Category Archives: Humor and Satire

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


Filed under Animals, Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

Coulrophobia Ethics: The Irresponsible Clown Dad

There has been an outbreak of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) for some reason, heightened by pranksters and web satirists taking advantage of one of our periodic societal freakouts as Halloween approaches:

  • Hundreds of students at Penn State set out to hunt clowns this week after rumors that clowns were loose on campus, chanting”Fuck the clowns!”
  • A dorm was evacuated at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, after the “Clown Watch” Twitter feed reported a sighting of a scary clown with a rifle. It was a hoax. 
  • In Portland, Oregon, police arrested David Dahlman, 55, for wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves and threatening middle schoolers. This clown charged an assistant principal who intervened.
  • A 13-year-old girl was arrested in Hampton, Virginia., for trying to get a person posing as a clown online to kill one of her teachers. 
  • A 14-year-old boy in Houston was charged with making terrorist threats toward his school using an online clown image.
  • Also this week, several hundred University of Connecticut students  gathered in a cemetery near midnight, ready to do battle with the evil clowns they had heard were hiding among the headstones. Police had to respond, and were not amused.
  • Police in  Lancaster, California warned that men wearing “ugly-looking clown masks” were using kitchen knives to frighten people and then videotaping their reactions.
  • Menacing clowns sightings were also reported in Modesto,  prompting police there to issue a warning to residents saying, “If you see anything or anyone suspicious, including individuals dressed as clowns, to avoid contact and report the circumstances to us immediately.”

Fear of clowns has been a cultural joke for decades. “Seinfeld” had whole storylines based on Kramer’s coulrophobia.Why is this happening now? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else, though CNN came up with five equally unsatisfying theories. Why? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why do fools fall in love? Why isn’t Hillary ahead by 50 points?

As long as the fad and its manifestations are in good fun and don’t endanger anyone, there’s nothing to be concerned about, though Stephen King felt compelled to try to calm the madness:

king-tweet(This is rich coming from King, who created the creepiest clown in literature as the villain of his novel “It.”)

Unfortunately, there are always those whose ethics alarms don’t ring. In Auburn, Massachusetts,  a father who followed his child’s school bus from the bus stop, wearing a scary clown mask. The middle school students in the bus were reportedly terrified. He was charged with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Humor and Satire, Law & Law Enforcement

“The Magnificent Seven” Ethics (Spoiler Warning!)

I have noted more than once what an excellent ethics movie the original 1960 Western classic “The Magnificent Seven” is. Occasional  Ethics Alarms contributor and apparently retired ethics blogger Bob Stone made an excellent case for what he calls his favorite ethics movie here, but the screenplay makes its own case with exchanges like this one:

Harry (Brad Dexter): “There comes a time to turn mother’s picture to the wall and get out. The village will be no worse off than it was before we came.”

Chris (Yul Brenner): “You forget one thing — we took a contract.”

Vin (Steve McQueen): “It’s not the kind any court would enforce.”

Chris: “That’s just the kind you’ve got to keep.”

or the very first scene, where gunslinger Chris volunteers to drive a horse-drawn hearse to Boot Hill where a group of armed bigots are threatening to shoot anyone who tries to bury a recently deceased Indian, who lived in the town, in the town’s cemetery along with “decent white folks.”  Steve McQueen (Vin) goes along as Chris’s wing-man, and the first two of the seven team up for an act of pure altruism.

The remake of the film opened over the weekend, and in part because I’m doing a program for the Smithsonian about the lore surrounding the movie, I saw it. And took notes.

It’s not bad. I enjoyed it. It is yet another example of how Hollywood no longer trusts the Western genre or its traditional trappings: the heroes in this and the heroes in most modern Westerns are now portrayed as super-heroes, ridiculously fast on the draw, absurdly accurate with every shot, and able to ride like circus performers. At a certain point, this silliness leads to a damaging loss of suspension of disbelief. The intrusion of gratuitous diversity was also annoying: the end features three heroes riding into the sunset, and they consist of an African-American, a Native American, and a Mexican. How they missed including a handicapped gay woman is mystifying, and somebody should organize a protest. Well, at least all the whites and the Asian guy were killed. That’s something. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Humor and Satire, Leadership, Popular Culture

Tales Of The Insidious Double Standard: SNL’s New Latina’s Tweets

You better be hilarious, kid...

You better be hilarious, kid…

 Saturday Night Live recently announced that it was hiring its first Latina cast member, as the show has finally capitulated to placing diversity over humor as a priority. Mexican-American comedian Melissa Villaseñor, 28,  the designated quota-filler, barely had time to take a victory lap before that mean internet thingy tracked down some embarrassing baggage, especially for a performer recruited to buff SNL’s progressive credentials. Aura Bogado, a writer for Grist,  tweeted that Villaseñor had deleted more than 2,000 tweets from her archives over the course of a week.

Why, you ask? Well, because there were tweets like this…


aaaand THIS…

Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Professions, Race, Rights, Social Media, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump

Ethics And The New TV Season, Part 1: “The Good Place”

There are an unusual number of shows this season that should be full of fascinating ethical dilemmas. There is even sitcom, “The Good Place,” with a main character who is an ethicist. He’s a dead ethics, but that’s something. Let’s start with that show as I plan on reviewing the ethics-related TV shows in future posts.

The first episode of  the NBC comedy  began with selfish, habitually unethical  Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) waking up in the afterlife called “the Good Place, I assume to avoid religious controversy. Michael (Ted Danson) welcomes her, and explains that he designed this particular Good Place neighborhood that she will reside in for eternity. As many of us were taught, our lives on Earth are being monitored by higher beings, literally and figuratively. In this show’s cosmology, they calculate our ethical worth using a point system.  Those with the highest positive point totals make it to the Good Place.

The problem is that there has been a glitch: Eleanor was erroneously awarded the point score of a capital punishment-fighting lawyer (naturally the Good Place regards all progressive and liberal positions as “good;” I assume that all conservatives and Republicans are in the Bad Place) when she really was a salesperson for an evil drug company. The situation in this sitcom is whether Eleanor can shape up and justify her points before she is found out and ends up playing strip poker in Hell with Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley and Phyllis Schlafly.* Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture

From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work” Files: The 9-11 Mattress Sale Ad

How many people were involved with this ad for Miracle Mattress?? How did it get on the air without someone with a brain cell twitching pointing out that it was so offensive that it would spark significant, indeed company-threatening backlash on social media? The company owner has apologized abjectly, but this is a serious management botch. Unless he is lying in his apology and didn’t know about the ad or see it before it was launched, he has hired a bunch of incompetent who are given far too much power.

The woman who starred in the commercial is the San Antonio store’s manager. She, at very least, has proven herself to be an incompetent fool. It might help business recover if in addition to her being fired, her head was placed on a pike outside the store…but that would be wrong.

On the bright side, maybe Colin Kaepernick  will buy a mattress there.


Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising

Coughing Fit Ethics

From The Daily Caller:

“Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton struggled at an Ohio event Monday with a nearly two minute-long coughing fit.”

From The Washington Post website:

“Clinton jokes about Trump allergy during rally”

As of the time I’m writing this, the New York Times mentions nothing about Clinton’s coughing fit, either on its website, or in its hard copy edition. Not does the Post, which I just had delivered to me despite having cancelled our subscription weeks ago, mention the coughing. None of the major networks covered her coughing fit yesterday.

What’s going on here?

Good question, and not just from the usual ethics analysis perspective, which often starts with this query. What is going on with Hillary?

1. I have no idea. I do know that when I have two-minute coughing fits, it means that I’m sick. It doesn’t mean I’m dying, but if the cough becomes chronic, I see a doctor. Hillary Clinton has been having coughing episodes during speeches and televised appearances for quite some time, though none this severe. However, a Presidential candidate having a coughing fit while speaking is the news item, not the joke she makes to recover. (By the way, that was quick thinking by Hillary, and I admire the quip…unless she had it pre-planned in case she had a coughing fit.).  She is in her late sixties. There are some doubts about her health. A presidential campaign is grueling for anyone; I’m amazed it hasn’t incapacitated a candidate yet. The fact that the conservative, Hillary-hating news media is all over this story is expected, but that doesn’t mean their attention isn’t valid and responsible journalism. The news media has an ethical obligation to investigate and let the public know whether or not a candidate for President is fit, temporarily under the weather, or suffering from some more serious malady that might affect his or her ability to do the job.

2. The initial reaction of most of the mainstream media was to shrug off this story, bury it, or ignore it, while the conservative news media was almost gleefully running with it, especially Drudge, who has been chronicling Hillary’s chronic cough for a long time. MSNBC even cut from its live feed away mid-fit, which is inexcusable, but exactly the kind of reflex Clinton-protecting we are seeing more and more frequently. This is another smoking gun example of the unprofessional and dangerous partisan bias in the media, as well as the reason why  rational Americans should be grateful that there are right-slanting news sources to prevent journalists and liberal politicians collaborating in cover-ups.

3. The comics and celebrities, as well as liberal pundits, are going to look very bad if their mockery of those asking legitimate questions about Clinton ends up being rebutted by facts. They already look bad. Some have equated concerns about Clinton’s health with the Obama birth certificate controversy, coining the term “healthers,” to set up legitimate inquiries for condemnation as bias or derangement. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni submitted a satirical column about suspicions that Hillary has “an 11th toe,” writing…

“I don’t have the medical records. She refuses to release them. But just try to come up with some other explanation for why she’s so infrequently photographed in sandals or flip-flops; why she seldom appears barefoot in public; why, during debates, she keeps her legs, especially the lower halves, tucked carefully behind the lectern…She’s covering something up, and it’s that freakish, disqualifying digit.”

On CBS “Late Night, ” host Stephen Colbert said he was shocked to learn that he has started menopause, using the same method of medical research Clinton critics are basing questions about her health upon: searching the web.

The Clinton health issue on the liberal side is entering Jumbo territory: “Coughing fits? What coughing fits?”

4. The mainstream media’s double standard could not be more glaring. Journalists obsessed over John McCain’s age and his melanoma removal during the 2008 campaign, as they celebrated Obama’s youth and energy. The incidents and circumstantial evidence relating to Hillary Clinton’s health  and suggesting that there may be a problem have reached the point where the question demands a full and aggressive media inquiry. Her serious fall and concussion are well documented. She appears unsteady in many photographs. She uses steps to get into her car. She appears to be avoiding live interviews and press conferences. She used her concussion as an explanation for why she couldn’t remember State protocols for her e-mails. She has coughing fits. It could all add up to nothing, and it could be something. The array raises legitimate doubts, and since we are talking about the Clintons, there is no reason to believe the Hillary’s camp’s reassurances. We know she lies, and that her staff lies for her. The public has a right to know what, if anything, is going on with her health.

5. The conservative website WND has mostly excellent coverage of the coughing fit (and apparently a second Clinton suffered talking to reporters on her plane). It also has statements from several physicians who argue that it is completely legitimate for doctors to raise questions about Clinton’s health. Said one of them, Dr. Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons:

“I’m not making a diagnosis. I can look at the video. You can look .For a or a medical professional to simply ignore the evidence would be completely reckless…Meeting someone with these symptoms personally would require a “How are you?” These are not ridiculous questions.”

[UPDATE: I forgot to note, as I intended, that one of the ways the WND story is NOT excellent is that it perpetuates the current false accusation that CNN’s Dr. Drew Pinsky had his show cancelled because he questioned Hillary’s health in a radio interview. The game is classic post hoc ergo propter hoc nonsense: his show’s cancellation was announced after his statement, hence it must have been cancelled because of his statement. Dr. Drew has debunked this himself, though he confirmed that the blowback from CNN after his statement was severe.]

6. Of course they aren’t. But just as some journalists have suggested that the perceived special danger posed by Donald Trump justifies the psychiatric profession diagnosing his supposed mental instability from afar, that same perceived danger seems to be causing journalists to rationalize ignoring troubling health symptoms from his opposition. The reasoning clinician Hal Brown used in his post on the Daily Kos to argue for professionals issuing  opinions regarding Trump’s narcissism applies with even more force to Hillary’s physical symptoms.

7. I don’t know why the anti-Trump news media isn’t eagerly covering Clinton’s health problems. Tim Kaine, bland and wishy-washy as he is, wasn’t a terrible governor of Virginia (where I live). He’s much more trustworthy and honest than Hillary–heck, virtually anyone in public life is. He’d be an easy choice over Trump; I’d even feel better about voting for Hillary knowing that it was likely that she wouldn’t finish her term. Hillary can lose to Trump, who, whatever else one might think about him, always shows energy and appears to be younger than he is, like Ronald Reagan. Watch what happens in the polls when Clinton has a two-minute coughing fit during a debate, and defaults to the same line about being allergic to Trump.

8. Earlier, I wrote about how the bias on both sides of the news media ideological divide made it impossible for someone seeking the truth to know who to believe regarding Hillary Clinton’s health. Well, now there is something we can believe: our eyes.


Sources: WMD, The Gateway Pundit, BizPac Review, NBC News, ABC 


Filed under Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Jumbo, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump