Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/27/2018: Unhinged

Good Morning.

1. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias…This is one of the times that I am sorry that the Trump Deranged on Ethics Alarms have temporarily withdrawn from the Comment section battles, as I would love to hear their self-indicting rationalizations.

Here was this morning’s New York Times, big black headline:


Outrageous in every way. The Court did not “yield” to anyone or anything but the law as it stands and has stood for centuries. As Constitutional Law expert Eugene Volokh succinctly put it, “The federal government may pick and choose which foreigners to let into the country (at least setting aside foreigners who have are already been granted residence), even based on factors — political beliefs, religion, and likely race and sex — that would normally be unconstitutional.” He explains:

This used to be called the “plenary power” doctrine, referring to the principle that the government has essentially unlimited power when it comes to at least this aspect of immigration law, unlimited even by the Bill of Rights. It is not based on the constitutional text; textually, the First Amendment would apply to all exercise of Congressional authority, whether under the Commerce Clause or the District of Columbia Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause under Congress’s power over immigration. But, right or wrong, it is based on longstanding American legal history; and the majority adheres to that history.

Historically, this has even be used to authorize Congress to discriminate based on race (query whether the Court would today condemn this as “irrational”; more on that below). It has long been seen as authorizing Congress to discriminate based on country of citizenship, without investigation into whether such discrimination might actually be motivated by ethnic hostility. And, most relevant to today’s decision, it was seen in Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972) as authorizing discrimination based on political ideology, which would otherwise be forbidden by the First Amendment….The Court rejected the First Amendment claim:

Recognition that First Amendment rights are implicated, however, is not dispositive of our inquiry here. In accord with ancient principles of the international law of nation-states, the Court in The Chinese Exclusion Case (1889), and in Fong Yue Ting v. United States (1893), held broadly, as the Government describes it, that the power to exclude aliens is “inherent in sovereignty, necessary for maintaining normal international relations and defending the country against foreign encroachments and dangers—a power to be exercised exclusively by the political branches of government ….” Since that time, the Court’s general reaffirmations of this principle have been legion. The Court without exception has sustained Congress’ “plenary power to make rules for the admission of aliens and to exclude those who possess those characteristics which Congress has forbidden.” Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1967). “[O]ver no conceivable subject is the legislative power of Congress more complete than it is over” the admission of aliens. Oceanic Navigation Co. v. Stranahan (1909)….

As a result, the Court held that, if decisions to exclude aliens could ever be set aside, this would be so only if there was no “facially legitimate and bona fide” reason to exclude the alien. In Mandel’s case, the dissent noted, those reasons — labeled by the government as Mandel’s “flagrant abuses” during his past visits to the U.S. — “appear merely to have been his speaking at more universities than his visa application indicated.” The dissent argued that “It would be difficult to invent a more trivial reason for denying the academic community the chance to exchange views with an internationally respected scholar.” But the Court didn’t investigate whether the government’s true motive might have been the Administration’s disapproval of Mandel’s political ideas, rather than the supposed violation of past visa conditions; the requirement of a “bona fide” reason did not appear to require an investigation into the government’s true motivations, but rather simply focused on whether the “facial[]” reasons seemed sufficient:

In summary, plenary congressional power to make policies and rules for exclusion of aliens has long been firmly established. In the case of an alien excludable under [the provision involved in Mandel], Congress has delegated conditional exercise of this power to the Executive.

We hold that when the Executive exercises this power negatively on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will neither look behind the exercise of that discretion, nor test it by balancing its justification against the First Amendment interests of those who seek personal communication with the applicant.

The majority’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii basically applied this logic to another clause of the First Amendment — here, the Establishment Clause (which normally bars discrimination based on religious denomination, including the use of neutral rules in a discriminatorily motivated way) rather than the Free Speech Clause….

Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Banishes “The Smoking Gun,” Unethical Website of the Month

"This? Sure, this fits our mission. Post it!"

“This? Sure, this fits our mission. Post it!”

“The Smoking Gun” website has been linked on Ethics Alarms from the start, as its published documents from various sources can be an invaluable resource in uncovering unethical conduct in business, government, and popular culture.  Being linked here, however, carries an implied conviction that a site is itself ethical, or at least makes a good faith effort to be so. I can no longer say this with confidence about the “The Smoking Gun,” and thus am deleting its link while designating it the Unethical Website of the Month. Let’s not forget that it is owned by Time-Warner.

Why the ban? A hacker by the name of Guccifer hacked into Bush family AOL accounts, stole private messages and photos and posted them online  to embarrass the Bush family and violate their privacy. “The Smoking Gun” then re-posted all of it, including a private letter from George W. Bush to his family about planning the funeral of his father. Continue reading

Musings on the Strange Case of the Call Girl Olympian

Favor Hamilton, Olympian, call girl. in a recent promotional shot for browsing johns. "Faster, Higher, Stronger!"

Favor Hamilton, Olympian, call girl. in a recent promotional shot for browsing johns. “Faster, Higher, Stronger!”

The Smoking Gun, in what has to constitute the most ready-made plot for a cheesy movie in history, has obtained documents showing that three-time Olympian runner Suzy Favor Hamilton spent the last year living a secret life as a Las Vegas call girl. The entire story is jaw-dropping, including Hamilton’s comments about it once she was confronted with imminent exposure. It also raises some vivid ethical issues, as you might expect.

Beginning last December, the 44-year-old Hamilton  started working under the fake name “Kelly Lundy” with one of Las Vegas’s premier escort services, booking what the Smoking Gun terms as “scores of ‘dates'” in Vegas, where prostitution (I was surprised to learn) is illegal (though it is legal in other parts of Nevada), as well as Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and other cities, where it is also against the law. She apparently was outed after she told one of her clients who she really was, and he couldn’t keep a secret.


A few observations: Continue reading

Nettleton Middle School, Embracing Racism in 2010

Help me out here: which category does this story fall under:

  • School administrator incompetence?
  • Warped community ethical  standards?
  • Racial quotas run amuck?
  • Evidence of human devolution?
  • Proof that time travel is real?

I’m not sure. I do know that when a memo like this one is issued by a school principal, indicating that class officers for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades are restricted by race, there had better be a lot of firing going on, really soon, up and down the entire school system and maybe the town government as well, because the people in charge must not be trusted for one more second to have anything to do with educating American children. Continue reading

TMZ’s JFK: Fake Photo, Same Ethics Questions

I love this, I really do. Yes, the JFK photo found by TMZ and trumpeted elsewhere, including here, is a hoax.

Since the photo conveys no new or false  information about JFK’s proclivities, its main significance is that TMZ was sloppy, and since it is well established that it traffics in gossip and rumor anyway, this means Ethics Alarms and others were gullible and careless.

I apologize.

A few points:

  • All the questions raised in the post stand.
  • This reaffirms my conviction that postng a hoax of any kind on the web, whether photo or otherwise, without clearly designating it as such, is unethical.
  • Let us all give thanks  for “The Smoking Gun.”

JFK the Philanderer: What Does It Mean?

Honest, I’m not picking on the Kennedy’s. That this surfaced today is a coincidence. But if you cross Ted Kennedy and Tiger Woods, you get Jack Kennedy, and what should appear on the web this morning but a surprising photograph:

TMZ, the celebrity trash website that likes to publish paparazzi photos of supermodels with spinach between their teeth, has a genuine scoop: it has gotten its cyber-hands on a photograph that appears to show a bevy of naked women frolicking on a yacht as a young Senator Jack Kennedy lounges nearby.  [UPDATE: As explained by The Smoking Gun here, and discussed in a later Ethics Alarms post here, the photo was a hoax. The ethical issues raised by it and discussed below are still valid, however.] Continue reading