Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Another Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Gang Member Admits The Department Has Plenty Of Gang Members

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In an earlier post, I wrote that police departments reflect and participate in the increasing authoritarian movement in the US, that police too often act as a hostile occupation force rather than guardians of our human and constitutional rights. In Techdirt, Tim Cushing provides additional evidence. He writes:

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have a great track record. In addition to the usual stuff expected from law enforcement agencies (biased policing, zero accountability, civil rights abuses, excessive force deployment), the LASD has been home to deputy gangs pretty much since its inception.

Its recent string of elected sheriffs hasn’t done anything to eliminate this problem. Sheriff Lee Baca ended his career facing federal criminal charges. Sheriff Alex Villanueva ran as a reformer but was run out of office after spending his tenure intimidating critics, threatening to sue local politicians, and continuing to deny the department was home to deputy gangs.

Now, it’s up to new sheriff Robert Luna to clean up the department. To his credit, Luna has not denied the department houses gang members. On the other hand, he hasn’t done much with the information he’s been given, including a report from the civilian oversight board that provides plenty of evidence of gang activity within the force.

More evidence is being compiled, thanks to ongoing litigation involving the department. The lawsuit giving rise to the newest revelations was filed by Deputy Larry Waldie, who claims he was targeted and demoted after he pushed back against one deputy gang’s control of the Compton station. Testimony being delivered in this case continues to peel the layers of secrecy off the LASD’s gang problem.

When he stepped up to the witness stand last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Jaime Juarez told the court about his first inking party — the day he got his Compton station tattoo. The intimate gathering was at a home somewhere in Pomona, and most of the people there were strangers.

But he knew the man who invited him, and knew that man sported the same ink Juarez was about to get — a design commonly linked to a suspected deputy gang known as the Executioners.

On Thursday afternoon, while testifying in a civil trial, Juarez pushed up a pant leg to reveal that tattoo: a helmet-wearing skeleton gripping a rifle.

Deputy Juarez isn’t the only witness offering up damning testimony. Others are breaking the code of silence to expose the most problematic elements of an extremely problematic agency.

Some witnesses offered the names of everyone they’d seen with the so-called Executioners tattoo. One provided pictures of a detective bureau desk decorated with the group’s symbol in several places.

Of course, the LASD is arguing Waldie’s demotion had nothing to do with the intimidation and influence of deputy gangs. The department claims Waldie simply was not qualified enough to be promoted. And it also alleges — in a move that tacitly admits the department has a gang problem — that Waldie was a member of another deputy gang known as the Gladiators.

Former sheriff Alex Villanueva also offered his own testimony. As is par for his particular course, it was steeped in denial and buttressed by admissions he spent his time in office doing absolutely nothing about a problem he could never hope to credibly deny.

[Villanueva] denied there were ever gangs inside the Sheriff’s Department and said he enacted an anti-gang policy only to address the “negative campaign” by the Board of Supervisors. He went on to tell the court that he’d never seen the skeleton tattoo until a photograph of it was published with a news article, and that he’d never conducted a study to determine which tattoos existed within the department.

It’s pretty easy to pretend a problem doesn’t exist when you actively take steps to avoid learning anything about it. The self-proclaimed “reformer” left office after reforming nothing and shielding the worst of his employees from internal and external criticism. Under his so-called leadership, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 9:40 pm

Being poor in the US

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I mentioned a post by Jessica Wildfire yesterday, and it occurs to me that it might be behind a paywall. (I subscribe, so I don’t know where the paywall hits.) It was a particularly good post, well worth reading in its entirety, but if you can read it, I thought you should at least see the conclusion:

And so, here we are.

There has been a systemic assault on poor people for the last four decades. The entire point is to drag us all the way back to the 1920s, when Americans worked all the time and spent all their money on gadgets, only to wind up poor and then blamed for it by the very architects of their desire. They probably wouldn’t mind if we rebooted public whippings of the unemployed, too.

They’d bring it back just for fun.

There’s a point to all of this. If we’re going to make progress on any progressive agendas, we’ll have to remove the social stigma from poverty. We’ll have to stop blaming poor people for their problems and bulldozing their camps, as if that makes the problem go away. (Affluent liberals do it, too.) We’ll have to admit that corporations do invest an enormous amount of energy encouraging consumption and marketing junk to poor people, then act like blameless victims when they tank the economy. We have to make it clear that there’s no shame in not having enough money, that it’s not a personal moral failure.

We’re going up against four centuries of social programming.

It’s not going to be easy.

Today, poor people are gaslit from every possible angle. They’re told to buy more to help the economy. They’re told to save. They’re told to invest. They’re told to work harder. They’re told to get more rest. They’re told to ask for a raise with confidence. They’re yelled at when they ask for a raise. They’re told money won’t make them happy. They’re told money will make them happy. They’re told to go to college. They’re told they shouldn’t have gone to college. They’re told to take out loans. They’re berated for taking out loans. They’re told to try to get good jobs. They’re told they should settle for lousy jobs. Their bank charges them fines for not having enough money. Bankers tell them there’s too much money floating around, so they have to raise interest rates and trigger mass layoffs.

They’re told they work too hard.

They’re called lazy.

They’re forced to deliver packages during tornadoes. They’re locked inside freezers. They drop dead on warehouse floors. They’re told to step over each other’s corpses to meet delivery deadlines. They’re told to pee inside bottles. They’re denied air conditioning. Their corporate bosses tell them to get on food stamps to save the company money. Their corporate bosses try to get them kicked off food stamps. On top of all that, they’re told to be grateful.

They’re not poor.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 8:38 pm

During Pride month, journalists should be ashamed

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Dan Froomkin writes at Press Watch:

The front-page headline in the Washington Post proclaimed that “emboldened shoppers” are threatening Target workers for carrying Pride month merchandise — a trend that the article explained had had “engulfed” the chain “in culture wars.”

Those “emboldened shoppers” – in reality, retrograde bullies and bigots spewing the kind of hatred that had been increasingly confined to the dark corners of society before the Trump era – couldn’t have asked for better, more indulgent coverage.

Something terrible has changed in our society as the Republican Party has become a toxic stew of Christian nationalism, white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, and especially transphobia. It’s a sickness. It’s a gigantic step backwards.

But that’s not how the Washington Post sees it. Reporters Jaclyn Peiser and Jacob Bogage wrote in their nut graph:

Though Pride Month and other inclusivity initiatives have been around for years, they’ve increasingly become litmus tests for consumers, forcing companies to fully commit on social issues or yield to critics.

This kind of coverage is, sadly, typical. The furious reaction from phobic haters is repeatedly seen in the mainstream media as a marketing challenge rather than as an alarming sign of societal regression.

It’s bad enough that our elite newsrooms normalize book banning, teacher gagging, history erasing and other clear signs of incipient fascism. It’s bad enough they falsely equate hostages and hostage-takers.

What’s even worse is the calm and measured coverage of the ongoing assault on the personhood of a significant portion of the American population.

After decades of progress, there is now an all-out war on queerness. Where, any normal person must ask, is the outrage?

(There was a similar journalistic failure a year ago, after the Supreme Court declared a war on women.)

The short answer is that elite newsroom leaders feel that outrage about anything is unseemly – because it would appear to be “taking sides.”

Sustained outrage is even more unacceptable. To the people who consider unflappability the ultimate journalistic achievement, sustained outrage is a symptom of hysteria.

Case in point, some Times contributors earlier this year signed a letter calling out negative bias in the Times’s reporting about transgender, non⁠-⁠binary, and gender nonconforming people — in particular, raising serious concerns about derogatory coverage of gender-affirming care. The response from management was to breezily dismiss those concerns as coming from “activists”. Many of the most senior, established, and comfortable reporters in the Times newsroom responded even more unctuously, saying the original letter-writers suffered from “a fundamental misunderstanding of our responsibilities as journalists.”

Aiding and Abetting

As the Republican “culture war” has turned into a full-fledged battle against basic human rights, the political media’s continued insistence on covering it like just another political tactic is enabling it.

That’s right: Journalistic restraint is aiding and abetting the dehumanizing of gay and trans people by a bunch of evil fanatics.

Guardian media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote recently that “transgender individuals… are continually portrayed – including too often in the media — as some sort of dreaded societal problem about which something must be done.” And, she wrote, “The mainstream news media, far too often, plays along – running wide-eyed stories that fail to identify what’s really happening here.”

Kelly McBride, the lead ethicist at the Poynter Institute, likens this period to the civil rights movements of the past, urging journalists to avoid a “both sides” approach. “There are moments where people are asserting their equality at the same moment that the state is asserting their inequality, and that looks very different,” she told independent journalist Nora Neus.

Favorably covering Pride month hasn’t been remotely controversial for ages. This year, with gay and trans rights under attack, reality-based journalists should be leaning into it – using it to remind our audiences of the moral imperative to recognize, defend, and celebrate the humanity of all people.

Instead, the Associated Press concluded that Bud Light “fumbled its attempt to broaden its customer base by partnering with a transgender influencer” because “For some, the partnership went too far at a time when transgender issues — including gender-affirming health care and participation in sports — are a divisive topic in state legislatures.”

(Bud Light has included LGBTQ+ people in ads since the mid-1990s, including a 2016 trans-inclusive national TV ad, and supported Pride events for far longer than that.)

The New York Times dutifully noted that “conservatives” had expressed outrage at the Christian-right Chick-fil-A chain (of all places!) simply for adopting a policy on diversity, equity and inclusion. “The backlash,” reporter Jesus Jiménez wrote, “has made Chick-fil-A one of the latest companies to draw public condemnation over ‘culture war’ flash points.”

All of this attention on the “backlash” against humans for being human comes at the expense of a bigger, much more important story about how those humans are facing more and more threats to their safety.

A DHS document obtained by ABC News warned that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 6:46 pm

I’d love to have had a bike like this

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A bicycle with fat tires and a dark frame. No front sprocket, but a gearbox; no chain, but a toothed belt; no derailleur; disk brakes at the hub of each wheel.
The Priority 600

I just recently saw a post on Mastodon in which a guy was praising his bike for making hills easy — “13% grade at 50 miles.” I was curious, and ask I delved into the bike, a Priority 600, I became more and more impressed. I would love to have a copy of this bike.

I tend to like bikes that are unusual in a good way. I had a Moulton bicycle that I liked a lot. (I would get the Marathon today.) I came across it in the 1980s, when almost no bicycles had shock absorbers. Alexx Moulton was the guy who designed the suspension system for the Morris Minor, and when he set about to design a bicycle, he just assumed it should have a suspension system. He used a rubber system in the bike, as he had in the Morris Minor. 

He saw no need for large wheels, so the wheels are smaller than those for conventional bicycles, but with the gearing, there’s no drawback (and the smaller wheels are lighter). 

He also noted that energy is lost when the frame flexes, so he made the frame perfectly rigid, using struts. All the energy goes to the wheels, none to flexing the frame. And the frame’s rigidity makes the suspension especially important — without a suspension, any shock the frame encounters will be delivered directly to the saddle.

And he made it easy to take apart into two pieces so it can be readily transported. (It doesn’t fold, but it comes easily apart into two halves.)

That’s the spirit that makes me wish I had a Priority 600. 

Side view of a white Moulton bicycle: low frame, small wheels, a rack above the rear wheel with a pack on it. The bicycle is white.
The Moulton bike I once owned.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 5:22 pm

Rube Goldberg tribute

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Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

CDC Report Recognizes Police-Perpetrated Killing as Major Cause of Violent Death

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I think it is time now for US citizens to formally recognize the police as an armed and aggressive hostile occupying force. There are doubtless good cops, but there are also a great many bad cops and police departments that protect them. Mike Ludwig reports in Truthout:

In a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal researchers acknowledge in detail that police-perpetrated killings are a major cause of violent death in the United States, and Black and Indigenous men are disproportionally killed by police compared to all other groups tracked in the data.

Experts say the analysis is a step forward for the CDC, but crucial data on people who died while in police custody or inside local jails is likely missing from the report. Reforms meant to address police violence have stalled across the country, and reckless police shootings and reports of lethal neglect continue to make headlines three years after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis, sparking a nationwide uprising.

About 71,000 violent deaths were recorded across the United States in 2020, according to the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System, which collects data from death certificates, police reports, coroners and health providers. While a majority of violent deaths were recorded as suicides (58 percent) and homicides (31 percent), the CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report examines police-perpetrated killings in further detail than the agency has in the past and calls for more research on glaring racial disparities.

About 961 of the violent deaths recorded in 2020 are classified by the CDC as “legal intervention deaths,” or deaths caused by “law enforcement and other persons” with legal authority to use lethal force. Experts say this is almost certainly an undercount that excludes many deaths in police custody, and the CDC notes that “legal intervention” is a technical term and does not imply that a police-perpetrated killing was legally justified.

The CDC data from 2020 aligns with independent analyses showing that police kill an average of 1,000 people each year. Mapping Police Violence reports that around 1,200 people were killed by police in 2022, the highest annual number of deaths recorded over the past decade. Most people died from gunshot wounds, and 1,079 people were shot and killed by police over the past 12 months, according to The Washington Post’s gun violence trackers.

Alarmingly, the CDC researchers report that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 1:17 pm

Twitter Admits in Court Filing: Elon Musk Is Simply Wrong About Government Interference At Twitter

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That’s Elon B. Musk — “B” for “Bullshitter.” Mike Masnick has a lengthy article that lays out in detail how much of a bullshitter Mr. Musk is, to the degree that it’s clear that no one should believe anything that passes his lips. Musk is in much the same league as Trump. Or Alex Jones.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 1:10 pm

How did patriarchy begin?

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Angela Saini, a science journalist and author of four books has an essay based on her latest,The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule, which was recently shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, published in  BBC Future: It begins:

In 1930, when London Zoo announced its baboon enclosure would be closing down, the story made headlines.

For years, “Monkey Hill”, as it was known, had been the scene of bloody violence and frequent fatalities. The US news magazine Time reported on the incident that proved to be the final straw: “George, a young member of the baboon colony, had stolen a female belonging to the ‘king,’ the oldest, largest baboon of Monkey Hill.” After a tense siege, George ended up killing her.

Monkey Hill cast a long shadow over how animal experts imagined male domination. Its murderous primates reinforced a popular myth at the time that humans were a naturally patriarchal species. For zoo visitors, it felt as though they might be peering into our evolutionary past, one in which naturally violent males had always victimised weaker females.

In truth, Monkey Hill wasn’t normal. Its warped social environment was the product of too many male monkeys being placed with tragically too few females. Only decades later – with the discovery that one of our closest genetic primate relatives, bonobo apes, are matriarchal (despite the males of the species being bigger) – have biologists accepted that patriarchy in our own species probably can’t be explained by nature alone.

Over the past few years, I’ve been travelling the world to understand the origins of human patriarchy for my book The Patriarchs. I learned that, while there are many myths and misconceptions about how men came to have as much power as they do, the true history also offers insights into how we might finally achieve gender equality.

For starters, human ways of organising ourselves actually don’t have many parallels in the animal kingdom. The word “patriarchy”, meaning “rule of the father”, reflects how male power has long been believed to start in the family with men as heads of their households, passing power from fathers to sons. But across the primate world, this is vanishingly rare. As anthropologist Melissa Emery Thompson at the University of New Mexico has observed, inter-generational family relationships in primates are consistently organised through mothers, not fathers.

Among humans, patriarchy isn’t universal either. Anthropologists have identified at least 160 existing matrilineal societies across the Americas, Africa, and Asia, in which people are seen to belong to their mothers’ families over generations, with inheritance passing from mother to daughter. In some of these communities, goddesses are worshipped and people will stay in their maternal homes throughout their lives. Mosuo men in southwestern China, for instance, might help raise their sisters’ children rather than their own.

Often in matrilineal communities, power and influence are shared between women and men. In matrilineal Asante communities in Ghana, leadership is divided between the queen mother and a male chief, who she helps to select. In 1900, the Asante ruler Nana Yaa Asantewaa led her army in rebellion against British colonial rule.

The further we dive into prehistory, the more varied forms of social organisation we see. At the 9,000-year-old site of Çatalhöyük in southern Anatolia in modern-day Turkey, once described as the oldest city in the world for its size and complexity, almost all the archaeological data points to a settlement in which gender made little difference to how people lived.

“Most sites that archaeologists dig, you find that men and women, because they have different lives, they have different food and they end up with different diets,” according to archaeologist Ian Hodder at Stanford University, who led the Çatalhöyük Research Project until 2018. “But at Çatalhöyük you don’t see that at all.” Analysis of human remains suggests that men and women had identical diets, spent around the same amount of time indoors and outdoors, and did similar kinds of work. Even the height difference between the sexes was slight.

Women weren’t invisible, either. Excavations of this and other sites dating to around the same time have unearthed an abundance of female figurines, now filling the cabinets of local archaeological museums. The most famous of these is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 1:06 pm

“I Wonder What The Poor Folks Are Eating:” A Brief History of Poor People

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Jessica Wildfire writes in OK Doomer:

Like most Americans, I spent a fair chunk of my life being “not poor.” Never mind that I was making about $12,000 a year as a teacher for most of my 20s. It was just temporary, I told myself. I could use student loans for books, conferences, and professional development. It would all pay off if I just kept working hard. After four grueling years, I finished my dissertation and earned my PhD. I got a tenure-track job, despite constant reminders from my committee that I wasn’t ready and was destined for failure. They wanted me to stay in the program and take out more loans. “You’re serious about your education,” they said.

“Aren’t you?”

I skipped my doctoral hooding ceremony. I couldn’t afford the regalia. I didn’t buy a frame for my diploma. They were too expensive. I couldn’t find a cheap one that fit. So it sat in a drawer for years, unhung.

After a year as a professor, something weird happened:


My student loans didn’t budge. I was still living in a noisy apartment with college students. I know what some people are thinking. “She probably wasted her money on unicorn frappuccinos.” I lived in a small town in the middle of nowhere. There were no restaurants or coffee shops to blow my money.

I wasn’t sinking deeper into debt, but I wasn’t saving. Every time I managed to scrape together a couple thousand bucks, some emergency came up. I needed new tires. My spouse needed surgery. My computer died. On and on it went. Some expense always arrived to bludgeon my bank account. I was living the life Barbara Ehrenreich describes in Nickel and Dimed, but I still wasn’t poor.

How could I possibly be poor?

I was educated.

This is the trick that America plays on us. Throughout history, the elite have done such a thorough job of vilifying poverty that almost nobody in this country wants to admit to being poor or needing help. For hundreds of years, Americans have been conditioned to see their financial struggles as a personal moral failing and a source of shame. We’re taught to view ourselves and each other as a burden unless we’re constantly working. We’re also taught to treat consumption as a way of achieving wealth and happiness when it serves the 1 percent, but to deny and downplay our need for income in order to look grateful in public. The elite have even managed to transform education into a commodity, which has shackled Americans to nearly $2 trillion in student loan debt.

They love it.

Like me, my best friend came from a not poor family. Growing up, her dad used to sit back at the dinner table and say, “I wonder what the poor folks are eating tonight.” He spent long periods of time looking for work and taking odd jobs, but he refused to admit he was poor. It led to a few arguments.

My friend yelled: “Dad, we’re poor!”

“No, we are not.”

The last time I checked, her dad’s positive attitude never manifested a job. She was one of three daughters, and they all got jobs to help pay the mortgage and buy groceries. They put themselves through school. Their financial situations never improved. They just managed to stay off the street.

They counted it as a win.

I’ve recently started digging into the history of poverty in America to see where these toxic ideas came from. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Poverty isn’t a moral failure. It’s not an accident.

The rich treat it like a bug.

It’s a feature.

Affluent Americans have always hated the poor. During the colonial era, it was literally a crime to be idle or jobless. Throughout the seventeenth century, towns held public whippings of the unemployed before throwing them in jail. Everyone from governors to preachers warned their flocks against helping the poor, because they might be lying. They banned the use of church funds for public assistance. They kicked out strangers who didn’t have official business. If you didn’t have a job, they rented your children out as servants.

You had to stay busy.

Otherwise, you might turn into a witch.

A while ago, a history professor named Neil Betten uncovered a cyclical attitude toward the poor in America going back hundreds of years. During times of prosperity, tight labor markets led to intense hostility toward the poor and unemployed. Politicians and business owners churned out a steady stream of reports, pamphlets, and manifestos calling the unemployed lazy and corrupt.

The logic went like this: If someone could force you to work, then you were fit for employment. No further questions.

Attitudes toward the poor softened during economic downturns as people in good moral standing fell on hard times.  . .

Continue reading.

I recall reading how the Great Depression (1929-1941) greatly changed how poverty — and public assistance — were viewed.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 11:34 am

Posted in Daily life

NYC Child Welfare Agency Says It Supports “Miranda Warning” Bill for Parents. But It’s Quietly Lobbying to Weaken It.

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Dishonesty, in the sense of making untrue statements under the guise of truth (lying, not to put too fine a point on it), is always bad but particularly dangerous when delivered by officials (who nevertheless seem to be prone to the practice). And I do get so tired of it.

Eli Hager reports a perfect example in ProPublica. In an ideal world. the head of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services would be called into the Mayor’s office, dressed down soundly, and fired. The report begins:

The New York State Legislature could by the end of this week pass groundbreaking legislation requiring child protective services agents to read people their constitutional rights, just like the police have to do.

But New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services, despite publicly claiming to support the “family Miranda warning,” has in recent weeks quietly proposed gutting the measure, according to eight lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists involved in the negotiations.

The agency even lobbied for the removal of the word “rights” from the bill text.

And the state Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has repeatedly blocked the popular proposal (it has dozens of co-sponsors), throwing into question whether it will get a full vote before the legislative session ends on Friday.

Last fall, a ProPublica investigation found that ACS caseworkers — without a warrant — conduct full home searches of more than 50,000 households every year across New York City, disproportionately affecting Black or Hispanic and low-income families. Despite the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, these government officers rifle through families’ refrigerators and medicine cabinets and inspect children’s unclothed bodies without informed consent.

They conduct these warrantless searches even if the allegation of potential child neglect they are investigating has nothing to do with the condition of the home, such as a kid missing too many days of school. They also sometimes use manipulative tactics, including threatening child removal or calling the police, to get inside residences, according to dozens of interviews with caseworkers, families and attorneys.

The agency ultimately finds a safety situation requiring removal of a child from the home less than 4% of the time.

Lawmakers in Albany repeatedly cited ProPublica’s reporting this spring as they reintroduced legislation, which had failed in the past, creating a Miranda-style warning to be read aloud by child protective services agents like cops do on “Law & Order.” Caseworkers would have to notify parents of their right to deny entry to their home, to have a lawyer present, to be told what they’re being accused of, and to say no to releases of their family’s personal information and to drug or alcohol tests without a court order, while also specifying that anything they say can and will be used against them.

The bill had been gaining momentum in the Assembly, passing unanimously out of that chamber’s children and families committee as its chair, Andrew Hevesi, flanked by grassroots activists, asked, “When in life do you want Americans not to know their rights?”

He continued, “The only time you need them not to know their rights is when their rights are about to be violated.”

The proposed law would not create any new rights, but rather inform families with less education or ones without a lawyer of the rights they already have. It also would not affect the ability of caseworkers to enter a home without a warrant if a child is in danger or if there are other exigent circumstances.

But then ACS sent Senate leadership staff revisions to the legislation that would have removed mention of several of the rights, neutering the proposal to such an extent that advocates could no longer support it, many said in interviews.

Maddy Zimmerman, spokesperson for Democratic state Sen. Jabari Brisport, the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate and chair of its children and families committee, said that accepting ACS’ version would have been the same as passing nothing at all. She and a half-dozen others who saw the agency’s suggestions said the edits included not only removing the word “rights” but also cutting the sections about informing parents that what they say can be used against them, that they don’t have to agree to body searches of their children without an order from a judge, and more.

Brisport said in interviews with ProPublica that he tried to put the bill, without the ACS changes, on his committee’s agenda — three times. But on each attempt, he said, Stewart-Cousins, the Senate’s majority leader and president pro tempore, removed it from consideration without telling him why. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 9:30 am

A perfect shave is a pleasurable thing

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A brush whit a synthetic knot — light tan with grey tips — and a white "keyhole" handle — a sphere on top of a truncated cone, in profile the shape of an iconic keyhole — stand next to a tub of shaving soap on its side, the blacck top facing us. In narrow red lines is a stylized anchor. In fron is a clear plastic slant razor, lying on its side. To the right is a bottle with a square cross section about 3 times as tall as it is wide, with a black cap. It is covered by a label that has a diagram of a sailing ship with numbers identifying parts. Toward the bottom is a black label with white block letters that read "Reserve Spice."

Barrister & Mann recommend a synthetic brush for their Reserve line of shaving soaps, and who am I to argue? I picked the RazoRock Keyhole brush, a very fine little brush that costs just US$10. With it, I got an excellent lather from the tub of Reserve Spice shaving soap. The fragrance has some spice but is muted.

The Phoenix Artisan Filament is a very nice slant, though I do find the PA double slants more to my taste. Still, this razor is nothing to sneeze, and in three comfortable passes it erased a two-day stubble effortlessly.

A splash of Spice Reserve aftershave, whose fragrance is much more present, and the shave is done and the week begun.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Queen Victoria, which I realize has become a favorite: “First blended in honour of Queen Victoria, this is one of Murchie’s oldest blends: rich Darjeeling and Ceylon, smoky Lapsang Souchong and sweet Jasmine.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2023 at 8:42 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

How Parking Ruined Everything

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Dante Ramos reviews a very interesting book in the Atlantic:

When you’re driving around and around the same block and seething because there’s nowhere to put your car, any suggestion that the United States devotes too much acreage to parking might seem preposterous. But consider this: In a typical year, the country builds more three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments. Even the densest cities reserve a great deal of street space to store private vehicles. And local laws across the country require house and apartment builders to provide off-street parking, regardless of whether residents need it. Step back to assess the result, as the Slate staff writer Henry Grabar does in his lively new book, Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World, and it’s sobering: “More square footage is dedicated to parking each car than to housing each person.”

That Americans like driving is hardly news, but Grabar, who takes his title from a Joni Mitchell song, says he isn’t quibbling with cars; his complaint is about parking—or, more to the point, about everything we have sacrificed for it. All those 9-foot-by-18-foot rectangles of asphalt haven’t only damaged the environment or doomed once-cherished architectural styles; the demand for more parking has also impeded the crucial social goal of housing affordability. This misplaced priority has put the country in a bind. For decades, even as rents spiraled and climate change worsened, the ubiquity and banality of parking spaces discouraged anyone from noticing their social impact.

Parking was once the stuff of sweeping urban visions. In the decades before World War II, as car ownership surged in the U.S., drivers in downtown urban areas simply parked curbside—or double- or triple-parked—leaving streetcar operators and fellow drivers to navigate around their vacant vehicles. Local notables saw this obstacle course as one more threat to cities that were beginning to lose businesses and middle-class residents to the growing suburbs. The Vienna-born architect Victor Gruen, best known as the father of the shopping mall, came up with a solution: Preserve urban vitality by making more room for vehicle storage—a lot more room. In 1956, at the invitation of a top business leader in Fort Worth, Texas, he proposed a pedestrian-only downtown surrounded by a freeway loop and served by massive new parking garages. He wanted to shoehorn so many additional parking spaces into the urban core—60,000 in all—that visitors would never have to walk more than two and a half minutes back to their car.

In hindsight, his idea was bonkers. “Gruen was telling downtown Fort Worth to build more parking than downtown Los Angeles, a city seven times its size,” Grabar writes, and “in a city that, with its wide, cattle-friendly streets, was already an easy place to drive.” Yet at the time, not even Jane Jacobs—the now-sainted author of the urbanist bible The Death and Life of Great American Cities—appreciated the dangers lurking in plans like Gruen’s. Grabar notes that in a “fan letter” (her term) to Gruen, Jacobs gushed that the Fort Worth plan would bring back “downtowns for the people.”

It didn’t. Gruen’s proposal was never executed; Texas legislators rejected a necessary bill. Yet Gruen had validated the postwar belief that cities had a parking shortage they desperately needed to fix. The result was an asphalt kudzu that has strangled other parts of civic and economic life. Over the years, cities and towns have demolished grand old structures to make way for garages and surface parking. When you see vintage photos of most American downtowns, what’s striking is how densely built they once were—before the relentless pursuit of parking helped hollow them out.

As early as the 1920s and ’30s, some local governments had sought to cure their nascent parking problem by making private developers build off-street spaces. Architects adapted: In Los Angeles, Grabar explains, a distinctive apartment-building style called the dingbat—with eight or so units perched on poles over a common driveway—arose after 1934, when the city started requiring one parking space per new apartment. Those rules proliferated in the postwar years. They also became more demanding, and acquired a pseudoscientific precision: Detroit, for example, requires one off-street space per 400 square feet of a museum or an ice rink, one per 200 square feet of a bank or laundromat, and one per 100 square feet of a beauty shop. The rules vary from city to city, frequently in arbitrary ways, but they change the landscape everywhere. An off-street parking spot, plus the room necessary for a car to maneuver in and out of it, requires more than 300 square feet—which, by one estimate, is about two-thirds the size of a typical new studio apartment. On lively main streets that predate parking regulations, shops and restaurants abut one another, but today’s rules produce little islands of commerce surrounded by seas of blacktop.

[Michael Manville: How parking destroys cities]

The opportunity cost of building new spaces quickly became evident. When Los Angeles upped its parking requirement from one to 1.5 spaces for a two-bedroom apartment in 1964, Grabar notes, even the car-friendly dingbat building became infeasible. Off-street-parking mandates, it turns out, are easy to satisfy when suburban developers are building fast-food outlets, strip malls, and single-family homes on cheap open land; meanwhile, large downtown commercial and residential buildings can generate enough revenue to pay for expensive garages. But projects in between fall into what’s been described as the “Valley of High Parking Requirements”: The government-mandated number of spaces won’t fit on a standard surface lot, and structured parking would cost too much to build. This is how parking rules killed off the construction of rowhouses, triple-deckers, and other small apartment buildings. Grabar reports that in the past half century, the production of new buildings with two to four units dropped by more than 90 percent.

Many housing experts believe that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 7:44 pm

“The poison in Australia’s bloodstream”

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Australian racism is probably easier for Americans to see than America’s own.  Dave Milner writes in The Shot:

I carry with me the fuzzy cognitive dissonance of a white man educated in a settler colony, an old land with new rulers, an Imperial outpost trying to be better, more inclusive and kinder but refusing to go to therapy, refusing to listen, refusing to admit there might indeed be some unreconciled structural hurt surrounding a certain genocide-and-dispossession situation – Australia’s “wHaT rAcIsM?!” brigade only ever a dog-whistle away from the Culture War’s frontlines.

“I was booing Adam Goodes because he plays for Sydney”. “Stan Grant was being disrespectful to the monarchy [that sought to conquer and wipe out his people]”. “Yasmin can say what she wants about refugees, but not on Anzac Day, it’s disrespectful,” [passes out in the gutter after drinking since 5am]. “The fact you want race recognised in the Constitution means it’s YOU that is the racist.”

At school I was taught a mishmash of contradictory “truths” that I’ve spent my adult life slowly becoming aware of, questioning, and now seeking to unlearn. None of us love recognising when we have been deceived, when malicious half-truths have been planted and harvested in our souls over unexamined decades. But it happens to every single one of us. I was taught Captain Cook “discovered” Australia after a very long, very impressive boat ride; as a child I saw him as a man of adventure, a dashing explorer with an iconic vessel my pliable young mind routinely confused with the USS Enterprise. At the same time, I was told Aboriginal people were here before Cook’s “discovery”, possibly for tens of thousands of years even, a feat my formal education considered a lesser achievement than a very long boat ride.

I held both these histories together at the birth of my settler brain; a mind at odds with itself, wanting racism to vanish from the country but also falling into the supremacist trap of not seeing it when it’s smack, bang the fuck in front of my face.

Like how on a cold afternoon at the MCG when I, a pre-teen at this point, a guest in the toffy MCC stand, sat behind four well dressed and obnoxious young men, clearly private school boys destined for the Liberal Party or the riveting world of investment banking, as they calmly offered casually racist commentary of the footy match unfolding, and how hundreds of people within earshot didn’t say a fucking thing about it over the course of many hours. It’s easier, more comfortable, not to notice, to cling onto the privilege of pretending, and denial is a force powerful enough to bend reality, ya know?

Of course you know, you live here.

Whatever lesson I learnt that day it was embedded deeper when football commentator and television fish fondler Rex Hunt described Collingwood’s Leon Davis as being “as black as a dog…”, and again further when Eddie McGuire said Adam Goodes should play the role of King Kong in a theatre production on Collins St, presumably for a packed guffawing audience of white people. Hunt’s explanation at the time was a pure mask off moment. “Oh, I stuffed it up, I’ll have a rest, I knew it was going to happen.” Dafuq??? He “knew it was going to happen” because, in much of Australia, during much of my existence, it has been extremely normal for successful mainstream Australian people to talk like this, more often than not, without serious consequence, and with mesmerised complicity and silence from witnesses.

The fuzziest portion of my map of Australia’s past is what happened at the end of these very long, very impressive boat rides, after the landing in what is now Sydney chapter, but before the Hills Hoists, pavlovas and Phar Lap portions of the story. I was taught that the English brought civilisation and law, and alcohol and diseases with them, and that the locals just couldn’t handle their booze or smallpox. I was not taught that the First Fleet arrived with bayonets and rifles, not just to use on the convicts, and that the entire continent is – from the grasslands of Victoria to the Blue Mountains of NSW to the Dead Heart red centre to the jungles along our jagged Northern coast – stained with massacre after massacre of Indigenous peoples.

And because of the half-truths I learnt while growing up, despite now unequivocally knowing better, the formally educated portion of my settler brain still clings to the foggiest of notions of a relatively violence-free “discovery”. As good as colonisation can get, the fair dinkum Australian version of dispossession, mateship and stuff. Two cultures meeting on a beach one fateful day, having a bit of a chat, “So these are ‘Kangaroos’ are they? Fucken grouse,” maybe inventing beach cricket in the afternoon over a BBQ, and then mysteriously, for reasons still unclear, one of those two cultures just starts vanishing from the place. SpOoKy.

This fuzzy version of the past is the one that John Howard, former Prime Minister and Patron Saint of the Boomers, viciously fought for while in office. Howard, for all his faults, keenly understood the power of history. Who controls the past controls the future. A cudgel to decency, Howard, the Rat King, attacked the emerging “black armband” version of history that was becoming popular in Australian universities at the time. In it he saw a threat, and the defensive part of his whiteness that needed to take it personally ensured that the bullshit version of the story persists today.

The Australia Howard wanted to craft exists on  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 7:31 pm

Atlanta Police Arrest Organizers of Bail Fund for Cop City Protesters

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US states are increasingly becoming authoritarian. For example, Texas has decided the state can overturn municipal elections if it wants — and in the case of blue cities, such as Houston, it does want. And now Georgia is arresting people for posting bail (not a crime).

Natasha Lennard reports for The Intercept:

ON WEDNESDAY MORNING, a heavily armed Atlanta Police Department SWAT team raided a house in Atlanta and arrested three of its residents. Their crime? Organizing legal support and bail funds for protesters and activists who have faced indiscriminate arrest and overreaching charges in the struggle to stop the construction of a vast police training facility — dubbed Cop City — atop a forest in Atlanta.

In a joint operation with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, or GBI, Atlanta cops charged Marlon Scott Kautz, Adele Maclean, and Savannah Patterson — all board members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund — with “money laundering” and “charity fraud.”

The arrests are an unprecedented attack on bail funds and legal support organizations, a long-standing facet of social justice movements, according to Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

“This is the first bail fund to be attacked in this way,” Regan, whose organization has worked to ensure legal support for people resisting Cop City, told me. “And there is absolutely not a scintilla of fact or evidence that anything illegal has ever transpired with regard to Atlanta fundraising for bail support.”

Continue reading. There’s more.

The US seems to have lost its way.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 5:11 pm

Punk Polka?

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

The far right is responsible for half of all terrorist attacks

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Number of People Killed in Deadly Attacks in the Post-9/11 Era, by Ideology
130 Far Right Wing
107 Jihadist
17 Ideological
Misogyny/Incel Ideology
12 Separatist/Nationalist
1 Far Left Wing

I recall when President George W. Bush authorized a study on the dangers of domestic terrorism from Left-wing extremists and from Right-wing extremists. The study of Right-wing extremists was withdrawn by Republicans in Congress, snowflakes one and all, were so outraged by the idea that Right-wing extremists could pose any threat at all. Republicans live in a fantasy world plus much of their public performance is done in bad faith. 

Kevin Drum includes the chart above in this post, which begins:

According to a recent tally by New America, 267 people have been killed by terrorist acts on US soil since 9/11. Virtually all of these attacks were home-grown, not the result of planning or training by foreign terrorist groups. [see chart above – LG]

These numbers include only attacks coded as terrorist, not mass shootings and the like. Nearly half were carried out by far-right wing killers (consisting of anti-government, militia, white supremacist, and anti-abortion violence). Christopher Wray, head of the FBI, said this in testimony before Congress last year:

The top domestic terrorism threat we face continues to be from domestic violent extremists we categorize as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, including those who advocate for the superiority of the white race….We have also recently seen an increase in fatal attacks perpetrated by anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists, specifically militia violent extremists and anarchist violent extremists….These anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists have specifically targeted law enforcement and the military as well as institutions or members of the U.S. government.

The number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since the spring of 2020.

The top terrorist threat today comes  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 2:24 pm

The Parentification of America

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Jessica Wildfire writes at OK Doomer:

It was kind of like being Cinderella, without the glass slipper.

Parentification happens when an adult places too much responsibility on a child. It’s a form of abuse. An adult might make them the primary caregiver of another family member. They might make them pay bills or get a job to supplement family income. They might confide in their child in ways they’re not prepared for. Meanwhile, the parent still tries to maintain the image of authority. The child might still have a curfew or a bedtime, even when they’re in charge of their mom’s medication, cooking dinner, or making sure their younger brother finishes their homework. Parentified children often deal with all the demands of adulthood, but none of the freedoms. As a parentified child, I know a little about that.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this:

We’re witnessing the parentification of America. We’re watching it play out on a national scale, as older affluent Americans shirk their responsibilities and fall back on childish logic to justify increasingly reckless, selfish, aggressive agendas. Teenagers are having to contemplate a sixth mass extinction happening in their lifetimes. Rather than help them develop the emotional tools to deal with that, most of the adults in their lives are telling them to pretend it’s not happening. They want them doing homework and chores, studying for tests, playing sports, filling out college applications, doing public service, and working jobs.

The perception is that young people are lazy or addicted to their phones. The reality is they’re doing more than ever. Among all the different articles out there on what teens and adolescents need, I almost never see this:

Give them a break.
Let them relax.
Let them sleep.
Listen to them.

Birthrates are declining. Rather than come up with sustainable solutions for managing America’s aging population, adults are telling young people, even 10-year-olds, they need to have more babies to keep the economy going. The far right in particular invoke innocence and purity as rationales for stripping rights away from everyone they dislike, while trying to give jobs to 14-year-olds to fill holes in the workforce, because America worked too many people to death during the pandemic. Meanwhile, they all try to present themselves as authorities, pushing pointless punitive laws for the supposed benefit of America’s youth, when they only seem designed to exploit everyone further.

Let’s look at what they’re doing to address the mental health crisis among young people. Have they . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2023 at 11:42 am

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4 Washington Post headlines, each nexxt to a photo of Jeff Bezos:

Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon

Opinion: Think twice before changing the tax rules to soak billionaires

Opinion: The smartest way to make the rich pay is not a wealth tax — I's important to ask the wealthy to pay more, it's also important to do it the right way.

Opinion: The billionaires' space race benefits the rest of us. Really.

(For explanation, read this column.)

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2023 at 9:55 pm

James Comey described how Donald Trump eats the souls of those who work for him

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James Comey wrote a fascinating column (no paywall) in the NY Times four years ago that I seem to have missed. In it, Comey describes in detail how Trump suborns people and leads them astray until they are trapped. Comey concludes:

What happened to these people? [those who have become Trump’s accomplices and supporters – LG]

I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.

Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking. As a result, Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.

I must have agreed that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history because I didn’t challenge that. Everyone must agree that he has been treated very unfairly. The web building never stops.

From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does — you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him.

Sure, you notice that Mr. Mattis never actually praises the president, always speaking instead of the honor of representing the men and women of our military. But he’s a special case, right? Former Marine general and all. No way the rest of us could get away with that. So you praise, while the world watches, and the web gets tighter.

Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.

You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.

You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.

Read the whole thing. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2023 at 7:10 pm

Lessons from Washington State’s New Capital Gains Tax

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You’d think that, with Republicans so eager to reduce the deficit, they would endorse getting more tax revenue from those who can easily afford it. However, that’s not the case. One must recognize that Republicans almost always act in bad faith, and their hypocrisy runs deep.

Kamau Chege reports in The Urbanist:

Taxing the rich works like a charm.

Last week we learned that the capital gains tax — which was passed by the state legislature in 2021 to fund much-needed childcare and public education — will bring in nearly $601 million more in state revenue than previously projected in the biennium.

For decades, the wealthiest Washingtonians have gotten out of paying what they truly owe in state and local taxes. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on this stride toward a more progressive tax system in our state, and the court case that almost rolled it back.

One of the first lessons is that our state’s richest residents are much, much richer than we understood — and they are continuing to get richer at a faster rate than previously assumed.

According to the Department of Revenue, just 1,200 tax returns and 2,500 extensions represent the households paying the new 7% capital gains tax on profits over $250,000 gained from selling stocks and bonds. And despite high interest rates and a stock market that contracted by 25% in 2022, these capital gains tax payers would have had to rake in billions more in passive profits from their stockpile of wealth last year.

Among that group of tax filers were a few individuals who filed a lawsuit in an attempt to roll back the new tax: but in early March, the State Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuit had no merit.

The landmark decision and the case put forward by the tax dodgers lends us our second lesson: the tired arguments used to defend the rich from paying their share of taxes should be put to rest.

The plaintiffs in that case essentially argued that their capital gains were their income, which they alone earned, and therefore should not be subject to the tax.

But working people know that private wealth is built on public infrastructure and public investments paid for by all of us — especially low-income folks who pay more than their share in taxes. The roads and the transportation system corporate executives use to get goods to market, the schools and universities that train their workers, and the regulation and safety systems they rely on build the wealth of the people who live and do business in our state.

When I studied accounting in college, I volunteered to help low-income families file their taxes. I sat down with bus drivers, hotel workers, and childcare providers and the rate that they had to pay in taxes astounded me. It was far more than their share, especially when the richest people in our state, like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, have armies of accountants working to find tax loopholes and write-offs.

Those accountants don’t have to look too closely, because our tax system has been set up to benefit the very rich. Here in Washington State,

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2023 at 6:54 pm

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