Ethics Quiz: Race-Based Vaccines

It’s hard to believe that officials in Hamilton, Ontario, one of Canada largest cities, didn’t hear the faint clanging of ethics alarms when they came up with this policy.

The CBC reported that public health officials pressured the agency to “prioritize racialized, disabled and low-income residents.” I think “racialized” is a cool euphemism, don’t you? How does one get “racialized”?

75% of Hamilton’s population is white, but non-white communities have accounted for nearly half of all pandemic cases in the city.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is Hamilton’s policy ethical?

I’m amazed no city has tried this in the U.S.

Don’t Feel Too Bad, Americans: Ethics Alarms Aren’t Ringing In Canada, North Korea Or Japan, Either

It’s an International Ethics Dunce parade!


1. Ontario, Canada

The Windsor-Essex County Humane Society in Ontario thought it would be really clever to use the Donald Trump phrase that many believe disqualify him to be President in an ad to adopt kitty-cats. It featured a photo of Trump and said, “You don’t have to be a star to grab a pussy … cat.”

Amazing. Not one person in the chain of custody of this—I would say obviously, but when so many people miss it, I guess it’s not—offensive ad had an ethics alarm sound.  Nobody had the sense, prudence or guts to say,

“Uh, guys? Hello? You do realize that this is using a phrase describing sexual assault while alluding to the one who used it to describe sexual assault? You do realize that “pussy” alluding to female genitalia is vulgar and uncivil, right? No? Here, let me explain it to you…or hwo about this: there is no way this won’t spark criticism. Is that what you want?”

Sure enough,  the ad promoting cat adoptions this week for $50, was taken down shortly after it appeared this week.

The society offered a pathetic apology. Melanie Coulter, executive director of the humane society, “explained” it was an attempt to make light of the U.S election campaign, though it also “made light” of sexual assault, contemptuous attitudes toward women,  and obscene rhetoric.

“We are obviously sorry if people are offended by the ad — that wasn’t our attempt in the least,” Coulter said. “Our attempt was to find homes for cats that need them.” She also added that the shelter took in more than a hundred cats in the last week.

For the record, the rationalizations here are…

3. Consequentialism, or  “It Worked Out for the Best”

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”

It also suggests that I need to add “We meant well” to the list as a sub-rationalization to #13.



2. Kuroishi, Japan

Continue reading

Dear Discovery Channel: Fire Paul Lewis, Or You Will Regret It. Trust Me On This.

The Discovery Channel’s president, Paul Lewis, approved a promotional campaign for the rapidly rotting cable channel’s “Shark Week” that included a fake video, shown above,  intended to “go viral” and convince people that there are sharks in Lake Ontario. After the video prompted the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources  to warn swimmers and anxiety over the shark sighting was expressed in social media, the channel’s ad agency admitted that it was hoax. Some people still don’t believe it’s a hoax, however, because they’ve seen “Jaws.” After all, claiming a real sighting is a hoax to save the tourist season is just the sort of thing Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn would do, right?

Or that equally slimy Paul Lewis would do. Here is his despicable, ethics-free “apology”:

“We didn’t want it to be something that would negatively impact people’s summer…It’s unfortunate that some people took what we did so serious. If we upset anybody, of course I apologize for that. It would be totally counterproductive for us to go out there and upset and disturb our audience.”

First of all, how does someone become president of a communications company who uses “serious” like that? Continue reading

Accommodating Minority Religious Requirements vs Human Rights: Ethicist Chris MacDonald Get The Balance Right

garyclementEthics Alarms is an unabashedly U.S.-centric ethics blog, for both practical and philosophical reasons, but mostly practical: I can’t cover all the worthy ethical issues that arise in this country, much less cover the world. Obviously useful ethics problems arise outside U.S. borders, and here was one I missed until now.

Paul Grayson, a professor at Toronto’s York University, was confronted with a male student’s request for a religious accommodation in a class assignment so that he would not be required to interact with female students in his class. The professor denied the request because, he wrote, “it infringed upon women’s right to be treated with respect and as equals.” The student accepted his decision and completed the assignment, interacting with female students as the assignment required. That did not end the tale, however. The dean of York University’s faculty of arts told Grayson that the student’s request would not have a “substantial impact” on the rest of the class, and should have been accommodated. That, in turn, prompted a national debate in  media, religious and educational forums. Some, citing Canada’s commitment to “pluralism,” felt that the student’s religious beliefs should have trumped the culture’s commitment to gender equality and non-discrimination. Continue reading

Dog Owner Ethics: The Suicide and the Pitcher

Does one of these nice creatures not belong in this picture? Ontario says yes. The correct answer is  no.

Does one of these nice creatures not belong in this picture? Ontario says yes. The correct answer is no.

Our life-changing events often become crises for our canine companions. In the news today: ethical  and unethical responses in such circumstances, by two individuals in the public eye.

The Unethical

Mindy McReady, the troubled country music star, committed suicide Sunday on the front porch of the home she shared with her boyfriend, who had recently committed suicide there as well. She apparently killed the couple’s dog before taking her own life. McReady’s friends insist that she didn’t kill the dog out of malice, but because she didn’t want to leave the dog alone. Granted, McReady deserves consideration and compassion, since her actions that day were not those dictated by a healthy or fully functioning mind. Still, I read of dog owners doing this a lot, and I’ve known a few—not committing suicide, but killing their dogs when they knew they wouldn’t be able to keep them any more, on the theory that the dog would be happier dead than with new owners. Continue reading

Dwarf Tossing Is Back. So What?

The traditional "throwing out the first dwarf" ceremony....

Dwarf tossing, a bar sport or spectacle or satire or something, was briefly in the news early last decade. Helmeted and padded little people were used as discuses or bowling balls by large, burly, often intoxicated men. It was weird; it could arguably be funny. Advocates for the unusually small got the activity banned in Florida and New York, and in Canada, while bills to ban it failed, public opinion opposing the games pretty much made dwarf tossing obsolete, like making fun of Paris Hilton.

Now comes the news that a strip joint in Ontario is reviving the sport, and  has scheduled a competition. Critics are horrified and outraged, because, well, they are horrified and outraged. Dwarf tossing, they say, is unethical.

Why? Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Offensive Team Name

The London, Ontario independent baseball team has decided to rename itself “The London Rippers.”

Jack's last victim: a logo, perhaps?

The city’s mayor has expressed concerns about the name, and good for him. This isn’t a manufactured political correctness complaint, based on the dubious logic that it demeans a group to honor it with an athletic team name. This is the opposite: a team name that honors a serial killer who disemboweled poor women in the slums of London in 1888. Misogyny isn’t cute or funny, and anyone who thinks that making Jack the Ripper a team symbol is anything but one more outrage perpetrated against his pathetic victims but gets indignant over the Atlanta Braves has his head on upside-down and backwards.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that an association of serial killers will protest that the name “London Rippers” dehumanizes them and puts them in the same category with lions, tigers and bears. In such an eventuality, I would side with the associations of lions, tigers and bears protesting that the name denigrates them. Sportswriting lawyer Craig Calcaterra, a sharp baseball mind whose NBC column alerted me to this story, somehow misses the point by a mile, writing:

“…Jack the Ripper did his work, like, 130 years ago. Murder is murder and it’s always awful, but at what point has enough time passed to where this kind of thing isn’t a problem?  And yes, I note the mayor’s nod to ending violence against women, but does a reference to a 19th century British serial killer who is more often fictionalized today than dealt with in his brutal reality really undermine those laudable aims?
I’m not saying it’s 100% fabulous. But really, kids were singing about Lizzie Borden taking an axe and giving her mother 40 whacks within a few years of that going down. Is it really too soon to be able to use a  long-dead historical figure as a mascot? There are a bunch teams called “crusaders” and the crusades were brutal. We still have Chief Wahoo around, and you can make an argument that the thinking behind that mascot (i.e. Indians are somehow less-than-human) represented way more death and destruction than anything Jack the Ripper did.”

Ugh. How many rationalizations are in this passage? Playground chants about Lizzie Borden (or the Black Plague, which is what “Ring around the rosey” is about) are not remotely comparable to naming a community’s baseball team after a serial killer. Playground refrains don’t become part of a community’s identity, and they don’t in any way bestow prestige on the dark subjects of their rhymes. Teams named after crusaders, warriors, braves and pirates don’t aspire to honor the deaths caused by these groups, any more than teams are named the Lions or Tigers because they have mauled people, or the Cardinals and Orioles are so named because the birds poop on our heads. There one reason, and only one, Jack the Ripper is famous. He slit the throats of desperate prostitutes and dissected them,: in the case of Mary Kelly, he minced his victim, leaving her internal organs on her night table. The London Ripper sent body parts of one victim to police, and taunted them. He didn’t possess a single admirable quality to justify a connection to a sports team, unless there are professional misogyny, mayhem or maniac leagues somewhere.

And Craig’s argument that is an expiration date on the offensiveness of trivializing tragedy is the worst of all. Seriously, Craig? So Penn State can call its wrestling team “the Molesters” in 100 years or so? What he’s really endorsing is ignorance. Kids who chant about the bubonic plague don’t realize it, and neither do their parents. That a lot of people don’t know the truth behind all the fictional Jack the Ripper tales is an argument for enlightening them, not pretending that killing prostitutes is just fun and games.

The mayor of London is right, Craig  is wrong, and if there ever was an inappropriate and harmful  team name, the London Rippers is it.