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February 4, 2016 10:14 AM   Subscribe

On February 3rd, 2016, after more than 14 years, the Free State Project -- an ambitious plan to move 20,000 freedom-loving, law-hating people into New Hampshire to upend its political system and bring about a libertarian utopia -- has reached its 20K threshold of pledges to move, thereby "triggering the move" for the 90-plus percent of FSPers who declared their intention to relocate but haven't yet.

Reason notes that the 1,900 or so pre-movers have already accomplished much:
from getting 15 of their brethren in the state House, challenging anti-ridehail laws, fighting in court for outre religious liberty, winning legal battles over taping cops, being mocked by Colbert for heroically paying off people's parking meters, hosting cool anything goes festivals for libertarians, nullifying pot juries, and inducing occasional pants-wetting absurd paranoia in local statists.
The FSP was discussed here waaaay back in 2002, before they had selected a target state, and again after the Granite State was targeted.
posted by Etrigan (72 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is hilarious to me because back when this was first announced, I was a BureauCrash Libertarian youth in college, Ayn Rand Reader in-hand, ready to do my part for Freedom!

Today, I'm a 35 year old father and Bernie Sanders supporter, who typically votes Green Party.

Yes, I'm still on the fringes, but my politics and maturity has changed quite a lot in the past decade and a half.

I'm surprised there are still so many who are on board this movement after all these years, frankly.
posted by Guy Dudeman at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2016 [23 favorites]


..."heroically paying off other people's parking meters"? Do they even understand why parking meters exist? Of course not, it's Reason.

As for the 15 people in the state legislature, that would be impressive if we weren't talking about the most fucked up legislative body in the US.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


If I recall correctly they weren't mocked for paying other people's parking meters — every budding hippy has done that — but for being total dicks by following around and harassing the meter readers for hours and hours.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2016 [12 favorites]


Parking-meter heroes
posted by frogmanjack at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised there are still so many who are on board this movement after all these years, frankly.

I'd be willing to bet that a nonzero number of that 20,000 will be like "I said I would what? To where?"
posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on February 4, 2016 [33 favorites]


As for the 15 people in the state legislature, that would be impressive if we weren't talking about the most fucked up legislative body in the US.

That would be a contest between New Hampshire and Nebraska. These days New Hampshire would usually win, but around 2000 or so I would put Nebraska as most fucked up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2016


They're basing this on an online pledge? I'm sure Weedlord Bonerhitler, Baba Booey and I. P. Freely will be packing their bags as we speak.
posted by delfin at 10:37 AM on February 4, 2016 [45 favorites]


That online pledge, it's like, a contract, right? So the people that don't move, they can be sued, right?
posted by happyroach at 10:43 AM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


That would be a contest between New Hampshire and Nebraska. These days New Hampshire would usually win, but around 2000 or so I would put Nebraska as most fucked up.

Nebraska's problems are centered around delusion - nobody buys the non-partisan bullshit, stop pretending. It'll be better for everyone.

New Hampshire, on the other hand...that's an entirely new kettle of WTF. It has the largest state legislature at 424 members. For reference, the US House of Representatives is 435 members strong.

All that for a state population of 1.3 million.

And the job hearkens back to the bad old days of amateur governance, with short sessions and incredibly low pay ($100/year),which means the only people who run for the seats are the wealthy who can afford to take the month off to serve, and the crackpots. (NB: these groups are far from mutually exclusive.)

So yeah, the fact that they managed to find 15 suckers for a thankless job? Not impressive.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


As for the 15 people in the state legislature, that would be impressive if we weren't talking about the most fucked up legislative body in the US.

Other than that being a drop in the over-400-member bucket, can anyone provide a link to a description of, or a description of, the fucked-uppedness, mostly for my tragimusement?
posted by frimble at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


New Hampshire, on the other hand...that's an entirely new kettle of WTF. It has the largest state legislature at 424 members.

Almost half of whom are elected from multi-member districts.

And the House-Senate proportion is 16.7:1, nearly four times the U.S. House-Senate proportion.
posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on February 4, 2016


There was the time they welcomed a bunch of 4th Graders to the State House who had drafted a bill to name the Red Tail Hawk the Official State Raptor. NH Representatives brought Planned Parenthood into the debate and killed the bill in front of the students.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:51 AM on February 4, 2016 [38 favorites]


I wonder why corporations with real ability to achieve this haven't tried.

In 2012 some companies including Koch Industries sent out memos or directives either telling or strongly encouraging their employees how to vote. This is apparently not illegal on the federal level, though some states do have their own laws about it.

If New Hampshire doesn't have such laws, it wouldn't be an impossible undertaking for a large company to have 20,000 people moved into a state and strongly encouraged to vote certain ways. It would basically be a corporate-government merger.

Once a company has a state secured, they can use its legislature to arrange redistricting and the like to secure the Congressional representatives of that state. It wouldn't take control of all that many states to create a sizable voting bloc in Congress.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:52 AM on February 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


That time they called for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Valorum turned out to be a real boner, too
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:53 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Send lube!
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on February 4, 2016


. . . the most fucked up legislative body in the US . . .

That has to depend on your measuring criterion. For example, in terms of per capita indictments of sitting state legislators, New York is going to be awfully hard to beat.
posted by The Bellman at 10:59 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pennsylvania, represent! Just noting for the record that we have 253 state legislators*, no damn state budget, absolutely the dumbest liquor laws ever, and an attorney general facing criminal charges. But, apparently, we're better than New Hampshire. Go us!

*As of 2014, base pay for Being A PA State Legislator was $85,356. While we don't have as MANY legislators as New Hampshire does, ours cost a heck of a lot more than theirs do.
posted by which_chick at 11:01 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Heh. I was pretty involved with FSP as a teenager - I think my name and an old email address are still on their website as the meetup coordinator for my tri-state area. I was an 18 year old nerd who wanted political life to not be so social and dirty and confusing. I'm not sure if I ever actually officially pledged or not - even then I took pledges as a big deal and something not to make lightly.

I remember talking to the cofounder of the project at one of our meetups, where she once told me "libertarianism is the only truly logical political stance". It took me a long time to realize that, while indeed pretty internally consistent, being internally consistent is only meaningful if your starting premises are correct, which is demonstrably laughable in the case of "everyone starts on equal footing".

Of course, now I'm a 30-something pacifist queer who would not even be welcome in those circles. Like, New Hampshire is one of those places I'd be nervous about being openly affectionate with my partner in.
posted by zug at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


Plus, Pennsylvania has a bicameral system with a separate house and senate for no known reason other than to keep the state from ever passing any bills whatsoever.
posted by octothorpe at 11:07 AM on February 4, 2016


Doesn't every state except Utah have a bicameral system? Why single out Pennsylvania?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


What's I've always found funny about the libertarian claim of being "the only truly logical political stance" is that if that were true, libertarianism would be a mainstream political belief. The fact that it is part of the fringe seems to disprove its own claims of superiority.
posted by Bromius at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Weedlord Bonerhitler

Dude fucks up my King's Fall raid every time.
posted by echocollate at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's Never Lurgi: "Doesn't every state except Utah have a bicameral system? Why single out Pennsylvania?"

Huh, I guess that you're right. It's actually except for Nebraska. Don't know why I thought that PA was special.

nevermind
posted by octothorpe at 11:13 AM on February 4, 2016


A lot has changed in 14 years. Libertarians have gone from being a fringe group to -- well, not accepted exactly, but they have multiple successful national politicians who have a pretty significant impact at the federal level. Meanwhile New Hampshire now has lots of new residents who moved there to live in McMansions and commute to Boston while avoiding Massachusetts taxes, not for any political reason. This whole project seems like a bit of an anachronism.
posted by miyabo at 11:23 AM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Always wonder why, given their goals of zero government, the Libertarians aren't parading around places like Flint, MI celebrating the taste of freedom in the water. Regulations do kill jobs ya know.
posted by Freedomboy at 11:34 AM on February 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


Regulations do kill jobs ya know.

Because that would mean admitting that a lack of regulation kills people, even libertarians, and that cannot ever be spoken?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:38 AM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm really grateful for the free state project. You see, back in 2002 (when I had recently graduated from college) I thought libertarianism was a great idea! I mean, who doesn't love freedom! I want to be able to decide what's good for myself and what isn't! Who is the government to tell me that gambling should be illegal, and that I can't sell myself into slavery?!

And along came the free state project, and made me realize: wow, the libertarian party is crazy. And I want to help people / society, not just allow raw capitalistic-anarchy to take over.

So, thanks FSP, for making me realize that I love taxes, public roads, collaboration, emergency services, and free health care for all. Free schools, free libraries, the rich being forced to help the poor, and regulations helping to protect us from those that would fuck us over for a dollar. And while yes, I would love to see more gambling in more states, it's not like, my #1 priority for society.
posted by Phredward at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2016 [27 favorites]


I wonder why corporations with real ability to achieve this haven't tried.


Because they don't need to.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 AM on February 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


White people crazy
posted by cman at 12:03 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some day you silly Americans will look back on this and smack your foreheads for not realizing what an obvious ruse it was. I'm probably not supposed to say this, but: It's us. British North America. (Or, as we have been pretending to call ourselves, "Canada.") This New Hampshire operation is just part one of our secret plan to destablize northern New England so we can reclaim everything down to the 45th parallel. You did realize the Treaty of Ghent had a one-hundred-year expiration date, surely? Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha-etc.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:04 PM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Always wonder why, given their goals of zero government, the Libertarians aren't parading around places like Flint, MI celebrating the taste of freedom in the water. Regulations do kill jobs ya know.

Isn't the water crisis in Flint an example of spectacular government failure at multiple levels, limiting it's value as an example useful in teaching libertarians the error of their ways?
posted by layceepee at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


I signed up for the Free State project, and meant it. But now I have a family, and it's just not feasible.

However, these guys are accomplishing a lot with very little, especially in the smaller towns, where just moving ten diehard activists in can really shake shit up.
posted by corb at 12:11 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


just moving ten diehard activists in can really shake shit up.

Ten assholes with nothing better to do than threaten meter maids can, yes, definitely shake shit up.

Achieve anything beyond harassment? Eh, not so much.
posted by aramaic at 12:13 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


moving ten diehard activists in can really shake shit up.

By defunding and deregulating waste disposal?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Flint is more an example of how the whole "government should run itself like a business" trope is bullshit than anything else. Libertarians would probably draw the lesson that it wasn't business run enough.
posted by Artw at 12:18 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


moving ten diehard activists in can really shake shit up.

It's like suddenly having the crazy relative you only had endure once a year during thanksgiving dinner move in next door.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2016


Isn't the water crisis in Flint an example of spectacular government failure at multiple levels, limiting it's value as an example useful in teaching libertarians the error of their ways?

No it is the result of power washing the local infrastructure until the paint is gone off the walls and all that is left is the shell of civilization, like the photos of cities in Syria after the bombing is over.

Remember the real reason we need sets of rules is the fact that YOUR outhouse is uphill from MY drinking water well. Freedom - got nuthin' to do with it.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


You did realize the Treaty of Ghent had a one-hundred-year expiration date, surely? Mua-ha-ha-ha-ha-etc.

Somebody really should've told you guys when 1914 rolled around that, despite the name of the treaty, the road from York to Washington does not go through Belgium.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


This goes all the way back to 2002? Back when New Hampshire still had the Old Man in the Mountain! Clearly he didn't think much of the idea.
posted by TedW at 12:23 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like, New Hampshire is one of those places I'd be nervous about being openly affectionate with my partner in.

Why? Have you had worse experiences with homophobia in NH than in other states?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2016


What's I've always found funny about the libertarian claim of being "the only truly logical political stance" is that if that were true, libertarianism would be a mainstream political belief. The fact that it is part of the fringe seems to disprove its own claims of superiority.

Nah, bro, it means that the lamestream is nothing but sheeple, bro.

My own hot take on the Free State Project was one of first dozen or so comments I made on metafilter. I had actually learned about Mr Sorens just shortly before that because I met someone who knew someone who something something Von Mises Institute and well ... it's all ancient history.

I am curious about how many people more serious than Weedlord Bonerhitler have pledged. And how many who might have been serious then and who are now, 15 years later, all "yeah, I'd love to but spouse/house/job/kids." I am also curious if Sorens still has a penchant for peasant shirts.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2016


The worst part of being Weedlord Bonerhitler is knowing that those statist bastards at Ellis Island changed the proud McBonerhitler name.
posted by Etrigan at 12:28 PM on February 4, 2016 [22 favorites]


I predict just as many of the 20 000 will move to New Hampshire as left the country after Obama was elected.

If you have never seen the Naomi Wolf talk at the freestate forum 2014 all the way to the end it is amazing at the end. She actually stands up in a room with a couple hundred people in it and finesses a question about her 9/11 was an inside job views and she pulls it off which until I saw it I never would have believed it possible.
posted by bukvich at 12:33 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Can you provide a timestamp for that incident? Because I can't trawl through almost 2 hours of crap for that one nugget.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would really love to see this happen on some small scale. Prove it can work or shut up, somewhere that doesn’t fuck up the whole country. Right now it’s a tempting fantasy for so many that it corrupts our whole system.
posted by bongo_x at 1:05 PM on February 4, 2016


I would really love to see this happen on some small scale. Prove it can work or shut up, somewhere that doesn’t fuck up the whole country.

Ruins of Burlington, Vermont, 2026: The last survivor crawls out from under the rubble and mutters, "Well, this wasn't really libertarian. Next time, we'll get it right."
posted by Etrigan at 1:09 PM on February 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


the Naomi Wolf talk at the freestate forum 2014

Hosted at YouTube by "RedPill Recording." The Wachowski's have a lot to answer for is all I'm saying.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:10 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


benito.strauss you can find the question and answer session quickly with the scrollbar but I don't believe it is anywhere near as effective without the long overture which is painful in places. But that is not the only amazing nugget. When I loaded it I expected a laugh fest and I was blown away how (very) occasionally she came across so well.
posted by bukvich at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2016


Oh, I forgot the part where I want to be able to tell people "move to New Hampshire if that’s what you want".
posted by bongo_x at 1:22 PM on February 4, 2016


It's Never Lurgi: "Doesn't every state except Utah have a bicameral system? Why single out Pennsylvania?"

is it possible for a US state or municipality to have a parliamentary form of government? why do they ask have guvn'rs like some imperial colony?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2016


I'm pretty sure initial discussions of the FSP were where I heard about It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, so that was worth it at least.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:36 PM on February 4, 2016


I would really love to see this happen on some small scale.

Dunno. Even on a small scale I think this kind of thing—gathering one's ideological comrades together to make Jerusalem in some green and pleasant land—is either naive or aggressive. It's simply naiveté to believe that ideological homogeneity is enough to ensure a good life. Utopias never end well. And it's doubly naive as well as aggressive to believe that it's possible and/or enough to push out some heterogeneous element and turn it into a homogeneity.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2016


The whole idea could make a great TV show à la Newhart, tho.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2016


Utopias never end well.

Nonsense. You're only saying that because none ever has.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:14 PM on February 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


Isn't the water crisis in Flint an example of spectacular government failure at multiple levels, limiting it's value as an example useful in teaching libertarians the error of their ways?

Indeed: Here’s How to Fix Flint’s Water System: Privatize It
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:17 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Indeed: Here’s How to Fix Flint’s Water System: Privatize It

At least Reason didn't try to blame Obama.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:21 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Of course, now I'm a 30-something pacifist queer who would not even be welcome in those circles. Like, New Hampshire is one of those places I'd be nervous about being openly affectionate with my partner in."

A couple months back, I interviewed the guy behind the Covered Bridges and Drag Queens calendar, and he moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and is now running for office. He said he was really pleasantly surprised by how much gay culture is in New Hampshire.

"Here’s How to Fix Flint’s Water System: Privatize It"

"I'll show you a True Scotsman!"
posted by klangklangston at 2:38 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Indeed: Here’s How to Fix Flint’s Water System: Privatize It

As is usual with Reason and libertarians, that article plays a deceptive trick.

The second paragraph says:
It isn’t rocket science. There are more than 50,000 water utilities in the United States, and more than 50,000 of them are providing safe drinking water. When things go wrong—as they did in Flint—bad political and management decision are to blame.
The rest of the article is then devoted to extolling the virtues of private utilities and denouncing the evil inefficiencies of public utilities.

But wait. Those 50,000+ utilities the article points to are public utilities. How do we know this? The link the article itself provides tells us.

So which is it? Are nearly 100% of public utilities in the US doing just fine, or are they harmful, unaccountable entities? The article sneakily wants you to conflate that talk about the 50,000 utilities in the second paragraph with the discussion about private utilities.

I would have more respect for libertarians if they didn't seem to do stuff like this all the time.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2016 [18 favorites]


Sangermaine: "I wonder why corporations with real ability to achieve this haven't tried."

Well Disney has taken over the County their theme park is in.

Huffy Puffy: "Somebody really should've told you guys when 1914 rolled around that, despite the name of the treaty, the road from York to Washington does not go through Belgium."

We had no problem finding Washington in 1814 so I'm sure we can do it again regardless of roads.
posted by Mitheral at 2:43 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Came for Trump Dumping, stayed for the War of 1812 smacktalk.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:17 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Somebody really should've told you guys when 1914 rolled around that, despite the name of the treaty, the road from York to Washington does not go through Belgium.

look we're just really careful planners okay
posted by Sys Rq at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I lived in California, I'd just wait for someone to tie a plastic bag over a parking meter to pretend it was broken, and I'd go and pull the bag off and put it in the trash.

Parking meter hero, me!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:00 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


15 members of government who did not identify themselves as members of the FSP when they ran for office. Deceitful. I wish they would leave and go find an island on which they could establish their misanthropic juvenile utopia. New Hampshire was doing well enough without them.
posted by AJScease at 6:21 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


But wait. Those 50,000+ utilities the article points to are public utilities. How do we know this? The link the article itself provides tells us.

Sangermaine, I think you are being misled by two different meanings of "public." The link is restricted to "public water systems" in the sense that they are water systems that serve the public, but if you look at the following line, it indicates that this includes systems with both "Public or Private Ownership."
posted by layceepee at 6:44 PM on February 4, 2016


Yes, you're right about that. I missed that line.

But, I think the point still stands. The article points to the 50,000 system under "public or private ownership" as universally working, then shifts to attacking the public utilities. But there is no reason given why the initial praise for all systems is for private only or that public systems are inferior, when it opens by noting that both work fine.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:57 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sangermaine: I would have more respect for libertarians if they didn't seem to do stuff like this all the time.

They're just being political, in the way that opposing parties claim that everything the other guy does is going terribly, and they'll fix things, even when it's the other guys who fixed things and everything is doing pretty well now, thanks for asking.

In other words - shaping reality to fit their narrative, and hoping no one tries re-trace their chain of thoughts or verify their facts.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder why corporations with real ability to achieve this haven't tried.

In 2012 some companies including Koch Industries sent out memos or directives either telling or strongly encouraging their employees how to vote. This is apparently not illegal on the federal level, though some states do have their own laws about it.

If New Hampshire doesn't have such laws, it wouldn't be an impossible undertaking for a large company to have 20,000 people moved into a state and strongly encouraged to vote certain ways. It would basically be a corporate-government merger.

Once a company has a state secured, they can use its legislature to arrange redistricting and the like to secure the Congressional representatives of that state. It wouldn't take control of all that many states to create a sizable voting bloc in Congress.


Or they could cut out the middle man and buy politicians directly.
posted by one_bean at 7:47 PM on February 4, 2016


> I wonder why corporations with real ability to achieve this haven't tried.
"Traditional settings for company towns were where extractive industries — coal, metal mines, lumber — had established a monopoly franchise. Dam sites and war-industry camps founded other company towns. Since company stores often had a monopoly in company towns, it was possible to pay in scrip through a truck system.

"Typically, a company town is isolated from neighbors and centered on a large production factory, such as a lumber or steel mill or an automobile plant; and the citizens of the town either work in the factory, work in one of the smaller businesses, or is a family member of someone who does. The company may also donate a church building to a local congregation, operate parks, host cultural events such as concerts, and so on. If the owning company cuts back or goes out of business, the economic effect on the company town is devastating, as people move to jobs elsewhere.

"At their peak there were more than 2,500 company towns, housing 3% of the US population."
posted by ardgedee at 1:18 AM on February 5, 2016


I signed up for the Free State project, and meant it. But now I have a family, and it's just not feasible.
posted by corb


Rich.
posted by spitbull at 6:46 AM on February 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wonder what percentage of Libertarians are married and have children, and how it compares to national averages. I suspect it's much lower, but have no experience and would love to see some actual data.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:43 AM on February 5, 2016


I would have more respect for libertarians if they didn't seem to do stuff like this all the time.

If government fails, it's because government is incompetent.

If government succeeds, the free market would have done a better job for less money.

If the free market succeeds, it's because the free market is AWESOME!

If the free market fails, then it's either because government regulations kept us from having a free market, so it doesn't count, or it's not a failure because the outcome is what the market chose, which is a success by definition.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


And in further reminders about the barrel of WTF that is the New Hampshire legislature, they are continuing their war on female nipples.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:56 PM on March 1, 2016


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