Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

In October, I started taking a six month course to get certified as an emergency medical technician. The resolve to do this grew out of my experience on 9/11 when I felt quite helpless to do anything. Many of the people in the class are there for the same reason.

In lab sessions, we bandage and splint each other, take blood pressure and pulse and do "rapid trauma asessments". The EMT's who teach the course have, like every profession, a language of their own. For example, anyone you administer CPR to is a "dead person"-- a startling phrase but correct, as the patient by definition has no heartbeat and is not breathing. In the EMT's worldview, when you do CPR you are not saving someone from dying but literally bringing them back from the dead. If it doesn't work--and it often doesn't-- you didn't lose a patient; you failed to work a miracle. That is probably easier to live with.

The textbook makes the following memorable statements, among many others:

Rules to live by.

I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net. All my hopes for a better 2002 go out to all of us.

Jonathan Wallace

Merry Christmas to you, too
You are a bleeding heart leftist liberal who should be sent to colonize your own planet. Fucking Asshole. Fucking die a long & painful death!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Nice missive to receive Christmas week.

The top page of the Spectacle, at the very bottom, contains a warning that all flames will be published with attribution. And I do publish them all.

Why do I publish flames? For two reasons. First, I publish almost all the correspondence I receive, except for the very personal or the very incoherent. Secondly, I find that a small but gratifying percentage of the time I get a later email from the flamer asking me to remove his words from the site. This happens in some cases years later, when someone starts to wonder what kind of "footprint" he left on the Internet and uses Google to find out.

At the moment they launch messages like this one, the writers believe their barbs are evanescent, like an ice arrow that kills its victim then melts away. They are often startled later on, when they realize their rantings form part of the Internet's long term memory.

Military tribunals
Hi Jonathan --

Great Spectacle issue as usual.

A little comment on your excellent look at the constitutionality of military tribunals. The President's decree is not made pursuant to legislative war powers and embraces broad vague defintions and prerogatives: if there is "reason to believe", a person is involved in "international terrorism", he/she may undergo trials for ill-defined "offenses". That means it is still susceptible to constitutional attack or limitation.

More narrow portions of the order directed specifically against al-qaeda members are more clear cut and might survive a constitutional analysis, however, as you describe.

Matthew Hogan matthewhnj@aol.com

Dear Jonathan,

You take pains to outline the historical and legal precedents to what the Bush affrontary calls Military Councils, or more colloquially, "Tribunals." The story of the World War II German spies is instructive, though as you conclude not really relevant to the current situation.

Certainly the old "international laws of war" regarding plain-clothed combatants found behind enemy lines are as relevent to the present international situation of violence as is the ABM treaty to the Bush the younger administration: what fit past conflicts ill fits current ones, we hear. Hence, I would argue, in counter-valence to the stupidity of unilateralism that has a guaranteed half-life measured in decades at best, that America needs its friends and owes them the time of day. We also owe our enemies justice, at least.

Jonathan, you rightly fault the current American regime for rejecting the legitimacy of the international criminal court. The notion, rejected by nationalists like Jesse Helms, that American combatants could be subjected to the same international justice as that brought against Slobodan Milosevic, mystifies those who believe justice is impartial. That George W. Bush believes justice is partial for Americans is no comfort to those who really believe in justice. The Bush doctrine, inarticulate as its author, suggests that justice is what the powerful dictate.

Military tribunals, if used to try the terrorists, will be an affront to American justice, a reversion to barbarity, a surrender of democracy to thugs well dressed, and an admission that the American experiment with people run and community reviewed government has expired.

The worst that could happen to America is not the violence we have endured from abroad, but the low brow bullying we now endure from haters of diversity and despisers of liberty and belittlers of freedom who say they are boxing us in to keep us safe.

Ben Price BenGPrice@aol.com

Dear Jonathan:

I read what you wrote about the Bush's "tribunals," and I agree with almost all of what you say. I am in the middle of a very long and detailed article about this, and hope to get it published (waiting for my rejection letter from "Harper's"). Two points: the Quirin & Yamashita precedents, while upholding the authority of the President to convene tribunals and to exclude appeals, have been replaced by Congressional action. The UCMJ completely replaced the now defunct articles of war that the precedents rely on to support the SC decisions, and the UCMJ specificially corrected the abuses inherent in the Quirin & Yamashita tribunals, that is to say, the evidentiary and appeals problems. And where constitutionally sound Congressionally passed and presidentially signed legislation becomes law, that is superior to mere SC precedents. Additionally, Congress has passed many criminal laws in 18USC that have specicially placed these acts under the Federal district courts, including the latest: "war crimes." Unless this Congress acts to validate Bush's acts, I would argue (if it were me straightening out those USSC right wing frothers) that Congress' clear intent is that these acts be adjudicated under Federal criminal law, and not under military jurisdiction.

Mike McGlothlin mmcgloth@@yahoo.com

Sir: What a splendidly reasoned, researched, and written article this is. It brought tears to my eyes knowing that there are minds like yours writing on the side of what is decent in America.

The present climate is deeply troubling. Who will rescue America from our own crop of home-grown nazis?

Long life to you and yours.

James Nimmo violadamore2@yahoo.com

Self Censorship in Wartime

I just wanted to thank you for a brilliant essay. Nice to know there are a few other folks awake in this country.


Helen Highwater UnknownNews@bigfoot.com
Unknown News

I always enjoy Jonathan's essays, and this one is no exception. He properly points out the disturbing analogy that Attorney General Ashcroft seems to make (http://www.politechbot.com/p-02900.html) between criticism and treason. The craven broadcast media, as Jonathan says, buckling to government "please-don't-air-this" pressure is almost as disgraceful.

But a few points:

* Is it appropriate to use the powerful word "censorship" to describe what happened when the National Review dropped Ann Coulter? Coulter has other outlets that will publish her work; she is not muzzled. Like other news organizations with a certain perspective, the National Review has an implicit contract with their writers that says something like our-publication-has-a-distinct-point-of-view-and-we-don't-want-to-run- stuff-far-outside-of-it. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it's reasonable to assume that she understood this implicit agreement when she signed up. More to the point, she (I recall) took her initial grievance over not running the column public and slammed the editors, who then axed her. Using "censorship" to characterize the facts of this dispute weakens the term for when it's really needed -- to describe government action that puts people in prison cells.

* Of course it's disturbing when government officials tell Americans to self-censor. But it is also important to note, lest this vital fact be lost in the charges of "private censorship," that I can think of no court action the government has taken to prevent people from speaking or publishing information about the "war on terror." A quick review of (http://www.ncac.org/issues/freeex911.html) doesn't show anything. Obviously phone calls from White House aides can have a chilling effect, but then again the news organization or ISP can stand firm and call the government's bluff. (And yes, I'd say this lack of such cases is due in large part to the actions of civil libertarians like Jonathan.)

-Declan McCullagh declan@well.com

PS: Not all libertarians believe the "the public responsibilities of the press are a myth." It's entirely possible to reconcile that phrase with the idea that a newspaper is a for-profit business.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Declan McCullagh wrote:

PS: Not all libertarians believe the "the public responsibilities of the press are a myth." It's entirely possible to reconcile that phrase with the idea that a newspaper is a for-profit business.

I'm afraid the closest I can come is to recognize that a presscorp (or reporter!) has only its reputation to sell; and when bias is exposed that is reduced. But no 'public' anything; a newspaper (like a web server) does not need a 'public' license to use a 'public' resource like the EM spectrum or the cable infrastructure.

Just my 2 picas.

David Honig honig@sprynet.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

There has been far more concern about opponents of the war being intimidated than supporters. Yet the nearest thing to real censorship happened to Ann Coulter, for calling for holy war against Muslims. Meanwhile college professors loudly complain that the occupants of the trade towers had it coming to them for imperialism, colonialism, and oppression, and keep their jobs, and a comic strip spits on the flag, and is not dropped.

What happened to Ann Coulter is not censorship, but it is lot closer to censorship than the fact that the tenured supporters of terror find themselves mentioned as tenured supporters of terror.

James A. Donald jamesd@echeque.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

My employees have the right to their own opinions on the war and on any other subject, yet, I reserve the right to fire them if they express their opinions to my customers in such a way that I judge that they are alienating my customers and losing business.

Bill Mahr has every legal right to speak the things that he did. I happen to agree with him factually, however , his employers have every right to fire him if they feel that his continued employment is going to cost them business.

Mahr's freedom of speech is not being abridged but there is a chance that his paycheck might be.

William Kinney wkinney@monmouth.com

Dear Jonathan:

Yet another good column in the series. I think you've found your stride.

James S. Tyre jstyre@jstyre.com


I am a libertarian, probably like the ones you described in your post.

I am proud to say that I get most of my news from the Net and word of mouth. I hardly watch the television news. I do buy a Sunday newspaper, but that is about it.

I think we should all contribute to this trend. Boycott Dan, Peter, and Tom. Let's put them out of work.

Christopher Baker chris@chrisbaker.net

Dear Jon,

One you missed, Jon, was the live interview on CNN with the father of the CIA agent killed by the Taliban in that Afghan prison uprising. Dad blamed the media for his son's death by widely and loudly broadcasting that an American CIA agent was in the prison while the uprising was in progress. Something like "If my son was alive before that broadcast, his fate was surely sealed after that."

Not a SINGLE mention of the interview was ever made after that. By ANY media that I read, watch or listen to. The one institution in the US that cannot stand criticism is media itself.

Gösta H. Lovgren gosta@SwedesDock.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Not only are your articles brilliant and logically presented, your titles are even better. The subject article confirms to me why I regurarly read and will continue to read what you write.


John L. Ferri jlferri@epix.net

Thanks to James Bartlett for his thoughts on the word "homeland". That word has stuck in my craw from the moment I heard it. Each time I heard it my mind's eye saw Apartheid, and the institution of the tribal "homelands" in South Africa, the Bantustans. Blacks were sent to and abandoned in their tribal homelands which were the most severely under-developed regions of that country. Yes, the term speaks of xenophia and jingoism, racism and race war. I'm afraid we're in for some pretty rough times. (I'm a subscriber of Ethical Spectacle from my home email.

Best wishes, Leah Margulies margleah@aol.com


I haven't had time to read this month's issue completely yet, but I have enjoyed James A. Bartlett's piece on homelands. I've used the word homeland before, but only to refer to the sliver of western Pennsylvania where I grew up. I can't even say the whole state is my homeland; I feel more at home in, say, Cleveland than I do in Philadelphia. Homeland is, for me, very specific associations, and yes, the whole of the United States is simply not homogenous to be called that. Good selection.

Kurt Kaletka kurtka69@yahoo.com

Everything Else
Dear sir,

Thank you for your incredibly enlightening pieces on your thoughts and feelings in your Year Zero pieces. I'd like to add some more thoughts that I myself have had recently about similar things myself.

I consider myself your average informed citizen. Okay job, okay home life generally okay everything and informed about the same as your average citizen in the UK. But who are the policy makers for my country? I mean I know I elected the politicians in but did I elect their advisors? The people whoDo I trust them? Do I even know their names or how to even contact them? Did I elect them suggest to them the courses of action to take? What are they saying that I want in my name? Who are these nameless people? Why am I not better informed in this information age? Just what is it that my government is doing for me in my name, for my safety and security? Would I even agree to it? I remember an old quote that I've heard somewhere "politics is the art of the possible". What is possibly being done for me and would I agree to it? Another thing I'm not sure about: are our representatives supposed to do what they think -we- want or are they supposed to do what they think is right for us?

These are the questions that I started asking myself and I looked for the answers. Only I didn't even know where to start. I didn't seem to get any answers but I did get even more questions though and a deepening sense of apprehension. I started to question the ethics of choosing to align ourselves in a "Coalition against terrorism" with Indonesia a country which has used terrorism itself and for which arms embargoes were put in place are they still in place? Or has our morality been quietly forgotten in favour of convenience? How could we ally ourselves with the perpetrator of crimes that happened in East Timor so readily? What else is being done and said for my "security and safety"?

Why do we see politics in this day and age as a dirty business? What's happened to us, our sense of ethics and morality? Why would we put people we wouldn't trust in our homes in positions of power to change and transform our lives irrevocably instead? I'm confused by the sheer magnitude of such a horrible and mute acceptance of the way things are and end up questioning my own ethics. Left Wondering if I am in some way also responsible for the deeds done in my own name but without my own knowledge but still accountable to me. All because I did not speak up or even try to find out.

The only question left to me now is where to start?

I'm very worried by the way everything seems to be going and it's very disturbing for me to say the least. I'm sorry if I seemed to ramble and prattle on.

Yours sincerely

Tim Lau hiakuryu@yahoo.com

About you said there is no God, UNTRUE. God said the Jews would return to Isreal, and lately Israel was reformed as a country and these are signs of the end days.

Nikolai Arendovich

Dear Sir,

I know where the term "Million Dollar Movie" came from.

It was about 1955, I was about 12 or 13, and my family lived in one of NYC's bedroom communities in Connecticut. For some reason I can remember with utter clarity how one day my mother spotted an article in the newspaper she thought was worthy to be read aloud to the family.

The article reported that one of the NYC TV stations - and I think it was WOR - had announced a deal in which it paid $1 million for the rights to show a certain package of movies, which it would do under the programming title "Million Dollar Movie."

I have long since left the New York area, but I think the station is still running "Million Dollar Movie" movies, though with inflation and the huge increase in the cost of movie production it is happy to leave to the viewer's imagination just what the term "million dollar" might refer to.

David E. Williams malplaka@borg.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Being a U.S. citizen is wonderful in that with all of the abuses of government, white collar crime and folks with the morals of the criminally insane,

we can still use our best judgement, bestowed on us before the age of 3-4, and make this a liveable place

also, we can take it day to day and have some fun and enjoy the sun

bottom line, and i am not saying this to you, is that it's still one of the best places to live in hte world

and although we may try to change it for the better, if someone doesn't like it here, get the hell out and seek your utopia alsewhere

i enjoyed your article, calling Jefferson's list a wish list and not a universal given

thanks, robert beckvall BeckvallR@cs.com

Dear Mr. Wallace,

I just read your Auschwitz Alphabet, and found it very interesting and informative. I have studied about Auschwitz since 1967. I have been there five times, and cry every time. On your list, I first clicked on "God", and was sad to see that the content was very short, and atheistic. I know that many victims like Elie Wiesel lost their faith in God during the Holacaust, but there were many, including non-Jews, who retained their faith in God. A place like Auschwitz brings out the best and worst in mankind, and God always wins out in the end, no matter what evil people do. A very good website to look at is www.benisrael.org. Be sure to read the article, "The Theology of the Holocaust". I wish you and your family all the best, and I'll be praying for you.

Sincerely, Kip Gonzales kip1370@aol.com