Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

I lost some mail this month. If you wrote me email and don't see it here, please resend.

Recently I have reverted to reading my mail using Pine on a telnet account. This is very primitive but effective: its blindingly fast and the best way to deal with the increasing amount of spam and virus mail I get.

My email address has been out there on the web for seven or eight years now and has obviously been gathered by numerous spiders which have added me to a variety of spam databases. I am also in the address books of hundreds of people I don't personally know but who have corresponded with me at some point about the Spectacle. Every day, I get twenty or thirty lowest-common-denominator messages of the "increase your penis size" variety, plus five or more virus-bearing messages.

Using Pine meant that I was storing a large amount of mail on my ISP's server, and one day I found I was locked out of my account. When I called Customer Service, I was told that the company, Bway.net, had a new policy of locking you out if your stored email exceeded a certain size. I said I thought this was a terrible approach because the company had not informed me of the existence of the policy, nor had I been told that my account was about to be shut.

Bway allowed me back in on the promise that I would prune my email immediately. I had four or five hundred messages waiting (including about 200 which had come in in the two days I was unable to access my mail). Instead of using Pine, I fired up my long-unused Outlook Express to download all the mail for later review. I had that horrified sense of having committed an irrevocably stupid action when a dialog box informed me that an attachment to an email was being downloaded without my having clicked on it (I don't ever open attachments from people I don't know, especially when the mail is titled "My hamster" or "a special excite game").

Apparently I am running an old, unpatched copy of Outlook which can be exploited by viruses in this way. The words "You are my new best friend" appeared on my screen and jiggled, then vanished. Research showed that I had been infected by a version of the W32 virus which came out of India and attempts to crash the Pakistan government web site by hitting it once per second from every infected computer.

I have McAfee installed, and it completely failed to fend off the download. When I now clicked on the McAfee icon, nothing happened. The company's site confirmed that this virus disables the anti-virus software. I found a list of commands for deleting the virus manually--which failed to work, as the virus re-installed itself from somewhere every time I rebooted the computer. I have downloaded, but not yet used, some software that promises to kill it and give me my laptop back.

In the meantime I moved back to an older computer. A week of email that should have been here is not lost but inaccessible on the other machine until I clear the virus. Doing the letters column this morning, I lost the most recent week of mail irrevocably by another stupid action. Trying to keep my mailbox slender to avoid another run-in with Bway, I deleted every message from the server after pasting it into Notepad. A momentary brown-out in my house turned my computer off and I lost about half-an-hour's worth of unsaved work.

Here's a change in policy for the Letters column. In the past, I published your email address unless you asked me not to. Henceforth, I won't publish it unless you ask me to, as many of you have written expressing concern about spam spiders finding you here. I will continue publishing the email addresses of flamers, however.

I thrive on your email and am very frustrated to have lost some intelligent, well-written messages this month. I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will also respect that. Starting this month (January 2003), I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here.

Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with your name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry.

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you very much for spectacle.org! Google keeps directing me towards unexplored areas of your site.

First, I found your series about an ethic based on the Prisoner's Dilemma to be fascinating. I read about the Prisoner's Dilemma in Douglas Hofstadter's book _Godel, Escher, Bach_ in my youth, and felt profoundly affected by the implications of a rational basis for an ethic of non-violence.

Now my project is to bring a Public Access Television facility to the City of Binghamton, NY. My research takes me into many areas: communications law, CATV history, and censorship.

I have discovered your analysis of Miller v. California, and I quite agree with it. I have discovered several paradoxes involved with obscenity law, and I've written an essay on this, on the myth of obscenity. I would appreciate your critical comments:


Bill Huston

Hello, Mr. Wallace,

I just wanted to let you know that your Teaching HTML to Kids article was great. I'm a computer teacher at a Catholic school in Lowell, MA, and I am going to use the idea of giving the kids images and let them make up a story about them. I'm actually going to go a step further and integrate all the stories into one interactive adventure story. I'm giving the students images of things, each different for each student, then giving them the purpose, filenames of other student's pages, etc, so that it ends up being one big ineractive story that I will put on the web.

Also, I noticed that you accepted writing contributions, and I'd like to offer some writing. I'm currently working as a scriptwriter on a non-profit public-access television show about media literacy and other issues called "formattv". (www.formattv.com).

I have been especially interested recently in Libertarianism, studying simply out of my own curiousity and need for personal enrichment. I have looked at this philosophy from many sides, and I have written many article-long posts in several forums about the subject. I would love to write about it, and give sevaral points of view, along with my oppinion (I consider myself to be a left-libertarian, what is known to some as "libertarian socialist" and to others as "anarchist" or "anarcho-communist"), although I am familiar with many arguments for and against anarcho-capitalism (Which the American Libertarian Party seams to be), anarcho-syndacalism, anarcho-primitivism, and so on.

Joshua Albert

(Sent in response to my monthly email notifying readers that the new issue of the Spectacle is online).

It's amazing the amount of propaganda gets printed these days, yes?

Whenever I read of nepotism in the Democratic party, I look to the Bush family, and how the Bush money got Dubya out of any possibility of serving in Vietnam and how it again had to pay off folks to prevent Dubya from being the deserter he clearly was -- and what all veterans organziations know him to be, as money cannot buy off this shame -- when he left his post for more than one year without military permission.

I suppose Republican nepotism is all right, but Democratic nepotism is somehow wrong?

Please don't send any more political, or religious, propaganda to my e-mail again. It was unsolicited and unwelcome.

Ron Pulliam

I don't intentionally send any unsolicited email. My lists are opt-in exclusively; you subscribe and unsubscribe yourself from my lists page. Ron probably signed up a while ago and has forgotten. It is possible that someone else signed him up--something I can't control.