Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rule of Law vs. Anyone (including Trump)

Trump Mug Shot, Fulton County Sheriff's Office, State of Georgia

Earlier today a good friend asked me if I didn’t think the upcoming March 25th, 2024, criminal case in New York City against former President Trump, wasn’t just minor stuff that no one else would be prosecuted for?

Let’s review…

Civil and business cases post presidency:

1) Trump’s company was convicted in 2022 on 17 criminal charges including tax fraud. Their CFO also plead guilty to multiple felony counts, and spent time in prison. 

2) A 2023 jury in New York City found that Trump defamed and sexually abused E Jean Carol. In two trials for damages, he was ordered to pay a total of $88.3 million dollars. He is currently appealing, although a bond has not yet been posted on $83.3 million dollars from the second trial.

3) A 2024 New York State Court found Trump liable for financial fraud. He was ordered to pay over $464 million dollars including pre & post judgement interest. He is currently appealing, although a bond has not yet been posted.

4) A consolidated case including multiple U.S. Congressman, and two U.S. Capitol police officers, suing for damages over the January 6th attempt to violently overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Both the trial judge and the Court of Appeals held Trump was not immune as he was acting in his personal capacity as a presidential candidate, not in his official capacity as president. 

There are four current criminal cases against the former president, for 91 felony charges. Trump has pled not guilty to all charges.

Federal criminal cases: 

1) January 6th (Washington DC) on 4 felony counts for efforts, conspiracy, and obstruction in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election and stay in office after having lost. The case was scheduled for trial, but is currently resolving an immunity dispute.

In a dispute over immunity, both the trial judge and the Court of Appeals ruled that former presidents are liable for criminal acts committed while president, that to allow otherwise would put presidents beyond the law which is against the very nature of the United States and the Constitution. The immunity dispute is currently scheduled for argument April 22, 2024 in the Supreme Court.

2) National Security and Classified Documents (Florida) on 40 felony counts for intentionally keeping and concealing classified documents, including war plans, and nuclear weapons documents, and for obstructing justice. The case is currently in pre-trial motions.

State criminal cases:

3) RICO conspiracy case (Georgia) on 13 felony counts of conspiracy and obstruction, for efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. The case is currently in pre-trial motions.

4) Hush money & records fraud (New York City) on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an attempt to hide hush money paid to a porn star, all done in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election in New York and the nation. The case is scheduled for trial, March 25, 2024.

My friend got all of them except the last one, starting next month. They thought it silly to charge Trump for business records fraud and hush money payments, that it was just too small.

I disagreed, and explained why as follows… 

Rule of law vs. Anyone (including Trump)

My bottom line is these Trump cases are necessary to stop a career criminal mob boss from destroying or badly damaging the Rule of Law. 

That is why both Capone and Gotti were tried repeatedly, until they brought them down any way that they could. They were MOB bosses, career criminals. You get them any way you can, BECAUSE of the danger they are to the law, and to society.

Fuck the politics, or even the minor cases being minor.

In Trump’s case none of it is minor anymore BECAUSE he is a lifelong criminal, a mobster breaking the law everywhere, while weaponizing and destroying the institutions which we as a country depend on to protect all of us.

Trump not only must be convicted and imprisoned, he must be publicly seen as a convicted criminal. 

His conviction and imprisonment won’t stop the cultism, but it will make it very clear to the rest of our country, and to our allies, that while we bent, in the end we did not break. That the United States remains a country truly under the Rule of Law. Period.

When people today, and children not yet born, think of using violence and crimes to overthrow elections or to win them, the historical record needs to be clear: have the politics you want. But cross THIS line, and you will be caught, convicted, and imprisoned. Even if you were the President. NO ONE gets to fuck with our elections, or our national security.

I don’t care what they convict him for.  The consequences to our nation and western democracies of leaving him not convicted, not sent to prison, are simply too grave. And yeah… I want the Jan 6th case to proceed. But in the interim, I want him convicted now and I am no longer picky about how. 

Capone. Gotti. Trump.

Remember — Trump is from New York. He has operated there his entire life, like his criminal father before him. New York knows who Trump is. He has victimized New Yorkers for half a century.

New York is taking down a lifelong gangster whom for over fifty years has been breaking New York laws, accused of sexual assaulting & raping New York residents, and stealing from New Yorkers, while running a deeply criminal organization.

Like other mob bosses, they will take him down any way they can. As they should.
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Saturday, October 21, 2023

Taylor Swift: The ERAS TOUR Concert Film Review


“I dreamt of you all summer long." —"betty,” folklore

"And all at once, you are the one I have been waiting for." —"King of My Heart," Reputation


"NICE!" "Bejeweled," Midnights


"Are you ready for it?" —"...Ready For It?," Reputation


Opening Weekend brought in almost $100 million in U.S. sales, the second best October opening for a film ever.


Unconditionally recommended, even if you're not a Taylor Swift fan.

In every century there is a concert they talk about decades later. For the 20th century, it was Woodstock. For the 21st century, it will be the Eras Tour. 

The concert film puts you in the middle of a 72,000 person sold-out crowd, often just feet away from Taylor, her dancers, and her backing vocalists and band.

From the opening shots of the deliriously screaming crowd in LA’s SoFi stadium, to the gorgeous power strutting of Taylor and her backing dancers during “…Ready for It?,” through the final love fest of “Karma” at the concert’s end, this is Taylor Swift at her best ever. A show that blows out of the water every live concert I have ever seen.

While no doubt the film will come to streaming, catch it on the Big Screen the final three Thursday-Sundays, as it was made to be seen: all-encompassing audio that shakes the room yet is crystal clear, other people totally "wonderstruck" (some perhaps dancing off to the side in the aisles,) and a visual image so big it feels like you're up on stage with Taylor.

Not to be missed. Concert of the Century.


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Saturday, April 22, 2023

Stand Your Ground Laws

Cross posted from my personal blog: Mischievous Ramblings II

I am not a lawyer. I have attended many classes and read many sources on self-defense law with respect to both firearms and martial arts. This is a distillation of my acquired information and should not be considered legal advice but a basis for discussion. I welcome learning that I am incorrect in my understanding.

This article from The Hill summarizes many issues I have with the general coverage of “Stand Your Ground” laws, especially with the inaccurate terminology “Shoot First”.

That said, every SYG law is different and some are undoubtedly more poorly written than others. And there are unquestionably racist, homophobic, and misogynistic biases in the US justice systems, state and federal.

The essential feature of an SYG law is this:
1) in a public place that you are
2) legally allowed to be,
3) if you are innocent,
4) when presented with a threat of lethal force,
5) you have no duty to retreat before
6) using lethal force in defense of self or others.

People and coverage tend to gloss over everything except 6). The initial 5 elements are critical, as is an understanding of basic self-defense law. SYG laws do not modify the general rules of using force in defense of self or others, they modify _one specific aspect_, which is removing the "duty to retreat".

Point by point:

1) SYG does not generally apply if you are in your own home or domicile. This can include and RV, motel room, rented housing or owned housing depending upon local law and interpretation. The applicable concept in this case is “castle doctrine”, which is the common law idea that “a man’s home is his castle” and thus there is no duty to retreat.

Yes, it’s sexist, as for much of American history it was literally a "man’s" home.

But that means that SYG laws are about public spaces, not homes. Generally speaking, there is already no "duty to retreat" from your own home.

2) You can’t break into a generally public space and claim SYG as a defense. This is kind of part of 3) but it would also presumably apply to someone in violation of a curfew or illegal assembly order. You must be legally in the space you are in.

3) If someone is in the process of committing a crime, SYG does not apply to them. This means that, for example, a felon illegally in possession of a firearm has no SYG rights.

4) Self-defense law in the US (varies by state) does not generally allow the use of lethal force in defense of self or others unless/until lethal force has been threatened or deployed against you. This is called “proportionality of response”. A gun or knife or bludgeon is lethal force. In many places, legally, a toy gun or replica gun, certainly an unloaded gun, counts. A fake knife might well count. A large strong individual with only fists confronting a small weak or physically disabled individual might constitute lethal force under the doctrine of "disparity of force". A single individual threatening individual violence might not be lethal force but a group might be. This is all subsumed under the general idea of a “reasonable person” — if a "reasonable person" thinks they (or others) are in imminent danger of death or severe bodily injury, they are entitled to utilize lethal force in defense of self or others.

Most places explicitly disallow use of lethal force in defense of property. There is overlap here with castle doctrine when we are talking about home defense, but in most places you cannot shoot someone who is walking out of your house with a TV or expensive jewelry. Or stealing your car.

5) is the crux of SYG. Many interpret common law as presenting a “duty to retreat” before using force in defense of self or others. "Castle doctrine" is explicitly the idea that one has no duty to retreat out of one’s home (domicile) before using such force.

SYG explicitly removes this duty to retreat from public areas. As a concept (implementations may vary), this is _ALL_ SYG does.

Note that “duty to retreat” presumes a safe mechanism for retreat. If your only escape from someone threatening to bludgeon you to death with a baseball bat is to run across 12 lanes of freeway speed traffic at rush hour, you have no safe avenue of retreat and claiming SYG as a defense is unnecessary. Again, this predicated on what a "reasonable person" would believe in your circumstances.

Now I happen to think that avoiding a lethal force encounter by retreating is the best option both legally and morally.

6) Generally speaking, one is entitled to use "proportional" force in defense of self or others against unlawful imminent threat of or actual use of force. In the absence of SYG, a "duty to retreat" if possible safely can generally be assumed, but if safe retreat is not possible (for self or others) or under SYG, one cannot be required to retreat before using "proportional" force in defense of self or others.

Long, I know. But a careful examination of points 1-5 makes it clear that many if not most cases with SYG invoked in popular media and mythology are nothing of the kind.

* Asshole who shot the kid through his front door? Not SYG. Castle doctrine might be relevant but to me the ultimate question is: how is someone standing outside your door (or even opening your storm door to knock on your actual door, if that happened) a threat of force? Because it’s not.

* Shithead who fired on people who accidentally drove up his driveway and we’re leaving when he shot? Not SYG. No threat of force.

* Even Trayvon Martin's case didn't involve SYG. SYG was never invoked as a defense and evidence was presented at trial (the range and angle at which Martin was shot) which would have make SYG irrelevant. Much more relevant to the Martin case would have been questions of innocence and initiation of a force encounter (who threatened whom?).

And so on.

It's moving into a different post at this point, but I want to add some stuff:

If SYG laws aren't "Shoot First" laws, what, if any, is their negative effect upon homicides in the US?

First, I think there's good statistical evidence that SYG laws increase homicides.

Second, I think that SYG laws encourage stupid people to use force inappropriately and illegally. The percentage of gun owners who get formal training is small. As a dilettante who enjoys shooting pistols, there have been years in the last decade when I got more training on my own annually than many cops get -- including not just shooting training, but training in the legal use of force in self defense.

There is all kinds of misinformation in the online (and RL) gun culture about this, from the old “if you shoot someone who’s burglarizing your house and they fall down outside, drag them back inside” to “as long as you say you were in fear for your life it’s ok to shoot” and a million others.

Third, I think the twin cultures of fear and militarism/machismo in the gun community contribute largely. Fear and the idea that retreating makes a coward drive the adoption of SYG laws, as they are generally unnecessary in the greater scheme of self-defense law.

People like the shithead the asshole governor of TX wants to pardon for murdering a protester (who was _legally_ open carrying a gun -- itself a symptom of excess machismo in the gun culture) build up online personae based upon their willingness (and eagerness) to use lethal force against people they fear and hate.

I believe the term "assault rifle" inaccurately used in marketing to describe semi-automatic rifles was first used in an ad talking about "Your Man Card", as though owning one made you more masculine, more virile, and less resistible to attractive women (not unlike beer ads, actually).

I had an instructor tell me about his security: a four layer multiply backed up system of cameras, sensors, lights, and alarms, with loaded guns stashed (safely to prevent children's access, as he's a grandfather) in every room in the house. When I asked him what he was afraid of, he replied "I'm not afraid of anything".


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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Can speech justify violence?

One often hears some variant of the phrase "speech never justifies violence".

Is that true?

Morally, for some people, perhaps.  Legally, not at all.

Imagine the following circumstance:
  A man carrying a baseball bat approaches you.  When he is within a few feet of you, you draw a concealed firearm and shoot him dead.

Was your action legally justified?  Unless the man exhibited behavior that demonstrated an imminent threat to use the bat against you, absolutely not.

Now this:
  A man carrying a baseball bat approaches you.  When he is twenty feet away, he says "I'm going to bash your brains out."  When he is within a few feet of you, you draw a concealed firearm and shoot him dead.

Was your action legally justified?  Damn right.

What's the difference?  His speech.

The essential requirements to justify the use of force in defense of self or others are generally considered three:

  • Ability: the physical ability to cause great bodily harm, permanent injury, or death.  A gun, knife, or club certainly qualifies, as would significant disparity of force (the potential attacker being larger, younger, fitter, or a group of people).
  • Opportunity: the opportunity to apply that ability.  A person with a club or knife who is 100 yards away has ability, but not opportunity.  Likewise if there were a 20' fence between the attacker and potential victim.
  • Jeopardy: behavior which a reasonable person would find imminently threatening.  Brandishing a bat (when not playing a game in which the bat is used) might qualify depending upon circumstances.  Repeated stabbing motions with a knife upon approach might qualify.  A verbal threat to use force against you definitely qualifies.
In addition, the potential victim must be innocent and any threat must be imminent.  A statement that "I'm going to get a gun and shoot you" is clearly not an imminent threat, and the requirement to leave and obtain the ability also demonstrates that the threat is not imminent.  The similar "I'm going to shoot you" from a person wearing a gun in a holster or holding one in their hand is clearly imminent.

In the above two scenarios, ability and opportunity are present via the baseball bat and the proximity of the potential attacker.  Only in the second scenario is the imminent threat present.

The only difference in the scenarios is the speech.

Contrived?  Perhaps.  But also a clear exception to the idea that it's never justified to respond to speech with violence.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Documenting the Confederacy, Part 4: Documenting Secession: Florida

We, the people of the State of Florida in Convention assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish and declare: That the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America, and from the existing Government of said States: and that all political connection between her and the Government of said States ought to be and the same is hereby totally annulled, and said union of States dissolved: and the State of Florida is hereby declared a Sovereign and Independent Nation: and that all ordinances heretofore adopted in so far as they create or recognize said Union, are rescinded: and all laws or parts of laws in force in this State, in so far as they recognize or assent to said Union be and they are hereby repealed.
Florida Ordinance of Secession, adopted 10 January 1861

Florida's Declaration of Causes remained unpublished, and is undated.  It was authorized on 21 January, 1861 but the committee was discharged on 1 March without the document being accepted.

Unlike the other states, Florida puts States' Rights (actually, their denial of rights of other States) right at the top.  They deny the ability of either individual States or the Union to make their own laws regarding slavery:
…The nullification of these laws by the Legislatures of two thirds of the non slaveholding States important as it is in itself is additionally as is furnishing evidence of an open disregard of constitutional obligation, and of the rights and interests of the slaveholding States and of a deep and inveterate hostility to the people of these States.…
Elements dealing with slavery include:
…It is denied that it is the purpose of the party soon to enter into the possession of the powers of the Federal Government to abolish slavery by any direct legislative act. This has never been charged by any one. But it has been announced by all the leading men and presses of the party that the ultimate accomplishment of this result [ abolish slavery...] is its settled purpose and great central principle. That no more slave States shall be admitted into the confederacy and that the slaves from their rapid increase (the highest evidence of the humanity of their owners will become value less.
And they jump directly into racism, proclaiming immediately that slaves (i.e. Africans) are idle, vagrants, and criminals, and that considerations of humanity should not be extended to slaves (clearly indicating that they are not humane to their slaves):
...Their natural tendency every where shown where the race has existed to idleness vagrancy and crime increased by an inability to procure subsistence. Can any thing be more impudently false than the pretense that this state of things is to be brought about from considerations of humanity to the slaves.…
And that (OMG!) they might possibly to required to live with and be legally equal to "the african")
...we will not confiscate your property and consign you to a residence and equality with the african but that destiny certainly awaits your children…
Finally, they raise a new issue: that the North isn't paying its fair share.  Ironic, when you consider that, in 2014, Florida received between $4 and $5 from the federal government for every $1 in taxes they send and gets almost exactly 1/3 of its general funding from the federal government.
...It is time that the northern consumer pays his proportion of these duties, but the North as a section receiving back in the increased prices of the rival articles which it manufactures nearly or quite as much as the imposts which it pays thus in effect paying nothing or very little for the support of the government....
Collectively, Florida's arguments against the Union are more expansive than some other traitor states, but slavery, racism, economic opportunism, and opposition to states' rights fit in well with the rest.

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