshing …can I tell you how many times I’ve played an RPG and had to deal with the (sigh) straight male main character hero having to woo the white mage/healer/whatever female character? And then have some probably FMV scene of the two of them making out? Not that I MIND, really, because in general the stories are well-told enough that I can go along with it, and I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of opposite-sex couples (ewww!). Chango finds it “interesting that coming out as a hardcore gamer has more shame factor (i.e. the ‘I must admit’ comment), than being gay.” And, finally, game maven MsZilla wonders if the potential of woman-on-woman flirtation in Knights of the Old Republic isn’t a little overstated:
I have two friends who have finished KOTOR as females (one light side, one dark side). Neither of them ever ran into this lady. … To hue and cry about the demise of the institution of gaming, click here … KA10:50 a.m.
It sounds to me much like the hookers in GTA [Grand Theft Auto]. The media made a great hue and cry about it. Most gamers’ reactions were, “Hunh?!” Until someone pointed out that you could do that, very few people had even considered it.
Tuesday, April 6, 2004
In assessing former Georgia senator, Max Cleland, Michael Crowley insists that Cleland’s presence front-and-center in the John Kerry campaign is neither a healthy symbol nor a logical rallying point. Why? For one, Cleland doesn’t personify steely patriotism so much as political incompetence at repelling Republican attacks on the issue. In addition, Crowley conveys the unsettling irony that Cleland was precisely the kind of “Vichy Democrat” that Howard Dean attacked in empowering the Democratic base that Cleland now energizes with his fist pumping. The_Bell believes that the fact that Cleland was a conservative Democratic who voted with President Bush on many crucial votes makes the 2002 campaign against Cleland all the more revolting:
Cleland is a fairly conservative Democrat and as a Senator he was one among the crowd who in fact showed the political courage and judgment—for which he was later attacked by Republicans as lacking—by siding with the President against his Party as to what was best for the country. He voted for tax cuts and he voted for the Iraqi war resolution. He was the type of conservative Democrat that the Bush Administration would have been wise to court. Instead, he was targeted for character assassination for failing to vote the President’s line on the Department of Homeland Security. But Zathras points out that Cleland’s principled outrage was notably missing from his responses during the heated campaign:
when Cleland himself had the opportunity to make the claim now being made on his behalf—that he was being victimized by ruthless Republicans—he didn’t do it. In televised debates he was asked directly about the Republican ads with the now-famous images. He responded with his scripted, rehearsed talking points about how Bush’s DHS bill lacked labor protections, following the instructions of a labor constituency that helped fund his campaign but that does not command many votes in Georgia…Atlanta Journal-Constitution polling after the election did not reveal large numbers of Georgians who thought he was weak or unpatriotic, but did suggest many thought he was too close to special interests—essentially the charge the Chambliss ads had made. The_Bell suggests an extra-political motivation for having Cleland up on stage …
Kerry wants him there because he knows that being there gives Cleland purpose. And for a man whose Senate re-election loss left him “humiliated and mired in deep depression”—by his own admission—and apparently doomed to fade into obscurity after a lifetime of public service, that is a very big deal. Though The_Bell ultimately concludes that:
Cleland’s disabling qualities serve Kerry and the Democrats best are in the latter two senses of that word. Cleland is not going after Bush because he is suddenly some born-again liberal or because he wants the world to pity him as a Bush victim. His motivation is anger, not victimization. Cleland is angry at Bush and the GOP for what they did to him as a Senator and he is angry, in my opinion, at himself for letting them do it to him.In this sense, The_Bell doesn’t altogether disagree with Zathras—Cleland was bettered politically in the 2002 campaign; he didn’t respond with an appropriate indignation. For Cleland—and most Democrats not named Dean who were paralyzed under such attacks on the eve of the invasion of Iraq—the 2004 Presidential campaign presents the final opportunity to combat the administration on the issue of patriotism before the issue’s political statute of limitations expires. But RANGER82 finds the Democrats’ “revenge platform” loathsome:
The modern Democratic party is all about revenge. On the tactical front, FreitagsPyramid thinks the “lovable loser” strategy suspect:
You were born poor? Vote for us we will get you what you deserve, whether or mot you earned it. Are you a minority? That fact itself makes you a victim. Vote for us and get revenge on your oppressors. Do you need abortion as a birth control method? Vote for us and we will guarantee revenge on those who would deny your rights.
Had Cleland the requisite Senatorial complement of intellect, character, and gumption, the post-9/11 atmosphere would simply have served to give Cleland a closer call for reelection than expected. There is indeed an odor of bathos, and pathos, in the re-warmed prominence of the (somewhat) lovable loser Cleland on the Democrat campaign trail. Perhaps he can make joint appearances in New England with Grady Little, Scott Norwood, and Bill Buckner … And on the sticky matter of whether Cleland’s near-fatal, friendly-fire wounds warrant heroism, Joan weighs in:
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I never come into contact with people with ‘live grenades.’ That’s because I’m not in combat. What would motivate the author to toss the line into his article like his own little verbal live grenade, implicitly making the event seem, for all the world, as if he were depicting a scene form the Boys in Company C as they goofed around with explosives? what complete nonsense! Is Cleland a vaunted vet or a Vaudeville victimologist? You make the call in Assessment Fray … KA11:00 a.m.
Thursday, April 1, 2004
Subject: If Fetuses are People, Do We Care?
Re: “Face the Fetus: It’s time for abortion rights advocates to stop denying reality”
Time: Tue Mar 30 1323h Both sides in the abortion debate (Saletan included) seem to consider it an article of faith that if fetuses are recognized as having human rights the right to an abortion will be imperiled or possibly even foredoomed. This position seems reasonable enough on the surface, but, like so many arguments that seem reasonable enough on the surface, it’s fundamentally false.
That’s not to say I don’t understand the error; if fetuses are acknowledged as possessing any rights as all, then it would seem reasonable that they also possess the right to not be killed. Pro-Lifers have made this assertion so frequently, with so much conviction, and for so long that even Pro-Choicers seem to have long since conceded it. But nonetheless, it’s wrong.
I think you’ll agree that I’m a person. I have hands, feet, a law degree and a bewildering array of romantic entanglements and student loans. I am, in short, a living human being entitled to the full range of constitutional amendments that this entails. Moreover (although you’ll have to take my word for it) I’m an American Citizen and a mentally competent adult, which endows me with even more rights.
That means, for instance, that if I’m caught in a snowstorm and I’m freezing to death, I have a legal right to break into your empty hunting lodge and seek shelter, as long as I pay for the damages. If I’m piloting a ship and a terrible storm is coming, I have a right to tie up at your dock. Under the Constitution, life is regarded as precious, and my right to live trumps your right to be free of trespassers and damage to your property.
But if I should somehow find myself lodged in your abdomen (no, I mean ALL of me… and you have a dirty, dirty mind!), and if you, as a result, are undergoing massive hormonal changes, severe personal and professional inconvenience and a not insignificant risk to your physical health, then my rights in this position must be balanced with yours.
You might not wish, after all, to carry a tiny attorney around in a body cavity for nine months; you might not wish to undergo significant physical changes and risks to your health. And if I was to tell you that IF you let me stay there, then even after I exited your physical body you’d be utterly and comprehensively responsible for my well-being for the next 18 years…
Well, a reasonable person might possibly decide to decline. Not a monster, not a demon, not a murderer… just a normal individual with a life to live, or other commitments, or a lack of appreciation for punditry. And I honestly don’t think that I could blame you.
My guess is that if “miniaturization and random abdominal lodging” of fully grown adults was a common medical condition, the laws surrounding it would be complex and they would not assume that the “miniaturized” have an inalienable right to make use of other people’s bodies by simple virtue of their condition.
After all, the world is full of misfortune and misfortune’s victims. The law doesn’t make us donate money to shivering homeless people, send AIDS drugs to Africa, suffer fools gladly or watch O-Town in concert. Nor should it. And I suspect that most conservatives would be the first people in line to say so.
I might be dependent on my job for support; hell, if I had a family they might ALL be dependent on my job for support; but that doesn’t mean that my boss can’t fire me if he feels like it. His rights trump mine.
Our responsibilities to other people aren’t a function of their being human. Legal responsibilities are only assigned in the context of specific relationships. If I take you out on my boat, I’m responsible for bringing you back. If I accidentally shoot you, I’m responsible for finding you medical attention. And if I’m your parent, I’m responsible for keeping you safe, happy, healthy, well-educated and alive.
The question, then, isn’t whether fetuses are human. That’s a threshold issue, to be sure, but it’s far from dispositive. Even if we determine, as a nation, that fetuses are as human as anyone posting on this board, the debate isn’t over. We then have the problem of resolving what legal relationships apply.
In my opinion, only the relationship of parent to child would suffice to justify imposing the enormous, lengthy, and heavy obligations of carrying a pregnancy to term, through delivery, and up to college. So what we have to ask ourselves is: What does motherhood entail?
What must one do to invoke that relationship, and its accordant rights and obligations? At what point does a pregnant woman carrying a fetus become a mother?
Under the radar, that’s the real question society is wrestling with. Not what constitutes a “human,” but what constitutes a “parent” and a “child.” We’re not battling over the frontiers of life; we’re battling over the frontiers of motherhood.
Conservatives, ideally, would like that role to be imposed on women from the moment of conception. (The negative stereotpe of the conservative position is that at least some of them would like that role to be imposed on women from the moment of their conception, but I digress). Liberals, ideally, would like that role to be imposed at the moment of live birth. (The negative stereotype of the liberal position is they would like this role to never, ever be imposed, since it interferes with the overarching right of the State to dominate child-rearing and of the individual to engage in senseless hedonistic pursuits).
I think that in the final analysis, basic ethical and philosophical issues like “life” and “choice” and “personhood” and “rights” are a cop-out. That’s not what we’re really fighting over, and deep in their hearts, both sides of the abortion debate must know it. We’re not fighting over the moment when a lump of protoplasm (or, if you prefer, two lumps) becomes a human being.
We’re fighting over the instant when a missed period, a positive pregnancy test or a lump of protoplasm in a woman’s belly becomes her child, in her thoughts and in her soul. The heartbeat when she looks into its future and sees it enwrapped in her own. And whether she tells you by words, or by shuddering sobs, or by shy secret smiles; if she tells you at all; there’s no mark on that clock but her own.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Salon Selectives: “Admittedly,” confesses Geoff in Fighting Words Fray, “my only assumed knowledge of the Al-Shifa episode comes from the reportage of Christopher Hitchens” in Salon. After rereading Hitchens’$2 1998 piece in Salon, in which Hitchens wrote… Secretary Cohen also admitted in the same statement that there was no longer any “direct” financial connection to be asserted between bin Laden and the plant…then reading Monday’s Fighting Words, Geoff is thrown for a loop:
And yet, today, Hitchens declares that a “strong Iraqi footprint” is to be found in Al-Shifa. He claims that “whatever the forensic truth about the factory may have been, the Clinton administration clearly regarded it as a front for Iraq/al-Qaida cooperation. ” How does that square with Cohen’s admission that the link was not accurate? If Bin Laden wasn’t related to Al-Shifa, if they were mistaken about that, by what mysterious process are we supposed to assume some credibility to the speculative Iraqi/Al-Qaeada link in Al-Shifa? Geoff subsequently pleads for a little help in the Fray, “Anyone know where Hitchens repudiated the accuracy of his investigation into Al-Shifa? Because if I missed it, I’d sure like to be brought up to speed.” To get Geoff up to speed on Hitchens, click here.J_Mann has been out front on the al-Shifa incident, both in Chatterbox Fray (here in response to ShriekingViolet’s top post) and FW Fray. Here, JM responds to Geoff’s query by laying out the tightrope Bush opponents have to walk in regards to Clarke and Al-Shifa:
1) If you believe that Clarke is a nonpartisan public servant testifying in the public interest, then I think you probably have to believe his testimony that, based on the secret evidence he has access to, it is certain that Al-Shifa was producing nerve gas. If so, then Hitchens, you, and I were all wrong, Clinton was right, and there is a very probable Iraq-Al Quada-WMD connection in the recent past. Geoff’s reply to JM here is instructive, as is JM’s dialogue with HitchCrit maven, doodahman, that begins here. Both threads abut the right margin and are chock full of good stuff, such as ddm’s footnote referencing Hitchens’ “epileptic fit of Chomskyism” immediately following the 1998 attack.Over in Chatterbox, while BeverlyMann praises Timothy Noah’s assembly of the competing Al-Shifa scenarios, Thomas charges that “the piece ignores all of what’s interesting about the case: the supposed ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, the dangers of WMD in the hands of terrorists, limited and uncertain intelligence, etc.” Thomas follows up here:
(2) Alternately, if you don’t believe Clarke on Al-Shifa, then I don’t see how you give a lot of credence to his criticisms of the Bush admin.
It is true that the piece talks about the reliability of the soil tests. But it doesn’t tell us what the Clinton administration should have done if it were uncertain about the intelligence. Which way should it have leaned, in a world of imperfect information?To delve into the world of EMPTA and to sample the Sudanese soil, click here. The Leviathan’s Folly: Demosthenes2 can’t buy into the Unborn Victims of Violence Act on two counts:
First, it changes the nature of a crime based upon an unsupported supposition, namely that a fetus is a distinct person vested with rights and entitled to an equal degree of protection based upon an emotional appeal on whether there are: “two victims or one.” The fact is that rights—any rights—are granted by society and vested in its citizens. There is no such thing as “human rights” any more than there are “fetal rights.”… The second issue is that the legal consequence of damage to the mother and fetus changes depending upon the status of the mother, literally as a carrier, when she herself may not even be aware of it. It is one thing when the mother is seven months pregnant … and another when the woman is weeks along and unaware of the presence of the fetus. In such circumstances we prosecute and penalize DIFFERENTLY not on the basis of law or consequential harm but on the awareness of the mother of her condition.ShriekingViolet evokes the Frame Game discussions of William Saletan’s Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War:
The partial-birth abortion ban and the UVVA are brilliantly conceived wedge issues, designed to force abortion rights advocates to make cold, clinical arguments about the legal status of the fetus that will alienate moderate voters. And it works, because of the fundamental dishonesty in liberal rhetoric about abortion.To square the juridical with the personal, respond to SV here … KA 2:20 p.m.
Abortion is a hideous procedure that no decent woman WANTS to undergo. It does not end a human life in any meaningful sense, but it does involve the disposal of a potential human being as if it were a waste product. There is no getting around this point.