Ethics Quiz: A Horse By Any Other Name…

In the pantheon of 2022 “Wait…WHAT?” headlines, “Help! I’m So Embarrassed by the Name of My Daughter’s New Horse!” is an instant classic. This comes by way of a query to Slate advice columnist “Dear Prudence,” and you have to pay to see what wise ol’ Prudence decrees. Well, I’ve read enough of Prudence’s advice over the years and have been unimpressed. I don’t care what she thinks; I care what you think (and what I think, naturally). Here’s the letter:

My 10-year-old daughter is a horse girl. She’s outgrown her first pony, so we just bought her a new horse. This horse was priced right, he’s the perfect size, age, and temperament, and he’s trained in what she wants to do—we seriously could not have found her a better horse. Except for one thing. He’s an almost entirely white Pinto, and his registered name is [Farm Name] White Flight. I don’t want to know what his breeder was thinking. My daughter thinks it’s beautiful. But I would be embarrassed to have my child showing on a horse with this name, and I want to officially change it, or at least call him by another name. I’ve explained the meaning of “white flight” to her, but she still thinks it’s a perfect name for a white showjumping horse and says she wants to use it to mean something good, instead of something bad. How can I convince her to rename her new baby? Would it be too mean to say either the name is changed, or the horse is sold and she can’t have another one?

—Whitest Problem Ever

Ah, the problems of families who can afford to buy their child two horses before she’s eleven! But I digress…

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

“Is there an ethical obligation to change the name of the horse from “White Flight”?

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/17/19: The “Why?” Edition

WHY is it a good morning?

1. Why are some people missing their ethics alarms? A family member owned a horse as a pet, and when the horse got old and infirm sold it to a slaughterhouse for dog food. This caused a long-running rift with the Alexandria branch of the Marshall clan, in which my wife will capture spiders and gently release them into the wild while singing “Born Free.” However, the family horse-trader is a saint compared to Fallon Danielle Blackwood, 24, a veterinary student in Alabama, who offered shelter for rescue horses only to profit by secretly selling the animals to Mexican slaughterhouses.   She was arrested on a similar charge last year in North Carolina.

Though the current charges involve just  13 horses, Stolen Horse International, a nonprofit that helps find lost or stolen horses, says Blackwood may be behind the disappearance of dozens more. Her MO was to  reach out to those in need of help caring for their horses and offer the equines  a loving home at her farm near Boaz, Alabama.

Well, I hear veterinary school is expensive…

2. Why do the news media and the public let Democrats get away with the “immoral and ineffective” talking point? I discussed this in detail here. The latest to use the self-contradictory rhetoric was Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), who denounced President Donald Trump’s “quest for a racist and sinful big wall” between the U.S. and Mexico during a speech on the House floor, and followed up with a tweet calling the wall “hateful and ineffective.” Now it’s “sinful” to enforce the borders, is it? How does someone make the argument that border security is “racist” and simultaneously claim that they are in favor of border security? If trying to keep illegal immigrants out is sinful and racist, how can the claim that border security is desirable be anything but hypocrisy?

This argument depends on listeners not paying attention, being complicit in an open borders strategy, or having the IQ of a mollusk.

3. Why do people this inept keep getting elected to Congress? At a Washington reception billed as a “celebration of Asian-American and Pacific Islander (API) members of the 116th Congress,” Hawaii Democratic Rep. Ed Case said that he felt like “an Asian trapped in a white body.” How awful! Trapped in a white body! Yechh! Pooie!

Pandering to racists is a bi-partisan activity, especially in the Aloha State, where hostility to whites is open and palpable. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/17/18: Dead Singers, Honorable Magicians, Untrustworthy Ex-Employees, Volunteer Pitchers, And Little Horses

Goooood Morning, Pennsylvania!

(That’s where I going for the next four days, on a rural Pennsylvania ethics CLE speaking tour!)

1. Aretha Franklin Ethics If I can say right now without question that I will never voluntarily listen to an Aretha Franklin record, does that make me a racist? Her death triggers the “recognition but not admiration” impulse I reserve for artists whose skill and importance to the culture I acknowledge and honor, but whose art I never enjoyed and won’t miss. ( Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand and Joni Mitchell are in the same category for me, restricting the list to pop female singers.) However…

  • It certainly is incompetent for Fox News to mix up Aretha and Patti Labelle, walking right into the “all black folks look the same to them” canard.
  • Since the news media/resistance collective has decreed that anything the President does of says is proof of a depraved soul, we had this yesterday: a White House press pool member for Buzzfeed told another reporter—she didn’t even tweet it!— that the President’s reaction to Franklin’s death was that he”Described her as a person he knew well and who worked for him.” This became more proof that President Trump is a racist: his immediate reaction to the death of a black woman was to think of her as a subordinate.

Will the sane and fair members of the public, which I assume is, if not a majority, a large group, ever turn on such people? A. The statement was hearsay, and not even a quote. B. Franklin did work for him, signing a contract to sing at at a Trump casino. C. What does “knew well” even mean in this context? He didn’t say that he knew her personally, or that they were pals, though who knows? I know her well too: she’s that famous soul singer I couldn’t stand listening to.

2. A spontaneous outburst of integrity...from the unlikely source of professional magician/loudmouth Penn Jillette. Jillette is an asshole, an assessment that I doubt he would dispute himself, but when the vocally-progressive entertainer (aren’t they all?) was asked in a recent Vulture interview to weigh in on Omarosa’s claims about the kind of language Donald Trump used behind closed doors, he responded,

“If Donald Trump had not become president, I would tell you all the stories. But the stakes are now high and I am an unreliable narrator. What I do, as much as anything, is I’m a storyteller. And storytellers are liars. So I can emotionally tell you things that happened racially, sexually, and that showed stupidity and lack of compassion when I was in the room with Donald Trump and I guarantee you that I will get details wrong. I would not feel comfortable talking about what I felt I saw in that room….

I will tell you things, but I will very conscientiously not give you quotations because I believe that would be morally wrong. I’m not trying to protect myself. This really is a moral thing.”

Good for Penn. He’s also a very creative and entertaining magician, as is his mute sidekick, Teller. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Dish-Faced Horse And Animal Breeding Ethics

A US stud farm has offered an Arabian Colt with an concave, or ‘dished’ profile, for sale. He looks like this:

The farm described the horse as a step towards ‘perfection’, but equine experts expressed alarm, warning that such an animal may find it difficult to breathe.

Equine expert Tim Greet told reporters that although Arabians were known for their ‘dished’ features, the new mutant colt “takes things to a ridiculous level.” Such a deformity, he opined, could be even worse for a horse than for dogs bred with pushed-in muzzles, like bulldogs…

…and pugs…

They do it to cats, too:


Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of the Day:

Is breeding animals to emphasize features that may constitute handicaps unethical?

I’m going to hold my fire, but suggest that any analysis consider…

the Ick Factor and the Awww! Factor.

…the fact that the animals don’t know there’s anything unusual about them

…the specific harm that makes the breeding unethical.

Go for it.


“Luck,” Causation, and the Complex Computation of Mixed Motivations

Was it good luck, or bad luck?

HBO has announced that it is cancelling “Luck,” its well-reviewed series about corruption in the sport of professional horse-racing. Why? Well, that’s an interesting question.

The immediate impetus for the decision was the death of a one of the horses used in the series. It was the third horse to die, so the announcement took the form of a sensitive and humane decision based on concerns for the animals. “While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future,” HBO’s statement said. “Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.”

I was initially impressed, but a couple of things about the move, which seemed uncharacteristically ethical by show business standards, bothered me. “Luck” was much-praised but low-rated, despite a cast headed by Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte and a production team headed by respected film director Michael Mann. Though it had been renewed for a second season, some felt that the renewal was dictated by a corporate decision not to embarrass its Hollywood royalty. Continue reading

Now THIS Is Professional Misconduct!


"Ed, you have to stop blaming did nothing wrong!"

Dr. Thomas Wilson is accused of breaching professional ethical standards by having sexual relations with a patient while the doctor was still a student in Oklahoma. Normally a student’s misconduct would not result in sanctions almost two years later, after graduation and certification, but, you see, Wilson is a veterinarian, and his patient at the time of their illicit relationship was a horse.

The good doctor, who now practices at an animal hospital in Pennsylvania, is charged in Oklahoma with a “crime against nature,” but the ethical aspects of what he did go far beyond that. It is a breach of the trust with a patient incapable of  informed consent.  It is an abuse of power. It is animal cruelty. It is really, really, icky.

Are there such things as registered animal-sex offenders? I certainly hope so. Dr. Wilson should not be allowed within 100 yards of a race track, a rodeo, a farm, the Central Park carriages, or the set of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels.” The idea that he will be able to just pay a fine, go to some therapy sessions, and then blithely return to his equine practice without having to tell Mr. Ed’s owner that be has a record of horse-rape is unthinkable. Please tell me, Pennsylvania, that some kind of law protects your horses against sexual predators in sheep’s clothing?

[Thanks, I think, to Drew Curtis’s Fark for the link]