The controversy surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is one that ebbs and flows throughout our national discourse. Going unmentioned for months at a time, some timely issue pertaining to torture or due process or our current war on terror will bring Guantanamo back into the national spotlight for but a few fleeting moments, only to be forgotten again in exchange for more timely issues. Currently, we are a time of more flow than ebb. The recent rash of hunger strikes occurring at Guantanamo—in which as many as 45 detainees are refusing to eat, thirteen of which are being force-fed—has brought the secretive detention facility back into national headlines, if only for a few moments. Given the timeliness, I would like to take the opportunity to explore Guantanamo Bay in a more philosophical manner than is usually done. Most libertarians, I believe, think Guantanamo Bay is somehow morally bad. But even though many libertarians might harbor this disposition (present company included), we might remain unable to articulate why it is we feel this way. In this essay I try to state clearly why I think the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is morally bad.
Here is one reason to believe that Guantanamo is morally bad: it is morally bad because it stands in defiance of both national and international law. Internationally, detention practices at Guantanamo remain in violation of several statutes of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and enforced from March 23, 1976 forward. While there are many statutes composing the ICCPR, it remains a relatively uncontroversial fact that detention practices at Guantanamo stand in defiance of several requirements of the multilateral treaty, namely articles seven, nine, and fourteen. Moreover, it could also be argued that detention practices at Guantanamo stand in defiance of national law as well, particularly the guarantee of due process secured through the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, though this is a much more controversial claim.
But even though the Guantanamo Bay detention center is in defiance of the law, it is not morally bad because so. This is because actions and institutions cannot be morally wrong solely because they are in defiance of the law; such a view would commit us to absurd conclusions. For example, suppose there was a law requiring every parent to kill off their children until they were left with only two offspring. If a parent with six kids refused to kill four of them off—in defiance of our hypothetical law—have they done a morally bad thing? Hardly. We don’t even need to delve into the realm of counterfactuals to prove this point: were the actions of Harriet Tubman and other abolitionists, who sought to free slaves by providing passage to the north in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act, morally wrong? Again, obviously not. As such, we cannot commit ourselves to the position that actions and institutions are morally wrong because they are in defiance of the law. By implication Guantanamo is not morally bad because of its questionable legal status.
It might be true that Guantanamo is morally bad because torture happens within the facility. After an inspection the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) concluded that the institutional infrastructure present within Guantanamo “cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.” Reported practices included humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, and forced positions. Although the U.S. government has denied allegations of torture, released prisoners have corroborated the ICRC report, claiming that beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged hoodings, along with other torturous practices occurred. It is due to the presence of these inhumane practices within the facility, it might be argued, that gives Guantanamo its suspect moral status.
We cannot say that Guantanamo is bad because of the alleged torture taking place there, even though we might have problems with specific instances of torture occurring. Here is why: most people believe that torture, in some cases, is morally justified. Consider the banal ticking time bomb example: we know that a nuclear bomb is going explode in New York City in one hour, and we also know, without doubt, who planted the bomb. We also do not know where the bomb is located. Would we be justified in torturing our bomber to learn the location of the bomb? Most would say yes. As a result, torture is not always morally wrong (though oftentimes it is). Now consider the relation between this corollary and Guantanamo: suppose it was true we knew for a fact that every instance of torture happening in Guantanamo was of the type that we could confidently predicate as morally just. But even so, torture is still happening in the facility.
Under such circumstances—where only justified torture takes place in Guantanamo—is there still something morally problematic with the detention camp? I think so. If the above counterfactual is too difficult for the reader to imagine, or if the reader believes that torture (as many libertarians do) is never justified, then consider this: imagine that, in some possible world, every fact about Guantanamo remained the same, except no torture whatsoever took place there. There was still the detention camp; still filled with both civilians and those picked up off of the battlefield; and they were still denied basic due process of law, being kept in the facility for years upon years with no chance of defending their innocence in front of a legitimate, unbiased court. Under such conditions, is Guantanamo now morally good, or at the very least not morally bad? Doubtfully. Something still seems off to most of us—suggesting that torture is not the rasion d’être of the moral badness.
It might be true that Guantanamo is morally bad because it refuses to give its detainees the full extent of due process given to other individuals tried within the U.S. criminal justice system. It is not the case that detainees in Guantanamo receive no due process of law; indeed, both Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld did much to improve the legal rights of the accused, requiring that enemy combatants be able to challenge their status in front of military commissions, and also setting certain—though still meager—standards with which these commissions must adhere to. But even so, the military commissions detainees are given access to lack a certain standard of fairness we might want to be present: according to Human Rights First, for instance, the Military Commissions Act of 2009 allows for the introduction of coerced statements in proceedings; the use of evidence derived from statements obtained through torture if “use of such evidence would otherwise be consistent with the interests of justice”; and it allows for defendants to be tried ex-post facto for conduct not considered to constitute a war crime at the time it was committed. This list deficiencies, the reader should be reminded, constitutes a mere proper subset of all the problems inherent within the current military commission system.
Even though detainees at Guantanamo lack access to as robust a conception of due process as we receive in the U.S., it is still not clear why this is such a bad thing. Here is one reason why refusing due process to detainees is morally problematic: due process constitutes an institutional check on the epistemological problems we face when imprisoning individuals. In seeking out terrorists and other enemy combatants to imprison within the detention facility, the U.S. uses specific criteria that certain individuals must satisfy in order to be considered someone who ought to be locked up. We hope that when individuals are sought out to be detained, such a task is done in good faith; that those carrying out such a mission are careful to not wrongfully lock up those who do not deserve to be locked up, and, moreover, before anyone is selected for detainment, it is made sure that they actually do satisfy the relevant criteria. But even so, mistakes can be made.
One of the functions of due process, then, is to help remedy these mistakes—to make sure that detainees actually ought to have been detained, by virtue of them having instantiated the relevant properties. This determination, obviously enough, is litigated in court when determining whether someone is guilty or innocent. When detainees are denied their day in court then these epistemological worries go unaddressed, leaving it indeterminate whether detainees really ought to be in the detention facility or not. As such, denying due process is morally bad.
While due process’ ability to remedy the epistemological problems of justice we face is important, it is not sufficiently important to make the lack of due process morally bad. Consider this example: suppose the U.S. had a policy of locking up in Guantanamo every individual who Googled the term “Islamic extremism.” Also suppose that every such individual put away in the detention facility was given a brief hearing to determine whether they actually did Google the illicit term. Even so, in the trial, the accused were not allowed to challenge the content—that is, the constitutionality or justness—of our hypothetical law. Even with the presence of this non-robust conception of due process, is Guantanamo Bay still morally bad? I think so, though perhaps we are closer to the truth of the matter than we were before.
The problem here is that due process does more than simply remedy potential epistemological problems, though it certainly does that. Due process also allows litigants to challenge the content of specific laws—it allows our detainees to question whether what is being done to them is just, or whether what is being done to them is constitutional. Not merely if laws are being carried out correctly, but if laws that are being carried out should even be carried out in the first place. When this second, substantive feature of due process is present, then we begin fleshing out why due process is so important a thing, and also why the lack of due process in places like Guantanamo is so bad.
When detainees are granted the ability to (1) determine whether they have actually violated specific laws that we claim they have violated and (2) challenge the content of the laws they are being charged with violating, then we begin approaching fairness. Obviously enough, the ability of detainees to exercise these two important features of due process is contingent on their ability to have a day in a fair court, not merely to show up to what seems like a one-sided military commission. By implication, lacking these two essential features is a morally bad thing. Since the Guantanamo Bay detention facility does lack these two features we can thus conclude that it is a morally bad place, answering our original question as to why the detention facility strikes us as morally problematic.
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Daniel J. Mitchell
Back in 2010, I wrote a post entitled “What’s the Ideal Point on the Laffer Curve?”
Except I didn’t answer my own question. I simply pointed out that revenue maximization was not the ideal outcome.
I explained that policy makers instead should seek to maximize prosperity, and that this implied a much lower tax rate.
But what is that tax rate, several people have inquired?
The simple answer is that the tax rate should be set to finance the legitimate functions of government.
But that leads to an obvious follow-up question. What are those legitimate functions?
According to my anarcho-capitalist friends, there’s no need for any public sector. Even national defense and courts can be shifted to the private sector.
In that case, the “right” tax rate obviously is zero.
But what if you’re a squishy, middle-of-the-road moderate like me, and you’re willing to go along with the limited central government envisioned by America’s Founding Fathers?
That system operated very well for about 150 years and the federal government consumed, on average, only about 3 percent of economic output. And even if you include state and local governments, overall government spending was still less than 10 percent of GDP.
Moreover, for much of that time, America prospered with no income tax.
But this doesn’t mean there was no tax burden. There were federal excise taxes and import taxes, so if the horizontal axis of the Laffer Curve measured “Taxes as a Share of GDP,” then you would be above zero.
So I’m going to pick that number as my “ideal” tax rate, even though I know that 5 percent is just a rough guess.
For more information about the growth-maximizing size of government, watch this video on the Rahn Curve.
There are two key things to understand about my discussion of the Rahn Curve.
First, I assume in the video that the private sector can’t provide core public goods, so the discussion beginning about 0:33 will irk the anarcho-capitalists. I realize I’m making a blunt assumption, but I try to keep my videos from getting too long and I didn’t want to distract people by getting into issues such as whether things like national defense can be privatized.
Second, you’ll notice around 3:20 of the video that I explain why I think the academic research overstates the growth-maximizing size of government. Practically speaking, this seems irrelevant since the burden of government spending in almost all nations is well above 20 percent-25 percent of GDP.
But I hold out hope that we’ll be able to reform entitlements and take other steps to reduce the size and scope of government. And if that means total government spending drops to 20 percent-25 percent of GDP, I don’t want that to be the stopping point.
At the very least, we should shrink the size of the state back to 10 percent of economic output.
And if we ever get that low, then we can have a fun discussion with the anarcho-capitalists on what else we can privatize.
P.S. If a nation obeys Mitchell’s Golden Rule for a long enough period of time, government spending as a share of GDP asymptotically will approach zero. So perhaps there comes a time where my rule can be relaxed and replaced with something akin to the Swiss debt brake, which allows for the possibility of government growing at the same rate as GDP.
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GUNS & AMMO SHORTAGES A HARBINGER FOR WHAT’S COMING TO GOLD & SILVER MARKETS
MARCH 1, 2013 BY THE DOC
By Bill Holter:
With factories cranking out guns and ammo at 110% of capacity, how could a shortage currently exist?
Now, think about the Gold and Silver mining industry. Peak production took place over 10 years ago. What do you think will happen when investors, big BIG investors not just in the U.S. but ALL over the world vote with their trillion Dollar wallets? Do you really believe that you’ll have any chance at all to purchase Silver or Gold?
No, you won’t which is why you need to be pre-positioned because what “was” available yesterday will go into hiding over night. This is not even a bold prediction anymore. This is exactly what will happen and again illustrate the simple concept of supply and demand!
Shortages, we Americans don’t really know what these are with the exception of the OPEC (maybe) induced gas shortages back in 1973 and again in ’79. I said “maybe” because I had a client who at the time owned a dozen supertankers, several were filled with oil sitting in the harbor and weren’t allowed to off load. Truly we don’t know what it is to “want” and have never experienced “empty shelves” with the exception of the occasional hurricane or other natural event. Even so, goods started to reappear within a week or so and the “shortage” would go away nearly as fast as it came.
This past weekend I decided to go out and target practice with my family. I stopped at Walmart on the way because we were low on “practice shot” and didn’t want to waste the more expensive hollow point ammo. Lo and behold, in the locked case where normally sits 1,000 or more boxes of ammo…there was NONE! http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nati … e/1919321/ Well almost none, I counted 7 boxes of odd caliber ammo that had not been hoarded. I knew that the local gun dealer was regularly selling out but I never dreamed that even Walmart would be empty. I figured that with their buying power they would still have stock left…I was wrong! The woman behind the counter told me that they get shipments each and every night but normally by 8:00 each morning everything is gone.
So why is this happening? Well, a couple of reasons. First because people are scared. Scared that an out of control government will ban guns and ammo in direct conflict with this nation’s Constitution. The political and media rhetoric after the Newtown Ct. shooting was turned up full volume. I won’t get into it here, but do yourself a favor and spend an hour or so researching what happened, what “really” happened. There are many contradictions and quite a few things don’t add up just as they haven’t for other “events” in the past. In any case, the population has voted. I don’t mean “voted” as in where Diebold counts the votes, no, they voted with their wallets and decided to spend their money on ammunition and arms. As a side note, the local dealer here has not even seen a new in the box AR in over 2 months. What was retailing for about $800 3 months ago is now $1,800 for a used one. Ah, supply and demand!
But I said that there were 2 reasons for the ammo shortage…there are. The Dept. of Homeland Security has ordered another 21 million rounds bringing the total purchase to 1.6 BILLION rounds…this is enough to kill every living American 5 times over and then some! And this doesn’t even account for those carrying the guns and doing the shooting! Now, if you will take your “adult” thinking cap off and put on the one from “3rd grade”, please ask yourself “WHY?”
Why would it be necessary for Homeland Security to have this many rounds of ammunition? Do they fear a mass mob crashing the Mexican or Canadian borders? OR…are they stocking up for something else? “Something else” that we don’t know about? Well, seriously, we “know about it” but we just don’t know what “it” will exactly look like or when it will start. This is not humorous stuff at all, people are merely acting in their own self preservation modes and doing what they feel necessary to protect themselves. It never matters “why” supply or demand increase or decrease, price and availablity are always affected one way or the other.
My wife read the above and asked me “what does this have to do with investments”? First of all, your investments won’t mean a single thing if you cannot protect yourselves. Secondly, it has to do with “supply and demand”. With factories cranking out guns and ammo at 110% of capacity, how could a shortage exist?
Now, think about the Gold and Silver mining industry. Peak production took place over 10 years ago. What do you think will happen when investors, big BIG investors not just in the U.S. but ALL over the world vote with their trillion Dollar wallets? Do you really believe that you’ll have any chance at all to purchase Silver or Gold? No, you won’t which is why you need to be pre positioned because what “was” available yesterday will go into hiding over night. This is not even a bold prediction anymore. This is exactly what will happen and again illustrate the simple concept of supply and demand! Regards, Bill H.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Mar 02, 2013 1:06 pm
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By Christopher Preble
I generally like David Sanger’s reporting. His recent books (The Inheritance and Confront and Conceal) provide an excellent overview of U.S. foreign policy, and his analysis of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s approach to world affairs, filed just before the two men faced off in their third and final debate, was one of the best that I had seen.
But I’m confused by this passage from his story in yesterday’s New York Times:
Mr. Obama’s reluctance to put American forces on the ground during the fight, and his decision to keep America’s diplomatic and C.I.A. presence minimal in post-Qaddafi Libya, may have helped lead the United States to miss signals and get caught unaware in the attack on the American mission in Benghazi.
We have had many tens of thousands of U.S. troops, and a sizable CIA presence, on the ground in Afghanistan for years, and that hasn’t stopped attacks on Americans. Ditto for the massive troop presence in Iraq, when we had one there. We have been caught unaware in other places where we have had a massive and long-standing presence on the ground; meanwhile, some places that boast no U.S. presence at all have been quiescent for decades.
In short, what happened in Benghazi is certainly a tragedy, and possibly an avoidable one, but that one instance hardly proves that a heavy footprint (i.e. sending U.S. ground troops into the middle of distant civil wars) should be the preferred option going forward.
The American people’s opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a broad, bipartisan desire to avoid future such wars, constrains the president’s options. And that is a good thing. If policymakers understand that they can’t accomplish ambitious goals with small numbers of troops on the ground—or with none at all—that should compel them to focus on more limited objectives, missions that advance U.S. security, and avoid those that do not.
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By Marian L. Tupy
In hope that somewhere – out there – there is a Republican who reads the Cato blog, here are a few of my thoughts on last night’s elections:
- Social conservatism à la Messrs. Murdock and Akin has no place in a modern political party. Opposition to abortion is no excuse for deranged comments about “legitimate rape” and “God intended” pregnancies from rape. The same goes for opposition to gay equality. The referenda in Maine and Maryland are harbingers of things to come. The electorate is growing ever more accepting of homosexuality and increasing number of voters feel that preventing gays from marrying is discrimination – pure and simple.
- It is foolish to bash the Latinos in the primaries and then be shocked when they turn out in mass numbers in support of your opponent. Demography is destiny and the Latino vote is going to grow ever more important in the elections to come. The GOP should get ahead of the curve and come up with a comprehensive immigration reform that will include a path toward legalization of undocumented voters before Obama does.
- Americans are tired of a jingoistic foreign policy and while many voters are appalled by Obama administration’s drone strikes in Pakistan, few are ready for another all-out war in the Middle East or elsewhere.
- Principles matter. During his political career, Mitt Romney was on every side of every issue, running as a moderate/liberal Republican in the Massachusetts Senate race and as a severe conservative in the GOP primaries. In reality, nobody could be quite sure what he believed or where he stood.
Defeats may be difficult, but they do provide an opportunity for renewal. With G W Bush, the GOP embraced a fiscal liberal and a social conservative who did a massive damage to the reputation of the Republican Party. With Mitt Romney, the GOP opted for a man who was everything to everyone all at once. Perhaps next time around, the GOP will select a person who reflects the political preferences of most Americans: fiscal rectitude combined with social moderation.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
Yoda, you are indeed much more clear than the vast majority of these prognosticators that seem to have so much to say and say so little.
They often sound like they are covering all their bases so as which ever way prices go, they can look good.
Statistics: Posted by Deo Vindice — Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:28 pm
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What’s Next for Gold and Silver?
Tim Staermose on OCTOBER 3, 2012
October 3, 2012
In the investment world, it’s said that the best remedy for high prices is… high prices. And the best remedy for low prices is… low prices.
In other words, when the price of an asset is high, demand cools off until prices fall. When the price of an asset is low, its relative cheapness causes demand to surge until prices rise.
It’s a simple premise… and I think it’s high time that the former applies to precious metals. Simply put, after 10+ years of gains and 15% (gold) / 25% (silver) year-to-date gains, it’s time for a bit of a breather. There are a few key reasons why:
1) Gold jewelry demand is down across the globe, from China to India to Europe to North America. Year over year, demand fell 15% last quarter from the previous year according to the World Gold Council… and jewelry comprises 42% of all gold demand.
2) The latest bout of money printing from the Fed, BoJ, and ECB is likely baked into the prices already. Mr. Bernanke, for example, was quite clear about maintaining zero interest rates and printing money to infinity and beyond… As such, there’s very little surprise remaining in the short run.
Further, bear in mind that Mitt Romney has stated numerous times that he would replace Ben Bernanke. Consequently, should Mr. Romney win the US election next month, this may reflect negatively on the gold price.
3) Sustained high prices are bringing out a lot of scrap supply from the public. The ‘cash for gold’ phenomenon is worldwide. Simon has reported on this numerous times from all over the world. In fact, when I was in Manila last week, for example, there were similar promotions in all the major national newspapers.
The consequent scrap supply being re-introduced to the marketplace could put downward pressure on prices. In fact, I saw similar indications before calling the temporary top in the silver market in early 2011 at $50 an ounce. If you followed that advice, you would have made out handsomely.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting a collapse in metals prices… merely a pause to consolidate gains and the possibility of a correction over the next several months.
In the long-term, trading out worthless government paper for physical assets is a fantastic move. Simon has the farm in Chile. I have a collection of investment-grade fine wine. We both own precious metals. And several years from now, we’ll look back on today’s gold price as cheap.
This makes any potential short-term correction an excellent entry point for purchasing gold and silver.
Some people around the world understand this concept.
While in Singapore’s “Little India” district recently, I saw many jewelers offering gold savings plans for migrant workers. Their sensible pitch– take the part of your salary that you save each month and buy physical gold with it.
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Bank accounts offer zero interest rates. Besides, gold tends to stick to your hands better than cash in a bank account. So, you won’t be tempted to liquidate and spend it. For a long-term savings vehicle, that’s precisely what you want.
(If you have kids, it may be a good idea to get them started saving in this way… it’s a much better habit to cultivate than sticking government paper and coins into a piggy bank earning 0%, just like a real bank.)
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:20 pm
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IT’S BOOMING OVER HERE. WHAT’S HOLDING YOU BACK?
by SIMON BLACK ·
January 13, 2012
[Editor's note: Tim Staermose is filling in today while Simon is down on the farm in Chile.]
Amid all the doom and gloom in the world economy as insolvent western nations slowly suffocate under a mountain of debt, it’s easy to forget that there are places in the world that are still BOOMING.
I went out to dinner with a friend in Manila last night. Each of the first three restaurants we wanted to go to were completely booked. There is construction everywhere in Manila’s central business district. The roads are chock full with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Shops are full. People are spending money.
My dinner companion last night is an executive with a major international bank. He’s new to the country, and on Wednesday was given a tour of the stock exchange. As he stood on the trading floor, the Philippines’ benchmark PHISIX index hit an ALL TIME HIGH.
The government’s fiscal balance is improving, not deteriorating. 20% of the funds earmarked for “stimulus” last year are still in reserve. They simply weren’t needed.
Like in most of the world, benchmark interest rates are at an all-time low. The difference is that, unlike in the west, banks are confident to lend, and consumers are confident to borrow and spend. Commerce is still happening. This is not an isolated example.
In Thailand, my contacts tell me employment is so strong it’s hard to even find service staff for bars and restaurants. And this is in a place that was recently devastated by floods.
Simon has written about the booms in Cambodia, and Mongolia. Myanmar is slowly but surely opening up, and there are already hordes of opportunity seekers descending on Yangon.
It’s a message that we’ve stressed in our conversations with you before. But, it bears repeating. If you’re willing to look beyond your current horizons, there are alternatives out there.
And the message is getting out.
When I first moved to the Philippines 14 years ago, young expats like me were VERY thin on the ground. Sure, there was a motley assortment of non-natives living here. But they were generally older, grizzled veterans, if you know what I mean.
Nowadays, I see many younger people, including those with families. More tourists are also coming. One of the biggest new groups of visitors are the Russians.
Already a force in the Thai tourism industry, Russians appear to be checking out the Philippines as well. My wife reports that the area where she has her surf hotel is bustling with Russian kite surfers now.
Back here in Manila’s CBD where I spend most of my time, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the whole character of the place is changing. And there is lots of opportunity.
Manila’s modern and exciting central business district
I have ideas for at least 3 businesses that could be a big success here — two in real estate, and one that would utilize the large pool of educated, English speaking labor here to provide a service that could be marketed internationally.
I don’t have the time to execute on these ideas at the present time. But, if anyone is interested in hearing about them, or willing to roll up their sleeves and help me make them a reality, I’d be interested to hear from you.
If you’re stuck in a rut back home and finding fulfillment in life hard to come by, or you just aren’t seeing any opportunities, I urge you to look internationally.
I did it. As a young graduate straight out of the Australian National University, I headed off to work in South Korea. I haven’t looked back since. I couldn’t imagine a life that wasn’t filled with new and different experiences all around the world. This is my reality.
Talking the talk is one thing. Walking the walk is something entirely different. And one of my resolutions this year is to help more people in this community actually EXECUTE on the things that we talk about.
If only 1% of the people who read this take action, it will have been well worth it. As Simon often asks, “What’s holding you back?”
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Jan 13, 2012 11:03 am
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