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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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Documenting the Confederacy, Part 3: Documenting Secession: Mississippi

Third flag of the CSA, the "Blood-Stained Banner" made it clear (as the
"Stainless Banner" did not) that it wasn't a white flag request to negotiate.
Only used for a few months in 1865.

AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of Mississippi and other States united with her under the compact entitled "The Constitution of the United States of America."
The people of the State of Mississippi, in convention assembled, do ordain and declare, and it is hereby ordained and declared, as follows, to wit:
Section 1. That all the laws and ordinances by which the said State of Mississippi became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America be, and the same are hereby, repealed, and that all obligations on the part of the said State or the people thereof to observe the same be withdrawn, and that the said State doth hereby resume all the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws or ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the said United States, and is absolved from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred to the said Federal Union, and shall from henceforth be a free, sovereign, and independent State.
Sec. 2. That so much of the first section of the seventh article of the constitution of this State as requires members of the Legislature and all officers, executive and judicial, to take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of the United States be, and the same is hereby, abrogated and annulled.
Sec. 3. That all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or under any act of Congress passed, or treaty made, in pursuance thereof, or under any law of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.
Sec. 4. That the people of the State of Mississippi hereby consent to form a federal union with such of the States as may have seceded or may secede from the Union of the United States of America, upon the basis of the present Constitution of the said United States, except such parts thereof as embrace other portions than such seceding States.
Thus ordained and declared in convention the 9th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1861.
Source: Official Records, Ser. IV, vol. 1, p. 42.
From "Ordinances of Secession" at

Mississippi declared its secession from the Union on 9 January 1861.  It's worth noting that Abraham Lincoln had not even been on the ballot in Mississippi, which voted nearly 60% for the Southern Democrat John Breckinridge, 36% for John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party, and Northern Democrat Steven A. Douglas received less than 5% of the vote.  Jefferson Davis, elected to the US Senate from Mississippi, said in his final speech to the Senate:
She [Mississippi] has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.
"A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union" begins:
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course. 
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world.
and continues:
... by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.
It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction. ... 
It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst. 
Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or
Mississippi leads directly with "it's about slavery!" and follows up with "OMG!  Equality for Negros!" and "It's going to cost of billions of dollars".

Again, Mississippi wanted to deny northern states the right to abolish slavery within their own territory.  That's for anyone who thinks "States' Rights" had anything to do with secession.

Part 2: Documenting Secession: South Carolina
Part 4: Documenting Secession: Florida
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