High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2019: Arggh!…Yay!…Yechhh!…Hmmm…and Good!


1. More historical ignorance to make you suicidal: Here’s Anna L.’s review of her visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield on the park’s Yelp page:

Boooorrrringggg. First off, it was nothing like the movie. All I saw were a bunch of fields and rocks. All the tourist shops, bars, and hotels in the area kept saying how I should check this place out. I kept getting confused with all of the plaques and monuments. Who was fighting who, I have no idea. The abandoned cannons looked tacky. I give this one star for the overweight character actor in the square, but that’s about it. Yaaawnnn.

I don’t even want to think about the political positions and favored candidates of an American this…this…I can’t even think of a good description. “It was nothing like the movie”????? And how many people like her are out there, rotting our culture and values from within?


2. It’s about time. wouldn’t you agree? I’m amazed this took so long. Starting next year, BMC Toys in Scranton will begin adding  little green  Army women to the little green Army men that are such a standard kids’ toy. Since they debuted in 1950s, none of the iconic toy’s  manufacturers  have crossed the gender line. BMC is one of the  ew producers of plastic soldiers left in his country, and will soon be offering these:


3. Not only do people do this, but they are apparently proud of themselves. In Illinois, officials have launched an investigation following  the posting of a photograph on Instagram showing tourists vandalizing a 400 million years old sandstorm formation at a state park in Illinois. The photo also shows  signs of previous vandalism on the rock.

I don’t get it. This is as incomprehensible to me as abusing animals or launching computer viruses.

Apparently the woman has been identified, and the man soon will be.


4.  Now this is called, “arguing in the alternative.” It’s a valid legal advocacy technique, but non-lawyers find it repulsive. Lawyers for fake hate crime accuser Jussie Smollett  filed a motion opposing  the city’s claim that he should reimburse it more than $130,000 to cover police overtime and other costs when they investigated the actor’s false claim that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by Trump supporters. Police eventually charged Smollett with staging the attack, charges that were mysteriously dismissed in a strange series of events currently being investigated themselves.

The lawyers still stick with Smollett’s denial that he faked the attack despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, but they argue that even if he  did make a false report, there is no way he could have known that the city’s police  would investigate to the extent they did, logging in nearly 2,000 hours in overtime.  “Smollett has no control over that,” they say.

It might work. I can see a judge ruling that only an amount equal to the time and expense the police usually devote to such claims can reasonably be charged to Smollett.


5. Also about time: In a 32-page opinion you can read here,  Judge Anthony J. Trenga of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled yesterday that the federal government database that compiles names of individuals deemed to be “known or suspected terrorists” violates the rights of American citizens.  This raises the spector of a  a major tool the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security use for screening potential terrorism suspects being held unconstitutional.

Well it is, you know.

Being on the watch list  restricts people from traveling or entering the country. It subjects them to greater scrutiny at airports, puts them under special scrutiny by the police, and may cost them government benefits and the chance to win government contracts.

“The court concludes that the risk of erroneous deprivation of plaintiffs’ travel-related and reputational liberty interests is high, and the currently existing procedural safeguards are not sufficient to address that risk,” Judge Trenga wrote.

Hooray. This is a straight Due Process issue and the equivalent of pre-crime. The list should have been struck down long ago.

About 1.2 million people are on the watchlist, compiled by the FBI.’s Terrorist Screening Center. Of those, about 4,600 are American citizens who cannot be deprived of their rights without due process of law. The judge did not  say what should happen now, instead asking the Justice Department and the lawyers for the plaintiffs to submit briefs regarding “what kind of remedy can be fashioned to adequately protect a citizen’s constitutional rights while not unduly compromising public safety or national security.”

The government’s use of terrorism watch lists has expanded dangerously since Sept. 9-11. This case involved the Terrorist Screening Database, where agencies besides the FBI can nominate people for inclusion on the list, and the individuals involved may never know or be able to challenge their reasons.

Files released by the FBI in 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act showed that  Americans could end up on  the watch list even if they had been acquitted of terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped. House Democrats, you may recall, as well as Hillary Clinton, wanted to use such lists to restrict citizens from purchasing guns.

Yesterday’s decision is a powerful rejection of the whole concept of “pre-crime.”



25 thoughts on “High Noon Ethics Warm-Up, 9/5/2019: Arggh!…Yay!…Yechhh!…Hmmm…and Good!

  1. 1. Gettysburg has a great Visitor’s Center that would have been happy to give her information on who was fighting who, what that whole Civil War thing was and why this is important.

    Or, ya know, send her off to to Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium if it was too hard for her to comprehend.


    Full disclosure: We did visit Mr. Ed’s two years ago while on our annual vacation. But only after I ran around Gettysburg like Martin Prince at the box factory.

    2. I had no idea this was Scranton-based. But, to be honest, those little green men were so tiny that there was little to distinguish them gender-wise. For all we know, there could have been women in them all this time.

    3. It’s the Selfie Culture. I can’t believe so many criticize the ’80s for being the Me Generation. Too many people want photos of themselves doing stupid things. At least, neither of them fell into a volcano after hopping a fence.

    4. I am not a legal expert at all, but I would argue that Smollett had to have known this would be a big investigation. A reasonably well-known black celebrity being attacked in Chicago? There’s no way its Woke Mayor would have let this to be buried based on initial reports anymore than its Woke Prosecutor would have allowed the investigation to go forward once it was clear he’d faked the whole thing. He counted on it being high-profile. He didn’t count on being caught.

    5. Good. Force them to be smart enough to come up with another solution.

  2. 1. Ignorance and digital native entitlement. Entertain me in my ignorance dammit or I’ll give you a bad review.

    My kingdom for a time machine putting this moron in the midst of battle.

  3. 4. Isn’t there a legal principle that when you act unlawfully you are deemed to accept the consequences, even if they turn out worse than you expected, the ‘eggshell skull’ thing? He may not have decided how much time the police spent on the case, but his actions were surely the root cause.

  4. Well, this post was certainly a bright ray of sunshine in my otherwise dreary day (sarcasm).

    As someone who was on the terrorist watch list erroneously, all it took was 15 minutes on the phone and a copy of my driver’s license to have me removed. Of course, I now have a number assigned by Homeland Security that I have to give when I make travel arrangements. What the number does or means I haven’t a clue, but I figure it is a small price to pay for increased safety and no great burden. The watch list always seemed suspect constitutionally to me, but I felt it is just part of the give and take arrangement we have to suffer living in the world today. I guess I was wrong.

    Truly, I am more disturbed about the addition of the Army women to my bag of Army men. Now I’ve got to imagine separate latrines, quarters, and add feminine hygiene to the supply list in my war games. It’s all too much for this 53-year-old to cope. 🙂

  5. Files released by the FBI in 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act showed that Americans could end up on the watch list even if they had been acquitted of terrorism-related offenses or the charges are dropped. House Democrats, you may recall, as well as Hillary Clinton, wanted to use such lists to restrict citizens from purchasing guns.

    I never frogt that.

    Also see this question.


    I don’t know all the details about the watch list, but I am pretty certain that people on the watch list aren’t necessarily supposed to know they’re on the watch list. It becomes apparent when they try to board a flight or something like that, but as a general rule, watching a target becomes significantly less effective if the target knows they’re being watched. Maybe that’s not relevant to this list, maybe it is, but that’s the first thought I have.

    Further, this would be very difficult to justify, since you are punishing people who haven’t actually done anything wrong yet.

    People on the FBI/CIA watch list are not terrorists — they are only suspects. Possible threats. They might do something. Or they might not. Further, not everyone who is a terrorist is on the watch list. It’s just the FBI’s best guess at where the bad guys might be — it is absolutely NOT a trustworthy way to say “these are the bad guys — watch out for them.” That would cause innocent people to be treated like criminals, and may lower our guard to other people who are actually threats.

    Besides. I’m pretty sure putting a mark on people that the government is suspicious of would not sit too well. Looks kinda like something we’ve seen before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it… oh yeah, this:


    Soooo these people are on a terrorist watch list. Presumably they haven’t actually done anything wrong or they would have been arrested. So we have INNOCENT people being stigmatised in public do we? If they did have any radical leanings, do you think that would help?

    I’m searching my memory to think of a situation where innocent people have been forced to wear a badge in public, let’s call it a star, can you think of such an example?

    I’ve a better idea, let’s all dress in black and wear a swastika on our sleeves, then we’ll all know who the bad people are…….every time we look in a mirror!


    Good idea: put people on a list, and make them wear distinctive markers.

    For example, like these folks:

  6. 4. How many celebs have filed a false claim to even make a comparable judgement of overtime? He wanted his fame to mae a bigger impact than if some average Joe was harrassed. But that fame also meant they put serious effort into the case… making it unravel. Completely predictable. They cannot afford to do that for everytime, but he volunteered. He should pay, as there are not enough consequences for false reports across the board.

    5. “Minority Report” should have stayed dark fiction of PK Dick. Institutionalized paranoia and self-fulfilling prophecy do nothing for true safety. Things like “Carnivore” are the same cloth. I have never been less proud of what too many are claiming to do for patriotism than developments like this. (It also shows stupidity can be bipartisan)

    • 4. So, Jussie Smollett would rather the police had NOT fully investigated his alleged assault and hate crime??? They should have just put the report in a lower desk drawer and gone out for coffee and doughnuts? Every race hustler would have been on that like white on rice. Sorry Jussie and Jussie’s lawyers, I think we’ve got a new legal aphorism: You take the investigation of your fabricated hate crimes as you find them. It will be appearing in the hornbooks soon! Might even be dubbed The Smollett Rule! You’ll be immortal!

      • Someone probably thinks they were really clever to force this into a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ to skate out of responsibility. The sad truth about buydgets is if this investigation puts the budget in the hole, there won’t be the money or inclination to investgate an actual crime.

        That’s wht he should be on the hook, he’s harming future victims!

  7. 5 “House Democrats, you may recall, as well as Hillary Clinton, wanted to use such lists to restrict citizens from purchasing guns.”
    And they still do, with dem-controlled states, cities, and leftist groups making their own mini-lists of Republicans, NRA members, etc. to decide who gets unfavorable government scrutiny and/or harassment.

  8. #3

    What is the time frame on this?

    We caught these miscreants now, and will punish them for this because this is vandalism and will presumably go to great efforts to clean this off.

    Sometime between 1500-1400 BC (depending on how you date Hatshepst’s reign), a disgruntled Egyptian dissatisfied with the woman Pharaoh’s reign etched a very crude image of her being raped on a rock wall. We presume this was equally unethical, but now is a matter of archaeological record and would never try to clean the vandalism off.

    Sometime after the construction of Hadrian’s wall, a bored Roman soldier (as bored soldiers are apt to do) scribbled a poorly depicted penis at his assigned post. Certainly unethical and to be cleaned. But not now.

    When does vandalism pass from “should be cleaned” into “should be preserved”?

    • I believe the answer lies with what does the substrate represent. If it is just the side of any cliff then it is no worse than grafitti on any old wall. However if the substrate represented an eons old geologic formation the grafitti is sacreligious.

      There are petroglyphs on some paleolithic caves on France that modern people have added their tags. This is an abomination and I would love to see a judgement that required them to make their homes available for other taggers.

      • I’m willing to accept “surface of the vandalism” as being a factor, but not a definitive one.

        I would assume that had an ancient Egyptian vandalized a unique geological formation, we’d still preserve his vandalism in the modern era for it’s archaeological significance.

  9. Spent Sunday touring Antietam. Even though I have lived the last 25 years less than 10 miles from the battlefield national park I never spent much time there. Perhaps if people that find these places booorrrring would simply stand quietly and just imagine the thoughts and fears of the soldiers who faced off against each other as they looked upon the fallen. Was the reason they stood in this place of death and destruction worth the cost they might ask themselves. Was the battle to preserve state soveriegnty (to most of the CSA soldiers) as important as living? Did the issue of slavery and emancipation galvanize New York regiments of the Union forces to be willing to abandon their families to fight for others they don’t know or was it for some other purpose?

    No one can be sure, salvaged letters home speak only to the events of the battles. The politics of why thy are fighting are woefully absent.

    Maybe if the Yelp reviewer just closed her eyes and create a virtual reality of that which took place, put herself in their place and just imagine the horror of civil war she might just appreciate her experience.

  10. The Yelp reviewer is a parody account.
    How do I know? I looked not only at her picture (take a look yourself!) but the other reviews. All obviously very tongue in cheek.
    Now maybe this is still unethical: that one star DOES affect the parks ratings, even if probably at such a low level as to be unnoticeable. But it’s obvious -once you read the other reviews- that this is not a review meant to be taken seriously.

      • I don’t mind the fake reviews if they are OBVIOUSLY fake reviews and they are clever. You should see the reviews for “A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates 0th Edition”. This book is for researchers who need a set of truly random numbers.

        Here are some reviews:
        “A very engrossing book with historical importance, it keeps you guessing until the end.”

        “For those of us without a two week vacation to devote to this tome, I would like to see a Clif’s Notes version. Maybe 10,000 random numbers?”

        “It seemed like about 10% of the time I was able to predict which number was next. It was still better than Life of Pi which, aside from being irrational, included no estimations of Pi at all.
        84 people found this helpful”

        “The book is too hard to follow, the author randomly shifts from one number to another without any prior warning.”

        “10 POKE 54272 + RND(1)*25, RND(1)*256 : GOTO 10

        In 1982 the Rand Corporation released this audio version of their classic work. To make it work today you will need to download an “app” known as a Commodore 64 emulator & after you type this line, you will HEAR the million random digits. It’s quite soothing (if a bit fast). Supposedly it works with Atari and Amiga emulators too, though I have not tried.

        Original Audio Author:
        Noah Vawter, aka “Shifty”

        “This is a very disturbing book. It encourages perverted lifestyles by describing deviates as “normal”. Just because there are 100,000 deviates, it doesn’t make it normal. Deviates don’t become normal even if there are 100,000 of them.

        Another serious problem with this book is that it is dated. Does the publisher really think random numbers have stood still since the book was published way back in 2001? Even a casual reader can tell numbers like 6578293, 98236820, and 98877529 are not as random as they once used to be. In fact, I wonder if they ever were…With a heavy heart I give this book a single star. However, if they bring out a second edition, I promise to keep and open mind while reviewing it..”

  11. #1: I strongly suspect this was troll review, designed to provoke a reaction.

    #3. At least people like this provide the evidence for their own crime.

    #4. If I was the state, I’d argue that you always pay the final bill, not the estimate.

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