Monday, August 31, 2020

More Bollywood over-the-top fight action

(A quick note:  it's been pointed out that the clips I've shown in this latest series, at least so far, are from Telegu-language movies, which are known as "Tollywood" in India, rather than "Bollywood", which is technically a reference to Hindu-language films.  However, here in the West, "Bollywood" has become a catch-all description for all Indian films;  so I'll continue to use it in that sense.)

This excerpt, from the movie Sarrainodu, is about as over-the-top as any I've ever seen, from two perspectives.  One is the punishment the hero absorbs before he starts to fight back.  I'm here to tell you, if that had been real rather than staged, he'd be at least half-dead, if not actually expired, and wouldn't be able to fight back at all!  The second is the way he fights back:  completely unrealistic, a dance with guns and knives rather than a real fight.  Nevertheless, it's entertainment, so we're expected to suspend disbelief.

I don't think Hollywood would dare make that as a "straight" movie.  It'd be laughed out of the cinema!


The push to decriminalize, justify, and legitimize looting

There's a pattern evident in left-wing and progressive propaganda.  One article will appear, "sowing the seed" for a particular idea;  then, within days (sometimes within hours) several more articles will appear, referencing the original idea, lauding it, and trying to popularize it.  What's more, opposing ideas will be shouted down or "de-platformed" by the mainstream media.  Within a couple of weeks, the idea will be viewed (at least in far-left-wing circles) as accepted wisdom, and any dissent will no longer be tolerated.  It's become part of the progressive pablum.

That's evident in the drive to decriminalize looting, in both the legal and the moral sense, and make it an accepted part of demonstrations and protests.  Several far-left-wing spokespersons and outlets are combining in a shared thrust to render it "normal", tolerable, and even praiseworthy.  It's all a lie, of course, but that doesn't stop them trying to force the lie down our throats.

It ranges from official legal circles to individual activists.  In the legal world, Politico has just published an article by "five Black, female prosecutors" who "offer 11 ideas for how to make their profession part of the solution" to "this flawed [legal] system".  It doesn't mention looting per se, but includes it by implication in the legal reforms it advocates.  The article starts with a lie in the very first sentence, and goes downhill from there.

Our criminal legal system was constructed to control Black people and people of color. Its injustices are not new but are deeply rooted in our country’s shameful history of slavery and legacy of racial violence. The system is acting exactly as it was intended to, and that is the problem.

We should know: We’re Black, we’re female, and we’re prosecutors. We work as the gatekeepers in this flawed system. And we have some ideas for how to fix it.

. . .

The decisions that prosecutors make can either work to rectify the inherent harms in the legal system or perpetuate them. Part of our responsibility, as elected public servants, is to be self-aware and recognize that we are part of the problem. It is our moral and ethical duty to start advancing racial equity-minded policies—and community advocates and voters should hold us accountable for doing so.

Thanks to smartphones and social media, we have seen just the tip of the iceberg of traumatic injustices that float between arrests and prison cells, and at times result in death. While we have worked tirelessly to address these disparities, we understand that they are long-standing, systemic problems that precede our tenures.

We ran for public office on progressive platforms to shrink the system and create a more equitable and just society.

. . .

We are beholden to the people who put their faith and trust in us every day to achieve safety and justice through measures that advance racial equity. And that means not just holding police officers accountable, but reimagining the entire criminal legal system—from police, to prosecutors, to judges—and from arrests to charging to sentencing. Each level of the legal system reflects a level of inherent bias, and unless we stop trying to reform the system and instead work to transform it, we will never achieve the kind of change needed to upend a system rooted in slavery.

Working from within, we have begun the steps to rectify past wrongs. We are implementing policies that include declining to prosecute minor offenses, overturning wrongful convictions, refusing to take cases from officers with a history of racial bias and expunging marijuana convictions. And we are currently working within our own offices to make the system fairer and more just.

. . .

We have decided to make the following 11 commitments, and we urge our fellow prosecutors to join us:

1. Do not prosecute peaceful protesters. Citizens have a right to protest, and prosecutions can antagonize marginalized communities ...

6. Expand our office policies on declining low-level offenses to cover decisions regarding charging and issuing warrants. By increasing our efforts to decline to prosecute certain low-level offenses, we can work to reverse the disproportionate impact the legal system has on Black people and low-income communities ...

10. Solicit feedback from Black and brown community groups we were elected to serve through public, virtual forums in the next two weeks. Only by listening to the most impacted communities and advocates and bringing them to the table, will we truly understand their greatest needs and biggest challenges. Then, we will work together to rectify them.

There's more at the link.  You can read here how one of the authors is implementing such measures in her jurisdiction.  Her guidelines include whether looting was committed for "personal need" rather than "financial gain".  I'd love to know how prosecutors will figure that out - and how they'll justify their conclusions.

Notice how point 11 of the Politico article specifically references "public, virtual forums in the next two weeks".  Funny how five progressive DA's around the country can come up with the same timeframe for their respective jurisdictions, isn't it?  Coordination much?  When you look at the rest of the pro-riot and pro-looting propaganda that's emerging simultaneously with their article, one sees the unmistakeable imprint of deliberate organization behind it all.  I daresay the conclusions of those "public, virtual forums" will be almost identical, too.  Funny how that works out, isn't it?

Let's move on to more specifically looting-related issues.  Earlier this month, following massive looting of stores on Chicago's "Magnificent Mile", a Black Lives Matter organizer defended it.

A Chicago Black Lives Matter organizer defended the widespread weekend looting in the heart of the Windy City — as “reparation.”

“I don’t care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci’s or a Macy’s or a Nike because that makes sure that that person eats. That makes sure that that person has clothes,” Ariel Atkins said at a rally outside the South Loop police station Monday, local outlets reported.

“That’s a reparation,” Atkins said. “Anything they want to take, take it because these businesses have insurance.”

Again, more at the link.

Ms. Atkins clearly has no understanding whatsoever of business or economics.  When organized looters pull up in rented U-Haul trucks to strip a store of its contents, that's not for them to eat or wear - it's to sell for their own criminal gain.  She also clearly doesn't understand that when businesses have to pay drastically increased insurance premiums, they recover them by raising their prices, affecting everyone who buys from them.  As for "reparations" - reparations for what?  What have the owners of that store done to those looting it?  Nothing at all, as far as I can tell - so no reparations are due.  Even minority-owned businesses are looted or destroyed in such unrest, as we most recently saw in Kenosha, WI last week.  Why should they "pay" reparations at all?

Now comes an effort to make looting acceptable in mainstream debate.  Vicky Osterweil, described as "a writer, editor, and agitator", has published a book titled "In Defense of Looting".

In an interview with NPR, Ms. Osterweil speaks of riots and looting as if they were interchangeable concepts, and defends them from a perspective that might make even Marx himself blench.

[Looting] does a number of important things. It gets people what they need for free immediately, which means that they are capable of living and reproducing their lives without having to rely on jobs or a wage—which, during COVID times, is widely unreliable or, particularly in these communities is often not available, or it comes at great risk. That's looting's most basic tactical power as a political mode of action.

It also attacks the very way in which food and things are distributed. It attacks the idea of property, and it attacks the idea that in order for someone to have a roof over their head or have a meal ticket, they have to work for a boss, in order to buy things that people just like them somewhere else in the world had to make under the same conditions. It points to the way in which that's unjust. And the reason that the world is organized that way, obviously, is for the profit of the people who own the stores and the factories. So you get to the heart of that property relation, and demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.

Importantly, I think especially when it's in the context of a Black uprising like the one we're living through now, it also attacks the history of whiteness and white supremacy. The very basis of property in the U.S. is derived through whiteness and through Black oppression, through the history of slavery and settler domination of the country. Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police. It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. And I think that's a part of it that doesn't really get talked about—that riots and looting are experienced as sort of joyous and liberatory.

There's more at the link, although why anyone would want to read more of such drivel, I can't imagine.  Certainly, initial reviews of her book at show that many readers share my opinion.  For example:
Quite so!

Ms. Osterweil made a telling point in a 2014 article of the same name, which helps to explain her rather warped and twisted perspective.

Recently an Instagram video circulated of a Ferguson protester discussing the looting and burning of the QuikTrip convenience store. He retorts the all too common accusation thrown at rioters: “People wanna say we destroying our own neighborhoods. We don’t own nothing out here!” This is the crux of the matter, and could be said of most majority black neighborhoods in America, which have much higher concentrations of chain stores and fast food restaurants than non-black neighborhoods. The average per capita income in Ferguson, MO is less than $21,000, and that number almost certainly gets lower if you remove the 35% white population of Ferguson from the equation. How could the average Ferguson resident really say it’s “our QuikTrip”? Indeed, although you might hang out in it, how can a chain convenience store or corporate restaurant earnestly be part of anyone’s neighborhood? The same white liberals who inveigh against corporations for destroying local communities are aghast when rioters take their critique to its actual material conclusion.

It's telling because it equates the moral "ownership" (i.e. care for and of) of one's neighborhood with financial or physical ownership of the commercial assets in that neighborhood.  That's nonsensical, of course.  I don't own any of the stores I patronize in the town where I live;  but I rely on them for the necessities of everyday life.  If I destroyed them, where would I get those necessities?  In that sense, all of us who patronize them have some degree of "ownership" by association, because we shop there.  Making sure the stores stay open is good for our community;  forcing them to close is very bad for it.  As Victor Davis Hanson points out:

When you loot and burn a Target in an hour, it takes months to realize there are no more neighborhood Target-stocked groceries, toilet paper, and Advil to buy this winter.

You can in a night assault the police, spit at them, hope to infect them with the coronavirus, and even burn them alive. But when you call 911 in a few weeks after your car is vandalized, your wallet is stolen, and your spouse is violent, and no one comes, only then do you sense that you earlier were voting for a pre-civilized wilderness.

You can burn down a Burger King in half an hour. But it will take years to find anyone at Burger King, Inc., who would ever be dumb enough to rebuild atop the charred ruins—to prepare for the next round of arson in 2021 or 2023.

Today’s looter carrying off sneakers and smartphones in 10 years will be tomorrow’s urban activist, understandably but in vain demanding stores return to a charred no man’s land, to do their fair share, and to help restore the downtown, neighborhood, inner-city, or the “community.”

More at the link.

To say that because we don't actually own (as in "possess") local shops and the goods they sell, we have no stake in them, is patently ridiculous.  We can easily "disown" them by taking our patronage somewhere else - but we don't.  We're voting with our feet and our wallets.

Finally, some are already deploying the "moral" or "spiritual" argument that human lives (i.e. of looters) are more important than goods or property.  In a moral (particularly a religious) sense, yes, they are:  but then we have to look at the relevance of the goods or property to human life.  Am I going to have to pay - in the form of increased insurance premiums, and/or higher prices, and/or rates and taxes for enhanced security - for the looting of that property and the theft of those goods?  Will I have to travel further, at greater expense, to buy the things I need?  In every case of looting of which I'm aware, the answer to all those questions is "Yes".  Therefore, are the lives of thieves or looters worth more to me - in financial terms, if nothing else - than the goods and property they're taking or destroying?  The answer is very clearly "No!"

That's in purely human terms, of course, not in terms of the Christian message, which values human life because we're "made in the image and likeness of God".  However, we live in a post-Christian society, where (in the First World at least) the majority no longer consider themselves governed by Biblical or any other religious morality.  Therefore, if business owners and/or patrons, operating from a secular perspective, decide that shooting looters is an acceptable way to minimize their losses, on what grounds are we to blame them?  A few rounds of ammunition are certainly far more affordable than replacing a store's entire stock of goods for sale, or rebuilding the store itself.  On purely economic and utilitarian grounds, the bullet wins every time.

My position is simple.  "By their fruits you will know them."  It's straight out of the Bible, and sums up the grounds on which all of our lives will be judged in due course.  I know looters by their fruits - crime, dishonesty, damage to communities, loss to business owners, and disruption of civil society and law and order.  That being the case, I have no problem with stopping looters by any means necessary, up to and including violence.  It has nothing to do with politics, or race, or individual need (particularly because individual need can be, and is, met every day through organizations set up specifically to help those in need, such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local churches, etc.).

The home-made billboards stuck up in storm-ravaged neighborhoods, that many of us have seen in news reports over the years, resonate with me.

I can't condemn the sentiment.  Indeed, as regular readers will know, I've done something about contributing to neighborhood security in such an environment from time to time.  I daresay I'll continue to do so - in riots as much as in bad weather.


Memes that made me laugh 22

The harvest from the past week.

I may have resembled that young man on one or two occasions in my dim and distant youth.  I may even have helped such situations to develop . . . to my father's amusement and my mother's despair!


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Sunday morning music

I'm writing this shortly after 2 a.m. local time.  A humongous Texas rain- and thunderstorm has blown in, coming down from Amarillo, where a friend informed us by text message, earlier tonight, they'd had four hours of heavy rain blowing horizontally.  Well, it's here now, and still horizontal!  The noise of rain on the windows woke me up, along with a nervous cat wanting reassurance that the nasty water wouldn't get in here.  So far, it hasn't.

Today let's listen to a piece of music that's both modern and classical, themed from today's events yet timeless in its message.  I'm speaking of Paul McCartney's piece for orchestra and chorus, Ecce Cor Meum ("Behold my Heart").  It was his fourth essay into classical music, after he was invited by the president of Magdalen College, Oxford, to compose a piece for the inauguration of the College's new concert hall.

The piece's genesis was long delayed by the death of McCartney's first wife, Linda, from cancer.  In many ways, it's his memorial to her.  In a 2006 interview with the Washington Post, he said:

"Linda very much pervades the whole piece," he says of the American he married in 1969 and with whom he raised four children.

When McCartney was asked to write a choral piece to inaugurate a concert hall at Oxford University's Magdalen College, he and Linda went to see the place together in 1996. They were together when he agreed to take on the project, which he says he took as a chance to try something new.

"When I was in the middle of it, she passed away, and we went through all the anguish, which stopped me," he says. "And then when I was able to pick it up, I picked it up by writing some of the very sad things in it." Near "Ecce's" opening, the sopranos soar: "Take love away and we are ruined / In a world without each other / How could we go on living our lives?"

"I remember sitting at a keyboard and just weeping as I wrote this piece," he says about the woman who was his partner for three decades, for whom he wrote "My Love" and "Maybe I'm Amazed."

. . .

As he drains his tea and finishes his bagel, it is Linda who comes up repeatedly, as inspiration for "Ecce's" most upbeat passages along with its darkest ones. "Life has to go on," he says. "I am basically an optimist and she was very much an optimist."

There's more at the link.

The piece premiered in 2001 in Oxford, England, and had its American premiere in 2006.  There are relatively few versions on YouTube, so I've chosen a live performance from Spain for this morning.  The piece seems to work better (at least for me) in a live setting.  See what you think.  (If you need them, the lyrics may be found here.)


Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Snippet: Self-defense and the law, part 1

The outcome of the Kenosha riots has illustrated, yet again, our need to understand the law as it relates to self-defense, and the necessity to stay within legal boundaries whenever possible.  Failure to do so can (and usually will) lead to us being portrayed as the "bad guy" and prosecuted as the perpetrator, rather than treated as the victim of crime.

Sadly, this becomes much more difficult when the prosecuting authorities may have ulterior motives and private agendas.  They may try to twist even legitimate self-defense into a crime, for ideological and political reasons.  I've written three times about that in recent weeks, in these articles:

There are two outstanding authors in the field of self-defense whose books should be on your shelf (or your e-book reader) if you have any intention or desire to defend yourself, your loved ones or your property, if necessary.  I'll cover both books in two Saturday Snippets, of which this is the first.  Part Two will follow next weekend.

The first author is Massad Ayoob, nationally known instructor in firearms and self-defense.  His book "Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense" is indispensable.

It's basically a completely re-worked and updated edition of his 1980 book, "In The Gravest Extreme", which (although dated in legal and technological terms) remains excellent, and offers valuable advice.

I have both books in my library.  Next weekend I'll offer a snippet from "Deadly Force".  (I should add that I've taken three courses from Mas - basic, intermediate and advanced - and enjoyed every one.  He's a great instructor.)

The second author is Andrew Branca, a lawyer who specializes in self-defense.  He's also nationally known, and author of another indispensable book on the subject, "The Law of Self Defense: The Indispensable Guide to the Armed Citizen".  (Massad Ayoob wrote the foreword to the book.)

This is one book you should have on your shelves in a paper edition, over and above any e-book version you may prefer.  Why?  Because if you're ever facing potential prosecution in the aftermath of a self-defense incident, you (or your spouse) need(s) to hand it to your defense lawyer first thing, with instructions to read it and follow its advice.  Do not give him/her any discretion in that matter!  That's how good, and how important, this book is.

Here's a lengthy excerpt from the Introduction to Branca's book.

This criminal justice system views self-defense like a simple light switch: either on or off. Either your actions fall within the law and you have zero criminal liability . . . or it falls outside the law and you are totally liable. There is no middle ground.

If you pass the criminal justice “machine’s” examination, you go free. If not . . . well, you’re probably going to miss some time at work. Maybe your kid’s wedding. Maybe everything. Welcome to the end of your life as you know it. Best, then, to stay well within lawful boundaries. But what are those boundaries? How do you get the support you need to ensure your legal “survival”? Where can you go to get help both before and after a self-defense encounter?

The first step is knowledge and you’ve come to the right place. I wrote the first edition of this book in 1998 because there was no good guide available to non-attorneys. In fact, there wasn’t a good guide available even for attorneys. I had to conduct a great deal of primary research to produce that first edition, and again in 2013 to produce the second edition, and now this volume.

I am sure many of you have heard stories where people defend themselves and have few difficulties afterwards, legal or otherwise. There was that old lady who shot the late-night intruder, or the young woman who killed the rapist dragging her from her car. These might lead you to think, “What do I have to worry about? As far as I can tell, when good people use guns for protection, they’re not even arrested. Isn’t a good shoot a good shoot? I’m fine.”

When good people use guns to defend themselves in the right way and face no legal consequences no one is happier than me. In truth, though, those people avoided a grueling legal fate because someone chose not to prosecute . . . not because they couldn’t have done so. Indeed, in many such cases a trained eye can see where their actions were not lawful self-defense at all. Fortunately for these well intentioned but mistaken defenders, the authorities didn’t choose to prosecute.

But authorities usually do bring serious charges against the well intentioned, but dangerously mistaken, “defender.” Our office gets calls from folks like this all the time. Without exception they are genuinely shocked that they are in trouble. I can practically predict the call. At some point they’ll say, “I can’t believe I was arrested for self-defense!”

One could, of course, go through life willfully ignorant of the law and hope for the best. You could cross your fingers that everyone will see your actions for what they were, even if you failed to jump through all the right hoops. After all, you’re one of the good guys, right? Surely they’ll know that.

And you might, indeed, get lucky. But you are putting your future in other people’s hands. If there is ever a conflict between their interests and yours, they get to choose who wins. Don't be surprised when their choice favors their agenda over yours.

To make matters worse, none of the people who will be in control of your fate will understand what it was like at that desperate moment. Adrenaline was surging through your bloodstream. Your hands were cold and clammy. Your vision was tunneling. Your hearing was shutting down, and you terrifyingly realized that these might be your last moments. In contrast, those judging you will enjoy the perfect safety of a prosecutor’s office or a courtroom with armed bailiffs at each door.

So far as the police and prosecutors are concerned, you’re just another mug shot and case file, not all that different from the rapist they arrested yesterday or the burglar they’ll get tomorrow. Both who, by the way, will proclaim their innocence just as loudly as you. Based on their professional experience, your story is just like all the other self-defense claims. Hollow lies made by career criminals to try to escape justice.

Given that you’ve always thought of yourself as one of the “good guys” it can come as a shock to find yourself disarmed, handcuffed, and dumped in the back of a cruiser. Your new title is now “suspect.” Congratulations. That guy you stopped when he tried to take your life? In the eyes of the law he’s the “victim”.

The officers responding to the scene are not there to be your friend and provide solace after a harrowing experience. They are there to determine if what happened was a crime, and find the bad guy. Unless you live in a very small town, or are prone to get into trouble, these officers will be strangers. To them, you’re just another face among the often unpleasant, and sometimes murderous people they are obliged to deal with every day.

In many jurisdictions, just firing a shot automatically wins you handcuffs and a free ride to the police station for booking. This doesn’t make the police good guys or bad. They’re just people doing their jobs.

The people tasked with prosecuting you also don’t know you. Your file is just one of many hundreds that come across their desk. They will not consider what is in your best interest. They will prosecute you if they think your case is vulnerable. Period. That’s their job.

The judge knows nothing of you personally either. If the prosecution successfully indicts (and, as the author Tom Wolfe so famously put it, a decent prosecutor can get a ham sandwich indicted), then expect to go to trial, spend several hundred thousand dollars in the process, and burn through months to years of your life. All the while with a possible murder conviction hanging over your head and your entire future in doubt.

And then there’s the jury. The jurors will know less about your case, even at the trial’s conclusion, than nearly everybody else involved. The process carefully controls what facts are presented to them. There is a great deal of information known to you, and to the lawyers, and the judge, and the general public for that matter, that the jury will never hear before they render a verdict.

Even if the jury of your peers was given all the evidence favorable to you, that doesn’t mean they’ll see it that way. If you ever have the misfortune to be present during a jury selection process, you’ll get a keen sense that some of your purported “peers” don’t have the collective IQ of a household thermometer. They also are shockingly susceptible to a prosecutor’s tale of wrongdoing. You do not want to place your life in the hands of such people if you can avoid it.

Now, all those treacherous legal waters I just described still assume that everyone is fair and impartial. That is not always the case. A “good bust” can get a cop a promotion; a large investigation can make a detective the Chief. Prosecutors routinely use their position to advance to political office, and those that are elected are politicians already. What better way is there to get favorable press coverage, and lots of it, than to take a big case involving violence? So what if the evidence is a bit wishy-washy around the edges? Even the judge, accustomed to dealing only with local matters, may enjoy that sweet, sweet, 15-minutes of national attention more than you find comfortable.

And it could get even worse than just unfair. Much worse. What if your case raises these people’s political returns beyond anything they could have imagined? What if it provides them with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for career advancement? What if, for example, your attacker was someone of a different race than your own? The entire criminal justice process could become racially energized, to the considerable detriment of your due process rights. Indeed, this seems to be the norm now when a defender is of one race and an attacker of another.

The bottom line is that we shouldn’t prepare ourselves for what the criminal justice system might do if favorably disposed to us. We owe it to ourselves and our families to prepare for the worst.

I just painted a very scary portrait of the criminal justice system. Indeed, that was my purpose. The good news is that you can do something to greatly minimize your legal risk. Don’t look vulnerable.

If an arrest isn’t worth the paperwork it won’t happen.

Once the investigation is done, if your case looks fruitless, resources will be assigned to more promising targets. After all, many prosecutors have a conviction rate well above 90% because they don’t pursue cases they don’t think they’ll win.

To avoid being picked as a prosecutor’s pet case you want to look as legally invulnerable to successful prosecution as possible. Even one red flag of weakness in your case will attract prosecution like blood in the water will attract a shark.

So how does one avoid the “red flags?” Obey the law and be prepared with a compelling story of innocence. Sounds simple, right? And yet it’s not actually that simple. The challenge is knowing what the laws you need to follow say, and then how to make your story of innocence match those laws.

I’ve designed this book to help you do just that. I start by describing what the criminal justice system looks like to a defendant at each step. I then deeply analyze the five fundamental, and essential, elements of a self-defense claim. As I go along I give lots of examples where people found themselves in trouble with the law and show you what went wrong. I’ll also talk about the differences between self-defense and defending other people or property.

Then I get REALLY practical. I step you through each and every interaction you will have with the police, and give advice about want to say, and not say, to the various types of law enforcement.

Finally, I bring it all together in Chapter 10: Building a Defense Strategy. I help you position yourself so you can effectively and quickly apply what you learned in this book during the stress of the fight. You’ll end the chapter with a personalized strategy that, to the greatest extent possible, improves your odds of winning both physically and legally.

Perhaps just as useful as the text, if not more, I’ve provided a series of tables at the end of the book that help you understand YOUR state’s laws as they relate to the issues discussed. So, after reading this book, you will have a self-defense strategy that is based on the laws in YOUR state, and that maximizes your odds of enjoying both life and liberty.

Of equal importance, though, is what this book will not do. It will not teach you how to hurt or kill someone and then hide behind a false facade of self-defense. If you are looking for a way to “game” the legal system for such purposes please return the book for a refund because you will be sorely disappointed.

This book will also not turn you into a lawyer. After reading it you will almost certainly know far more about self-defense law than most lawyers you run into. Genuine self-defense cases are too far and few between to accumulate real-world experience (although any criminal defense attorney will have lots of experience arguing bad self-defense cases). So this book will give you far more exposure than most lawyers experience over their entire careers.

That said, preparing and presenting an effective legal defense requires a diversity of skills that we won’t even touch on here. The laws governing evidence and criminal procedure alone take intense study and years of practice. Equally important are the particular facts of your case and the personalities of the prosecutor, judge, and jury. All these are part of the legal arts that only a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer has mastered. When the time comes to fight the legal battle that you must get exactly such counsel.

. . .

One last note: It should go without saying that nothing in this book constitutes legal advice, but we live in a madly litigious society so I’ll say it anyway: nothing in this book constitutes legal advice. Self-defense claims depend heavily on the facts of a case, and it is impossible for any general guide to replace the counsel a good lawyer can provide. To paraphrase the medical profession, should this be an emergency, hang up and dial a competent lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction. But it may be useful to bring this book with you to his/her office.

That's just the opening to Branca's excellent book.  If you might need to defend yourself, with a firearm or any other tool, you need to read it.  Next week I'll put up an excerpt from Massad Ayoob's "Deadly Force".  You need to read that book, too.

If you're in any doubt about whether you need this information, read the three articles I linked above.  They're straight out of today's headlines and news reports.  If, after reading them, you still think you might not get caught up in such legal machinations . . . then you, my friend, are living in cloud cuckoo land.  It can happen to any of us, without warning, and with no time to avoid the problem.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Religious persuasion, Bollywood style

Next in our current series of Bollywood fight scenes, here's one from the movie Duvvada Jagannadham, commonly abbreviated as DJ.  The hero is a policeman who works undercover, disguised as a Brahmin priest, to fight crime.  He also has some rather unconventional fighting skills.  The action begins about 2 minutes into this segment.

Hmm . . . I don't think my bishop would have approved of such methods of persuasion, back in my pastoral days!


Some remarkable landscape photography

I've always liked good landscape art, whether paintings or photographs.  Perhaps it comes from growing up in South Africa, where nature is very lovely and offers almost infinite variety.

I was struck by this photograph on Gab the other day.  It's by photographer Kevin McNeal, taken in the Arches National Park in Utah.  Click the image for a larger view.

Intrigued, I found the photographer's Web site. It's full of lovely images taken all over the country. I picked a few examples to illustrate his work. Click each for a slightly larger view.

I'd love to get a couple of those images with a "Paint" or "Art" filter applied, to make them look like a landscape painting.

If you like landscapes too, go spend a while browsing through Mr. McNeal's online archives.  I think you'll like his work.


Quote of the week

From Diogenes' Middle Finger:

Rioters destroyed the Dilophosaurus statue outside the Kenosha Dinosaur Discovery Museum during the first night of riots. Now while not a slave-owning dinosaur, the Dilophosaurus, with a brain the size of a walnut, DOES routinely score higher on SATs than the average BLM thug. So I get the resentment.

A sarcastic stiletto slipped gently between the ribs can be just as fatal as a blatant bash to the head.  Well done, ma'am!


Thursday, August 27, 2020

When political correctness meets food... and wins

I'm very glad I don't have to put up with this crap when selecting a restaurant.  The New York Post reports:

The joys of food and cooking no longer matter much in establishment perceptions of the culinary arts. Good luck trying to learn how to tell one tomato from another. The discourse increasingly resembles a college curriculum built on “intersectionality” and the evils of American capitalism.

. . . recently posted a “socially conscious shopper’s guide” to coffee and tea and noted, “Our daily cup owes everything to our colonial, slave-built economy.”

San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Soleil Ho banned from her vocabulary any number of innocuous words that might be taken as “microaggressions” — for example, “addictive” for anything delicious, because it might somehow offend minorities for who knows why.

The most unforgivable sin is “cultural appropriation.” If you’re a non-Guatemalan who dares to cook Guatemalan, you’re dead meat.

Last year, the well-meaning, non-Chinese owner of a small Chinese cafe downtown saw her career ruined by the woke mob. accused her of “racist positioning” over the wording of an ad about lo mein. The Twitter mob piled on. Her apologies weren’t enough to save the restaurant.

The editor of Conde Nast title Bon Appetit was forced out this year over a 16-year-old photo that purportedly showed him wearing “brownface” at Puerto Rican-themed costume party. He denied he had altered his face color, but a staff mutiny sealed his fate.

The mob next struck the mag’s popular test-kitchen video site over a pattern of “cultural insensitivity” that allegedly included underpaying nonwhite contributors. Heads rolled. Bon Appetit’s new digital restaurant editor writes that it isn’t enough to talk about “the intersectionality of food, politics, race, class and gender” only when it’s “convenient.” Intersectionality must be made a primary theme.

The great chef Thomas Keller was excommunicated for calling it an “honor” to be named to the White House’s Economic Council for Restaurants, formed to support the coronavirus-ravaged industry. There was much chortling when the pandemic forced him to close his Hudson Yards restaurant TAK Room. While critic Ryan Sutton was careful not to cheer its demise, which caused “scores of hardworking people . . . losing their livelihoods,” he wrote that it “shouldn’t have opened in the first place.”

Chefs who are in vogue tend to be political and racial provocateurs. New Orleans-based Tunde Wey, whose stunts have included charging white customers twice as much as nonwhites, recently posted an Instagram essay in which he rooted for the death of the whole restaurant industry for its “racist” practices.

There's more at the link.

What a load of culinary codswallop!  The only important thing about a chef, a restaurant or a cuisine is that he/she/it produce food worth the eating.  Tastes differ, but quality always shows.  I don't give a damn about the chef's personal politics, or where he/she stands on issues of the day, just so long as I find their food appetizing and interesting.  That's what I'm paying for, after all!

For the benefit of the terminally politically-correct and race-conscious, let me close by admitting that I generally prefer brown gravy to white gravy.  Nevertheless, I'm an equal opportunity masticator.  I chew on them, digest them, and dispose of their remains without discrimination.  Does that make me a saucy SJW?


"Mining" plants???

I was surprised to learn that some plants absorb so much nickel, it can be "mined" by processing them.  The BBC reports:

Sixteen years ago, Aiyen Tjoa was exploring a small mining town of Sorowako in the heart of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Sorowako once had been a home to immense diversity of plants, and most of them were found nowhere else. But then the small town became the hub of one of the largest nickel mining areas in the world, with one company alone extracting 5% of the global nickel supply.

When Tjoa, a soil biologist and lecturer in Tadulako University in Central Sulawesi, arrived in Sorowako in 2004, most of the lush vegetation had already been cleared for mining, leaving barren soil and dusty roads in its place.

But some bushes and young trees survived. Back then, Tjoa was eager to find those rare plants that were adapting well to their new, nickel-rich surroundings. These, she reasoned, could be “super plants” capable of taking up high levels of nickel from the soil and storing it in surprisingly high quantities. As well as cleaning the soil, these nickel-rich plants could be “mined” to provide an alternative source of the metal, allowing nickel to be harvested without destroying the ecosystem.

. . .

The University of Queensland’s [Antony] van der Ent [a plant ecophysiologist] has calculated that a hyper-accumulator like Phyllantus balgoyii can produce an estimated 120kg [264 pounds] of nickel per hectare every year. That translates to a market value of around $1,754 per hectare [2.47 acres]. Extracting the nickel involves pruning the shoots – which hold the highest concentrations of the metal – and burning them, after which the nickel can be separated from the ash. This involves releasing carbon dioxide through burning, but the continuous cultivation of nickel hyper-accumulators can be considered carbon neutral, says van der Ent. “All carbon released from the burning will be ‘captured’ again by the newly growing crop in a few months,” he says.

. . .

In Sabah, Malaysia, van der Ent has been conducting phytomining field trials since 2014. “We found out that phytomining really works,” he says. This could also be applied in soils that have not been mined but have naturally high levels of nickel. But van der Ent underlines that the technology is not aimed at replacing open-pit mining. That would be hard, given that Indonesia is the largest nickel producer in the world, with around 73 million tonnes of nickel exported last year. Instead, phytomining could be done in parallel. Most importantly, unlike traditional mining, which often clashes with indigenous communities, “we envisage that it will be implemented by smallholders in rural communities living on nickel-rich areas as an alternative form of agriculture”, says van der Ent.

There's more at the link.

Nature never ceases to amaze, does it?  Who'd have thought that processing plants could be a viable method of "mining" a vital metal like nickel?


The Kenosha, WI riots and shootings: initial lessons learned

There's a whole lot of confusion surrounding events in Kenosha, Wisconsin over the past few days.  What's clear is that after police shot a man there, rioters torched numerous businesses in the town, and appear to have tried to intimidate townsfolk.  This led to an armed encounter on Tuesday evening in which two rioters were shot dead and at least one was severely injured (possibly maimed for life, if photographs of his wound are anything to go by).

The young man responsible for the shooting, Kyle Rittenhouse, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder, but whether he committed an offense or acted in self-defense will be up to the courts to decide.  He's already being elevated to the status of an ideological martyr by some partisan observers, which is not helpful to him or anyone else.  In the absence of more detailed information, it's impossible for outsiders like ourselves to be sure what happened.

Nevertheless, there are very important lessons to be learned from this incident, lessons that affect the safety and security of every one of us.  I'll attempt a first-pass analysis here, and follow up with more detailed discussion as and when more information emerges.

First, what was Mr. Rittenhouse doing in the area?  He lived twelve miles away, in another state.  It's been said that he was a member of "a local militia group".  If so, how many of them were also from outside Kenosha, and what were all of them doing there?  It's one thing for local residents to defend their own property and families from riots and protests.  It's another for outsiders, with no personal stake in the situation, to join in.  We object (and rightly so) to rioters being brought in from outside to make the situation worse.  How is it wrong for them to do that, but not wrong for the other side to do the same?  Two wrongs don't make one rightgoose, meet gander;  etc.

Second, why have the rioters been permitted to create mayhem in Kenosha for three nights in a row?  It's obvious the authorities have not sought to crack down on their illegal behavior.  Why?  The innocent residents of Kenosha are being thrown to the wolves in the name of political correctness and "community sensitivity".  That's insane.  If law and order is being so swiftly applied to Mr. Rittenhouse, why was (and is) it not being applied in equal measure, and just as rigorously, to the rioters?  Equality before the law, much?  I presume Mr. Rittenhouse's lawyer(s) will bring up that point when it comes to his trial.  However, if the authorities are determined to appease the rioters and/or their communities, others are going to get short shrift.  If you live in an area where that's a factor, take note, because it'll directly affect your ability to defend yourself, your loved ones and your property.  You can't protect them if you're locked up, while the rioters you sought to keep away are still out on the streets and hungry for revenge against you and yours.

That brings up a point I've made many times before in these pages.  Some areas, places and positions are simply not defensible.  If you live in an area where there are few, if any, defenses against riots and unrest, and where the authorities can't be trusted to defend neighborhoods and residents, you're on a hiding to nothing if you try to do what they won't do.  It'll be far better in the long run for you to take your family and get the hell out of the way of the problem.  That's not cowardly, or "surrendering to the mob":  it's realistic.  Why get locked up for years, perhaps for the rest of your life, to defend what basically cannot be defended against such an onslaught?  Choose wisely, and as far in advance of the need as you can.  Property can be replaced.  Lives can't.  Your family can't.

Let's look at the charges brought against Mr. Rittenhouse.  Prosecutors claim he fled from Wisconsin to Illinois to avoid prosecution, but that's a very flimsy allegation indeed, considering that he reported to police immediately after the shootings, and they allegedly told him to go home and await further contact.

Andrew Branca is a well-known defense attorney and author of "The Law of Self Defense" (which I highly recommend, BTW).

Mr. Branca had this to say about the prosecutor's allegations.

The phrase you’re looking for is “consciousness of guilt evidence,” but it’s inapplicable to this case. It’s intended to apply to persons who are attempting to avoid actual criminal liability by flight or tampering with evidence or lying to the police. Think “Bernie Goetz fleeing subway car after shooting the men who attacked him, and running to CT to hide” as a more classic example of consciousness of guilt flight. That’s not what happened here.

Here, Rittenhouse immediately turned himself over to police while still at the scene of the shooting, so he clearly wasn’t attempting to avoid responsibility or identification or avoid prosecution–he knew the authorities knew who he was and where they could find him.

More likely the Trayvon-Martin-aged Rittenhouse simply didn’t understand that he was prohibited from just going home, if going home meant leaving the state.

I know the complaint against him states that he was fleeing for purposes of avoiding prosecution, but that’s a presumption–note there’s no evidence cited in support of that claim. And if I had $1 for every profoundly defective and falsified criminal complaint I saw in an apparently clear-cut case of self-defense, I’d have more BMW motorcycles in my garage.

Rittenhouse is apparently, based on known evidence, no more guilty of murder in this event than Officer Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd or Officer Rolfe is guilty of murdering Rayshaad Brooks or the McCloskeys are guilty of unlawful use of weapons when facing down a threatening mob outside their home.

There's more at the link.  It's going to make one heck of a court case, that's for sure . . .

Note that at least some of those who were shot were chasing Mr. Rittenhouse, and were armed and/or engaged in assaulting him.  Photographic evidence shows that he was kicked, and struck with a skateboard.  Defending oneself against violent attack is not a crime.  A third man who was shot was himself armed - photographs clearly show him holding a handgun - and was allegedly a convicted felon as well, which would make it illegal for him to possess a firearm.  It's far from clear that Mr. Rittenhouse was doing anything other than defend himself against illegal attack.  Whether or not he did anything to cause or precipitate those events is as yet unknown.

There's also photographic evidence that some of the rioters who pursued and/or attacked Mr. Rittenhouse were wearing badges identifying themselves as "medics" or "press".  As one observer notes:

I have seen over and over these past three months Antifa complaining that the cops were “attacking” their medics which is a war crime and whatnot. I might be mistaken, but you cannot be a combatant and claim the alleged respect given to medics.  There have been plenty of claims of people (undercover Antifa/BLM) prancing around, camera in hand with PRESS patches attached to their chest and backs, only to join the fracas when they think nobody is looking.

Those wearing such badges are now likely to be identified as rioters by that fact alone.  Certainly, if I see such identifiers, I'll be more on my guard than ever, and prepared to act in my own defense against them if necessary.

Let's look for a moment at the rifle used by Mr. Rittenhouse.  An enlarged detail from a photograph in a report by CBS Chicago shows us his weapon.

It looks like a stock-standard low-cost entry-level AR-15 carbine, the sort I recommended a few months ago in my articles on personal defense rifles.  Its only add-on accessory appears to be a simple red dot sight;  from the arrangement of the controls and battery housing, it resembles a Sightron unit or something similar.  There's nothing exceptional about the weapon, but it did exactly what it was supposed to do when it was needed.  The results of the shooting are testimony to its effectiveness.

Now let's look at the broader implications of this incident.  I think it illustrates the reality that attitudes are hardening.  More and more Americans are saying "Enough!" when confronted by Antifa and BLM rioters.  They're no longer willing to cower in their homes and be intimidated.  I can only approve of this in the strongest possible terms.

Herschel Smith points out:

It only escalates from here.  The sides don’t sit back, ponder what’s happened, and then suddenly decide that this might have been a misadventure and badly conceived project.  Anger builds.  Memories are made.  This all redounds to increasing levels of violence.  Once this spigot has been opened, it’s extremely difficult to close it.

Mr. Smith has two other very informative articles on his blog, both of which I highly recommend:
You should read both.

I draw to your attention two articles I published last month:
I stand by all I said in those articles.  If you don't remember it, please re-read them before continuing here.  They're very important, particularly in the light of Andrew Branca's comments above.

Back already?  Good.  Let's continue.

If you choose to defend yourself, your loved ones, your home and your community against such violence, expect to be targeted during and after the fact by the rioters and their supporters.  They'll try to film or photograph you, and use that to identify you, and then come after you, as they did in Hugo, MN last week.  Therefore, make it as difficult as possible for them to do that.
  • Over and above the precautions I mentioned in those two earlier articles, consider wearing simple, nondescript clothing that can easily blend in with your surroundings.  Avoid identifying colors, patches, signs or slogans.  If they're there, cover them with paint or permanent marker.  If you look like everyone else, it's hard to pin you down.
  • Note how Antifa and BLM rioters wear head coverings and other material that makes it hard to identify them.  Follow their example.  Medical face masks, such as those commonly used to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19, make facial recognition much more difficult.  So do ski masks, pull-up devices such as neck gaiters, and similar clothing.  Outdoor recreation hats and caps can help preserve your privacy, as can protective helmets (safety, motorcycle, etc.).  Safety glasses, particularly those with clear lenses and a mirror finish (such as this pair, which I like because they're comfortable and don't fog up when worn with medical face masks), can be worn even at night, and protect your eyes and upper face from prying eyes.  What's more, buying multiple sets can be very inexpensive, so you can equip your entire family or team.  Finally, move discreetly, and use cover and concealment where it's available.
  • Make sure that whatever clothing and equipment you choose to wear won't interfere with defending yourself, if necessary.  Test them at the shooting range to check that for yourself - don't take anyone else's word for it.  What's more, if you wear or use anything readily identifiable during a riot situation, discard it/them immediately afterwards.  Crushing and/or shredding and/or burning comes to mind - don't just toss them in the trash.  Also, make sure that any such clothing or equipment still in your possession looks different from what you've discarded.  Remember, too, that if you buy them online, there's a paper and/or financial trail that may lead to you.  Rather buy from stores and pay in cash, for greater privacy and security.
  • Wear gloves, to protect your hands, and clothes and footwear that will allow rapid movement if necessary.  Flip-flops or sliders are right out!  Make sure any identifying features such as scars or tattoos are covered.
  • Remember that you don't only have to worry about video recording by rioters and demonstrators.  Public and private security cameras may record your movements and activities in many neighborhoods.  Try to identify in advance areas covered by such devices, and either avoid them or make sure they can't identify you (or your vehicle) as you pass.  They don't necessarily have to see your face to do so;  techniques such as gait analysis can also pin you down.  You should regard yourself as under surveillance at all times, and conduct yourself accordingly.

Does that sound over the top?  Too much trouble?  Take another look at the video and photographic coverage of Mr. Rittenhouse's encounter, and decide for yourself.  He was very easily identifiable, wasn't he?  Note, too, that many of the rioters who pursued him were not.  They'd taken precautions against that.

I'll let Tom Luongo have the last word.

It would always come to this. At some point there would be a reckoning for BLM and Antifa.

The shootings in Kenosha, WI are a dividing line for America.

This is the moment where normal people finally said, “Enough. There will be consequences. “

This is a war between radicalized lunatics bathed in unquenchable envy and self-pity and those who refuse to act like victims.

But they are victims.

All of us are. On both sides of the divide.

We are victims of a vicious program to divide and conquer the U.S. through a culture war designed to dehumanize each other.

We fight among ourselves over scraps while the people who manipulated events to this point walk away laughing at the destruction.

They want the violence. They love it. They relish it. It brings them power and prestige.

To maintain their power, as the systems they’ve built fail, they have set us against each other: paid looters and rioters to become cannon fodder in their war against common decency, culture, communities and family.

All for control over the levers of political power.

. . .

We are up against people who brook no limit on their behavior. Everything is justified in the pursuit of their righteous cause. You can see in it all the video footage.

And they know it. They know that we’d rather not fight back. That, unfortunately, to people empowered by the mob and turned into bullies, is misinterpreted as weakness.

Having humanity is not weakness. It is strength.

And nothing bursts the bubble of false bravado on display by Anfita/BLM at this point than strength of character, which defines limits, creates boundaries and establishes consequences.

The sad truth is that this is only the beginning of what’s to come. The line is crossed and from town to town, that line will be more difficult to assess than ever before.

The myth of policing is failing. There aren’t enough cops to quell these riots. The State has been revealed as their enablers.

The law has been used against property owners told they shouldn’t defend themselves or their businesses.

They’ve been afraid of being the ones who cross the line while the looters overwhelm the streets. That impulse will continue to wither. This anarcho-tyranny will not stand for much longer.

That’s what we saw it on the streets of Kenosha.

We’ll see more of it, until a new form of order asserts itself.

That gets it said.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Let's have some more Bollywood fight scenes

Every now and again, I enjoy laughing at some of Bollywood's more over-the-top fight scenes.  I have to admit, they're getting better:  some of their more recent offerings approach the best Hollywood's been able to produce in terms of technique, special effects and camera angles.  Nevertheless, there are still some howlers out there, utterly impossible and therefore very funny.  We'll sample a few from each category over the next two or three weeks.

To start us off with a laugh, here's an over-the-top fight scene starring Allu Arjan.

Definitely over-acted, and over-heavy on the drama and special effects - which makes it funny, at least to Western audiences.


Snappy answers to silly questions - Twitter edition

I'm obliged to reader R. K. for sending me the link to these two tweets.

Back in 2019, a Twitter user asked:

The replies to that question are often amusing, but this one caught my eye.

Brilliant! How to baffle people with tech-speak bull-byproduct!  A Twitter hole-in-one!