Saturday, November 30, 2019

The best and the brightest war criminals

By Robert Jackson
International Law Correspondent

The President is a corrupt Russian stooge who glorifies war crimes.

The Secretary of State devotes himself not to advancing the national interest, but to said corrupt Russian stooge's personal political gain.

Immigration policy is in the hands of a deranged white supremacist.

U Bum's nominee had a tough
confirmation hearing
So why exactly should we be surprised when the U Bum Administration nominates a war criminal to head the State Department's human rights operation?

Answer: we're not.

The only surprising bit is that President PAB is having an unusual amount of difficulty getting his Republican enablers in the Senate to rubber-stamp the appointment of one Marshall Billingslea, according to The Washington Post. 

Marshall Billingslea, come on down:

From 2002 to 2003, Billingslea served as the Pentagon’s point man on military detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. In that position, according to a 2008 Senate report, he played a role in promoting interrogation techniques that Congress later banned as torture — including the use of hoods or blindfolds, sleep deprivation, prolonged standing, the shaving of beards, the removal of clothing and the use of military dogs to intimidate detainees.

According to a report prepared by that well-known terrorist front organization, the United States Senate Armed Services Committee:

On March 28, 2003, the Secretary of Defense met with a number of senior advisors
including Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes, and Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Richard Myers, to discuss the interrogation techniques being
considered by the Working Group. 1003 After that meeting, the Secretary decided to expressly
authorize 24 interrogation techniques, including five that were not listed in the Army Field
Manual (one of these five was classified as an "exceptional" technique). 1004

Technique #22: The pig pile
And which worthies were on this committee that approved torture, uh, excuse me, “exceptional” techniques?  Let's look up footnote 1003 and find out:

1003."According to the Secretary's daily schedule, the advisors at the meeting included Mr. Haynes, Gen Myers,the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, Marshall Billingslea, and CAPT Dalton." Church Report at 136. By the time the Secretary met with his advisors, the Working Group had removed waterboarding from consideration. Ibid. at 135-6.

Well, maybe he voted against pouring water over the faces of fettered detainees to induce an unendurable sensation, if not the reality, of drowning.  That's something.

On the other hand, when General Richard Meyers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, only approved 24 torture techniques, Mr. Billingslea dissented:

On April 5, 2003, Gen Myers forwarded a memo proposing that the Secretary of Defense 24 of the interrogation techniques reviewed during the Working Group process.  In response, Marshall Billingslea, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/ Low-Intensity Conflict sent a memo to the Secretary of Defense raising concerns about the omission of certain techniques and recommending that the Secretary approve all 35 techniques "endorsed by the Working Group.

But torturers never sleep.  A couple of months later:

On July 24, 2003, Marshall Billingslea, . . . forwarded a memo notifying the Secretary of Defense that JTF-GTMO intended to isolate Slahi and recommending that he approve the use of "sleep deprivation" and "sound modulation at decibel levels not harmful to hearing.  A handwritten note on the memo stated that "OGC concurs that this is legal. We don't see any policy issues with these interrogation techniques. Recommend you authorize. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz approved the memo on July 28,2003 and forwarded it to Secretary Rumsfeld, who added his approval on August 13, 2003.

Technique #17: Execution cosplay
Victims of sleep deprivation at the hands of the Nazis and the Communist secret police in East Germany and other places will be happy to tell you that it's unendurable torture.  Too bad Billingslea didn't get the memo.

What's the problem with putting a war criminal in charge of this country's advocacy of human rights?  Human Rights Watch sums it up with admirable clarity:

Should Billingslea be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as undersecretary of state for civilian security, human rights and democracy, he would be tasked with upholding the same international laws that he disregarded when advocating for the use of torture under Bush. 

It would be his job to ensure that U.S. foreign policy aligns with international human rights law, and to encourage U.S. partners and foes to abide by human rights standards. But how could he carry out these duties effectively if he can’t, or won’t, see the severity of the human rights violations that he himself advocated? 

A fuller list of organizations who oppose the nomination of a war criminal to the human rights post can be found here.

The point of nominating a war criminal to the position of America's leading advocate of human rights is not just to give an otherwise unemployable hack a job (he has one at Treasury); it is to subvert the entire enterprise of trying to promote a freer and more just world. 

But every war criminal deserves a robust defense, and sure enough Billingslea has no shortage of defenders, including himself.  He told the Senate Committee reviewing his nomination that “he was merely a bureaucratic functionary relaying decisions up the chain of command . . . .”

Why does that defense sound so familiar?   We're not going to tell you, but if you're curious, try typing into your favorite search engine “banality of evil.”

Whether or not this morality-free functionary is confirmed, it's only the continuation of a trend that began even before Billingslea and his buddies were sitting around a conference table at the Pentagon munching on doughnuts and deciding which illegal forms of torment and brutality would be included in the options paper for Rummie.  At the same time, the CIA had its own process for approving torture, which led them to beatings and anal rape with turkey basters.

Technique #39: The Memory Hole
We remember learning that our country was using tortures formerly applied only by Nazis, Reds, and grotesque Third Wold tyrants.  It felt like we had been hit with a blackjack.  We also remember how few of our fellow Americans were bothered by the news, and how many hailed torture as a manly and necessary response to the war crimes inflicted upon us.

If you want to know who loved it, just check out today's Republicans With a Conscience © (Billy, Toronto Dave, Homewrecker Dave, Ana, Ricky, Steve, Nicolle, etc. etc.).  Now they say we are better than President U Bum.  But in 2003 they weren't better than anal rape and simulated drowning.

And if we still don't know how to choose between on the one hand a corrupt bigot who pardons war criminals that targeted innocent civilians for pleasure and nominates other war criminals to high office and on the other a Democrat who might raise taxes on the insanely wealthy, we're not better now.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

But is it a cult?

By Emma Goldman
Religion Editor with Nellie Bly,
Spy Washington Bureau

After just two weeks of live testimony, it is clear to even the meanest intelligence that the President of the United States extorted a foreign state to manufacture dirt on a political rival for the political gain of said President and contrary to the national security interests of the United States.  Therefore, Congress has reached an inescapable bipartisan conclusion that the President must be impeached and removed from office because he committed the trifecta:  1) treason, 2) bribery and 3) high crimes and misdemeanors.

Just kidding, folks (about the bipartisan consensus bit, that is).

The elected representatives of one political party have ignored the tower of unrebutted evidence pointing to the guilt of President PAB and to a man and woman and one black man have refused to consider any punishment for his multiple impeachable offenses.

The intrepid and the curious are bound to ask why.

One answer that has been proffered by well-meaning critics of the sorry spectacle of Republicans conspiring to destroy the rule of law and our Constitutional order: that President U Bum and the Republicans are involved in some sort of a “cult.”

Here's a recent example from The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, who appears to sworn off Conventional Wisdom in favor of real reporting, proving that there's always hope:
Alternatively, you could view that as cult-like behavior. 
Once he declared his support for impeachment proceedings this summer, Amash was essentially banished from the party. Also cult-like: Republicans’ claims not only that Trump did nothing impeachable but also that he did nothing wrong when he withheld an ally’s military aid for a promise to investigate a political opponent.
At their post-vote news conference, Republicans were asked: “Will you all go on the record and say the president did nothing inappropriate?”
“Yes,” chorused the 50 men and three women onstage.
“A very clear yes,” said McCarthy.

The Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief has as usual stated the quiet part out loud, boasting that he could kill someone on Fifth Avenue and his followers wouldn't mind.

Fact check: true.

But the cult trope used to explain this otherwise inexplicable behavior doesn't seem like a fully satisfactory explanation.  It does explain why U Bum Kissers choose to follow their Dear Leader rather than what's in front of their lying eyes.  We think though that a true cult involves a blind adherence to a charismatic leader that endures regardless of whatever babble comes out of his mouth.

That's the origin of the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” – the followers of Jim Jones were so in Jim's thrall that they believed whatever he said even when it went against their most basic interests, like staying alive.

Does anyone believe that the followers of the Bigot-in-Chief would follow him anywhere?  Sure, they're jiggy with any crimes he commits because that just shows how super awesome he is: unlike his toothless couch potato followers, who can't even use one racial epithet without being fired from their wiping gig at the car wash, their idol can smear, slime, attack, and seek to ruin women like courageous Foreign Service officer Amb. Marie Yovanovitch or men of integrity like Rep. Adam Schiff with impunity.

We know they would follow him into the dressing room where the underage contestants in the Miss Teen Universe contest are changing.  But would they really follow him anywhere?

Consider the case of Shabbatai Zvi, a false prophet who enjoyed a vogue among 17th Century Jews even though, or perhaps because, he abolished most of Jewish ritual and replaced it by a millenarian belief in him as the Messiah:

The adherents of Shabbethai, probably with his consent, even planned to abolish to a great extent the ritualistic observances, because, according to a tradition, in the Messianic time most of them were to lose their obligatory character. The first step toward the disintegration of traditional Judaism was the changing of the fast of the Tenth of į¹¬ebet to a day of feasting and rejoicing. . . .

This message produced wild excitement and dissension in the communities, as many of the pious orthodox rabbis, who had hitherto regarded the movement sympathetically, were shocked at these radical innovations. Solomon Algazi, a prominent Talmudist of Smyrna, and other members of the rabbinate, who opposed the abolition of the fast, narrowly escaped with their lives.

(Source: The Jewish Encyclopedia).

So far, so good.  But when he converted to Islam, that tore it.  His followers abandoned him because he offended their core beliefs.

Let's do a similar thought experiment with U Bum.  Let's say he called into Fox and Friends one morning and instead of a deranged rant about falsified Ukranian conspiracy theories and nasty women who wouldn't hang his picture in the US Embassy in Kyev (also a lie), he told the Three Stooges and the folks at home that he had some new insights to share.

Let's say he said that (1) immigrants were an important part of American life, (2) while he disagreed with many of President Barack Obama's policies, he recognized his integrity and honesty, and (3) there was something profoundly wrong with a system that continues to place unfair burdens on people of color and women.

Does anyone think Fox Nation would follow?

Of course they wouldn't.

Funny how the cult of U Bum
preceded him
It's not President PAB they admire; it's his repulsive ideas.  They'd follow a meatball sub if it echoed their anger over attacks on their unmerited white privilege, their bigotry, and their fear and hatred of women who have the temerity to insist on their agency and equality.  It's not a cult, implying blind loyalty to an individual no matter how evil, like Jim Jones or Charles Manson.

No, it's a clear-eyed and knowing embrace of anger, hatred, and bigotry in all its forms.  Fluff that, like President U Bum, and they're yours.  Turn away from the glorification of white nationalism and they'll drop you like a kale salad.  Just ask John McCain.

This is why we aren't as optimistic as Dana Milbank is about the Cult of U Bum, whether or not he beats the impeachment rap, when he asks: “Doesn’t he know that cults always end badly?”
Do they?

The cult of white racism begin not later than 1619, with the arrival of the first ship bearing enslaved Africans to America.  It ran without serious interference for over 200 years, until the effusion of 400,000 lives brought about national emancipation in 1865.  After the stolen election of 1876, white racism in the guise of the Redemption continued without much successful pushback until 1954. 

While the struggle continues today, does anyone think that the reign of white privilege is over in this country?  Maybe we could ask Trayvon Martin.

That's why Republicans oppose impeachment: it's not an attack on U Bum, it's an attack on the hatred and bigotry for which he stands.   That's why fake Christian demagogues like Franklin Graham are praying so hard for Bigot-in-Chief.

And that's why their Republican acolytes always say 'Amen.'

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Spy's peerless pundit, David Bloviator, explains the impeachment inquiry

Editors' Note: Every Presidential election since Nixon/Humphrey has been explained to you, the ignorant reader, by the Spy's peerless political prognosticator and pundit, David Bloviator.  We are fortunate that again this year we are able to bring you the insights of this long-time DC fixture.  Today, as part of his quadrennial “get-to-know-white-voters” outreach, he has abandoned his usual listening post at the National Press Club bar for a booth at the leading diner in Whitesburg, Ohio, the International House of Hot Takes.

David Bloviator, now in the heartland
of white America
TMS:  Good morning Mr. Bloviator.  What have you learned by talking to the common folk of middle America, who are so often ignored by coastal elites?

DB:  Well, with Cillizza on one side and Dan Balz on the other, it's hard to find a local yokel to talk to.  And this place doesn't even have a liquor license.

TMS:  Yet it's an ideal place to find out how the impeachment proceedings are playing out here in America's heartland.

DB:  In this quaint hard-working Ohio town the residents are much too busy to spend all day watching some hearings in far-off Washington, D.C.

TMS:  What are they busy doing?

DB:  Burning meth, apparently.  I've been offered drugs at least twenty times since I got here.

TMS:  Well, what's your take on the impeachment proceedings so far?

DB:  They lack pizzazz.  They need something juicy.  Who cares about a bunch of devoted civil servants loyally serving their nation despite being undercut by the President and his lackeys?  B-o-r-i-n-g!

TMS: Don't you think that Ambassadors Taylor and Yovanovitch have made a compelling case that American interests are being undercut by the President's effort to extort campaign favors from a besieged ally?

DB:  But it's not a real ally like Turkey or North Korea.  It's some faraway place no one has ever heard of.  I mean, could you even find Ukraine on a map?

TMS:  It's pretty hard to miss.  It's about as big as Texas.

DB:  But JR doesn't live there, so who cares?

TMS:  Who's JR?

DB:  Look it up you millennial whippersnapper.

TMS:  How is it playing here in the heartland?

In heartland diners, voters don't care
about Ambassadors
DB:  Not well.  The patrons of this diner are dismissing the testimony as hearsay.

TMS:  Hearsay?  I didn't realize the law of evidence loomed so large in Whitesburg.

DB:  Oh, don't be selling the heartland short, you insufferable elitist.  Half the folks in this diner don't leave their house without their copies of Wigmore on Evidence.  And their AR-15's.

TMS:  I find that hard to believe.

DB:  I've heard more discussion here on the scope of the admissions and excited utterance exceptions to the hearsay rule than I ever heard back in Washington.

TMS:  But those rules apply to civil and criminal trials, not to Congressional investigations or pre-indictment proceedings like grand juries.

DB:  You're missing the point.

TMS:  Which is?

DB:  Impeachment will fail unless it is backed by both Democrats and Republicans.

TMS:  But that position essentially give Republicans a veto over impeachment and they have already dismissed the entire investigation without considering the credible evidence.

DB:  See I told you it was failing.  It's just a reflection of the sad state of American politics.  It's become so tribal.

TMS:  You mean between those who believe in facts and the rule of law and those who place blind faith in a corrupt Russian-dominated clueless sex criminal?

DB:  See that kind of tribal thinking won't get us anywhere.

TMS:  Well, what will?

DB:  There is a hunger in the land.

TMS:  A hunger?  For what?

DB:  For unity.  For someone who can bring us together.

TMS:  How do you accomplish that?

DB:  By nominating someone who can represent all of us.

TMS:  Like whom?

DB:  Like Bloomberg.

TMS:  How can he bring us together?

DB:  Well, he can unite the progressive base of the party with the billionaires who want to vote Democratic but think Elizabeth Warren is too extreme.

TMS:  Why is she too extreme?

Can lovable Mike Bloomberg
unite the country?
DB:  My God man have you read her program?  She wants to raise taxes on rich people.

TMS:  Isn't that a broadly popular position?

DB:  Not among rich people, you jackanape.  The rich would love to vote against the President but not if they have to pay for it.

TMS:  After fifty years of pro-rich tax policies, why shouldn't the top 1% who received all the gains in wealth share a little of it so that all can have health care?

DB:  You raise taxes on the rich and poof you've got Venezuela.

TMS:  You do?

DB:  Raising taxes on the rich would destroy jobs.  You're not trying to destroy jobs are you, Che Guevara?

TMS:  Who told you that Warren's tax increases on the rich would cost jobs?

DB:  That guy over there with the little plastic bags of gray crystals and the wad of hundreds.

TMS:  In other words, a reliable source.

DB:  He's a white man who lives in Ohio.  You tell me.

TMS:  Thank you Mr. Bloviator.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

More constructive criticism from the NY Times Public Editor

Editors' Note: The last public editor of the New York Times went out for a latte in 2017 and was never heard from again. While the Times may be of the view that there is no need for any critique of their work, we at the Spy (and then the Columbia Journalism Review) have a different view and accordingly have taken on the thankless task of serving as Public Editor for the Paper of Record.  Someone has to do it.  Once again, we offer a few we hope helpful comments on aspects of the paper's output and provide you with the considered responses of the Times editors to our views.

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-content Generator and Public Editor
The Massachusetts Spy

The case of the context that didn't bark

On October 31, 2019, the Times published two front-page stories about the House of Representatives' adoption of proposed impeachment rules.  The rules set forth the detailed procedures governing the investigation of President PAB and gave the Republicans various rights, including the right to examine witnesses and to suggest relevant witnesses of their own.  As might be imagined given their extremely partisan attitude on – well, every f**kin' thing, the Republicans rubbished the proposed rules.  The Times provided extensive coverage of each and every whine.

For example, it reported the harsh attacks of Rep. Gym Jordan, who similarly dismissed well-founded efforts to investigate sexual abuse on the college wrestling team he helped coach, and Rep. Devon Nunes, whose commitment to truth is shown by his effort to sue into silence a parody Twitter account in the name of his cow, in fulsome detail:
One by one, they came to the floor on Thursday to denounce an inquiry that they view as secretive and unfair, and to accuse Democrats of shredding important precedents in their zeal to oust a duly elected president.

“Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn’t make it any less of a sham,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, while Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said the panel had turned into “a cult.”
The Times also reported scathing critiques by the White House “press secretary” (who has yet to hold a press briefing) and U Bum himself, e.g. witch hunt, scam, coup, and the like.

What the Times in its news story didn't do is tell its readers anything about the rules themselves.  And the analysis piece by long-timer Carl Hulse was no better.  It was the usual both-sides she-says he-says back and forth.  One nugget will suffice:
Republicans derided the Democratic push for impeachment as a sham, a disgrace, a charade, a Soviet-style mock trial and an effort to overturn the 2016 election and impede the 2020 campaign.
So the careful reader of the New York Times wouldn't have a clue about what procedures the House adopted.  Were they a grotesque partisan sham or fair procedures consistent with precedent?  How could we possibly find out?  Well, we could read The Washington Post:
The resolution allows the president and his counsel to request and query witnesses and participate in impeachment proceedings once they reach the Judiciary Committee, which is tasked with writing any articles of impeachment that will be voted on by the House. It also authorizes the House Intelligence Committee to release transcripts of its closed-door depositions to the public, and it directs the committee to write and then release a report on that investigation in the same fashion.
The resolution gives the Republican minority on both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees a chance to subpoena documents and testimony — provided that either the Democratic chairman or a majority of the committee agrees. And it establishes special procedures under which the chairman and top Republican on the panel can take up to 90 minutes to make their cases or defer to a staff lawyer to do so.

We asked Times Washington Bureau Chief Elizabeth Bumiller for her response to the lack of substantive discussion of the content and the fairness vel non of the impeachment resolution in her newspaper.  She said: “You ignorant f**ks are too f**king stupid to appreciate our brilliant coverage and if you don't like how we cover the story you can go take a s**t in the Potomac.”  We appreciate Ms. Bumiller's response to our question but continue to believe that our critique is well-founded.

The case of the missing biography

On November 5, 2009, the Times published on its Op-Ed Page a column critical of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plans to fund social programs, including Medicare for all, by increasing taxes on the wealthy, including a tax on wealth itself at rates up to 6% (on assets in excess of $1,000,000,000).  The columns was written by one Steven Rattner, who was identified by the Times as follows:

This was as might be expected from the Newspaper of Record true.  The brief biography might give the reader the sense that the views of a former high level economic official in a Democratic Administration should be taken seriously.

In fact they should not.  It was a stale collection of apocalyptic whines offered without so much as a shred of documentation.  One example will suffice.  According to Mr. Rattner, Sen. Warren's proposals to fix private equity are bad because “Private equity, which plays a useful role in driving business efficiency, would be effectively eliminated.” 

The column was free of ideas or argument, but the Public Editor recognizes the absolute right of the Times to publish drivel as long as it is written, or at least signed, by rich white men.  The question is whether there were other aspects of Mr. Rattner's biography that might be relevant to a consideration of his critique of Sen. Warren.

For example, had it done a deep dive into publicly available information on Mr. Rattner (thank you Wikipedia! )the Times might have noted that

1.  He's made a pile out of a private equity partnership: 
In March 2000, Rattner and three Lazard partners,  . . left the firm and founded the Quadrangle Group. They initially focused on investing a $1 billion media-focused private equity fund. Early investors in Quadrangle included Sulzberger, Mort Zuckerman, and Merrill Lynch. . . . . Quadrangle grew to manage more than $6 billion across several business lines, including private equity, distressed securities, and hedge funds. The firm also hosted an annual gathering for media executives called Foursquare, where speakers included Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. In 2008, the firm's asset management division announced it had been selected to invest the personal assets of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a billionaire and Rattner's close friend.
Might his voracious lapping at the private equity river and sucking up to even richer and more rapacious titans of capitalism affect his perspective on the value of private equity to the public good? It might.

2.  He was dinged by federal and New York State regulators in a pay to play scandal.

Speaking of his private equity years, 
In 2009, Quadrangle and a dozen other investment firms, . . were investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for their hiring of Morris. The SEC viewed the payments as "kickbacks" in order to receive investments from the CRF since Morris was also a consultant to Hevesi.  Quadrangle paid $7 million in April 2010 to settle the SEC investigation, and Rattner personally settled in November for $6.2 million without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.
The Times did not believe that Steve Rattner's
financial affairs were relevant
Hevesi and Morris?  What happened to them?  Let's ask The New York Times:
Alan G. Hevesi, the sole trustee of the pension fund, pleaded guilty in October to a felony related to his role in the scheme and admitted knowing that Hank Morris, his longtime top political aide, had been paid millions of dollars by investment firms to help win business from the fund. Mr. Hevesi, Mr. Morris and six others pleaded guilty to crimes in the case. 
No wonder he's dubious about value of government regulation of financial markets – between the SEC and the New York State settlements, he and his fellow buccaneers paid out over $23 million.

3.  He spends every waking moment surrounded by his fellow plutocrats.

The need to raise taxes on the rich to fund critically-needed programs to help the bottom 99.9% of his fellow Americans might be lost on the estimable Mr. Rattner given the world he swans around in:
[He and his wife] have four grown children, live in a Manhattan apartment, spend summers on Martha's Vineyard, and own a horse farm in North Salem, New York. Rattner has served as a board member or trustee of a number of civic and philanthropic organizations, including the Educational Broadcasting Corporation as chairman, Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City as chairman, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brown University, Brookings Institution and the New America Foundation. Rattner is also member of the Council on Foreign Relations.. . . . Rattner also supports various educational and cultural institutions through the Rattner Family Foundation, including the Sesame Workshop, Harvard Law School, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and others.
The Tenement Museum?  How positively quaint!

Wouldn't you have a different view of his critique of Elizabeth Warren's programs if you knew these tidbits about the Times's guest Op-Ed Columnist?

We put this question to Op-Ed Page Editor James Bennet, who responded with the following voicemail: “You f**king carping bastards aren't fit to clean the bidets in Steve Rattner's second guest house on the Vineyard and I know because I was there!  You and your fellow illiterate vermin should be grateful for the insight Steven is willing to share with you and if you don't like it you can go eat s*** and die.”

We take Mr. Bennet's thoughtful response to heart but wish he had more directly addressed our concerns about the missing pieces of Mr. Rattner's biography.