Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

It is beginning to feel like we are witnessing a major change in American political culture. The strands which are coming together include a complete divorce between authority and responsibility, public childishness and self-indulgence, magical thinking, loss of a common sense belief in causation and consequences, and a profound lack of interest in truth. In short, the powerful and frightening symptoms of a republic in decline. Only in this context would a Bush family dynasty be possible, with its m.o. of radical elision of the line between personal interest and public policy. Paul Krugman, in the February 26 New York Review of Books, observes that the Bush administration is the first to have no policy apparatus separate from the political arm. Thus the desires of contributors flow directly into the administration's legislative and administrative initiatives, not filtered through any group of people tasked with considering the public interest.

The increasing obesity of the American people and the outsourcing of even U.S. legal work to India are two recently reported data points relevant to this theory of decline. With Britney Spears and the military currently our main exports, one wonders exactly what we are good at. Not nation-building, certainly.

Jonathan Wallace 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. 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:

The article written by Dom Stasi regarding his speculation that Bush was AWOL during his Guard years is nonsense at best, and specious demagoguery at least. Mr. Stasi claims to remember every person he was in contact with while in a flying unit. Good for him, but pardon me if I question his integrity. In my years of flying in the Air Force, I well remember a good number of the people in the units I flew with, but certainly not all of them. A recent reunion of a squadron I spent four years with in the early 1970s yielded a number of people I had completely forgotten about. There were several people there whom I don't recall having ever served with...though many remembered me. Military life yields a constant stream of new acquaintances and peers. Some make an impression you never forget, and some are quickly forgotten because of your brief time of exposure to them, rank disparities, or the fact that their schedules and yours seldom coincided. I recall that there were Guard officers who appeared with our squadron for a few days to complete their Guard obligations, but cannot recall a single name of any of them. They were simply faces who came and went, typically just putting in their obligatory time.

Most all of the "AWOL" stories the dems chortle about now originated from the (out of context) recollections of an elderly, long-retired officer who initially said it was strange that he didn't recall Bush's being at an Alabama Air Force installation during a particular brief time frame some thirty years ago. Col Turnipseed has since recanted his doubts and said that he isn't even sure about the dates HE was supposedly at that installation. Bush was released from his Guard service obligation a few months prior to his contract commitment date...as were thousands of others in the Air Force (Active and Guard.) During the timeframe where he was released, due to the ending of the war, there was a glut of pilots in the Air Force. Many were being separated early, both voluntarily and involuntarily. My squadron lost about 20 percent of the pilots due to the Reduction In Force (RIF) that took place about the time Bush was released. Any request for a voluntary early release was automatically granted.

The accusation that Bush was AWOL has been debunked at every level. The die-hard liberals who refuse to believe their own eyes, and who wish so desperately that their fantasies about Bush were true (like Dom Stasi) will continue spewing their "made-up" versions of the "AWOL" story. I suppose, since dental records and pay records clearly prove Bush was where he was supposed to be, when he was supposed to be there, they must believe that his teeth were in Alabama, but he wasn't. Since the Dems now have a candidate who served in the military honorably...(though he later decided to call his own brothers at arms "baby killers and terrorists." as he tossed ((someone's)) military ribbons over the White House fence in protest of his country's actions), they now say that service as a pilot in the Texas National Guard is worse than running off to Europe to avoid the draft, as their icon, Bill Clinton did.

Here's some facts libs who know nothing about the military might do well to learn. Guard service is honorable. To be an Air Guard pilot, one must go through the commissioning process, then spend a year on active duty at Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training. Then, the officer must spend considerable time (typically several months) undergoing training in the unit's assigned aircraft. In Bush's case, the F-102. To fly this aircraft, additional continuing training is required..as well as altitude chamber, ejection seat, and pilot proficiency training flights. One simply does not show up at a weekend drill and start flying a fighter jet. Many Air Guard units are comprised of pilots who spent a number of years in the regular Air Force, separated, and joined a Guard unit to continue service for years. Sometimes these units are activated, and sent into combat to fly along side and with the regular "full time" squadrons. The myth that Bush, who did all these things, somehow didn't show up during a summer in Alabama, because several people who were there about that time don't remember seeing him, is simply nonsense. The fact that the same people who, based on these accusations, claim Bush's service wasn't honorable...are ardent supporters of Bill Clinton (a classic, unabashed draft dodger) shows a hypocrisy that is nothing short of astounding.

Bob Wilson


Janine Peterson's recent analysis of the so-called "assault weapons ban" was intelligent and well reasoned. There much misinformation in the press concerning this legislation. Its only significant effect has been to breed contempt for the government among lawful gun owners. While I am not against all gun control I agree that this is a bad law. It is based on specious arguments. The ban is useless, and it deserves to die.

Mark Tyson

Dear Jonathan--

In your March 2004 lead article The Disturbed Democrats you write: "The Democratic Party today is reminiscent of T.S. Eliot's view of the Catholic Church as a hippopotamus: it can sleep and feed at once. In a system where we all have been anesthetized by the quiet fluttering of money dispensed by powerful men, the only way I can exert any power--the power that is due me as a voter in a democratic system--is by withholding my vote from the party that used to represent me: the disturbed Democrats."

Jonathan, in saying this you express the frustration and determination of the Green Party as I have come to know it over the past few years. I am heartened to know, after some few years of correspondence, that you now take seriously the corrupting influence of money, of money even falsely defined as "speech" in the political process.

The conflict has always been described to rebel Democrats such as yourself by Democratic Party leaders as a choice between embracing the lesser of two evils and abandonment of the pittance that is available through tehm to a worse fall-back position: the default election of the hated social enemy, the elitist, rich and anti-populist Republican candidate. Voting for Nader in 2000 by you, me, and millions of others was an act of faith, not of desperation. Voting for Gore would have been an act of desparation.

Arguably, 2004 is a year when hope is dead and desparation reigns. In such a depleted atmosphere, voting for the "lesser of two evils" may be the moral alternative to voting against fear. But if we have arrived at that nadir of political truth, the nation and democracy is truly in peril, John Kerry victory or no.

Between now and the election, the citizens of the USA must somehow take control of the electoral process, despite the rules and laws that govern them. We have to object to the formulaic coronations. We have to threaten Kerry with defeat from the left, and make him talk to us like humans whose needs matter. The Greens are poised for political ascendency if they don't lose their nerve. Know it or not, the reason the Democrats hate the Greens as "spoilers" is because they don't want to abandon their junior Republican status gained by embracing the Clintonian "Democratic Leadership Council" corporate buddy system. The Democrats don't want to have to go back to the citizens, hat in hand, and tell them they were wrong to kiss corporate ass and abandon the interests of the people. And they hate the Greens for filling the void they created when they abandoned social issues like health care, workers' rights, rational sentencing policies, labor organizing, education like it matters, and a whole spectrum of anscillary issues like media ownership, ballot access, and government transparency.

But the Greens have an oportunity to call the bluff of the Democrats and make them cave-in to democracy on several levels, if the Greens are willing to play political "chicken" and risk another 4 years of Bush tyranny with the possible reward of long-term political reform as the reward for not settling for Democrats' handouts.

That's the risky path I recommend, and I do so because I believe we were right from the start: democracy is full of compromises. But democracy itself is not to be compromised into meaningless symbolism by a money drenched system of elections and legislation. We have to, finally, call the bluff of the liars and thieves. We have to, finally, mean what we say. We have to, at last, reclaim democracy by throwing the bastards overboard. And those who won't jump or be thrown may have to be rolled overboard by pitchinbg the ship of state drastically to one side and the other until the rats have left at last. If rocking the boat is what it takes, I say LET's ROCK!!

Ben Price

Dear Jonathan:

Thanks for adding a wonderful voice to the Web. I particularly enjoyed your bio and mission statement - "all rivers begin in the human heart." I am in the process of linking to one of your authors/publications (Norman K. Swazo, "Just War Against Iraq in 2003? Accounting for Walzer’s Instruction on Anticipation") for the site I edit -- Defense Strategy Review Page -- http://www.comw.org/qdr/. That link will be up next week or the following. A couple pieces of our work you might find of particular interest: "What Justifies Military Intervention? -- http://www.comw.org/pda/0109intervention.html "Disappearing the Dead: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Idea of a 'New Warfare'" -- http://www.comw.org/pda/0402rm9exsum.html

Sincerely yours,

Charles Knight
Project on Defense Alternatives
Commonwealth Institute
Cambridge, MA USA