Saturday, July 21, 2012

2012.07.21 — What Uncle Sam Really Wants by Noam Chomsky: Finished 2012.07.01

Noam Chomsky.
What Uncle Sam Really Wants.
Berkley, CA. The Odonion Press, 1995. ISBN1878825011.

Began 2012.06.23
Finished 2012.07.01

This book is Chomsky at his most accessible. The publisher claims, on the back of the book, that "political books don't have to be boring." And this one certainly isn't boring because this publisher's need for brevity has forced Chomsky to the bare bones. His sarcasm and irony are very sharp, and his details far more concise than in his full length works.

However, I do not actually recommend this book as an introduction to Chomsky's political writing because that brevity allows more easily for incredulity to become dismissive skepticism. What he writes is so far away from the official historical myths that we believe that after the fourth or fifth debunking claim he makes it becomes increasingly easy to become convinced that he is just some left-wing nut-job with a horribly over-active imagination who hates America. Yes, his claims are referenced in the back of the book. But they are not footnoted in the text, and that lapse more easily gives the cynic the mental elbow room to dismiss Chomksy's arguments and claims.

In a curious irony, and an affirmation of Chomsky's frequent observation that concision is America's most effective and widely practiced form of censorship, this book's brevity also makes it very quotable.
Free trade is fine for economics departments and newspaper editorials, but nobody in the corporate world or the government takes the doctrines too seriously. The parts of the US economy that are able to compete internationally are primarily the state subsidized ones: capital intensive agriculture (agribusiness as it is called), high tech industry, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, etc.

The same is true of other industrial societies. The US government has the public pay for research and development and provides, largely through the military, a state-guaranteed market for waste production. If something is marketable, the private sector takes it over. That system of public subsidy and private profit is what is called free enterprise (p.13).
Now I think the government and corporate leaders have recently entered the next or 4th degree of delusion — they actual have fallen victim to their own propaganda, and truly believe that the massive subsidies these groups get aren't actually subsidies. What the social critic and comic Bill Maher calls "being in the bubble."

And on Amercia's support for democracy immediately following the second world war: the CIA's first job was to subvert democracy and help ensure the installation of a fascist dictatorship response to America's business needs:
Restoring the traditional order
But far more important was the first area of Europe liberated — southern Italy, where the US, following Churchill's advice, imposed a right-wing dictatorship headed by Fascist war hero Field Marshall Badoglio and the King Victor Emmanuel III,
who was also a Fascist collaborator.

US planners recognized that the "threat" in Europe was not Soviet aggression (which serious analysts, like Dwight Eisenhower, did not anticipate) but rather the worker- and peasant- based antifascist resistance with its radical democratic ideals, and the political power and appeal of the local Communist parties.

To prevent an economic collapse that would enhance their influence, and to rebuild Western Europe's state-capitalist economies, the US instituted the Marshall Plan (under which Europe was provided with more than $ 12 billion in loans and grants between 1948 and 1951, funds used to purchase a third of US exports to Europe in the peak year of 1949).

In Italy, a worker- and peasant-based movement, led by the Communist party, had held down six German divisions during the war and liberated northern Italy. As US forces advanced through Italy, they dispersed this antifascist resistance and restored the basic structure of the prewar Fascist regime.

Italy has been one of the main areas of CIA subversion ever since the agency was founded. The CIA was concerned about Communists winning power legally in the crucial Italian elections of 1948. A lot of techniques were used, including restoring the Fascist police, breaking the unions and withholding food. But it wasn't clear that the Communist party could be defeated.

The very first National Security Council memorandum, NSC 1 (1948), specified a number of actions the US would take if the Communists won these elections. One planned response was armed intervention, by means of military aid for underground operations in Italy.

Some people, particularly George Kennan, advocated military action before the elections — he didn't want to take a chance. But others convinced him we could carry it off by subversion, which turned out to be correct.

In Greece, British troops entered after the Nazis had withdrawn. They imposed a corrupt regime that evoked renewed resistance, and Britain, in its postwar decline, was unable to maintain control. In 1947, the United States moved in, supporting a murderous war that resulted in about 160,000 deaths.

This war was complete with torture, political exile for tens of thousands of Greeks, what we called "re-education camps" for tens of thousands of others, and the destruction of unions and of any possibility of independent politics.

It placed Greece firmly in the hands of US investors and local businessmen, while much of the population had to emigrate in order to survive. The beneficiaries included Nazi collaborators, while the primary victims were the workers and the peasants of the Communist-led, anti-Nazi resistance.

Our successful defence of Greece against its own population was the model for the Vietnam War — as Adlai Stevenson explained to the United Nations in 1964. Reagan's advisors used exactly the same model in talking about Central America, and the pattern was followed many other places (15-17).
Here is another quotable passage:
Broader studies by economist Edward Herman reveal a close correlation worldwide between torture and US aid, and also provide the explanation: both correlate independently with improving the climate for business operations. In comparison with that guiding moral principle, such matters as torture and butchery pale into insignificance (p.29).
This book is full of these little gems. However they only have realistic descriptive power if you have already read enough of Chomsky to fully understand that the words 'butchery' and 'torture' are not exaggerations when applied to American foreign policy. Rather they are a kind of ironical whitewash of the breadth and scope and scale of American brutality not infrequently approaching genocidal proportions.

A fun read, but it won't give those people who are familiar with Chomsky anything new — except a source of Chomsky sound bites. And it will likely be seen by people new to Chomsky as confirmation by the skeptical that he is a fruitcake and reduce him to being merely an eloquent conspiratorialist out in the fringes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012.07.01 — Deterring Democracy by Noam Chomsky: Finished 2012.06.25

Deterring Democracy by
Noam Chomsky.
New York: Verso (New Left Books) 1991 ISBN 086091318X.
(Out of Print: the link to the title above goes to the text of the entire book at

Begun 2012.05.08.
Finished 2012.06.25

The end of the Cold War was greeted by the free world with a self congratulatory praise that echoed off the moon and back. And for the average person, the prospect for disarmament and some kind of 'real' peace had become a tangible reality. But the end of The Cold War gave to the American military industrial complex an opportunity and a problem. The opportunity was that without the USSR as a viable deterrent to American foreign aggression, America now had the opportunity to invade other countries at will.

And the problem? The American public, having been fed a steady and successful propaganda about the role of the USSR evil and American benevolence during the Cold War, saw its end as an opportunity to give peace a chance. Thus, in a curious irony, the end of the Cold War threatened to expose to America that they had been misled about that war by their media that had acted in collusion with big business's management of 'their' government. In effect, Americans had been given an opportunity to discover that they had been manipulated by a pervasive and expansive propaganda into giving to their corporate masters their manufactured consent to propagate American hegemony disguised as defending freedom.

It would have most likely been bad for business if the truth of American hegemony actually made it into prime time news. What could the manufacturers do to avoid such a catastrophe and how were America's hegemons going to be able to take advantage of their new freedom and expand in scale and scope their overt and covert invasions; and continue their practices of disrupting fledgling democracies without a solid enemy to justify the military spending in a time of peace? The answer: follow the same media farce as was practiced during the Cold War by the simple manufacture of 'properly' acceptable enemies with the proper implementation of the media supported propaganda. Thus was born, for example, the war on drugs, the farce of Grenada, Nicaragua, and Panama as serious threats to American sovereignty and safety.

The media hypocrisy and outright lying around these wars, and the comparison Chomsky makes to Britain forcing China to buy opium, is chilling. He provides numbers to back up his argument, and citations from business leaders and NSC documents that, if they had been spoken by German SS officers in WWII, would have earned them post war convictions for crimes against humanity.

Speaking of war crimes, it would appear that the USA was one of the biggest war criminals on the planet in the eighties, frequently using their UN veto power to overturn condemnation for their frequent invasions and unprovoked attacks on other countries for the explicit purpose of enriching big American business. News of these votes rarely made it into the news. Or, if they did, it was with complete fabrication as to the vote and what it really meant. Interestingly enough, this kind of behaviour was not new in the media's history of misrepresenting American foreign practices. For example, the non-reporting of the role America played in their support for and re-establishment into positions of capitalist influence many of the pre-war German industrialists that included convicted war criminals. Nor was America's support for pro-Nazi sympathizers in the brutal suppression of democracy in Greece following WWII that resulted in the torture and/or deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the establishment of a brutal dictatorship (p335, 342).

DD is well written, and Chomsky's anger is tempered with a wry kind of humour at just how deluded and delusional the press is about their role in paving the way for American military brutality and unrelenting violation of the UN and the most basic tenets of respect for the rights of others. As always, the footnoting to the references is extensive.

For me, the detailed and somewhat organic way Chomsky writes solidifies the connections between the way the American military functions as the arm of Big Business, and Big Business's function as the manager of the controlled understanding of America's 'generous' role as planetary policeman. That perhaps the planet's greatest violator of the basic tenets of human rights and democracy is lauded by its corporate media as the singular champion of those ideals is nothing short of an astonishing proof that delusion knows no bounds. The level of hypocrisy that the media relays or creates with a straight face cannot be described in a review without the reviewer being seen as a complete idiot.

[Interlude: While reading this, there arose a pair of strange synchronicity events I like o call fushgis. Loosely, I understand fushigi as a synchronicity-like thing — click on the link to read my understanding of what it means. To read these 'synchronicity petites', as I have sometimes called them, and some quotations from the book, go to Deterring Democracy & a Pair of fushigis
End of Interlude.]

Now for some citations. Note, that since DD has been published on line and is available for free on ZCommunications' Web Page, my citations come from there. They originated as blue sticky notes I stuck in the book as I was reading it, and I've linked the page numbers to their appearance in ZCommunication's publication. Also, the on-line publication has also published the footnotes that you will see numbered in the citations.

Enjoy, if you can. From: 'Ch2. The Home Front: 2.Political Success:'
The political and social history of Western democracies records all sorts of efforts to ensure that the formal mechanisms are little more than wheels spinning idly. The goal is to eliminate public meddling in formation of policy. That has been largely achieved in the United States, where there is little in the way of political organizations, functioning unions, media independent of the corporate oligopoly, or other popular structures that might offer people means to gain information, clarify and develop their ideas, put them forth in the political arena, and work to realize them. As long as each individual is facing the TV tube alone, formal freedom poses no threat to privilege (p76).
From: 'Ch2. The Home Front: 3. The Achievements of Economic Management:'
The Reagan era largely extended the political program of a broad elite consensus. There was a general commitment in the 1970s to restore corporate profitability and to impose some discipline on an increasingly turbulent world. In the U.S. variety of state capitalism, that means recourse to military Keynesian devices at home, now adapted to the decline in U.S. power and therefore with a right-wing rather than liberal slant, the "great society" programs being incompatible with the prior claims of the important people. Abroad, the counterpart is large-scale subversion and international terrorism (whatever term is chosen to disguise the reality). The natural domestic policies were transfer of resources to the rich, partial dismantling of the limited welfare system, an attack on unions and real wages, and expansion of the public subsidy for high technology industry through the Pentagon system, which has long been the engine for economic growth and preserving the technological edge (p81).
From: 'Ch3. The Global System: 6. The Soviet Threat:'
We need not suppose that the appeal to alleged security threats is mere deceit. The authors of NSC 68 may have believed their hysterical flights of rhetoric, though some understood that the picture they were painting was "clearer than truth." In a study of attitudes of policy makers, Lars Schoultz concludes that they were sincere in their beliefs, however outlandish: for example, that Grenada -- with its population of 100,000 and influence over the world nutmeg trade -- posed such a threat to the United States that "an invasion was essential to U.S. security."22 The same may be true of those who, recalling our failure to stop Hitler in time, warned that we must not make the same mistake with Daniel Ortega, poised for world conquest. And Lyndon Johnson may have been sincere in his lament that without overwhelming force at its command, the United States would be "easy prey to any yellow dwarf with a pocket knife," defenseless against the billions of people of the world who "would sweep over the United States and take what we have." Eisenhower and Dulles may have believed that the "self-defense and self-preservation" of the United States were at stake in the face of the terrible threat posed by Guatemala in 1954 -- though it is interesting that in the secret planning record the only example cited to justify their desperate anxiety is "a strike situation" in Honduras that might "have had inspiration and support from the Guatemalan side of the Honduran border."23 The same may even be true of those who instituted and maintained a national emergency from 1985 to defend us from the "unusual and extraordinary threat" to our national security posed by Nicaragua under the Sandinistas.

In such cases, we need not conclude that we are sampling the productions of psychotics; that is most unlikely, if only because these delusional systems have an oddly systematic character and are highly functional, satisfying the requirements stipulated in the secret documentary record. Nor need we assume conscious deceit. Rather, it is only necessary to recall the ease with which people can come to believe whatever is convenient to believe, however ludicrous it may be, and the filtering process that excludes those lacking these talents from positions of state and cultural management.

In passing, we may note that while such matters may be of interest to those entranced by the personalities of leaders, for people concerned to understand the world, and perhaps to change it, they are of marginal concern at best, on a par with the importance for economists of the private fantasies of the CEO while he (or rarely she) acts to maximize profits and market share. Preoccupation with these matters of tenth-order significance is one of the many devices that serve to divert attention from the structural and institutional roots of policy, and thus to contribute to deterring the threat of democracy, which might be aroused by popular understanding of how the world works (p100-1).
From: 'Ch4. Problems of Population Control: 4. The Narcotraffickers:'
Social policies implemented in Washington contribute to the toll of victims in other ways, a fact illustrated dramatically just as the vast media campaign orchestrated by the White House peaked in September 1989. On September 19, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) panel held a hearing in Washington to consider a tobacco industry request that the U.S. impose sanctions on Thailand if it does not agree to drop restrictions on import of U.S. tobacco. Such U.S. government actions had already rammed tobacco down the throats of consumers in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, with human costs of the kind already sketched.

This huge narcotrafficking operation had its critics. A statement of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association condemned the cigarette advertising in "countries that have already succumbed to the USTR crowbar of trade threats," a campaign "patently designed to increase smoking by...young Asian men and women who see young U.S. men and women as role models." U.S. Surgeon General Everett Koop testified at the USTR panel that "when we are pleading with foreign governments to stop the flow of cocaine, it is the height of hypocrisy for the United States to export tobacco." Denouncing the trade policy "to push addicting substances into foreign markets" regardless of health hazards, he said that "Years from now, our nation will look back on this application of free trade policy and find it scandalous." Koop told reporters that he had not cleared his testimony with the White House because it would not have been approved, and said he also opposed actions under the Reagan administration to force Asian countries to import U.S. tobacco. During his eight years in office, ending a few days after his testimony, Koop backed reports branding tobacco a lethal addictive drug responsible for some 300,000 deaths a year.

Thai witnesses also protested, predicting that the consequence would be to reverse a decline in smoking achieved by a 15-year campaign against tobacco use. They also noted that U.S. drug trafficking would interfere with Washington's efforts to induce Asian governments to halt the flow of illegal drugs. Responding to the claim of U.S. tobacco companies that their product is the best in the world, a Thai witness said, "Certainly in the Golden Triangle we have some of the best products, but we never ask the principle of free trade to govern such products. In fact we suppressed [them]."

Critics invoked the analogy of the Opium War 150 years ago, when the British government compelled China to open its doors to opium from British India, sanctimoniously pleading the virtues of free trade as they forcefully imposed large-scale drug addiction on China. As in the case of the U.S. today, Britain had little that it could sell to China, apart from drugs. The U.S. sought for itself whatever privileges the British were extracting from China by violence, also extolling free trade and even the "great design of Providence to make the wickedness of men subserve his purposes of mercy toward China, in breaking through her wall of exclusion, and bringing the empire into more immediate contact with western and christian nations" (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions). John Quincy Adams denounced the refusal of China to accept British opium as a violation of the Christian principle of "love thy neighbor" and "an enormous outrage upon the rights of human nature, and upon the first principles of the rights of nations." The tobacco industry and its protectors in government invoke similar arguments today as they seek to relive this triumph of Western civilization and its "historic purpose."32

Here we have the biggest drug story of the day, breaking right at the peak moment of the government-media campaign: the U.S. government is perhaps the world's leading drug peddler, even if we put aside the U.S. role in establishing the hard drug racket after World War II and maintaining it since. How did this major story fare in the media blitz? It passed virtually unnoticed -- and, needless to say, without a hint of the obvious conclusion.33

The drug traffic is no trivial matter for the U.S. economy. Tobacco exports doubled in annual value in the 1980s, contributing nearly $25 billion to the U.S. trade ledger over the decade according to a report of the Tobacco Merchants Association, rising from $2.5 billion in 1980 to $5 billion in 1989. Tobacco provided a $4.2 billion contribution to the trade balance for 1989, when the deficit for the year was $109 billion. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky took due note of these figures while testifying in support of the tobacco companies at a Senate hearing. The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, commenting on the benefits to the U.S. economy from tobacco exports, "cited the removal of overseas trade barriers, primarily in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea" as a contributory factor (p123-125).34

We see that it is unfair to blame the huge trade deficit on the policies of the Reagan-Bush administrations without giving them credit for their efforts to overcome it by state intervention to increase the sale of lethal addictive drugs.
This is endless. The numbers you have noticed in the text are to footnotes. If you go to the linked page numbers, you will find the footnotes supplied at ZCommunications' transcription of DD.

I'll close with Chomsky at his most eloquent. He closes DD with a short history of so-called 'Freedom of Speech' in the USA. It is not what you have likely come to believe because the rhetoric you hear about it is a complete fabrication by the media and proper intellectual journals.
Those who adopt the common sense principle that freedom is our natural right and essential need will agree with Bertrand Russell that anarchism is "the ultimate ideal to which society should approximate." Structures of hierarchy and domination are fundamentally illegitimate. They can be defended only on grounds of contingent need, an argument that rarely stands up to analysis. As Russell went on to observe 70 years ago, "the old bonds of authority" have little intrinsic merit. Reasons are needed for people to abandon their rights, "and the reasons offered are counterfeit reasons, convincing only to those who have a selfish interest in being convinced." "The condition of revolt," he went on, "exists in women towards men, in oppressed nations towards their oppressors, and above all in labour towards capital. It is a state full of danger, as all past history shows, yet also full of hope."86

Russell traced the habit of submission in part to coercive educational practices. His views are reminiscent of 17th and 18th century thinkers who held that the mind is not to be filled with knowledge "from without, like a vessel," but "to be kindled and awaked." "The growth of knowledge [resembles] the growth of Fruit; however external causes may in some degree cooperate, it is the internal vigour, and virtue of the tree, that must ripen the juices to their just maturity." Similar conceptions underlie Enlightenment thought on political and intellectual freedom, and on alienated labor, which turns the worker into an instrument for other ends instead of a human being fulfilling inner needs -- a fundamental principle of classical liberal thought, though long forgotten, because of its revolutionary implications. These ideas and values retain their power and their pertinence, though they are very remote from realization, anywhere. As long as this is so, the libertarian revolutions of the 18th century remain far from consummated, a vision for the future.87

One might take this natural belief to be confirmed by the fact that despite all efforts to contain them, the rabble continue to fight for their fundamental human rights. And over time, some libertarian ideals have been partially realized or have even become common coin. Many of the outrageous ideas of the 17th century radical democrats, for example, seem tame enough today, though other early insights remain beyond our current moral and intellectual reach.

The struggle for freedom of speech is an interesting case, and a crucial one, since it lies at the heart of a whole array of freedoms and rights. A central question of the modern era is when, if ever, the state may act to interdict the content of communications. As noted earlier, even those regarded as leading libertarians have adopted restrictive and qualified views on this matter.88 One critical element is seditious libel, the idea that the state can be criminally assaulted by speech, "the hallmark of closed societies throughout the world," legal historian Harry Kalven observes. A society that tolerates laws against seditious libel is not free, whatever its other virtues. In late 17th century England, men were castrated, disemboweled, quartered and beheaded for the crime. Through the 18th century, there was a general consensus that established authority could be maintained only by silencing subversive discussion, and "any threat, whether real or imagined, to the good reputation of the government" must be barred by force (Leonard Levy). "Private men are not judges of their superiors... [for] This wou'd confound all government," one editor wrote. Truth was no defense: true charges are even more criminal than false ones, because they tend even more to bring authority into disrepute.89

Treatment of dissident opinion, incidentally, follows a similar model in our more libertarian era. False and ridiculous charges are no real problem; it is the unconscionable critics who reveal unwanted truths from whom society must be protected.

The doctrine of seditious libel was also upheld in the American colonies. The intolerance of dissent during the revolutionary period is notorious. The leading American libertarian, Thomas Jefferson, agreed that punishment was proper for "a traitor in thought, but not in deed," and authorized internment of political suspects. He and the other Founders agreed that "traitorous or disrespectful words" against the authority of the national state or any of its component states was criminal. "During the Revolution," Leonard Levy observes, "Jefferson, like Washington, the Adamses, and Paine, believed that there could be no toleration for serious differences of political opinion on the issue of independence, no acceptable alternative to complete submission to the patriot cause. Everywhere there was unlimited liberty to praise it, none to criticize it." At the outset of the Revolution, the Continental Congress urged the states to enact legislation to prevent the people from being "deceived and drawn into erroneous opinion." It was not until the Jeffersonians were themselves subjected to repressive measures in the late 1790s that they developed a body of more libertarian thought for self-protection -- reversing course, however, when they gained power themselves.90

Until World War I, there was only a slender basis for freedom of speech in the United States, and it was not until 1964 that the law of seditious libel was struck down by the Supreme Court. In 1969, the Court finally protected speech apart from "incitement to imminent lawless action." Two centuries after the revolution, the Court at last adopted the position that had been advocated in 1776 by Jeremy Bentham, who argued that a free goverment must permit "malcontents" to "communicate their sentiments, concert their plans, and practice every mode of opposition short of actual revolt, before the executive power can be legally justified in disturbing them." The 1969 Supreme Court decision formulated a libertarian standard which, I believe, is unique in the world. In Canada, for example, people are still imprisoned for promulgating "false news," recognized as a crime in 1275 to protect the King.91

In Europe, the situation is still more primitive. France is a striking case, because of the dramatic contrast between the self-congratulatory rhetoric and repressive practice so common as to pass unnoticed. England has only limited protection for freedom of speech, and even tolerates such a disgrace as a law of blasphemy. The reaction to the Salman Rushdie affair, most dramatically on the part of self-styled "conservatives," was particularly noteworthy. Rushdie was charged with seditious libel and blasphemy in the courts, but the High Court ruled that the law of blasphemy extended only to Christianity, not Islam, and that only verbal attack "against Her Majesty or Her Majesty's Government or some other institution of the state" counts as seditious libel. Thus the Court upheld a fundamental doctrine of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Stalin, Goebbels, and other opponents of freedom, while recognizing that English law protects only domestic power from criticism. Doubtless many would agree with Conor Cruise O'Brien, who, when Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in Ireland, amended the Broadcasting Authority Act to permit the Authority to refuse to broadcast any matter that, in the judgment of the minister, "would tend to undermine the authority of the state."92

We should also bear in mind that the right to freedom of speech in the United States was not established by the First Amendment to the Constitution, but only through dedicated efforts over a long period by the labor movement, the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, and other popular forces. James Madison pointed out that a "parchment barrier" will never suffice to prevent tyranny. Rights are not established by words, but won and sustained by struggle.

It is also worth recalling that victories for freedom of speech are often won in defense of the most depraved and horrendous views. The 1969 Supreme Court decision was in defense of the Ku Klux Klan from prosecution after a meeting with hooded figures, guns, and a burning cross, calling for "burying the nigger" and "sending the Jews back to Israel." With regard to freedom of expression there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it in favor of Stalinist/Fascist standards.93

Whether the instinct for freedom is real or not, we do not know. If it is, history teaches that it can be dulled, but has yet to be killed. The courage and dedication of people struggling for freedom, their willingness to confront extreme state terror and violence, is often remarkable. There has been a slow growth of consciousness over many years and goals have been achieved that were considered utopian or scarcely contemplated in earlier eras. An inveterate optimist can point to this record and express the hope that with a new decade, and soon a new century, humanity may be able to overcome some of its social maladies; others might draw a different lesson from recent history. It is hard to see rational grounds for affirming one or the other perspective. As in the case of many of the natural beliefs that guide our lives, we can do no better than to choose according to our intuition and hopes.

The consequences of such a choice are not obscure. By denying the instinct for freedom, we will only prove that humans are a lethal mutation, an evolutionary dead end; by nurturing it, if it is real, we may find ways to deal with dreadful human tragedies and problems that are awesome in scale (p397-401).