Friday, June 14, 2019

More thoughts on Ellis Island: Looking forward, not back...

     After my recent visit to Ellis Island, I sometimes find myself actually starting to feel jealous of all those poor downtrodden immigrants coming to America -- both in days gone by and right now.  From yesterday's Ellis Island to today's southern border, these hopeful immigrants have all arrived here either by escaping from horrid 19th-century shtetls and 20th-century concentration camps in Europe, from that modern-day American-made nightmare in Honduras or from the squalid ICE-run concentration camps of Texas, Oklahoma or Mississippi.

     Why?  Why should I envy them?  The poorest of the poor?  The very meekest on earth?

     Why?  Because these poor, tattered and vulnerable immigrants living at the very bottom of humanity's social scale all possess something precious that the rest of us either don't have or have lost long ago:  A reason, a purpose, a destination for their lives -- and it's not just to buy the latest iPhone or to make the next trip to Walmart or to spend hours online hating on anyone who doesn't look exactly like them.

     These immigrants have true grit -- they are not just dogs in a manger, stuck in some rut where materialism is God, sucking up to their bosses, happily throwing the teaching of Jesus or even basic morality out the window if it causes even the slightest blister in their shoes -- souls filled with xenophobia, parroting every racist or corporatist lie they hear on TV, becoming mere dollar-store imitations of real men and women with actual beating hearts.

     Like their European, Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan, Syrian, Palestinian, Yemeni, African and American Indian counterparts before them, these modern-day immigrants from Honduras have been forced the hard way to know what is true and what's not.  To quote the indomitable Mma Ramotswe, "They have a point to their lives."  What is our point?  We can only make Endless War for so long -- before the entire world falls apart.  Is that our point?

     Americans blindly look backwards to the imaginary wonderland of the 1950s, back when so many of us had been disingeniously rubber-stamped into an assembly-line conformity dominated by the Cold War and Joe McCarthy constantly telling us to "keep your mouth shut."

     Immigrants from Honduras are on the move today, looking northward in search of the ideals of American "Democracy" and American "Freedom" that they have been constantly told about -- while most Americans who are already supposed to be living the dream are now all looking backward toward a dream that never was.  Looking back to the days when their financial security came at a very steep price -- the price of Freedom and Democracy.  "Keep your nose to the grindstone and your mouths shut."

     Americans have come to believe their own myths.  Instead of the truth.  This is never a good thing.

     But now it's time for us too, like the Hondurans and all the other immigrants to America before them, to throw everything that we can, especially "our lives our fortunes and our sacred honor," into also seeking true democracy.  True freedom.  Can Hondurans find this heroic Declaration of Independence hidden away in some American concentration camp on our southern border?  Maybe.  Can we ourselves find it in Washington DC or at Walmart?  Definitely not.

     Americans can never ever experience a true democracy or live in true freedom -- not in a country where we have concentration camps at our southern borders, where any kind of planned parenthood is not allowed, where we are constantly being mugged and frisked by the new income tax laws, where voter suppression is rampant, where we go into individual bankruptcy because we believe that TV commercials are more important than the Eye of a Needle and into national bankruptcy because our imperialistic military machine is stretched too thin because all our savings, and future hopes and dreams are swallowed up by Death Eaters waging "Endless War" and where we all know for sure that the NSA is reading our mail.

     Both our Honduran asylum-seekers of today and the ghosts of our Ellis Island survivors back in the day have one thing in common.  They have nothing to lose -- and yet they still have hope.  I'm so jealous of that.  But we Americans?  We have already lost all that -- and yet we don't even know that it's gone.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Ellis Island: Why it's even more relevant today

      When I visited Ellis Island recently, there was a huge sign over the main exhibit hall telling me that their featured permanent exhibit was entitled "The Peopling of America".  Think about that for a minute.  "The Peopling of America."  Who could possibly resist visiting an exhibit where the word "People" is used as a verb?  Certainly not me.

     Only a tiny first part of this gigantic exhibit even causally mentioned that perhaps there might have been a few indigenous people who happened to live here before the settlers from Europe showed up and murdered most of them.  But then the extensive exhibit got down to brass tacks and began to tell us the story of how the real "Peopling" of America began -- once those pesky Indians had been shoved out of the way.

     Since Columbus arrived, according to this exhibit, the "Peopling of America" had been a good thing.  Even all those poor tired unwashed non-English-speaking 19th-century immigrants yearning to breathe free who had landed on Ellis Island with their hearts in their throats had been a good thing -- even though the settlers already here clearly didn't think so. 

     But now, apparently, the "Peopling of America" is over.  According to Washington DC, I.C.E. and the U.S. Border Patrol, America has now become all "Peopled" up.  No more room at the inn.  No vacancy.  Sorry.  Go away.  Or die.

     As far as I can tell, this is why the current Euro-centric "People" of America today seem to be so terribly afraid of our new immigrants -- that maybe karma really indeed is a bitch.  They're afraid that what goes around comes around.  That just as their ancestors had "Peopled" the American Indian to near extinction?  They are now afraid that their own Euro-centric arses are gonna also get "Peopled" to near extinction too by this next wave of immigrants from Latin America -- immigrants who are only following the trail of their stolen treasures back to the very thieves who stole them.  And that would be us.

     And now we are seeing a whole new set of Ellis-Island clones springing up all along America's southern borders -- but these new ones are far more crueler and meaner and low-spirited than the original Ellis Island ever was.  Not just facilities for clearing new immigrants but actual concentration camps.

    But it doesn't have to be this way.  Americans do not need to behave like Nazis.  It doesn't have to be "us verses them".  All humans are valuable.  Did not Jesus teach us that?  These asylum-seekers at our southern border need to be viewed as resources, as gifts -- not just another new wave of greedy settlers come to "People" over us too just like our murderous ancestors brutally "Peopled" over the American Indians back in the day.  

      Let's finally change history, make amends, welcome these new immigrants, start a new trend -- and do the courageous things now that our ancestors were too set on genocide to even consider.

PS:  I gotta admit that the Ellis Island cafeteria did serve an excellent old-fashioned roast beef dinner -- and it was cheap too. Plus the ferry ride over from lower Manhattan was totally fun.


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Thursday, June 06, 2019

Morgan Library & Hudson Yards: Two NYC landmarks built off the misery of others

    I clearly love everything about books -- so imagine my delight when someone told me about the historic Morgan Library in midtown Manhattan.  I was there in a flash.  And it was awesomely beautiful too.  Just imagine a vaulted sanctuary such as Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel -- only also lined with tiers and tiers of bookcases stuffed with rare and beautiful leather-bound books containing all the wisdom of the ages.  "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."  I was in hog heaven!

     "But...."  And, yes, there's always gotta be a but....

     At the very back of my consciousness, I kept hearing a niggling small voice that kept telling me, "You know, of course, that all this fabulous splendor was built upon the backs of the misery, starvation and death of thousands of 19th-century American workers who were impoverished and practically enslaved by J.P. Morgan, the Robber Baron himself, right?"

     "Oh shut up Jiminy Cricket and just let me enjoy the moment."  But my conscience just wouldn't shut up.

     Another one of the many other fabulous things to do in New York City is to walk the High Line, an amazing park-in-the-sky lovingly created by local volunteers who have turned some old elevated train tracks into a tree-lined pathway from 14th Street up to 34th Street.  I went there next.  Trees are beautiful too, right?

     "But...."  And, yes, there's always gotta be a but.

    At the end of the High Line I also discovered the luxurious Hudson Yards office-complex-and-mall.  Another thing of great beauty.  And the "Stores at the Yard" were all selling beautiful high-end stuff like Chanel, Cartier, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Gucci, Coach and Dior.  Who the freak can even afford to buy stuff like that?  Certainly not me.  I shop at free boxes, flea markets and the Goodwill.  But somebody must be doing their shopping there.  I couldn't even imagine who.

     And another thing about the Hudson Yards that just screamed out "Conspicuous Consumption" was the huge amounts of wasted space there.  Atriums and terraces and vaulted corridors were everywhere, right there on prime-time mid-Manhattan real estate -- real estate worth hundreds of dollars a foot.  Real estate that could have housed hundreds if not thousands of tents for the myriad homeless families of New York.

     Jiminy Cricket then went on to underscore his point.  "Back in the 19th century, robber barons like Morgan and Rockefeller and Carnegie created their castles of dreams on the backs of starving and dying American workers like our great-grandfathers.  And now it is clear that, here in the 21st century, there is a whole new set of robber barons who are creating all this insane wealth as well -- only this time these castles of dreams like the Hudson Yards are being created over the dead bodies of murdered babies in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East."

    Yep, my conscience is right.   What good is awesome and extreme beauty if its very roots lie in the extreme swamps of inhuman heartlessness and greed?  The one cancels out the other.  How can anyone with any good conscience at all shop at the Hudson Yards, knowing that their extreme wealth mostly derives from manufacturing and selling deadly weapons of mass destruction -- to be used to massacre babies in far-away places like Yemen and Gaza and Syria and Iraq?  How can these people even sleep at night?

     And how can we Americans continue to let them? 

     To quote Dwight D. Eisenhower, "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."  Let's do whatever we can to stop our leaders from continuing to trudge down their current sad, immoral and decadent path to a beautiful future for them -- at the price of a living Hell for the rest of us.


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Saturday, June 01, 2019

My (not so) excellent adventure with propaganda at the United Nations in NYC

     How many times have you been told straight-up lies to your face?  Been told them so many times that you actually start to believe them?  "Yes, Santa Claus will bring you lots of presents down the chimney, kid.  Now shut up and put out those damn cookies and milk."

     I had that very same experience a few days ago -- right in front of the United Nations building in New York.  I saw a small group of people standing in front of the iconic UN building and waving a huge Syrian flag.  "Those are my kind of people!" I thought.  Having been to Syria and having kept up with all the lies we've been fed about their president being a bad guy, I was delighted to see protestors who were actually and finally bringing Truth to Power.

     Boy was I wrong!

     Those people were paid protestors, hired by Lord-Knows-Who to spread lies about Syria's President Assad.  "Assad is a baby-killer!"  They screamed.  Er, no.  Americans are the ones who have been murdering babies-for-oil in Syria since 2011, and in the whole Middle East for decades as well.

      "But Assad is a hero in Syria!" I told them.  "They love him there -- because Assad has kept Syria from becoming another Libya."  But the protestors just shoved an obviously-Photo-Shopped leaflet in my hand and that was that.  How can I even begin to fight propaganda like that?  I mean -- seriously?  PhotoShop?  Me?  I can barely figure out how to turn off and on my computer let alone turn out professional-quality stuff like that.  This was CIA-quality stuff!

     Sadly, I just shook my head and went back into the UN gift shop.  What else could I do?

     I know!  I'll go over to the Syrian ambassador's office and try to cheer him up!  Good idea -- except the ambassador wasn't home.  But I did talk to one of his aides.  "I'm so sorry that Syria has to go through all this," I told him, "just because nobody here believes that this whole tragedy is simply a result of American corporations being greedy for yet more oil."  Yet again.  Remember when they lied like a rug to us about Iraq?

     And remember when Trump ordered the bombing of Damascus in retaliation to the Douma chemical attack, supposedly ordered by Assad?  Well, it turns out that America's "rebels" (aka al Qaeda) were the ones responsible, not Syria.  "I apologize on behalf of my country," I told the aide.

     By this time I had tears in my eyes at the thought of all those dead Syrian babies -- murdered by us, not them.  And the aide almost had tears in his eyes too.  But what could we do?  For eight long bloody years now, Syria's ambassador has gotten up in front of United Nations delegates regularly and begged them to stop America, ISIS, Turkey, the Zionists and the Saudis from destroying his country -- looking like poor Haile Selassie back in 1936, futilely begging the League of Nations for help that would never come.

      I guess that all I can do now is to just to keep on keeping on -- keep on refusing to eat all the lies we are constantly being fed.  A buffet of lies.  A smorgasbord of lies.  A bistro full of lies.  A lie-filled comida.  And to stop digesting all those other multi-lingual lies we are constantly being served up by our global corporate minders like they were milk and cookies.  Sigh.


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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Gone Girls: The American South's next Great Migration
      Who knew that America's Red States would stay so doggedly attached to their jankity old Jim Crow laws?  "Nothing to see here, folks.  Time to move on."  But apparently that's never gonna happen below the Mason-Dixon line.  That petty sort of retro mentality should have ended for good after the Great Migration left much of the South without skilled labor and the freedom struggles of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement gave Blacks in the Deep South the courage to stand up for their own rights, right?  "No more Jim Crow for us!" they cried.

       But apparently Jim Crow isn't dead in the Ol' South quite yet. 

     Apparently Southern radicals just couldn't bear to leave it like that.  "What would Jesus do?  He'd look around for another vulnerable group to oppress!" their pastors shouted heretically from the pulpit.  And Southern Man, bless his heart, became so bereft of people to look down his nose at that he started searching for yet another defenseless group of victims to feel superior to, stereotype and abuse.

     It used to be Black people at the very bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder south of the Mason-Dixon line -- but now the new Untouchables in the Cotton Belt are...wait for it...women!

     And so now another Great Migration has also begun in the American South.  Southern Belles by the hundreds are currently packing up their hoop skirts and contraceptives and moving up to the Blue States.

     Pretty soon the new Alabama will become like the new China -- resembling those parts of the Flowery Kingdom today where the ratio of men to women is 100 to one, and Chinese wannabee grooms are being forced to buy brides from Thailand, Myanmar and Pakistan.  What?  Southern men are soon going to be forced to import their brides from Honduras?

     Pretty soon we are going to discover that Southern female asylum-seekers have absolutely flooded New York and Chicago.  And California will once again become known as a Sanctuary State -- but this time for giving refuge to fleeing Steel Magnolias.  And Alabama will have to beg President Trump to build them a Wall too -- just to keep their Crimson-Tide ladies from rolling away.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Blitzkrieg: London, Pearl Harbor, Gaza, Yemen

     On the night of September 7, 1940, the Nazi Luftwaffe began a inhumanly murderous bombing blitz on the helpless city of London.  For the next eight terror-filled months, death from the skies continued to rain down on heroic British citizens every single night, night after horrific night -- and yet the plucky British still managed to keep a stiff upper lip and even go on about their business during daylight hours, each one knowing full well that each day could be their very last.

    Archibald Macleish wrote a tribute to Edward R. Murrow, the gutsy American reporter who broadcasted from London to America, on the radio night after night, making the horrors of what the Nazis were doing to London vividly known to the American people.  "You have destroyed the superstition that what is done beyond 3000 miles of water is not really done at all," wrote Macleish.

     Night after night, month after month, Winston Churchill and the people of London endured Hitler's terrible and deadly bombing raids.  Americans held their breath.  Would the valiant and defenseless Londoners even survive yet another night of these brutal attacks?

    But how come the citizens of London during Hitler's horrific blitz of monstrous destruction are such gritty and stoic heroes -- and yet the citizens of Yemen and Gaza are not? 

     And then there came Pearl Harbor -- and Americans suddenly knew first-hand what such horrors were actually like.  On just one sunny Sunday morning in lovely Hawaii, 2403 Americans were murdered in cold blood by yet another evil blitzkrieg from the skies.  Americans went into paroxysms of indignation and and outrage and grief.  "Stop this horror!" they cried.

     And yet heroic Yemeni have endured this very same type of nightmare blitzkrieg from the Saudis night after night for years now.  And the citizens of Gaza have too.  Yet where are America's modern-day Edward R. Murrows?  And where is America's indignation and outrage and grief for this heinous slaughter?  "Oh.  Them.  They are only Muslims.  They can't be heroes,  They can't feel pain.  They don't count."  And the lethal and cruel bombs that are dropped on Yemen and Gaza each horrific night are not being manufactured and supplied by Tojo or Hitler -- but by the good old USA.

     That's just evil, cold-hearted and mean.

     And anyone who has ever survived the ruthless attacks on London and Pearl Harbor will have to agree that the people of Yemen and Gaza are being heroic as well -- to endure the exact same torture night after night.  To quote Edward R. Murrow himself, "How long these people will stand up to this sort of thing I don't know, but tonight they're magnificent."

     The very same thing can be said about the heroic men, women and children of Gaza and Yemen.  And we Americans?  The same thing can be said about us that was said about Hitler and Tojo.  Do we really want to be linked with these two evil and greedy colonialist monsters in future history books as well?  If not, then perhaps it's time to pull the plug on our own evil Luftwaffe and our own greedy blitzkrieg on defenseless civilians "beyond 3000 miles away".

PS:  John Bolton is currently acting like he seriously wants to become the next Hermann Goering.  Let us just hope that Philadelphia and Charleston don't also become the next Dresden too -- or the next Hiroshima.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Toad venom: They don't call it the God Molecule for nothing!

      Many years ago I visited Zacatecas, an old colonial silver-mining town in northern Mexico with lots of historic architecture and stuff.  And a strange thing happened to me back in Zacatecas as well.  I met a young Mexican man named Vicente who belonged to some unpronounceable Native American tribe up near the US-Mexico border. 

     I had forgotten all about Vicente and my experiences in Zacatecas until the other day when I found an old wooden box containing my photos from back then.  Here is the story of my encounters with Vicente.  How could I possibly have forgotten about this!

     Vicente was selling small bead-work craft items on the street in front of my guest house when I met him.  "I'm on my way to the Feria de San Marcos in Aguascalientes," he said, "to sell toad venom gathered by mis amigos in the northern desert."  Yuck!  "Would you like to try some?  It will change your world."

      Change my world?  Who could possibly resist such an offer.  "Sure." 

     You gotta remember that I was a young beatnik back then, it was a different time, LSD was still legal in the United States, there were no iPhones to distract folks with cat videos -- and I was pretty much up for anything that might make me spiritual and wise.  I inhaled the venom.  I passed out cold.  I saw visions.  I was floating.  I became an angel, a goddess.  I saw colors and rainbows and stars.  I loved this stuff! 

      I found out later that toad venom is called the "God Molecule" -- clearly for a good reason.

      That whole experience took about 45 minutes and then I was once again suddenly back on planet Earth -- and equipped with the firm realization that my life was going in the right direction, that things were lovely and that I needed to keep up working for Peace on Earth.  "Let's do this again!"

     Then there was the second time that I took toad venom.  A totally different story altogether.  It was like a dress rehearsal for Death.  The best way to explain this experience was through the acronym P.A.N.D.A.

     First I was physically Paralyzed.  Couldn't move a muscle.  Just laid there.  My brain was fully engaged but nothing else worked.

     Second, I was given the clear realization that I was all Alone in this world.  Period.  No backup.  No friendly friends, no family -- just me.

     Third, it became crystal-clear that I had No future.  "Not even any?" I asked the toad.  Nope.  None.

     Fourth, I was visited by Death itself.  And death was a good thing, absolutely nothing to be afraid of.  And on the other side of Death there lay a beautiful magical kingdom, Heaven, the Big Rock Candy Mountain, the Pure Land.  "Wow!"

     And, last, I found myself floating up through the stars, At one with the universe.

    A half-hour later, I was back on this planet -- and much, much, much wiser.  "But Vicente," I asked.  "Isn't all this exactly what a toad might want me to think -- right before it eats me?  Paralyzed, alone, with no future, not afraid of Death?"

     Vicente just laughed and thought I was cute.  He went back on the road to the fair and I went back to the Lower East Side where I was living at the time -- feeling both more spiritual and a little bit wiser.

     Maybe it's time that we also gave our current government leaders in Washington some toad venom as well.  It could either make them more spiritual and wiser -- or else toads might come and eat them up too.  P.A.N.D.A.  But this would be a fate they totally deserve for being so ugly, greedy and evil -- for starting all those endless and stupid "wars" for fun and profit, lying about almost everything and stealing food out of our babies' mouths.  Yep, let's do it.  The God Molecule don't like ugly!

PS:  Things have changed a lot since rmy trip to Zacatecas.  No one in America today seems to be even the slightest bit interested in becoming either more spiritual or wiser.  And for those of us who do try our best to become more like Christ or Buddha?  We have no media megaphone at all -- and in fact the screws on us are getting tighter and tighter.  All too many of us are ending up in jail just for speaking the truth.

     I just heard a talk by an author who, in desperation, had to turn to comic books and graphic novels to get his point across to Americans -- that we are being used and abused by the non-spiritual and definitely un-wise dolts in DC who are currently at the top of their wicked pyramid scheme to steal our country's wealth.  The other author on the platform talked about weaving her heroine's fight against disaster capitalism into her romance novels.  Harlequin Romances goes rogue?  Apparently so. 

    Perhaps they should also start making wiser and more spiritual cat videos too!

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Friday, May 03, 2019

Chaos Theory: Why we've had no new 9-11s since, er, 9-11

     Just like we've had no new major political assassinations since MLK involuntarily bought the farm in 1968, there's been no new 9-11 attacks in America since 2001 either.  Do you ever ask yourself why?  It's because there's really no need for bad guys to actually murder good guys in order to create chaos in America any more.  Terrorism and assassinations used to create chaos here back in the day but now bad guys can simply poison good guys' lamb chops, plant drugs or call-girls in their hotel suites or help them jump out a window.  Gets the job done -- with no inconvenient fact-finding commissions involved or citizen-sleuths always screaming "fraud".

     Nowadays bad guys can just simply ruin good guys' reputations -- and it's far more effective.  Just look at Julian Assange.  Or the infamous "Dean Scream".  Or Bernie Sanders being called that dread word "Socialist".  The bad guys falsely claim that AOC is nuts and that Omar sympathizes with terrorists.  Character assassination?  Gets the job done.

     And on the level of foreign policy?  Same rules apply.  Character assassination gets the job done here as well.  Just look at the ongoing media crucifixion of Russia -- rabidly accused of crimes that the Zionists and Saudis have committed daily for decades (and still do).  And how about all those horrible things the media is saying about Syria, Cuba and Venezuela?  None of them true.  Watching the news today is like watching a freaking telenovela!

     Yep, the powers-that-be clearly no longer need to set off "terrorist" bombs or assassinate progressives these days.  When they really want to get America's knickers in a twist, blowing up the Twin Towers has totally become old-school.  To create chaos in America today, all the powers-that-be have to do is, er, create chaos.

     Encouraging racial bigotry, kidnapping children at the border, fomenting riots over abortion, closing down the government, yelling "Second Amendment Rights" in a crowded theater -- any of that shite.  And then, BOOM!  America is suddenly in chaos -- and no tall buildings were even hurt during the filming.  Genius!  Gotta hand it to them (whoever they are).

     These powers-that-be own something like 99% of the media, 99% of America's wealth and 99% of our propaganda.  And they use all this power to mislead, misdirect and misinform.  Why do Americans put up with this craziness?  Generalized chaos weakens each of us individually.  We are no longer a community.  It is our Kryptonite.  The powers that be know this.  "Divide and conquer."  Why the freak don't we know it too.

    The answer?  Let's fight back.  The very first step in "tidying up" America's chaos?  Let's each of us take someone we think is definitely "The Other" out to lunch next week.  A homeless guy.  A redneck.  A bankster, a cop, someone on food stamps, an undocumented alien, a Native, a Black person, an Asian, an oligarch, a Muslim or Christian or Jew, a homosexual, a woman.  Whatever it is that you are not.  And then listen to their story.  And tell them yours too.

     We are all Americans.  We must all work to prevent the powers-that-be from creating even more chaos -- both at home and abroad.  In a supposedly-civilized country such as ours, is this really too big of an ask?

PS:  I also plan to attend the annual Book Expo in New York City at the end of May -- staying at a flop-house on Canal Street and also visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  Last time I was at that site was in 2001, watching desperate people post photos of their missing loved ones just outside the ruins.  George W. Bush and company still have a lot of explaining to do about why they let 9-11 even happen on their watch -- and why they let the House of Saud get off the hook.

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