Monday, June 1, 2020

Russia Is So Immensely Powerful.

That these were Russian agents who arranged conceiving, giving birth, bringing up and then inserting Derek Chauvin into the Minneapolis PD  and arranging him effectively killing George Floyd, thus unleashing a mayhem in the US. Extraordinarily sophisticated operation. And once US cities exploded in rioting Russia started exploiting them to the fullest to undermine American Democracy. Same way as Russia undermined American Democracy in 2016 by electing Donald Trump POTUS. It must be true since Susan Rice, former National Security Adviser for Obama, says so. 
OK, let's clear some things, Rice, whose role in unleashing Russiagate is yet to be determined by appropriate Law Enforcement agencies, wouldn't be able to have a clue, despite her position as National Security Advisor, because Rice is a typical product of US "elite-manufacturing" machine which in the last 30 years produced an outstanding array of swindlers, morons, creeps and ignoramuses. She is a typical American bureaucrat who grew out of US "diplomacy" school which is a laughing stock of the world and is a euphemism for incompetence and being pathological liars. Yes, this is how far this whole thing fell. So, considering her background, when she states that she is not "reading intelligence today" two things should be understood here, all that means is that she is not capable anymore to manipulate and fake "intelligence" as she did before, plus, she wouldn't know the difference any way because she has zero serious background in real intelligence or any other issues concerning US actual security. Enough to recall her lying which led to her withdrawing her candidacy for the position of the Secretary of the State

But she is not alone, Scott Ritter had it today with this BS in his excellent piece in RT. How could this boy Rubio stay away from all this:
The United States today functions in a never-never land of fiction and fantasy when it comes to allegations of Russian meddling in its internal affairs. Logically speaking, most Americans should be insulted by the notion that their democratic institutions are so weak that a half-baked social media campaign could sway a national election (never minding the reality that former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg spent more than $500 million on advertising, run by the most sophisticated media support team in the history of American politics, and couldn’t get the electoral needle to move an inch). There is a truism that you cannot solve a problem without first properly defining it. In their effort to shift blame away from their own failings by alleging “outside” (i.e., Russia) sources of interference in the ongoing social unrest ravaging American cities, the politicians and leaders Americans look to for solutions are setting themselves up for failure, if for no other reason that any solution which is predicated on unproven allegations of Russian meddling isn’t solving the real problems facing American society today.
I entirely agree with Scott here. But as always I ask a question--where are competent people in this so called "elite"? There are none, no are there anymore courageous people with integrity. The nation which allowed itself to be mired for three years in one of the most stupefying, in its sheer cretinism, campaigns of smearing lawfully elected, however unsatisfying for some, OK, many, President based on "evidence" kindergarten kids would laugh at, why should we be surprised with the fact that none of those people have any answers to any problems. There are no people adequate to the challenge of addressing REAL problems anymore. Just these pathetic losers. 
This is revolting, but this is America today. This is how the end for the country looks like. This is also how NOT TO solve issues of race in America. This is a direct path to undermining any possible, and now highly unlikely, fleeting dialogue on race, which was sabotaged for decades by the so called American "left", which is not really left but shills for neo-liberalism and perks which come with the territory of racial bating and pretending to fight for the "rights" of the minorities, while merely exploiting real problems for personal gain. After all, in this one we all see who and what are doing:
Trump had a good idea on designating Antifa a domestic terrorist group, which it is (and it is not antifascist movement) but considering a complete implosion of governing and US Main Stream Media being hugely, albeit not entirely, responsible for that, I think some of them are long overdue for being called what they are--propaganda outlets with no responsibility for their actions. Put the blood of innocent on them--that could be a good start. As for Chauvin, just throw the book at him. As per REAL class struggle and real economy:
Stocks were slightly positive Monday, steadying against a backdrop of protracted protests in some of the nation’s largest cities, many of which had already been struggling to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak.
And who would have thought. I think those people in the last video need to be immediately taught what broad equities baskets and portfolio investments are and how to code and that will address America's problems right away. /S.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Why?

As news have it (in Russian) Trump wants to see Russia, India, Australia and South Korea at what used to be G-7 meeting some time in the future (in Russian). As you may have noticed already, one entity which is conspicuously absent from this is the largest, by far, economy in the world, which is China. This is not to mentio0n that the fact that Trump's desires mean absolutely nothing for Russia, who has a committed relations with China. Trump also has to understand that Russia was in decoupling mode with Europe for a few years no. Sure, selling Russian energy to Europe is important, so is important to sell finished and agricultural products, but here is a short view of what Russian-European trade relations look like today:
The issue here, of course, is the fact that this trade is represented for a whole Europe, 4 of the major nations of her, constitute a bulk of G-7. By far the most important dynamics here is this: 
EU-Russia bilateral trade in goods peaked in 2012, dropping by 43% between 2012 and 2016 from two-way €322 billion in 2012 to €183 billion in 2016. Since 2016, bilateral trade has partially recovered. However, Overall EU exports to Russia were in 2019 25% lower than in 2012, agri-food exports were 38% lower.
These are the effects of a non-stop trade war (sanctions) on Russia supported by all those Europeans and, quoting, Karen Shakhnazarov, "sanctions are good for Russia", because sanctions allow increasing decoupling from EU, including by means of import substitution, and the only way Europe can still retain interest for Russians is EU being a market, which will increasingly, due to a sheer stupidity of EU bureaucracy, will be destabilized due to confluence of macroeconomic and cultural factors. Russia is just fine dealing with Europeans on a bilateral level. But here is another dynamics to consider:
Look at this dynamics, which brought Russia-Chinese trade to $107 billion in 2019 and continues to grow, eventually projected to hit volume of $200 billion by 2024. Comparable to the volume of trade of Russia with Europe, which hates Russian guts and will behave as the US lap dog in the future. So, Russia's choice is quite obvious here. Especially when one considers a puny trade relations between the US and Russia and Russia having a full grasp of US enmity towards herself. Aw, just look at these numbers:
Pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? So, Trump wants to exclude China from "international community" by holding this gathering which decides nothing and is worthless in terms of any practical solutions to an unfolding catastrophe which is global economic crisis. So, anyone can explain what Russia is to gain, other than some photo-ops for Trump, from this meeting? Why should Vladimir Putin even be there? Moscow and New Delhi have a direct line and can solve their issues by talking directly, Europe, frankly, is economically suicidal, Australia is a non-entity for Russia, so why? I don't know, but Trump, evidently thinks that this is a good idea. I think it is a waste of time, because the settling of global issues must happen first between G-3: China, US and Russia. Until something is decided within this triangle no other meetings will produce any sensible world order which will reasonably satisfy everyone. The United States is not ready to deal with this issue yet, but US has only two options here: war and getting back to the reality. What will be this choice we don't know yet, hopefully the latter one.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Why I Am Not Surprised-2.0.

You gotta love these headlines.
 Stocks up slightly amid dismal economic data
And why shouldn't they be? Greed has no relation to reality, economic or human, for that matter. All this Wall Street gobbledygook was never designed to give clear sharp definitions of real things or processes. Just take a load of this:
That rotation from high-growth tech to value names also came alongside states reopening their economies and helping catalyze an uptick in activity, bringing investors back into a broader basket of equities.
Oh, what a load of pretentious contrived shit which serves only to cover for this data and it is horrifying, because it affects lives of millions of people who are not "into a broader basket of equities". 
Yes, yes, it will "surprisingly" grow, never mind unsurprising 20% unemployment rate. And let's not talk, like absolutely not, about what was going on before the seasonal flu...I mean COVID-19 struck its blow at impressionable universe of social networks' slaves. The question is not about if the recovery is in cards--it is, at some point of time, at least--but about what will the country do once the full (real--I underscore it, real) scale of unemployment hits home. If there ever was a better way to demonstrate how a huge chunk of "white collar" jobs is not only useless but a burden on real economy, the COVID-19 was it.  

A new video, few days ago, caught my attention. Remember this?
I knew from the get go that this whole thing was nothing more than a "sell" for a bunch of uncultured nouveau riche class which spawned on the ponzi scheme of easy virtual money. "Respectable" people with real money usually reside in their castles and mansions in Europe, closer to actual, however degenerate today, culture and landscapes.  Middle Eastern shitholes covered with the glitz of oil money are for plebes, even if with money, virtual ones, that is. This is one of the suites on the "middle" floor of Burj Khalifa--a symbol of human post-modernist imbecility and ambition--during the storm, which are frequent guests in the region. 
Anyone who thinks that this "experience"of satisfying own ego in this building is so great--let them. No normal person, that is the person who has own two feet on the ground and values real things in life, be them emotionally, aesthetically or materially, would ever want to spend a day (or night) in this pretentious tower looking out at the desert, sea and ugly concrete jungles of Dubai, or any other location in the area. If I need to experience a desert (but it is just me), I know how to get to Nevada (driving through some of the most wonderful landscapes in the world), check into decent Holiday Inn or (all right, all right) Bellagio, and still be within easy driving distance to everything I really value in life--wonderful nature's sights, few hours of drive away lake Tahoe, being among (mostly) people of the same culture and good ol' Black Bear Diner or IHOP, for that matter. Excellent experiences and they cost order of magnitude less than any "vacations" in Dubai or whatever other radically un-touristy locations in backward Middle East. But, as I said, it is just me, many still think that if they could (not anymore, evidently) afford some, never materialized, mansion on one of the Dubai's "islands" that would set them apart, I agree. One has to be a complete moron to "invest" into the "real estate" in the place which goes (not will, but IS going) kaboom in the new economic reality where things of real value only matter.

What is this real "value"? Very simple, our families, our loved ones, friends, colleagues, our real skills in building, repairing, growing, harvesting things, maintaining the safety of our communities, leading truly healthy, in every sense of this word, lifestyles (not you, vegans and pot-smokers), reading, listening to good music, contemplating, creating, being human--these are real values. This is the way to contentment, in being satisfied with smaller but important things. Of course jobs matter, of course our houses matter, but normal person doesn't need Bentley or $4,000 a night suite, or $3 million mansion at the sandy isles in the midst of stinky water, in the area which goes bust, as was predicted, to be happy. As I say all the time, the economy is a consumer pattern. Yes, we all got screwed over by moneyed and subservient political class, nothing new here, it happened before (and was predicted), it is happening now and may happen yet again in the future--such is the nature of capital. But while being condescending (justifiably) towards this class' consumerism, much of it drowning in consumption of useless, wealth-signalling, luxuries, which is always a sign of a lack of true culture and real refinment, there is nothing wrong with us taking a look in the mirror at our own selves and asking the question if continuous consumer pattern is sustainable? I don't think so. But what is the normal pattern? How can it be defined, in what material and moral terms? We all will have to answer this question at some point of time. I, personally, do not need Bentley to be content, as long as my air conditioner and stereo in the car work, as long as it is clean and tidy, I should be fine, in material sense. I also can live without single cask Scotch $500 a bottle. 

In fact, even today, when looking at consumer patterns of modern "elites", one cannot fail to notice how much those "luxuries" are kitsch and tasteless in their attempt to emulate glorious antiquity and royal opulence of Renaissance while in reality most of those in the possession of that opulence have nothing more than a psyche of the small shop keepers. They may yet, many of them, experience a rude awakening. In the end, how can we balance out the need and the want, how does this proverbial "enough" in material sense look like? It is a known fact that Marx considered the United States to be the first country where socialist revolution will succeed. Marx may yet turn out to be correct but what we all, without exception, need to prevent is revolution in a sense of an outright physical conflict, however difficult this may seem now. But it is in everyone's interest to see evolution towards maybe, just maybe, more sane economically and, as a consequence, morally future. For everything else there is a new generation of weapons to help keep this all under control for now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Yet Another Victory... Not.

News pour in and people begin to feel nervous. How else can one describe this:
As Karen Shakhnazarov proposed yesterday (in Russian)--the whole oil war couldn't have been started by Saudis without US blessing, if not planning. I agree. As much as US depends on Saudis for a number of things, Saudis are what amounts to an American vassal. I don't think they planned it well, to start with--not surprising, once one notices a very weak grasp by planners in D.C. of causality and their inability to calculate consequences, which became a feature of US strategies in the last 20 or so years.  Russia, meanwhile, is what supports China in China's rear through the growing network of oil and gas pipelines and this strategy, if you will, is what matters above all for China which is beginning to be pulled into the war with the United States. So much so, that ideas like this are taking over discussion in the public (media) space.
For me personally it would have been an extremely interesting undertaking to discuss those ROE (rules of engagement) and how they are "written", especially against the background of the United States going out of its way to sabotage, as an example, Nord Stream-2, by means of putting Germany in her place as the US the doormat, but as the the author discusses and questions "kinetic" options, he arrives to this "conclusion": 
So where and how would kinetic operations begin? It seems clear that Beijing is reluctant to initiate military action, but is ready to engage once it has begun. Both the PRC and the US see advantages and disadvantages in delaying decisive tactical or theater action. The path to escalation to nuclear engagement is also far less clear — and deterrence far less sure — than during the NATO Warsaw Pact “mutually assured destruction” era. There seems a greater willingness by the PLA to engage in nuclear capabilities (ie: against military targets). Military action in the near-term could well consolidate the PRC position in its “near abroad”. It could even achieve de facto or de jure control of Taiwan, a critical legitimizing goal for the CPC, if the US did not rush in tripwire assets and support to show a preemptive tripwire to deter PRC escalation. But what after that?
He even goes as far as to refer readers to a peculiar document titled:
It is a "fun" paper (yet another one among many produced within "intellectual" kitchen of the Beltway thinktankdom stuffed with former military top brass and government bureaucrats), which through repeating  same ol' "we are about to die", a euphemism for "we need more money", provides for a full spectrum of all those good ol' cliches about "atrophy" of skills and, using Pentagonese, calls on:
To meet those intensifying military challenges, DOD will require rapid, substantial improvements to its capabilities built on a foundation of compelling, relevant operational concepts.
It is a dazzling, in its emptiness, linguistic miasma, which still doesn't answer the main question of what are "relevant operational concepts". OK, I get it, Gary Roughhead--one of the authors--is a an Admiral and he was in the position of CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) in 2000s for 4 years, so he must have a profound understanding of the subject matter and he should be able to answer the question on how he is intent to do this:
Protecting U.S. interests from China and Russia will require additional investment in the submarine fleet; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets; air defense; long-range strike plat-forms; and long-range ground-based fires. Deterring and, if necessary, defeating North Korea will demand additional air defense assets, as well as a sustained ground presence with the ability to quickly flow additional armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs), fires and combat engineer assets, and other capabilities into theater.  
In the end, what is "operational concept"? Operations (or operation) is defined by Russians (and they know a thing or two about subject matter) as such (in Russian):
A set of coordinated and interconnected in goals, objectives, place and time of combat engagements, battles, strikes and maneuvers of troops (forces), conducted simultaneously or sequentially according to a unified conception and plan for carrying out tasks at a theater (theaters) of military operations, strategic (operational) direction or in a certain vast district (zone) in a specified period of time;  form of military (combat) engagements: Operations are  distinguished by scale, type, and class of military engagements, time and sequence of carrying out. On the scale: Operations can be: strategic, that is operations by whole armed forces and a grouping of forces on a theater of operations; operational-strategic: army groups, fleets (flotillas) etc. 
In other words, the whole thing rests with one's ability, putting it in layman's lingo, to accumulate enough forces and materiel and engage them in such a way against the enemy that the enemy is crushed and all military and political objectives on the theater (of operations) are met. I, so far, know only one operational concept the United States provided in terms of modern warfare--it is throwing more money at the Military-Industrial Complex without any regard to economic and military-technological reality, which, inevitably, resulted in a dramatic, generational, lag in modern weapons and in de facto losing economic competition to China. Sure, the United States still can produce some magnificent things, such as microchips and some (cough-cough) commercial aircraft, but China's production of the main industrial "predictors" ranging from steel, iron, concrete to many machines dwarfs that of the United States. And I mean dwarfs. Just take a look at this picture:
I guess no comments are necessary here. And we all understand that such production of steel translates into such highly finished goods as ships, combat and commercial, structures, power plant, machines and... and weapons. As you may have guessed it already, US being outproduced in this field by China (and Russia) by almost twelve fold, has very little chance to win this kind of the competition. Of course, other crucial strategic metrics do not look that good either:
Of course, after Covid-19 demonstrated to the world US dependency on China even in such a crucial field as pharmaceuticals: 
China, the newsletter reported Tuesday, “accounted for 95% of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91% of U.S. imports of hydrocortisone, 70% of U.S. imports of acetaminophen, 40% to 45% of U.S. imports of penicillin and 40% of U.S. imports of heparin, according to Commerce Department data. In all, 80% of the US supply of antibiotics are made” in China.
This whole "operational concept" thingy begins to stink to heavens once one begins to look at and into tangibles, trying to assess how the United States is going to go to "war", especially a kinetic one since, after all is said and done, what is left are weapons and people which are in the foundation "operational concept" and weapons need to be produced, as in manufactured. Here the United States runs into problems immediately. Make no mistake, I will always bet on US Navy's submarine force against China, especially in the operations on Shipping Lanes of Communications--I am consistently on record regarding this fact--US submarine force, for all degradation of the US military, remains its crown jewel and it is, putting it bluntly, better equipped and trained than PLAN's submarine forces. It is simple as that, but I can now predict what any "future" relevant "operational concept" for the United States will look like when considering those kinetic options against China--it will be same ol' AirSea Battle, aka Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC), and it is a euphemism for the same ol' stand-off weapons being hurled at whatever the targets will be identified in mainland China and in her littoral from every platform the United States will be able to assemble away from zones of reliable detection and target acquisition by Chinese anti-ship missiles and combat aviation and that doesn't look good for the United States, to put it mildly, especially considering very serious difficulties of US air defense dealing with a number of the missile threats, especially, if to believe Chinese, their maneuvering ballistic missiles capable to hit US aircraft carriers. What is absolutely positive, is the fact of the Chinese missiles being able to hit Guam. 

The question, thus, is not about if the United States will be able to "update" itself for a real war with China--I doubt this will happen, but that's just me, I could be wrong--but the scale of losses, including extremely sensitive politically, the United States will be willing to take. It is one thing to start getting coffins arriving daily in large numbers (anyone really thinks the US is capable to fight China in China proper in a large protracted combined arms war?), totally another--starting losing ships, capital ones, as a result of such a kinetic option. Especially when the US will run out of stand-off weapons. Mind you, China is the size of US lower 48 and, unlike some "mighty" Arab militaries, actually has a fairly good Air Defense system which will be able to do a decent job in protecting those energy streams from Russia, while unleashing North Korea at South with a single purpose of making US forces there miserable. And then there is Russia... Russia, Russia, Russia. You can bet you ass on Russia not allowing China to collapse and Russia does have tools to do so. After all, Russians are royally pissed off at the United States and may (and most likely will) decide at some point that Noblesse Oblige doesn't apply anymore and, apart from making sure China has all necessary energy to sustain the fight against the US, she may exhibit a "strategic flexibility" and provide China not only with a world class intelligence and reliable targeting, but actually, recall Korea and Vietnam. In the end, China is an enormous and lucrative market not only for Russian energy but advanced technology too. Markets must be protected and Russian-Chinese trade is order of magnitude larger than Russian-American one. 

But speaking broadly,  the American political class' insanity, which resulted from losing US status as premier global industrial powerhouse and self-proclaimed "finest fighting force in history" is a first sign of the dawning if not of the realization then of the sense of a final departure which there are no peaceful and sensible solutions left to stop it, only desperate "kinetic" options which will result in US military defeat and collapse of the dollar-based international financial system. Or rather dramatic acceleration thereof. In this case no amount of strategizing and conceptualizing will help, because in the end it is the ability to produce tangibles, from steel and food with medicine, not credit ratings (fraudulent as they are) or virtual worthless money, which win those kinetic options and that ship for the United States sailed long ago. Remarkably, the sailing of this ship was hailed as yet another American "victory", which it was not.      

Monday, May 25, 2020

Being Bombastic.

This is what Donald Trump is known for and, in fact, it is his defining feature. Recall his, now famous, "very smart missiles", or him touting his economic "achievements" non-stop. Exiting crucial arms limitation treaties is also a part of Trump's MO, such as ditching Open Skies Treaty and now promising to resume testing of nuclear weapons:
US authorities considered whether to carry out a "rapid" nuclear test – the first for almost three decades – to use as a bargaining chip in dealing with Russia and China, according to media reports.The proposal to cause a controlled nuclear explosion is "very much an ongoing conversation," a high-ranked official within the administration of Donald Trump told the Washington Post on Saturday. It was assumed that a "rapid test" could prove useful in making Moscow and Beijing negotiate a nuclear-weapons-related trilateral deal with Washington, the paper's sources said.
As is observed by many, often being bombastic is a cover for the lack of strength and substance. We have exactly this case here exacerbated with a very low level of understanding of modern geopolitics and international relations by US "authorities". They, those "authorities" want to abandon a 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty CTBT), evidently, based on this clause:
Each State Party has the right to withdraw from the CTBT if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of the Treaty have jeopardized the State Party's supreme national interests.    
One may ask, then, upon discounting totally delusional assumption of those "authorities" that Russia will tremble in horror and will offer an unconditional surrender upon US exploding some device, and what those "supreme national interests" might be? The answer, apart from Trump's propensity to do a lot of chest thumping, is simple enough:
1. Nuclear weapons are not war-fighting weapons but are primarily deterrents to avoid a war;
2. Nuclear weapons are considered the last resort weapons and by all metrics, as is a terrorism, are weapons of a weaker side. 
Recall what I wrote two years ago when speaking about China:
This applies fully to the United States today who lost a conventional arms race finding herself a generation or two behind Russia in technologies which are in foundation of the Real Revolution In Military Affairs. It is preposterous to even contemplate the fate of US (NATO) forces in Europe, let alone in the immediate geographic vicinity of Russia, in case some "authorities" in the US decide to commit a suicide and attack Russia. NATO forces and their decision centers will be dramatically degraded and ultimately defeated without the use by Russia of any nuclear weapons. That is not me talking, even RAND's big honchos admit that. In this case abandoning CTBT is merely another manifestation of Trump Admin's bombastic style, designed to cover up for the fact of a loss of the conventional arms race. Luckily, not all "authorities" in D.C. are bat shit crazy and some real professionals made their voices heard:
“There are still some professionals in the room who told them this is a terrible idea, thank God,” an unnamed congressional aide told the Guardian.
But, the truth to be told, it doesn't matter. Already in late 1970s Soviet military thinkers considered Stand-off High Precision weapons approaching levels of operational and strategic impact close to nuclear weapons. Today, in the age of hypersonic missiles, combat networks, advanced electronic countermeasures and instant propagation of tactical, operational and strategic information, and instant decision-making, we are looking at the warfare of unprecedented precision and violence. In the end, who is to say that Poseidon is only for delivering a nuclear payload? With the internal volume capable to accommodate a monstrous payload of the conventional explosives, this system will have little trouble reaching and positioning itself underneath a keel of the aircraft carrier and literally blowing her out of the water without any nukes. So, resumption of nuclear testing may only create a sense of amusement in Moscow, whose nuclear and, especially, conventional war-making potential keeps the US from unleashing conflicts all over the globe. As per being bombastic--old news.

P.S. In related news:
The New and Improved Tomahawk Missile Now Runs on Corn
That, sure as hell, should make those nasty Russkie Ivans and Chinks tremble in horror. Did they try to build a new missile? No? Well, there you go....

Friday, May 22, 2020

Something From 1978. Friday.

I was there in 1978. A separate story of how SRV (no, not Socialist Republic of Vietnam), but the largest shipyard in Kamchatka (Sudoremontnaya Verf), where all our parents and us (on Summer vacations) worked went on this epic hike to Avachinsky Volcano. I will not describe all details of that ascend and the night which preceded it (wink, wink) but once we got to the crater, see it here from 7 years ago:
We had our Elektronika cassette player with us and that is what we turned on--it was the first experience of youth with eternity and state of absolute awe. We always loved Pink Floyd, but at that moment we knew that we experienced more than just music...
It is Friday, ticking away the moments that make up a dull day....

P.S.  It stinks there, bad, with "rotten eggs", sulfur that is, and yet... 

That Is Nice, Really. I Mean It.

This is on Russian news today. 
Of course, as much as I cannot stand GOP, Democrats outdo themselves immediately:
Pathetic, really. Russians, of course, are deeply grateful and invocation of WW II was appropriate. It was recognized in Russia on highest political level and among people--that is the only thing that matters.