Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/3/19: Morons, And More.

Good morning!

Still working on the appellee brief in my defense against the frivolous law suit by an angry banned Ethics Alarms commenter whose boo-boo I bruised. How do you write a professional, respectful, effective rebuttal of a 70 page brief that is basically nonsense? I know how to argue against a real good faith legal assertion–indeed, my enjoyment of brief-writing nearly got me stuck in the traditional practice of law. But “this is deranged crap that doesn’t constitute a valid appeal and that wastes the time of everyone involved” isn’t a professional response, just a fair one.

1. “You know…morons!” At least two people—I can’t find the link for the second one, but it was a child—were wounded when spent bullets shot into the air by New Year’s Eve celebrants fell back to earth and hit them. This happens every year. Why do people think shooting guns into the sky is safe? In WW II, my father had to promise a court martial for any soldier under his command who shot a weapon into the air.  This is basic Law of Gravity stuff, but it seems to elude an amazing number of gum owners. I’m only aware of one move that ever featured a death from a falling bullet: “The Mexican,” a failed 2001 Brad Pitt-Julia Roberts comedy.

2. “You know…morons!” (cont.) The Netflix horror hit “The Bird Box,” which involves a blindfolded Sandra Bullock leading her similarly burdened children on an odyssey to escape an apocalyptic threat that only strikes when it is seen, has spawned a web challenge in which people are encouraged to try doing everyday tasks wearing blindfolds. This prompted a warning from Netflix:

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

Boy and Girl are what Bullock’s character’s children are called, because she is so certain they are doomed that she doesn’t want to name them. I am tempted to say that anyone so stupid as to try this challenge should not be discouraged, because their demise will only benefit the rest of us. But that would be mean.

True, but mean.

3. Follow-Up…The Federalist has more on the unfolding Steele Dossier scandal. I do not see how any result of the Mueller investigation can hold up in court, no matter how much the mainstream news media spins it, with the degree of procedural irregularity and prosecutor misconduct we already know is behind it. Presumably this is why the focus has shifted to the extremely dubious theory that Trump violated election laws by paying off a sex partner, something he would have probably done whether he was running for office or not, and also a transaction that didn’t involve campaign funds. The media keeps reporting the latter as if it is an unquestioned crime (apparently because Michael Cohen was induced to plead guilty to it), but it just isn’t a crime, and I believe in the end that theory will be thrown out of court too.

4. Signature Significance for a sick culture. Reason reports…

Officials in Hangzhou, China, are cracking down on dogs. Owners have been banned from walking their dogs between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Meanwhile, officials have also issued a list of 34 banned breeds, including German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bull Terriers and Akitas. Video shows police beating and drowning dogs from those breeds as well as strays that they have caught.

It’s good to recall such reports when someone is arguing that all cultures are equal. Cruelty to animals is considered a reliable marker of sociopathy. Unfortunately, I am again reflecting on the lucrative academic institutional client I lost because I wouldn’t apologize to two Chinese visiting scholars for referring to Mao as a mass murderer. He was just doing what he had to do, I was told.

Stop it, Jack. That way madness lies…

5.  “Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!” Here is the Huffington Post headline, featured by AOL: “Rudy Giuliani roasted over bonkers late-night Twitter rant about witches.”

Now here is Rudy’s tweet:

“According to CNN witches favor Democrats and they are offended that the Meuller investigation is described as a Witch Hunt. There is no reason for the witches to be offended because Witch Hunt derives from,for example,the Salem Witch Hunts where people were executed unjustly.”

  • It is obviously not a “rant.” This is classic fake news headline writing at Huffpo.
  • The statement that “witches favor Democrats” is not an unreasonable conclusion from news items like this one.
  • The point that “witch hunt” is a historical allusion and not a derogatory reference to witches has been made many times, for decades. There is nothing “bonkers” about it.

So how does this qualify as a “bonkers rant’? It’s a member of the Trump administration writing it, that’s all.

6. “How to act like an Ethics Hero and still be unethical,” by Jill Abramson. Howard Kurtz writes,

“Jill Abramson, the veteran journalist who led the newspaper from 2011 to 2014, says the Times has a financial incentive to bash the president and that the imbalance is helping to erode its credibility….Abramson describes a generational split at the Times, with younger staffers, many of them in digital jobs, favoring an unrestrained assault on the presidency. ‘The more “woke” staff thought that urgent times called for urgent measures; the dangers of Trump’s presidency obviated the old standards,’ she writes [in her forthcoming book ‘Merchants of Truth’]. … the former editor acknowledges a ‘Trump bump’ that saw digital subscriptions during his first six months in office jump by 600,000, to more than 2 million. ‘Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated.'”

I’ve been hoping and praying for a respected and important journalist from the Left to acknowledge the dangerous deterioration of American journalism as it embraces full partisan and ideological bias, but Abramson isn’t it. First of all, this stinks of sour grapes: she was fired as the Times editor in favor of its current leader, Dean Baquet. Her tenure covered most of the Obama years, when the Times chose to fawn rather than report, burying unfavorable news about the President of whom its editor later said that she carried a little Obama doll with her to gaze at when she got depressed. It’s betrayal of journalistic objectivity, accuracy and trustworthiness can hardly be blamed on Baquet—bolstering Obama and undermining Trump are two sides of the same counterfeit coin. And, of course, she is trying to sell a book.


66 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/3/19: Morons, And More.

  1. #3 – I keep hoping that what we’ve got out of the Mueller investigation so far is misdirection – a ploy to keep the democrats supportive and make them think that the investigation is focused on POTUS when really, behind the scenes, it’s humming away building thorough and elaborate narratives describing the illegal activities of Clinton, the foundation, and the DNC.

  2. Had the EA commenter formerly know as I’mJust Saying considered that had he focused his considerable…um…energies on becoming a lawyer rather than on being a laughably bespawling addlepate, he might actually BE one of the former as opposed to being firmly entrenched in the ranks of the latter?

  3. Returning to a the theme of an earlier post…when do real trials for real crimes to subvert the Constitution begin? It had better be soon, or spin will be the only audible voice in the room (again).

  4. #1: Why do people think shooting guns into the sky is safe?

    I blame Yosemite Sam. Seriously, I used to teach gun safety at a scout camp.

    #2: has spawned a web challenge in which people are encouraged to try doing everyday tasks wearing blindfolds.

    This is a common scouting game, party of the “Handicap Awareness” merit badge. It is of course recommended only with buddy or parent keeping watch.

    #3: Ugh. I’ve been burned too many times talking about the Steele Dossier

    #4: In addition, I recently learned the Chinese also boil dogs alive while cooking them for consumption….

    Speaking of which

    #5: I’ve told my brother that I want to start a subreddit called: “Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!”, where every entry must start with “Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!”, and include only the headline. I image it would be an endless stream of entries, mostly from fro the Huffington Post.

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    Mitt Romney slams Trump in new op-ed (CNN)

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    Elizabeth Warren slams Trump administration as ‘corrupt,’ admits agreement over Syria (Fox News)

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    Kellyanne Conway’s husband slams Trump on tarriffs (New York Post)

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    NBC News veteran slams network’s ‘hostage status’ to Trump in resignation letter (Washington Times)

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    Donald Trump & Mike Pence have united to form the ‘make misogyny great again’ ticket. –Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America at the 2016 DNC (via

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    Parents, you are right to fear what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth. Republicans, you should have been careful also. He learned it from watching you. –Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid at the 2016 DNC (via

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!! Trump says he gets his foreign-policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant. If only it were funny, but it is deadly serious. –Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the 2016 DNC (via

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    No major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or been less prepared to deal with our national security. –Vice President Joe Biden at the 2016 DNC (via

    Ooh, Trump got BURNED!!!
    He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either. –President Barack Obama at the 2016 DNC (via

    • 1. It’s not politically correct to say so, but it’s also all those Mexican bandits in old movies.
      2. The problem is that there are no buddies in “The Bird Box” You see, you die.
      3. Not half as burned as those who have been relying on the legitimacy of the Dossier.

      • 2. The most idiotic thing is that, in many of these videos, there *is* a buddy – it’s the moron behind the camera giggling and recording as the blindfolded idiot gets injured.

  5. There was also an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Streets” in which a random person died, the intrepid detectives investigated and found out a child had pulled Dad’s gun out of its insecure place and fired it in the air outside not far from where the victim died.

    Our local media aired a segment on New Year’s Eve imploring people not to shoot guns in the air to celebrate.

  6. Side note, but good news!: I was able to share the thank you new years post you made on facebook without any error, and the preview for the site loading correctly!

    Someone at facebook may indeed be watching their support tickets, as I and I think several other commenters here have filed support tickets asking why the site it banned.

    for proof.

    Sadly, the site still reports having errors or warnings on the site debugger:

    but uh, progress?

    • Tracking this. Thanks. My personal arrogance prevents me from devoting the time to it I should: I refuse to treat Facebook as if it’s important, even though it obviously is.

      The problem will be fixed as soon as I see “shares” on Facebook come back. Two months ago, I got one to 20 or so almost every post. Now, none at all.

  7. 1. Firing guns into the air is a bad idea in our urban landscapes. Terminal velocity for a bullet is more than enough to kill you. I have noticed this seems to be cultural: Many muslim countries celebrate this way, and well as some latin american ones. Dunno why.

    2. I think that the more people kill themselves from internet challenges the more the gene pool improves.

    3. Watergate pales besides the things Hillary and the Obama Administration did. We need to see some of these bad actors go to jail to start restoring American faith in our justice system. Is there any good reason Hillary still breathes free air? Had I done just one of the felonies she committed, I would be lucky to see daylight again. Two tiers of justice.

    4. China is NOT your friend. 70 years of socialism have produced this culture which sees no value in ANY life, much less dog lives. Research how chinese prisoners are farmed for body parts, kept alive until someone with a match will pay for their death.

    5. The Mueller investigation IS a witch hunt, and has used the full power of the federal government to (at least attempt to) suborn perjury. Deciding someone lied when your own agents did not think so is tyranny.

    6. You still read the Times? You know they are lying to you every chance they get, right?

    7. There was no number 7 that made the cut

  8. But “this is deranged crap that doesn’t constitute a valid appeal and that wastes the time of everyone involved” isn’t a professional respsonse, just a fair one.

    Does writing that in Latin and submitting that make it sound professional?

  9. Re No. 1:

    Netflix seems surprised that people would copy the movie. There is a new challenge making its rounds on the internet. It’s called the boiling water challenge, which I guess is the evil step-child of the ice bucket challenge. In the boiling water challenge, well, you set up your phone to record your reaction to . . . wait for it . . . pour boiling water over your head, to the great applause of your friends. Then, you post it on social media in high hopes of millions of likes and thumbs ups. Yep. Check out YouTube. It is real and it is all the rage between and betwixt post-adolescents. The videos show the horrible results, often with bewildered parents wondering and pleading for someone who will provide the skin grafting so their little angels’ burns will heal.


    • Damn you, John. I was certain this was a Poe’s Law sort of thing, and that your description of people pouring scalding water on themselves for the purpose of amusement was a satirical jab at how stupid the internet culture has become.

      But it turns out that the goddamn thing is real, and I am now just a little bit sadder for knowing this.

      • Sorry, Jeff. I was appalled when I saw it, too. Especially when the local news here in Houston told the story in grave and serious tones about how dangerous it was (while the bean counters on the Nielsen side in the control room jumped for joy at the increased viewership).

        There is hope: Our son is 14 years old. I asked him if he would ever do something like that. He looked up from his X-Box and said, “Uh. No. I am not an idiot.”


  10. Her tenure covered most of the Obama years, when the Times chose to fawn rather than report, burying unfavorable news about the President of whom its editor later said that she carried a little Obama doll with her to gaze at when she got depressed.

    Amazing that anyone to admit such a thing.

    I do not recall any reporters carrying a little George W. Bush doll.

  11. Re:#4

    If one may inquire as to how the statement came to be made?

    Business owners as a rule try to keep a non-political tone for obvious.

    That said, once said, I’d not retract or apologize for it either (money or not…).

  12. #1 Strangely enough, if you’re willing to do the strenuous calculations, you can shoot a bullet into the air and have it return to earth right at your feet. The problem is that a lot of the stuff in the calculations are variables and the bullet could go through the top of your head. Good luck.

    #4 The regime in China, which can no longer be called totally Communist, has been doing this, and things like it, for a thousand years or more. Hanging the sobriquet ‘Communist’ on them is counter-productive. Let’s just call it Chinese and let it go at that. Just because the Japanese attacked them in WWII, didn’t change their culture.

    #5 What slick said.

    I’m done

    • #1 Strangely enough, if you’re willing to do the strenuous calculations…

      Since some of the variables include the possibility of multiple crosswinds at different elevations, there is NO WAY to calculate this exactly, at least none that I would be willing to stand under. Might be possible on the Moon… if the bullet does not reach escape velocity. (Ed: it won’t: Moon’s escape velocity is about 7,875 ft/s… I could not resist. Gotta LOVE the Internet!)

      As for lethality, the least lethal case is a vertical take off, where the bullet goes straight up (no wind) and then straight back down. The bullet will tumble and lose spin, and thus we can apply the same mechanics as a falling rock (and forego ballistics).

      A 230 grain .45 slug weighs about half an ounce. My napkin scratch calculations (taking some averages for air density, gravity, and drag coefficient) combined with the weight and approximate cross section area (.5 oz, .8 sq. inches) gives me between 350 and 500 feet per second.

      Is that lethal? Muzzle velocity for the same slug from a standard issue government 1911 .45 pistol is 830 feet per second, and about 800 feet per second at 50 yards (and will drop around 3 inches if fired parallel to the ground).

      I would not like to get hit with a rock that size and weight at 350 feet per second, but it might not be lethal; Your mileage may vary.

      • Sorry, not about to try the calculations on this one. I would GUESS the probability of no wind at 0%. When Myth Busters tried it, the pistol was in a mount, the angle of which could be adjusted. If memory serves, the slug recovered was over 1000 meters away. If anyone wants to use this as a means of suicide, I’d wish them lots of luck.

  13. #1– That other incident you could not recall might be the young girl in Oakland, CA, who was hit by a bullet returning to earth.

    If one is working the night shift on NYE the best place to be at midnight is under a section of elevated freeway. Those urbanites put on an awesome display of firepower.

  14. … she carried a little Obama doll with her to gaze at when she got depressed.

    I wonder what else she could have done with it to make her less depressed.

    On the firing in the air thing, if there’s enough interest I will relate a related story of far worse gun safety issues my father told of seeing in the Persian Gulf.

    • I’m interested, especially as proxy for my late father, who complained about the habit also. (His other gun-related pique was movie portrayals of so-called Mexican stand-offs. “The one who shoots first wins. So you shoot first! You don’t stand there talking waiting for the other guy to shoot first.”

          • Lots of us have been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I would waste not one word, not “Freeze”, not “Put your hands up” not nothing. My advice and what I’d do is BANG…”Get on the ground”>

          • Even a combat vet will hesitate when a shot comes their way. There is an OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) that gets in the way, and the first shot activates that process, slowing the impulse to act. This lets you get in a second shot, since you have already decided to fire.

            Remember, most gunfights do not start with an immediate intent to shoot, but with the threat to do so. This is why police officers are taught that action is faster than reaction (even if only based on how fast it takes from brain deciding to fire to finger pulling the trigger: the OODA loop instilled by training makes it even slower).

            Why is the minimum distance an opponent with a knife is allowed to an officer over 20 feet? The knife fighter can cross that distance before an officer can decide to act and do so. A gun that cannot be drawn and fired accurately is useless in an knife fight!

      • In the early 1950s, my father was a travelling salesman, selling chemicals up and down the Persian Gulf. In those days, there wasn’t the modern availability of feeder aircraft flights there, and land travel was pretty rough and hazardous, so the most practical way to travel that beat was by sea. Unfortunately, though, most of the shorelines there only drop off slowly, so there are few good natural harbours and in those days most larger vessels had to stand well off shore when dropping off or picking up passengers or cargo, that transferred to native dhows to be ferried. (That geographical feature is rather important for naval planning in those waters, too.)

        As it happens, way back during the First World War German agents had tried to destabilise British control of the sea routes there by running guns and ammunition to the locals. Many of these guns and much of this ammunition were still around in the hands of the dhow crews when my father was there, but much degraded by time and the elements (the weaponry, not my father). These crews, excited by the work, resorted to the above mentioned custom of joyfully firing their guns in the air while ferrying my father around. The thing is, though, that often the ammunition didn’t go off. What did the ferrymen do? They replaced those rounds in their bandoliers, in case they worked some other time – waste not, want not. But this made my father rather nervous, because he knew about hang fires.

  15. In regards to number one, there may be a location factor in all of this. My hunter safety course taught us that if a rifle needed to be safely discharged, the air was the best place. There was a minuscule chance of the round causing harm coming back to earth, but shooting at the ground had a high chance of ricocheting and causing severe harm. Proper hunter carry involves holding the rifle in such a manner that the barrel of a loaded gun, unless targeting something you plan to eat or defend yourself against, is angled skyward. However, I learned this in a low population density, high rocky ground area. I can see this as something people (who are likely to participate in the aforementioned boiling water challenge) might decide to understand as “it is safe to fire a rifle into the air.” Also, that is what happens at 21 gun salutes.

    In regards to number two, I fail to see how people can get badly hurt at this or why this is even a bad idea. Admittedly, I am severely myopic and get ocular migraines. I make sure that I can perform every task in my house by memory and feel alone. (Cooking in this instance tends to be hot dogs, corn dogs, or sandwiches, all things that do not require a stove or very long in the microwave.) Memorizing how to blindly find my way out of any hotel room, conference room, etc is necessary for if my glasses were to break, I would need this skill. I have always assumed everyone did these drills routinely because a blackout or natural disaster might require either evacuation or hold in place where one cannot see. Sure, the drills end in stubbed toes and minor injuries sometimes, but no more often than going to the bathroom late at night when one does not wish to wake a spouse, or sneaking out of a sleeping toddler’s room. Functioning in the dark also marked it easier in power outages, where you can still take care of all daily tasks without wasting tapers.

      • Yes, they most typically or even invariably use blanks. Sound and smoke is all that is required for any salutes I have seen. However, how many people realize this, compared to seeing a gun pointed at the sky and thinking, “this must be safe.” I did not mean that a salute was using live bullets and wrote poorly, but, like Yosemite Sam and many old westerns, we see people imitating behavior without understanding.

        • Actually, the custom originated as a way to demonstrate good will by demonstrating that you had disarmed all or most of the guns of a fort’s standard complement, back in the days of slow loading muzzle loading cannon that were usually pre-loaded as a matter of readiness. That meant that you always fired off whatever the standard load was – and that was rarely just a blank charge.

  16. (1) This is what you need for New Year’s Eve.
    That is what they were made for. They usually have sales before July 4 and New Year’s. They are legal even in many places where firecrackers aren’t.

    This leads to one observation about this. Shooting guns in the air may be one of those unintended consequences of the nanny state people. They have made it illegal to use fireworks in many places. Some locations allow fireworks around July 4th, but not around New Year’s Eve. There may be a good number of people who are shooting guns in the air who would use firecrackers if they could. At least they should invest in some of these.

    (2) Maybe we do need more of this to thin out the herd. Why do people do things this stupid? I thought the ‘Into the Wild’ people trying to recreate a book that ends with the subject being eaten by a bear were dumb. I mean, did they actually read to the end of the book, or are they just that bad at thinking? Then there were the ‘set yourself on fire and post it to YouTube people. The funny think was that each and every one of them seemed truly surprised when they were burned! They watched 25 other people do this and get burned, but they somehow didn’t think they would be. For the betterment of the species, do we need a designated area (so innocents don’t get hurt) where people are encouraged to do such idiotic things?

    • Coventry, sort of.

      Like in Heinlein’s books: don’t agree to the societal code of conduct? We have a place you can go- without our protection- where you can make your own rules (watch out for those already there.)

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