At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

An Honest Look at Rick Santorum

posted by Jack Kerwick

Rick Santorum is widely heralded as a real “conservative.”  Rush Limbaugh has praised him on the air, on multiple occasions, and another nationally syndicated radio talk show host, Bill Bennett, has had Santorum guest host for him regularly.  To hear the Limbaughs and Bennetts of our generation tell it, a real “conservative” is one who favors “limited” or “constitutional government” and “individualism.”  Thus, presumably, Santorum must be an enemy of just the sort of Big Government ideology to which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are beholden.

But is this correct?  A look at Santorum’s positions on the issues of the day readily reveals that his rhetoric and the rhetoric of the party of which he has been a fixture for decades aside, Santorum is no less a champion of Big Government than President Obama himself.

For one, Santorum is as vocal a supporter of “the War on Terror” as anyone.  This in and of itself tells us about all that we need to know about his view of government.  As Ron Paul has pointed out to the former Pennsylvaniasenator, terror is a means to an end, a tactic.  It makes as much sense to speak of waging a war on terror, then, as it makes sense to speak of waging a war on guns or other instruments.  In all fairness, in spite of his continual use of the language of “the War on Terror,” Santorum concedes the soundness of Paul’s position.  Yet he maintains that we are, nevertheless, in a real war, but it is a war, not on terror as such, but against the terror of “Islamists” or “Radical Islamic Extremists.”

Three observations are here in order.

First, the distinction that Westerners insist on drawing between “Radical Muslims” and “moderate Muslims,” or “Islamism” and “Islam,” is the offspring of the union between considerations of political expediency, on the one hand, and those of wishful thinking, on the other.  It is, of course, true that not all Muslims wish non-Muslims harm; but as Brigitte Gabriel and other students of Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs know all too well, the taxonomy in terms of which Westerners seek to characterize Muslims is nowhere to be found within the Islamic self-understanding.  And what this in turn in means is that whether Santorum supports a war on terror or a war on “Islamist,” he supports a war without end.  Terror, like greed, will always be with us, and since “Islamists” are at bottom orthodox Muslims, a war on them is nothing more or less than a war on Muslims.  Since there are over a billion Muslims worldwide, a war on Muslims, like a war on “terror,” is also a war without end.   

Second, war is the Tree of Life for government.  It is the Mother of all crises, the Emergency of all emergencies.  Libertyis always a precarious thing, but never is its condition more precarious, more imperiled, than during war.  Now, when this war is a war in perpetuity, liberty doesn’t stand a chance, for the war will serve as an all purpose pretext for all manner of measures designed to grow the federal government ever more.

Third, however undesirable any war may be, in our Constitutional Republic, wars must be declared.  That is, our Constitution requires that before our government embarks our country upon a war, the United States Congress must issue a formal declaration.  This, though, it has not done with respect to “the War on Terror” or “the War on Islamism” or whatever Santorum and his colleagues are calling it these days.  Nor, for that matter, have they so much as indicated a desire to do so.

Importantly, Santorum is a self-avowed proponent of “Compassionate Conservatism.”  This too tells us all that we need to know about his stance on government. 

In 2005 Santorum gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation in which he argued passionately for this ideology of Big Government.  An excerpt from the speech was subsequently published at  “If government is to be effective,” Santorum asserts, “charities, houses of worship, and other civil institutions” have to be, not just “respected,” but “nurtured” (emphasis mine).  And because “Compassionate Conservatism” is “founded on an inviolable belief in humanity’s inherent dignity,” respect for the sanctity of human life means that “ending genocide, international sex trafficking and the oppression of minority groups, and promoting the respect for religious freedom around the world will always be top priorities” for the United States government (emphasis mine).       

“Compassionate Conservatism” is oriented toward helping “the poor and [those] hurting for help, whether they are across the street or across an ocean” (emphasis mine).  Thus, Santorum proudly proclaims, he and his colleagues in the Senate have assembled “a domestic anti-poverty agenda” to help the poor here at home.  Yet they also are busy at work to help the poor around the world.  Santorum states that “AIDS has seared Africa into our moral vision.” Apparently, not only is it “morally right” to care “for the sick and dying in Africa,” it is also “geopolitically prudent; if we don’t help, someone else will and that someone else may not be friendly to our interests.”  How do “we” care for “the poor and dying in Africa?”  Santorum’s answer is to the point: “We need to embrace the challenge to dedicate a larger percentage of our GDP to foreign aid” (emphasis mine) [.]

“Compassionate Conservatism” is about “changing the role of government in our lives.”  To this end, we should be “not only cutting old, tired programs, but also advancing new initiatives like the CARE Act [.]”  The latter is “a bold package of expanded charitable-giving incentives that supports faith-based and community organizations” (emphases added). 

Santorum readily acknowledges that “this agenda will require a role for government that some conservatives find disquieting.”  But he assures us “that [this] is a discomfort worth confronting.”

From his endorsement of Mitt Romney in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries to his endorsement of Arlen Specter in the latter’s senate race against the much more conservative Pat Toomey, from Santorum’s sponsorship of the “Iran Freedom and Support Act”—a bill that sought to transfer ten million dollars to Iran for purposes of “regime change”—to his insistence that we must actually enlarge our troop presence throughout the world, there is much more that can be said regarding Santorum’s attachment to Big Government.

But, hopefully, enough has already been said to establish that Santorum is a champion of Big Government through and through.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

An Honest Look at Rick Perry

posted by Jack Kerwick

Governor Rick Perry, so goes the conventional wisdom, is a real conservative.  How could he not be?  After all, his three terms as governor of Texas has marked a period of spectacular job creation.  It has been said that nearly 40% of all jobs in the United States at present are to be found in the lone star state.   In addition to this consideration, there are several others to substantiate the pervasive belief that, from the conservative Republican’s perspective, Perry is the genuine article. 

If we are to accept Republican Party rhetoric of “constitutionalism,” “limited government,” “individualism,” etc., then what we must determine is whether Perry is the partisan of liberty that, presumably, Republicans should want as their party’s presidential nominee and, ultimately, their president.  It is to the end of making this determination that we shall now look at some highlights from Perry’s political career.

Domestic Policy


The Club for Growth—an organization dedicated to the lowering of taxes and tax rates, the reduction of spending, and, in short, greater economic liberty and prosperity—generally regards Perry’s record as Texas governor favorably.  Yet it also is quick to point out that it is not without its fair share of blemishes.

For instance, in 1987, while still a Democratic Congressman (itself a telling tidbit), Perry voted in favor of the largest tax increase, not just in the history of Texas, but in that of the United States, up until that juncture.

To the objection that this was when Perry was a Democrat and, thus, it doesn’t count, a reply is ready at hand.  As recently as 2003, well after Perry became a Republican and after he was elected governor, he issued his first budget.  While he did cut spending and did not raise taxes, he elicited billions of dollars in revenue by way of a complex of “‘revenue adjustments, surcharges, and fees’” on an assortment of services.  As the Club for Growth notes, these fees are not equivalent to increases in taxes, “but they are anti-growth and serve the same purpose of funding government.

But there are other spots on Perry’s record.

In 2006, Perry advanced an ambitious property tax-cut proposal.  To insure that his proposal would become law, he is also lent his support to a “gross receipts tax”—a tax on the gross revenues of Texas corporations.  The corporate income tax may have been eliminated, but this new tax “‘nearly tripled the amount that Tex as collected from businesses.’”  According to the Cato Institute, although Perry’s bill supplied property owners with relief, it “really socked it to businesses.”  Moreover, it “centralizes fiscal power at the state level, which will encourage government growth in the long run by stifling local tax competition.” 


Perry is a mixed bag on spending as well.

While his “record on spending generally reveals fiscally conservative tendencies,” Perry has “created well-intentioned, but misguided state-funded subsidy programs to attract corporations to Texas,” a move on his part that “again indicate that Perry doesn’t necessarily fully rely on free-market principles when he makes economic decisions.”  Club for Growth reports that Perry “aggressively used government spending to attract jobs toTexas” (emphasis mine).  The Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund are two robust economic development initiatives that Perry signed into law.   The problem is that “initiatives like these, often supported by big business, create huge market distortions in a place that should naturally be a nationwide leader in attracting jobs.” 

To put it simply, Perry has proven himself to be a proponent of corporate welfare.  As Club for Growth states, Perry’s “gimmicky subsidies” implies that he “is more pro-business than he is pro-free markets.”

In his book, Fed Up! Perry objects to the federal government’s several failed attempts to address the economic crisis of 2008.  However, as Club for Growth observes, he also intimates reluctant support for such measures—as long as they are “temporary.”  President Bush may have initiated the expansion of government power over the economy, but, as Bush himself famously (notoriously?) said, he “abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”  That is, because government intervention courtesy of Republican President Bush was only meant to be for a limited time to address a crisis, it may be necessary.  But Democratic President Obama seeks to make such intervention “permanent”–and this is bad.

As far as entitlements, Perry’s work at trimming them down has been not altogether unsuccessful.  Yet it isn’t just congratulations that he his owed.  As the Governor of Texas, Perry couldn’t resist trying to impose a mandate on insurance companies that would have required them to offer a specific prescription drug plan.

It is also important to recall that while Perry was a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner in 1990, he advocated price supports for farmers.

Other Issues

That Perry is most definitely not the champion of liberty that he makes himself out to be is also born out by two other highly significant facts. 

First, as governor of Texas, Perry permitted illegal aliens to pursue a higher education for the same tuition price charged to the state’s legal residents—a decision that amounted to the decision to grant a de facto amnesty. 

Secondly—and this is particularly disturbing—Perry attempted, by way of executive order, to impose a vaccination upon young girls—whether they or their parents wanted it or not.  That is, in order to get his way, Perry sought to circumvent the legislature.

Foreign Policy

Perry’s foreign policy stance is not easy to differentiate from that of every other establishment Republican. He supports “the War on Terror,” specifically, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is a stalwart defender ofIsrael.  Considering that Perry has never so much as come close to signaling a desire to alter the current relationship between America and Israel, it is most reasonable to conclude that he wishes to continue subsidizing the latter via American foreign aid.


There is only so much that can be said about Perry within the little amount of time available to say it.  Hopefully, what has been said here is sufficient to establish that Rick Perry, like the Republican Party to which he belongs, is bewitched by an ideology of Big Government.    

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American

An Honest Look at Michele Bachmann

posted by Jack Kerwick

Second only to Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann is the most consistent of the GOP presidential candidates when it comes to the subject of liberty.  Her record is, for the most part, commendable.  Beyond this, Bachmann strikes the unprejudiced and prejudiced observer alike as a woman of conviction, a woman with a keen intelligence, intestinal fortitude, and the ability to articulate her views with concision and clarity.

Still, from the perspective of the lover of liberty, Bachmann’s positions on the issues are anything but unproblematic.


Foreign Policy

War in Afghanistan

It is one thing to have initially lent support for the invasion of Afghanistan.  Our country had suffered a major terrorist attack the likes of which it had never before experienced and the government of this Middle Eastern land, we knew, was harboring those responsible for it.  It is another thing entirely, however, to not only continually support our efforts to “democratize”Afghanistan, but to resolutely oppose attempts to diminish our troop presence there.

But this is exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann has done.  In March of this year, Bachmann voted “NO” on removing our armed forces from Afghanistan.  

Bachmann presumably agrees with Republican Congressman Ros-Lehtinen who conveyed her colleagues’ position on the matter.  She states: “Completing our mission in Afghanistan is essential to keeping our homeland safe.  This is about our vital national security interests.”

War in Iraq

As for Iraq, the war was launched before Bachmann was elected to Congress.  Yet she has been a vocal proponent of it. In fact, she had voted against a measure in May 2007 to begin withdrawing American troops from the conflict-ridden region within 90 days.  The following statement issued during this congressional debate represents the view of Bachmann and her colleagues on this issue.  “This legislation embraces” not only “surrender and defeat;” it as well “undermines our troops and the authority of the President as commander-in-chief,” and it “places military decisions in the hands of politicians rather than military commanders in the field.”  Worse yet,America’s enemies inIraq “view this bill as a sign of weakness.”  The statement concludes: “It is absolutely essential thatAmerica, the last remaining superpower on earth, continue to be a voice for peace and a beacon for freedom in our shrinking world.” 

Notice, as the statement’s conclusion makes abundantly clear, Bachmann is indistinguishable from her Republican colleagues who wanted to prolong the war in Iraqin regarding the latter as part of a grand ideological crusade.  The significance of this can’t be overstated, for if American-style liberty can be said to have an arch-nemesis, it is precisely the sort of militaristic ideology that Bachmann wholeheartedly endorses.

Strangely, because it is primarily this ideology that resulted in two crushing defeats for the Republican Party in the elections of 2006 and 2008, one would think that every GOP presidential aspirant would emphatically repudiate it.  But this is far from the case.  As further evidence that Bachman is a true believer in it, there are other facts to visit.

Defense Spending

First, Bachmann insists that defense spending hasn’t anything whatsoever to do with our “budget crisis.”  The Department of Defense must have “efficiency,” she says, but as far as she is concerned, there is no need for any cuts in defense. 

“Democratic Revolution” in Iran

Second, in June of 2009, Bachmann signed a bill expressing support for Iranian demonstrators, “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and [the] rule of law.”

The Patriot Act 

Third, in February of this year, Bachmann voted in favor of extending the Patriot’s Act “roving” wiretaps.  It is true that, by itself, this course of action on her part does not necessarily imply that she subscribes to an ideology of “American Exceptionalism” or “Global Democracy” or whatever we may want to call it.  But, coupled with the foregoing considerations, it certainly lends support to this claim, for beefed up surveillance of American citizens at home is among the more notable, and notably controversial, measures appropriated by our government in its prosecution of “the War on Terror,” a phenomenon that has alternately, and euphemistically, been characterized as a global “Freedom Agenda”—which in turn is, for all practical purposes, inseparable from “American Exceptionalism,” “Global Democracy,” etc.   

Furthermore, whatever her motivations are for voting for an extension of the Patriot Act, that Bachmann would feel comfortable granting our already expansive federal government that much more authority and power over our lives, that she would have no cause for concern that this awesome power could all too easily in the future be abused by the foes of liberty, bespeaks much regarding her own relationship to the latter.


Fourth, as if we haven’t already invested more than enough of our blood and treasure in our efforts to fundamentally transform the Middle East into a Western-friendly oasis of Democracy, Bachmann has advocated imposing sanctions against Iran while clarifying her openness to the possibility of using nuclear weaponry against it in the event that its government acquire a nuclear weapon for itself.

Foreign Aid to Israel

There is one final consideration that substantiates the thesis that Bachmann is as beholden to an ideology of Big Government vis-à-vis foreign policy as anyone else: Bachmann has unabashedly proclaimed her support for foreign aid for Israel.  Even the most impassioned of defenders of Israel—like Alan Keyes—have long observed that materially speaking, America has nothing to gain from Israel.  Rather, the relationship between the two countries is essentially moral—that is to say, ideological.  Now, it is one thing to recognizeIsrael as an ally; it is quite another matter, however, to insist that the federal government of the United States confiscate the legitimately acquired resources of its citizens in order to subsidize the Israeli government. 

Yet it is upon exactly this that Michele Bachmann insists.


Domestic Policy


Domestically speaking, Bachmann’s predilection for Big Government in foreign policy is not utterly devoid of a counterpart. 

For instance, while she is, to her credit, adamant about trimming down the Environmental Protection Agency, she has never argued for eliminating the agency altogether.  Bachmann says that by the time she is done with the EPA, it will be limited to the task of “conservation” only. 

That is, it will still exist.


As for marriage, again, it redounds to Bachmann’s credit that she is as devoted to preserving the integrity of the institution of marriage as she is.  However, from the standpoint of liberty, the creation of a constitutional amendment explicitly defining marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual activity is, at the very least, a problematic course of action.  Such an amendment would usurp the right of the individual states to negotiate marital arrangements while consolidating that much more federal power.

The “War on Drugs”

Bachmann is a warrior all right.  In addition to our overseas adventures, she is as well committed to fighting “the War on Drugs” here at home. From the vantage point of the lover of liberty, the task of reconciling, on the one hand, individual liberty and, on the other, the federal government’s criminalization of harmful substances is no mean feat. 

The reasons for this should be obvious.

First of all, there isn’t a single substance or activity that isn’t potentially harmful, and an equal number of such things that are potentially good.  Once the government proceeds to dictate to American men and women—supposedly self-governing citizens—what they must and must not do, liberty is compromised.  Whether the government forbids one potentially deleterious substance or a countless number of such substances, liberty is diminished.

Second, precisely because there is all manner of practices that citizens should and should not engage in, once the government seeks to determine what citizens must do with respect to any one of them, in principle, it can do the same with all of them. 

Third, sensibilities vary considerably among our country’s 50 states.  It is bad enough that any government should seek to criminalize the use of a substance; it is cause for no slight measure of alarm when the federal government should seek to do so.

Fourth, not only has the federal government criminalized recreational drug use.  It has done so in the absence of a constitutional amendment.  Ron Paul has raised this point on more than one occasion.  Whereas the federal government’s prohibition of drugs is as foolish and inimical to liberty as was its prohibition of alcohol, at least the latter was achieved by way of an amendment to the Constitution.  The former, like so many of the “wars” our government has been waging over the last sixty years, is “undeclared,” so to speak.



This analysis of Michele Bachmann is not intended to be exhaustive.  Although she is preferable to most of her rivals in the GOP presidential primary race, Congresswoman Bachmann’s relationship to liberty remains confused.     

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published in The New American 




An Honest Look at Herman Cain

posted by Jack Kerwick

Herman Cain, frontrunner for the GOP’s presidential nomination, styles himself a Washington“outsider,” an “anti-politician” and a businessman who is just what America needs at this critical moment in its history to turn itself around.  Only someone of Cain’s peculiar background, he would have us believe, only someone uncorrupted by the insatiable hunger for power from which all career politicians suffer, can restore America’s greatness in the world.

Again, this is the self-image that Cain works inexhaustibly to project.

There is one question, though: is it true?

The first fact that must not be lost upon us is that while Cain is a reasonably successful businessman, and while he is not a professional politician, the notion that he is the “Mr. Smith” of our time who is about to take Washington by storm is a fiction of the first order. 

Cain, you see, was at one time a Federal Reserve chairman. 

Federal Reserve

Now, if ever we needed a symbol of Big Government, the Federal Reserve is it, bar none.  The White House, Capital Hill, the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, and even the Pentagon—none signifies more profoundly and succinctly the omnipotent nature of our federal government.  As Henry Kissinger once remarked, whomever “controls the food supply controls the people,” and whomever “controls the energy can control whole continents,” but whomever “controls money can control the whole world” (emphasis mine). 

The point to take away from this is not that Cain acted objectionably in assuming this position, or at any time during his tenor as Fed chairman.  The point is that he hasn’t an iota of credibility when he depicts himself as a stranger to Big Government.  As a Federal Reserve chairman, he was wedded to the all-encompassing sovereign known as the federal government. 

That Cain hasn’t any objections to the Federal Reserve and, by extension, federal supremacy, becomes undeniable once we consider his response to the proposal, advanced tirelessly by the likes of his colleague and rival, Ron Paul, that the Fed be audited.  While on Neal Boortz’s show, Cain said that since there were already audits in place, another audit of the sort that Paul requests would be “unnecessary” and a “waste [of] money.”  On another occasion, Cain expressed uncertainty concerning the usefulness of an audit. “What I’m saying is [that] this request for an audit, I’m not sure if that’s the answer to any problem other than people think that they [the Fed] don’t want to be audited.”  At still another time, Cain asserted bluntly that: “I don’t think you’re going to find anything to audit on the Federal Reserve.”  He suggested that anyone who is curious about the dealings of the Fed should simply contact the bank and direct questions to its officials.  This should suffice to dispel all doubts regarding the Federal Reserve’s trustworthiness, for it is “one of the tightest-run federal entities I have ever seen.”

In spite of attributing to it unprecedented efficiency, Cain acknowledges that the Federal Reserve Bank today has its share of problems.  Yet this hasn’t anything at all to do with the structure of the Bank itself; rather, it is because those in charge—like Ben Bernanke—have allowed it to become “politicized.”  During the 1990’s, when Cain was a Federal Reserve chairman, you see, the Fed was “non-politicized.” 


It isn’t just Cain’s almost astonishingly naïve views on the Federal Reserve that expose his affection for Big Government; Cain also supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008.  This, as I am sure everyone now knows, is the notorious piece of legislation by which the federal government spent hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars bailing out troubled banks. 

In October of 2008, Cain takes “free market purists” to task for objecting to the bailouts on the grounds that it would consist in “the nationalization” of the banking industry.  It would not, Cain insists, for nationalization entails that “the government would own at least 51 percent of the entity for an indefinite period of time.”  But, Cain assures readers, with TARP, taxpayer ownership of the banks “is going to be relatively small and nowhere near the amount to be called nationalization.”  “So,” Cain asks, “what’s the problem?”

Cain’s position is clear: “Owning a part of the major banks inAmericais not a bad thing.  We could make a profit while solving a problem.”

Observe both the narrowness and, truth be told, deceptiveness of Cain’s definition of “nationalization.”  Since nationalization requires that the government have at least 51% ownership of the banks, and since the government will own a relatively small share under TARP, the latter does not open the door to nationalization.

Vis-à-vis the nationalization of the banking industry, the percentage of the government’s ownership of the banks is neither here nor there, and Cain, we can only hope, must know this.  In fact, it doesn’t matter whether the government owns any share at all in the banks.  If the government controls the banks, if it can determine how lending institutions conduct their affairs, then this, for all intents and purposes, suffices to establish that the banks have indeed been nationalized.  And anyone who knows anything at all about the nature of government knows that if it “owns” any part at all of the banking industry, it in effect controls all of it. 

As if his support of the disastrous TARP wasn’t bad enough, just a week prior to the economic collapse in September of 2008 to which TARP was thought to be the remedy, Cain insisted that the economy was in fine condition.  But one week outside of among the most severe economic crises that our country has experienced since the Great Depression, a crisis loudly predicted for years by, among others, Cain’s fellow Republican, Ron Paul, Cain insisted that our economy was sound.  The housing market bubble that had been inflated for years by government intervention was about to burst, and yet Cain apparently couldn’t decipher the connection between the one and the other.

Miscellaneous Issues

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

For all of his talk of being an anti-politician, a Washington outsider, Cain sounds awfully like those Republican politicians who have spent their careers inside the Beltway—especially when it comes to our military’s overseas exploits intended to “democratize” the Islamic world (and elsewhere).  Cain supported both the wars inIraqandAfghanistan, and he steadfastly opposes any and all “timetables” for withdrawing our troops.  This is significant, for war, particularly the perpetual “War on Terror” of which the wars inIraqandAfghanistanare but specific battles, is the lifeblood of the government.  Government grows at no time like it does during times of war.  Yet Cain wants to cut not a single penny from our defense budget.

Social Security and Public Education

Again, on these issues, Cain sounds indistinguishable from just those professional politicians to whom he is supposedly opposed.  He does not object to the federal government’s involvement in either social security or education.  He would, though, like to “reform” the current systems that we have in favor of systems in which “choice” figures more prominently than it currently does. 

As is true in the case of the federal government’s bailing out the banking industry (or any industry), whether the government’s role in providing “a safety net” and a “free” education is overt or covert, whether or not it is concealed with talk of “choice,” “options,” and/or “market-based solutions,” it is the federal government that remains in control of the system.  As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig but….

Cain has never called for the abolition of any governmental programs, let alone agencies.  Instead, he talks of reforming them.  As is the way with all socialists, communists, and, in short, lovers of Big Government, so is Cain’s way: it is never government per se that is the cause of our problems, but only the office holders who administer it.


Herman Cain, I hope it is now clear, is an establishment politician’s politician.  If the Tea Partiers, conservatives, and libertarians of whom the Republican Party is comprised want but another champion of Big Government as their next president, then Herman Cain is as worthy of their party’s nomination as anyone.          

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

originally published at The New American   




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