The Pink Negro: As an Ivy League Lawyer, is President Barack Obama Hard Enough to Confront the Evil Personified by Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
President Barack Obama gracefully accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.
Here, in Phoenix, Arizona, we enjoy little peace; indeed, we live in the chaos generated by a reign of terror that Obama has done little to address.
Yes, his federal investigators are here examining the assaults against human rights perpetrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Michael Lacey Feature
Hear a tape of a sheriff's emissary remarkably telling an Arpaio political opponent he can't run for office again for five years.
Read another example of racial profiling by Sheriff Joe's forces in New Times' series "Are Your Papers in Order?" This week: "Tuned In."
But, after 20 months, we must ask: Are they unearthing evidence or burying it?
There is, as yet, no remedy, no redress, no recourse.
President Obama, unwittingly, put the glacial timeline of his Arpaio/Thomas investigation into perspective during his speech to America last week. He said his troop surge will see our soldiers depart Afghanistan after 19 more months of combat. In other words, the war with al-Qaeda and the Taliban will end triumphantly in less time than the feds have spent — without result — probing Arpaio and Thomas.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon formally summoned a Justice Department task force in April 2008. As we usher in 2010, federal officials have yet to contact the very first political victim of the sheriff and the county attorney. Critical documents remain unexamined.
You are about to read a recorded conversation between Maricopa County deputies and Arpaio himself that illuminates the depravity of the Sheriff's Office.
Aggressive federal questions could have, and should have, uncovered this information. But that has not happened.
Instead, the integrity of the probe founders upon a fundamental legal axiom: Justice delayed is justice denied.
Sheriff Arpaio's 13 brutal immigration sweeps targeted Mexicans here in the Valley. Constitutional safeguards went up in smoke to stoke nativist bigotry.
Arpaio has openly consorted with, accepted awards from, and initiated round-ups of Latinos at the behest of clearly identified hate groups.
Neo-Nazis and their shouts of "sieg heil" poison Phoenix streets.
Those who criticize Sheriff Arpaio must dodge the baton, accept a cell, and, increasingly, litigate the spurious legal brief.
Sheriff Arpaio now publicly identifies Mexican immigrants as dirty and disease-ridden.
At the dawn of the civil rights era, television crews filmed rednecks confronting black schoolchildren.
In today's Southwest cauldron, citizen watchdogs videotape sheriff's deputies zip-tying the hapless and the brown-skinned.
In 1957, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division into Arkansas to protect the constitutional rights of the black citizens of Little Rock.
His decision took 18 days, not 20 months.
In that same year, 1957, Norman Mailer wrote his infamous essay The White Negro, a meditation on courage and violence and survival.
With the bomb and concentration camps as bookends, the leader of the free world and the enfant terrible of American letters, wrestled with race.
Mailer envisioned a different response than Eisenhower's troops.
Out of black oppression and jazz, Mailer championed the anti-hero, the hipster.
The White Negro was all about the street.
"One is a rebel or one conforms; one is a frontiersman in the Wild West of American nightlife," said Mailer.
Hip diffused the threat. The hip could not be threatened. And the alternative was too dull to take seriously.
"Or else [one is] a square cell, trapped in the totalitarian tissues of American society, doomed willy-nilly to conform if one is to succeed," observed Mailer.
Eisenhower and Mailer staked out the extremes of American response. Mailer romanticized the passiveness of the Beat, Eisenhower reluctantly reached for the bayonet.
Neither the general nor the writer envisioned Barack Obama! (Did anyone?)
In Reflections on Little Rock, philosopher Hannah Arendt focused specifically on how otherworldly the very idea of miscegenation was at the time: The "Civil Rights bill did not go far enough, for it left untouched the most outrageous law of Southern states — the law which makes mixed marriage a criminal offense."
Not Eisenhower, not Mailer, not the very law itself contemplated Barack Obama — let alone a nation — tethered by his judgment.
And yet Obama, the Harvard Law School prince, the button-downed ditherer, the methodical seeker of the middle ground, is, ironically, the square against whom Mailer set his essay.
Never a hipster but rather the entitled private-school graduate, Obama's worldview had less to do with jive than Izod. His college peers were not draped in the poet's black threads but rather the preppy yellows, lime greens, and plaids — even pinks — of the preppy striver.
Fifty years after Little Rock, enter now the Pink Negro.
As an Ivy League lawyer, is Obama hard enough to confront the evil in Arizona?
Or has the president made a more diabolical calculation based upon immigration politics?
Plaudits in Scandinavia are little help trying to diagram the sirocco of outrages perpetrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio since his first election in 1992.
It is simpler to begin at the beginning.
The following information is from a law enforcement tape recording produced in a federal lawsuit.
The sheriff and his command staff tape-recorded themselves in conversations as they served legal papers on the first man to challenge Arpaio for office, Tom Bearup, in 2000.
Following an investigation that targeted his opponent's campaign paperwork, Sheriff's Office Captain Brian Sands served an order from County Elections on three individuals.
Bearup was fined $1,000 and, remarkably, told he could not run again for public office for five years. (Hear the tape for yourself here)
Captain Sands and Sergeant Rich Burden are recorded laughing repeatedly about Bearup being barred from seeking office.
Keep in mind that Bearup was a fringe candidate who polled a mere 7 percent of the vote. No matter. He was a former member of Arpaio's command staff. They did not want him speaking out.
Sheriff Arpaio personally called Captain Sands the night the papers were served, and his conversation is also recorded.
"What happened?" demanded Arpaio.
Once again, the captain laughed loudly as he recounted Bearup's response to the order barring him from running against Arpaio for five years.
"Oh, no. Oh, no," Captain Sands mimics Bearup replying to the news.
"That really rattled him," the captain told Arpaio. "He didn't know the five years was coming down the pipe."
Sands' hearty laughter anchored the tape.
Former Congressman Sam Coppersmith, an attorney who consults on campaign-finance reporting issues, said he'd never heard of anyone being banned from seeking office.
"There is no death penalty," said Coppersmith.
A spokeswoman for Karen Osborne, director of elections for the Maricopa County Recorder's Office, said she remembered the Bearup case and the sheriff's investigation.
"In this case, he could not run for office," recalled Yvonne Reed.
Asked to verify the specific statute, Reed pulled the law book and admitted that there was nothing in it whatsoever about barring a candidate from seeking future office.
Reached in Alaska, where he is a minister in a small, fundamentalist church, Bearup has never forgotten what happened when he stepped down as Arpaio's right hand to run against the sheriff.
"They started a criminal investigation, sealed off my office with tape like a crime scene," said Bearup.
Deputy David Cool later wrote then-County Attorney Rick Romley that he'd been ordered to write a phony memo accusing Bearup of planning to attack the Sheriff's Office with explosives. Cool said he was ordered to make the false accusation by Arpaio's second-in-command, Deputy David Hendershott.
"It was atrocious," said Bearup recently. "I stood up to him, I ran against him, I became a victim."
A source familiar with the Justice Department's investigation, but unauthorized to speak on the record, disclosed that the federal probe is unlikely to focus upon, let alone bring charges against, County Attorney Thomas.
Thomas enjoys the privileges and protections of the legal profession.
Furthermore, any hopes that meaningful civil rights prosecutions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio will result from FBI interrogations or federal lawyers' efforts appear futile.
"Typically, you might get a civil rights monitor in place or some sort of civil-administrative remedy, in a civil rights investigation," said our source. "But it is rare for a large-scale criminal prosecution to result."
Mayor Gordon's initial complaint, in April 2008, was acted upon by Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The mayor complained about numerous civil rights violations.
We are informed, however, that Mukasey's response was "tepid."
Nonetheless, our source maintains that federal authorities have a full-scale investigation under way.
"It is serious," said this observer, "and it is focused upon abuse of authority."
In other words, the systemic and inhumane treatment of Mexican-American citizens and Mexican immigrants appears beyond the reach of Obama's Justice Department.
Instead, Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents give greater weight to Sheriff Arpaio's "abuse of authority": If you speak out against the sheriff, Arpaio and his deputies show up at your home in the middle of the night.
The sheriff's notorious record of investigating and silencing critics is the focus of the Justice Department's lawyers and the FBI's agents.
If prosecuted under Conspiracy Against Rights or Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, Arpaio could face one to 10 years in prison.
While Bearup eventually appealed the death sentence, the attempt to silence him is outrageous.
And yet, 13 months after President Barack Obama was elected, his lawyers and his investigators have not put their hands on the Bearup tape.
It gets worse.
Captain Sands had the names of three people: the candidate, Tom Bearup, and two campaign volunteers. One of the volunteers, Jim Cozzolino, was clearly the primary target.
When the captain served Bearup, he inquired: "What's going on with Cozzolino? I could be the guy to help you."
Clearly, Bearup's problems would disappear if he would give up Cozzolino.
But Bearup had nothing to trade.
"I can't tell you he did anything wrong," said Bearup.
This is not what Sheriff Arpaio and his command staff wanted to hear. Cozzolino ran one of the first anti-Arpaio Web sites. He exercised his First Amendment opinion on his blog in 1998, long before reality TV stars tweeted.
Later, Sands and Burden shared more laughter as the captain regaled the sergeant with how he told Cozzolino's son that his father was a bad citizen.
This has got to be eating him alive, the deputies agreed.
"It's a matter of time before he ends up a statistic," said Sands.
When Arpaio phoned Sands, the captain reported about Bearup: "I tried to get him to talk about Cozzolino."
Two years later, still intent on silencing Cozzolino, the deputies would jail the sheriff's critic in one of the most outrageous acts of political retribution in Arpaio's vivid history.
As investigators from Obama's Justice Department cross t's, dot i's, and fill their yellow legal pads in Phoenix, with no end in sight, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas continue to run gangster traps worthy of East Germany's notorious secret police.
Precisely one week before President Obama's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, as his Justice Department's investigation of Sheriff Arpaio sputtered along, the citizens of Phoenix endured the following:
• Arpaio and Thomas filed an unprecedented lawsuit (read: Andrew Thomas Offers No Evidence of Bribery in Judge Gary Donahoe Case -- But Charges Him Anyway and Mary Rose Wilcox's Indictment: The Truth Behind Those 36 "Felonies") alleging a vast criminal conspiracy that targeted the following critics: Presiding Judge of the Superior Court Barbara R. Mundell, Superior Court Judges Gary Donahoe, Anna Baca, and Kenneth Fields; attorneys Thomas Irvine, Edward Novak, and Wade Swanson; the law firm of Polsinelli Shughart; Maricopa County Board of Supervisors members Fulton Brock, Andrew Kunasek, Donald T. Stapley Jr., Mary Rose Wilcox, and Max Wilson; County Managers David Smith and Sandi Wilson. (It should be noted that the judges have not attacked Sheriff Arpaio; they have merely dismissed his more egregious lawsuits and freed political targets he jailed.) In a chilling note that opened the lawsuit, Thomas and Arpaio invoked the spirit of the Stasi when they chastised paranoid supervisors for sweeping the county offices for bugs "for the corrupt purpose of locating surveillance devices authorized by law enforcement in order to avoid detection of crimes." There were no bugs, but if there had been bugs, according to the sheriff and the county attorney, it was the civic responsibility of the elected officials to leave the bugs in place so that law enforcement could listen to all conversations, confidential and otherwise.
• The sheriff was ordered to pay the legal fees of five young protesters whom deputies arrested for applauding an Arpaio critic in a county meeting. In addition to those arrested for clapping, Sergeant Acritelli arrested Kristy Theilen when she was summoned to the lectern microphone by the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "You're not speaking. You're leaving," Deputy Acritelli informed the sheriff's critic. In his decision on fees, Judge C. Steven McMurry noted: "Deputy Acritelli communicates that he believes that it is his role to make uncomfortable anyone who expresses views that disagree with the sheriff."
• Deputy Adam Stoddard stood before television cameras and refused to apologize for going through a public defender's files and stealing folders he deemed suspicious. When the deputy refused to issue the apology ordered by Judge Gary Donahoe, he was ordered to jail.
• The next day, Maricopa County Superior Court had to close when deputies, who are responsible for bringing prisoners to and from court, phoned in sick. More than 100 deputies staged a sit-in in support of Deputy Stoddard. The deputies labeled the judge's order an attack on the sheriff. Arpaio identified Stoddard not as someone who'd violated a prisoner's rights, but rather as a political prisoner.
The outrageous criminal-conspiracy litigation, the arrest of critics, the silencing of those who would speak publicly, the defiant attitude of a jailer searching a public defender's confidential files, the galling closure of the courts are merely last week's headlines. Last month, Sergeant Manuel Madrid admitted that he had shredded requested documents in the massive lawsuit filed by the Arizona Civil Liberties Union on behalf of racially profiled Latinos.
And the day this story was published, County Attorney Thomas charged Donahoe, the presiding judge of the county's criminal courts, with three felony counts (bribery, obstructing a criminal investigation, and hindering prosecution) that give off the stench of retaliation. It didn't matter to Thomas that, at a press conference after the action, he could offer no evidence that Donahoe had accepted a bribe of any sort or done anything else illegal.
This is how we live.
When Supervisor Don Stapley criticized Sheriff Joe Arpaio's controversial and degrading immigration sweeps, he put himself in the lawman's crosshairs. Following the criticism, Stapley was investigated by Arpaio and subsequently indicted in December 2008 on 118 misdemeanor and felony counts relating to improper campaign-disclosure forms. Ironically, the sheriff committed the same kind of reporting errors. A judge dismissed most of the charges against Stapley, and an independent prosecutor dropped the rest on Friday, September 18.
Three days later, sheriff's deputies arrested and booked Stapley on 100 new criminal charges.
Just before this article went to press, Stapley was indicted on yet another 27 charges of perjury, fraud, and theft, and longtime Arpaio critic Mary Rose Wilcox was indicted on 36 counts.
Since taking office in 1992, Sheriff Arpaio has investigated, harassed, or jailed a long list of those who criticized the lawmen — including: Dan Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union; state Attorney General Terry Goddard; County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling; all five members of the county Board of Supervisors; rivals for sheriff, including but not limited to Bearup and former Buckeye Police Chief Dan Saban; the leadership of the county Superior Court; state legislators; campaign workers; donors who finance Arpaio's political rivals; Mexican-American civil rights activists; deputies under the sheriff's authority; Mayor Phil Gordon; a jail chaplain, and a stand-up comic who satirized Arpaio.
Media that spoke out or criticized were banned from Sheriff's Office press conferences and from its headquarters in the Wells Fargo Building downtown. One newspaper had to sue simply to obtain press releases.
When this newspaper examined the hidden, as well as the obvious, real estate holdings of the sheriff, Arpaio invoked an obscure statute to claim we had imperiled his life by listing the address of his home property — an address found, by the way, on his nominating petitions.
Arpaio caused grand jury subpoenas to be issued that demanded all the reporters' notes on every story we had written about him over the preceding four years.
Arpaio also caused grand jury subpoenas to be issued that sought our computer records. The sheriff sought the identity of all readers who'd viewed online articles critical of the sheriff.
On October 18, 2007, publisher Jim Larkin and I revealed in a cover story the existence of the unconstitutional abuse of the grand jury. That evening, Sheriff Arpaio's deputies came to our homes, banged upon our doors, and handcuffed and arrested us in the middle of the night.
In short order, Judge Anna Baca — yes, the same judge named in Arpaio and Thomas' lawsuit — discovered what this newspaper already had reported: There was no grand jury; the prosecutor had illegally issued the subpoenas without a grand jury.
Chief Deputy David Hendershott had ordered our arrest.
On the same evening of our arrests, Arpaio's deputies served New Times reporter Ray Stern at home with a citation for his pursuit of public records involving the Sheriff's Office.
All charges against the staff and leadership of New Times were dropped.
Mailer got it wrong.
"The cameos of security for the average white: mother and the home, job and the family, are not even a mockery to millions of Negroes; they are impossible," wrote Mailer. "He subsisted for his Saturday night kicks, relinquishing the pleasures of the mind for the more obligatory pleasures of the body."
Here we see the failure of Mailer's imagination and his love of provocation. He lived in cracker times and succumbed to cracker analysis, however acrobatic.
Mailer failed to see that it is less about black and white, and more acutely about insider and outsider.
"It is no accident that the source of Hip is the Negro, for he has been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries."
But that is precisely the problem.
Obama has not straddled the divide between oppression and democracy. He is the ultimate insider.
General Eisenhower, forged in combat, understood the decisive act.
Our current president does not.
Barack Obama, molded in moot court, sent Arizona attorneys with brief cases but no brief.
As editor of the Harvard Law Review, Obama became as pink as any WASP.
We see now that a good LSAT score is no match for law enforcement barbarism.
Sheriff Arpaio's crushing abuse of the First Amendment is nowhere more cruelly executed than in the case of Jim Cozzolino, one of the first critics buried under renegade law enforcement.
And it is the failure of the FBI and lawyers from the Justice Department to even question Cozzolino that raises alarming concern about the integrity of their investigation.
In 2000, when Captain Sands served the paperwork on candidate Bearup, the deputy made a point of trying to get Bearup to give up something damaging about Cozzolino. On the tape recording, the officers discuss with each other nailing Cozzolino. Sands repeats this conversation thread with Arpaio.
You see, by the time of the campaign in 2000, Cozzolino had been running an anti-Arpaio Web site for two years. It was on the site that embittered deputies spilled their guts and where critics learned the latest on the sheriff.
When Captain Sands bragged that Cozzolino was well on his way to becoming a statistic in 2000, it was a boast the Sheriff's Office made good on.
In 2002, the MCSO arrested Cozzolino and charged him with attempted murder and aggravated assault.
A drunken employee at a bowling alley Cozzolino owned had attacked a female co-worker, choking the woman.
When the 5-foot, 4-inch Cozzolino tried to protect the woman, he was tossed aside and beaten.
After she'd fled, Cozzolino grabbed a pistol — he was a licensed firearms instructor — and the gun accidentally discharged. He didn't shoot at anyone; no one was wounded. In fact, Cozzolino was outdoors when the gun discharged, and the belligerent was still inside the bowling alley.
Both the woman and the troublemaker gave videotaped statements supporting Cozzolino.
The Sheriff's Office raided Cozzolino's home. They seized computers, family photographs, and the medals he was awarded for service in the Vietnam War. They also impounded his extremely rare 1974 Pantera, an expensive restoration project. None of the seizures had anything to do with the bogus charges.
Cozzolino's attorney received an anonymous letter that claimed to be from a Maricopa County deputy.
"From the beginning, it was ordered by Arpaio and Hendershott that Mr. Cozzolino was to be charged with anything he could be charged with, regardless if it could be proven," said the letter.
"I watched them tamper with the taped video recordings of the victim and witnesses taken after the incident; I watched them change the statements in their reports and lie about what actually happened at Fountain Hills Bowl that night.
"I know they have had him and his family under surveillance starting years ago, have illegally wire-tapped his home phone over the years, taken his trash from his home and illegally invaded his privacy over and over again with reckless disregard of his rights. Unfortunately, I have taken part in some of these actions."
When Cozzolino's attorney asked the sheriff for the videotapes of the witness interviews, large sections were indeed missing — the sections where witnesses corroborated Cozzolino's statements.
When the attorney asked for the backup audio tapes that the Sheriff's Office always makes, a deputy said there were no backup tapes.
In a subsequent deposition, the attorney asked an investigator about backups and was told that there were numerous backups made for both the sheriff and the county attorney.
This startling deposition was taken on Friday; by Monday, the prosecutor presented a settlement offer.
"All [the County Attorney's Office] wanted was the discharge of a weapon. Jim would be probation-eligible," the attorney told New Times.
But Cozzolino didn't get probation.
Arpaio intervened personally with the court, and Cozzolino was sentenced to four months in the sheriff's jail.
Cozzolino was granted work release, which allowed him to go to his job and return to Tent City at night. For no apparent reason, deputies routinely forced Cozzolino to take drug and alcohol tests after his return to custody.
On February 5, 2004, Cozzolino tested positive for methamphetamine.
Cozzolino was thrown into solitary confinement, facing revocation of his plea agreement and prison time.
Unable to contact his lawyer or family, Cozzolino's request for a second test was ignored. This was important because the results of the meth test were valid for only three days. After that, there would simply be a report saying he'd flunked the exam.
Within hours of going to solitary, the county probation department received a phone call from an honest deputy urging a quick second test.
The probation department moved immediately, and a second test was scheduled; Cozzolino was clean.
A third test by a private laboratory confirmed that Cozzolino was drug free.
President Obama secured the Nobel Peace Prize with his "New Beginnings" speech delivered June 4 in Cairo. The remarks reversed the policies of his predecessor and went on to lay out the argument — one would think the point almost mundane — for the brotherhood of man.
The obvious sources of conflict were reviewed.
"It is easy to point fingers" said Obama, "for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history . . . The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."
President Obama addressed the needs and aspirations of what troubles all world leaders, the prospect of a failed state: Palestine.
Yet Obama ignores that his Southwestern border with Mexico is its own failed state and that Sheriff Arpaio is part of the problem.
In fewer than three years, 14,000 died along that border in the drug war over who will supply America's cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
During the Intifada, from 2000 to 2006, the International Middle East Media Center estimated that as many as 4,000 Palestinians died. In a similar six-year period from the founding of Israel in 1949 until 1956, Oxford professor Avi Shlaim counted as many as 5,000 slain Palestinians.
The three-year death total on the Mexican border dwarfs those numbers.
In the current issue of Atlantic magazine, Phillip Caputo reports the drug war claimed 1,600 lives in Juarez last year and another 1,800 lives for the first nine months of this year. Never mind Kabul; Juarez is now the "most violent city in the world."
While the Pentagon worries about the entire Mexican nation, there is no question whatsoever about the border.
In the absence of a rational American policy of work visas and immigration, these same drug gangs at war in Mexico took over control of human smuggling.
The fallout from this failed border situation is not confined to Mexico.
In February, ABC News reported that Phoenix was America's — if not the world's — capital of kidnapping, almost all of it tied to smuggling. The police reported 359 cases in 2007, though most understand that the number is significantly higher because many victims are too frightened to report the ransom demands.
Between 300 and 400 immigrants — the number varies from year to year — die annually in the expansive deserts of the Southwest, the greatest number in Arizona, as they attempt to enter the country for work.
It is against this background that Barack Obama's stalled Justice Department investigation raises serious questions.
Polls consistently show overwhelming support for crackdowns on Mexican migrants.
And no public figure in America is more identified with rounding up migrants than Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The abuse — physical, emotional, familial — of the immigration roundups has been well documented in this newspaper (see "Arpaio Racial Profiling," under "Special Reports," at www.phoenixnewtimes.com).
The intimidation and jailing of those who exercise their First Amendment right to criticize the sheriff has been reported in these pages since Arpaio's first election in 1992 (see "Major Articles on Joe Arpaio" and "Sheriff Joe Archive," also under "Special Reports," on our Web site).
The tyranny of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is public record.
The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined comment.
But the political calculation involved in the Justice Department's refusal to confront evil is shortsighted.
Following her publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt wrote not just about those in authority, but about how inhumane principles spread in the general population.
She observed that the banal evil of an Adolf Eichmann, whom she considered a "buffoon," could spread like a "fungus" because it was too shallow to have roots, roots that could be examined and removed by rational thought: What part of illegal don't you understand?
The Justice Department is kidding itself if it believes that Arpaio can be contained. Arpaio was invited into the Midwest to speak on behalf of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. More recently, he has campaigned on behalf of Sheriff's Office candidates in San Diego and Orange County, California, and spoken to supporters in Texas.
Far from disappearing quietly, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is Arendt's fungus.
Obama's calculation is simple: Will voters leave him for not indicting Sheriff Joe Arpaio?
Where can the rest of us go?
Apparently, we can go to hell.
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