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

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The Anti-Smoking Zealots Go To A Show

…and it really looks cool in the stage lights!

Once again I am embroiled in a battle with bullies, in this case bullies whose motivation I support, but whose application, attitudes and methods I both oppose and despise. The bullies are the anti-smoking zealots. I am very happy with the culture’s success in discouraging smoking, and most of the government’s efforts to make smoking expensive and difficult, though I would support the U.S. being straightforward and just banning tobacco products. The bullies, however, buy tickets to the theater company that employs me as its artistic director, and that theater produces only written or about the 20th Century, especially the middle of it, when people smoked a lot. This often requires some smoking on stage, at the discretion of the director and the requirements of the plot. Whenever this happens, I catch hell. And I give it right back. Continue reading

The FDA’s Disgust Offensive: Manipulative and Wrong

Why stop at this?

I’ve never smoked.  My wife is a smoker and I am worried about her; I also think the tobacco industry is more or less despicable. Nevertheless, I find the new disgust-initiative by the FDA on cigarette package labeling  troubling. If it’s ethical, it only passes muster in a utilitarian balancing formula, and even then I think it opens the door to government abuse.

Thanks to a 2009 law, cigarette makers must add large, graphic warning labels depicting diseased lungs, a man exhaling smoke through a hole in his neck, a baby near a cloud of smoke, a dead body, a man wearing a black t-shirt with “I Quit” written across the chest and three other ugly images to packaging and advertising in the U.S. by October 2012. These will be accompanied by warning labels with messages like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer.” In full, stomach-turning color, the new labels must occupy the top half of the front and back of  cigarette packs, and 20% of any cigarette ad’s space. The labels must also include the number of a national quit line and the current warning labels.

All this, yet the government allows the stuff to be sold. I don’t get it, frankly. If cigarettes are so bad that the FDA feels it has to use tactics this extreme, then it should have the courage to just ban them, like they ban other harmful substances. Continue reading