Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

I was walking on the beach in Amagansett with two friends when we saw a man waving at us. He and a companion had stranded their Jeep in the sand. They were salespeople, visiting local accounts in a company vehicle, who thought it would be fun to drive on the beach though they had never done it before. They had spun the wheels so much that the car was buried up to its chassis.

I have had to dig out my own vehicle twice so I knew what to do. We borrowed a shovel and some boards from the workers at a nearby construction site. The two men let the air out of their tires til they had them down to 20 PSI while we dug out the wheels and inserted the boards under them. Then the driver backed the Jeep over the boards and all the way back to within a foot or two of the ocean. The final piece of the puzzle was that he needed to achieve sufficient velocity to get over an incline onto the paved road without digging in again. He gunned the Jeep and escaped the beach.

I do not know how to drive on the sand, only how to dig out of it. The people who do it make it look easy. The two salespeople were driving in someone else's tracks when they got stuck. They thought it was safe but they didn't have the art.

I can be reached as always at jw@bway.net.

Jonathan Wallace

Dear JW:

Re A Lying Sack of Government:

It seems like the worst kind of lying is that which is "constitutional" lying -- by this I mean that form of misdirection, exaggeration, information hiding, and controlled lying that somehow becomes ingrained in people of power (abusive husbands, smart-alec kids, gov. bureaucrats, neo-religious leaders, controlling managers, etc.). When we're exposed to it on a regular basis, it seems to bleed into everything we do. It contaminates our work life and homes, and it teaches our young that lying and cheating is ok. With the exuberance of youth, they begin to apply it to things we'd never consider -- homework, attendance, friendship, etc. It grows into a great cancer that threatens to consume every good thing God intends for us to do and be.

My Southern Baptist - Native Texan - Eagle Scout upbringing makes my skin crawl when I see this. I grew up in the land and times of "tall tales": Pecos Bill, one Ranger-one riot, Texans really are smarter but don't tell the Yankees 'cause you'll just upset 'em, etc. But to watch constitutional lying happen in such an environment where, somehow, honor has fallen to the way-side is enough to drive one to either manic or depressive behavior. What can be done to right the wrongs committed by such people? What can Jennifer Harbury do? What can we, as eyewitnesses do?

My native inclination (native being the key word) is to carry and use a baseball bat. Just think of the potential attitude change in the constitutional liar when you, upon hearing the offender blurt out an egregious lie, take up your Louisville Slugger and proceed to adjust his attitude about the value of truth. Unfortunately, there are enough lying sack-of-manure ACLU types (sorry Jonathan :-) that widespread application of such a "beat them about the head and shoulders till they learn to behave" policy would probably be taken up in court.

So, what can we do? I believe the Word of God describes the appropriate policy that everyone should take up. When applied universally, it satisfies my desire (i.e., the attitude adjustment approach), it appeals to the liberal tendency to negotiate, and it actually works. Revelation 3:19 says "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent ". In this, we can see the elements of love, discipline, truth and correction. By taking hold of this truth and applying it in our own actions, we can teach the value of honesty. We can make clear that lying is not acceptable. We can awaken a spirit of service and honor in our society. We can monitor our own actions and turn away from our bad habits.

But, how do we apply this policy to large-grained constitutional lying?

* We do it continually (be zealous)
* We do it uniformly (to those whom we love)
* We do it appropriately (reprove and discipline)
* We do it to ourselves (repent)

The key is for every parent, uncle, aunt, sibling, neighbor, and acquaintance to do it. Do it to every child, spouse, cousin, friend, and enemy. As a community, we must reprove our leaders -- they are elected (or at worst, appointed by an elected leader). We must discipline criminals -- white collar and blue collar, ethnic majority and minority, rich and poor, near and far. As a nation, we must exert our will -- intervene as needed, educate the ignorant, minister to the spirit, and feed/clothe/heal the weak.

Unfortunately, making this policy work requires the combined effort of a nation of truth-seekers. This is where (mostly) normal people like Jonathan Wallace of Brooklyn and Tom Stewart of San Antonio, people like Geraldo Rivera and Rush Limbaugh, and leaders like Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush can make a difference. Each of us work in our own arena, discerning the truth, speaking out against lies, and teaching the generations to value the truth. To be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. To do our Duty.

I know that this sounds like pie-in-the-sky. But, you and I both know that under the grit and grime that seems to cover our government and our people, there is a core of iron-hard will. A will that spans generations, ethnicity, gender, and religion. I have worked beside Mexican illegals in awful weather doing disgusting-but-necessary things to sewage systems. I have seen Pakistani Muslims doing their best to improve the state of medical care for Americans. We all have seen able bodied New Yorkers working beyond the ability of their heart and mind at Ground Zero. I know old men and women who serve their Lord by feeding the hungry at disaster sites. These people work toward a common goal each day. If we can awaken this will to serve in every person, then we will accomplish our goal. We can make people of character out of each druggie, gang-banger, redneck, and yuppie. All it takes is a continual effort from those who have already taken Revelation 3:19 to heart. A little nourishment and occasional training of the new growth will take care of the rest.

God bless,

Tom Stewart ughtas@gvtc.com

Dear Jonathan,

Matthew Hogan's "Neo-Redneckery: the Regression of the Right" gives me hope. An avowed conservative "libertarian" flag-waver, Matthew is yet able to see the disconnect between the flag, the images of a free-trading society, and the falsehood of claiming that America's greatness is rooted in its "white Christian" heritage.

While I identify myself these days more staunchly with the left-liberal point of view (which I argue differs greatly from the public image of it), it's dangerous and misleading to wrap yourself in such labels---at least as dangerous and misleading as wrapping yourself in the flag, or in an ethnicity or a religion. That's why I'm encouraged by Matthew Hogan's essay. The propensity to label ourselves with the pre-printed pricetags of social value churned out by the pop-culture and the political parties during election years is a maddening hallucination that ought to be scheduled as a dangerous drug. Our labels are antipersonnel weapons for dividing ourselves for the sake of our better's easy picking's. "Divide and conquer."

I can identify a great deal with Matthew's point of view. I may be wrong in his case, but I find that political affiliation in the past twenty years has been identifiable with age-group as much as with ethnic group. A couple decades ago I was publishing essays and corresponding with people who identified themselves as "libertarians." For a while I wondered if that tag didn't apply to me, until "libertarianism" became identified with Randian "objectivism" and then with Reagonomics and corporate welfarism.

Suffice it to say that I am encouraged to see in print the awakening of mind amidst the avalanche of right wing ideology. I congratulate Matthew Hogan for daring to take a spin in his own mind.


Ben Price bengprice@aol.com


I sympathize with the treble lay-offs experienced by and reported by Evan Coyne Maloney in his March Ethical Spectacle essay "State of Disunion." But his assessment of the problem that accounts for his serial unemployment strikes me as too tied to politics and not alligned enough with common sense.

The sharp contrast between the economic philosophies of the Democratic and Republican parties noted by Mr. Maloney, based on George W. Bush's "State of the Union" address and the Democratic response are non-existent. I'm not a Democrat. And I'm not a Republican. True, there was opposition to the administration's so-called "economic stimulus package" from the Democrats, and the bill as originally passed in the House died in the Senate. But is Mr. Maloney right about the Democrats using the "tired class-warfare rhetoric" to defeat the Republican's first try at an economic bill?

Actually, I think the Democrats whimped out on a good opportunity to do just that, and with good justification! Unlike the mirage of an economic stimulus bill described both by Mr. Maloney and the Bush lobbyists, the mess sent from the House to the Senate didn't just extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks and lower the income tax brackets across the board (well, it did both, but the tax cut favored the upper brackets), the bill also revoked the minimum corporate tax retroactively to 1986.

That means that every penny of income tax that had been collected through the minimum income tax law from corporations that paid no other income tax over the past 14 years was going to be given back / refunded / to the wealthies corporations on earth. Translating this fact into real life tax drama, that means that the money that would have been collected from coprorations like the three that laid off our friend Evan Maloney this year would go back into their coffers and, when Evan finds new work, his income taxes can begin to pay for the foreign debt, social programs, corporate subsidies, increased military spending and other tax-funded projects that his ex-employers and their corporate friends get to skate away from. Retroactively for 14 years. That's a hidden major tax hike for the average worker that the Republican administration surely would never mention in its State of the Union Address and the Democrats were too whimpy to mention in their response.

If we're goiing to stimulate something we call the "economy," I think we should be sure it's not directly identifiable with the libido of every corporate CEO. Some of us hate to think of our tax dollars being used as sex toys for the rich and famous. If saying so amounts to class warfare, so be it!

Ben Price bengprice@aol.com


 About your so called article, Steganography, My Ass--The Dangers of Private and Self-Censorship in Wartime,  you are completed wrong about  how setganography works,  please, if you write about something you are not completely sure I recommend you  it´s better not to write or  do some research before you do it.

  If you need more information about Steganography, I would be happy to  help you.


Diana Victorio iddy78@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I found your article, Juries are the Last Remnant of Direct Democracy on the internet, and thought you might have some thoughts on a jury-related project I have been considering.

I am looking to promote the idea of randomly selected juries who would review candidates for election and make recommendations to the public. Ultimately, I think all top public officials should be under the review of, first, a hiring jury, and then an oversight jury that could dismiss the official.

However, working within the system, it seems that the first recourse would be to merely review candidates for election. My thinking is that the reputation of this jury would grow, with more and more voters accepting the jury's "verdict" and voting for whomever the jury had chosen. The jury would elect its own foreman, and, if it cared to, hire someone to guide it. However, unlike judges, the hired guide would serve at the pleasure of the jury. Anyone with an opinion could submit that opinion to the jury, but the jury would be free to hear those it chooses to hear.

It strikes me that such a project should start by reviewing elected judges, as judges cannot properly campaign anyhow. That is, the role of a judge is to be just like all the other judges, in terms of overall bias, and to be chosen on the basis of being smarter, more scrupulous, and harder working. Those things are impossible for voters to determine, but relatively easy for jurors to determine.

Also, it strikes me that a judge who anticipates review by a fully independent jury will be more respectful of the juries who serve under him.

Often, when I have ideas like this, I find that others have had the same idea. I am therefore looking to see what others have come up with in this regard. If you are interested in pursuing this, let me know.

Dan Sullivan pimann@pobox.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Read your bio.

Bravo! You are a mensch. We are brothers in spirit and in time.

Bob Burns flylooper@yahoo.com

Re Democracy and Stupidity:

Jonathan Wallace makes some good points about the Republicans, but they are weakened by his delusional attachment to the idea that the Demos are any better--i.e., that they are the party of the people rather than business.

1) Anyone who believes Truman never told a lie should read Frank Kofsky's _Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948_. Truman may even have believed his own BS, but if so, not being a liar didn't stop him from being a state terrorist and mass murder. Truman and his Cold War Liberal allies were the founders of the national security state, and their perpetual warfare ensured that the military-industrial-R&D complex would survive. They likewise ensured that the domestic surveillance state would thrive.

2) Anyone who doubts that the Demos, like the Repugs, are a "social club for the rich" should read C. Wright Mills' _The Power Elite_. If you want more recent evidence, just take a look at the revolving door of personnel between the top levels of government (both parties), the corporate boardrooms, and the major think tanks (both liberal and conservative). Welfare and regulation are second-tier issues. When it comes to top-tier issues like the banking and financial system, subsidies to state capitalism, and establishment foreign policy, there has only been one party for the last fifty years.

I would also recommend intensively acquainting yourself with Gabriel Kolko's _Triumph of Conservatism_, James Weinstein's work on "corporate liberalism," and the chapters on Social Security and the Wagner Act in G. William Domhoff's _The Higher Circles_. They are an excellent antidote to Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. And they should disabuse anyone of the goo-goo notion that the Progressive/New Deal regulatory and welfare state was something forced on the corporate system from OUTSIDE.

Those policies were the work of a faction of big business, that wanted to use THEIR government to maintain economic stability and clean up the problems of capitalism. It was nothing but the capitalists managing capitalism through the state. F. Engels predicted over a century ago that advanced capitalism would become so complicated that only the state could manage it. He predicted most of the elements of the Fabian Program (nationalization of transportation and key industries, etc.) as actions taken by the capitalists using the state as their own planning mechanism.

Until the New Class took over the socialist and labor movements at the turn of the century, this view of state socialism was shared by most of the working class movement. But then, most of those New Class social engineers and managers and "experts" helped Woodrow Wilson and A. Mitchell Palmer to throw genuine working class radicals into prison.

The New Deal and Progressive state wasn't a way for us to control things; it was a way to save capitalism from a system in which the people really did control their own lives.

3) More importantly, it is self-condradictory, on the one hand, to lament the lack of participatory democracy and the relegation of the populace to passive raw material, while on the other hand favoring the kind of goo-goo mixed economy/welfare state that makes such an elitist system inevitable.

It is inherently impossible for the public at large, in a centralized nation-state, to exercise genuine control over the machinery of the state apparatus. It is only natural for people to devote their primary attention to the things that they come into contact with on a daily basis. Society is naturally based on the primary social group. So people give most of their time and energy to their family and friends, work, etc. They have very little left over for keeping track of what people in centralized institutions a thousand miles away are doing. The actions of those remote people may indeed have a major effect on our daily lives, but they are far more abstract than stuff at home we can put a face on.

For the people RUNNING those corporate and state institutions, on the other hand, what they do IS work. It is through class privilege enforced by such institutions that their ability to live off our work depends. And given the fact that our society consists of interlocking, centralized bodies in state, economy and media, the information flow between these bodies will always be filtered by elite interests before most people see it on CNN (just look at the AP coverage of Venezuela) So there will always be inequality of influence based on time, energy, attention span, access to information, control over the agenda, etc. Centralized institutions will ALWAYS be controlled by a ruling class. Spectator democracy is built into the system.

The solution is to dismantle the centralized political and economic institutions so that all the decisions that affect us are made through direct democracy, in bodies that we participate in. That means town meetings, workers' committees, etc. And on the rare occasion that it's not technically feasible to organize everything we need at this level, the coordination of direct democracies should be done through federation, with delegates controllable at will.

Corporate directors, Cabinet officers, CFR/Brookings/CED wonks, regulatory and welfare bureaucrats, and pie-card labor bosses: THEY'RE ALL JUST MEN IN SUITS!

Kevin carson kevin_carson@hotmail.com

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

As I write this, I am mortified at the truths you have so completely articulated with your site. I teach 20Th century history at the senior high school level. My students are at a point where they are being introduced to the Holocaust. My presentation of the material has begun with an underlying theme of proactive rememberance - teaching students that it is not just enough to simply learn about this, but to never let it leave your subconscious memory so that you will never forget the lesson that history wants to forget so much. I am presently designing a web quest for students to further explore many of the realities of the camps that for my students seem to be the stuff of horror violence films. I would greatly appreciate any advice on what web resources would be effective for my students to access.

Thank You,

John Capin jcapin@vianet.ca

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I think what they did to them was so wrong the pictures make me feel sick because of how they were treated. Good job for being strong even if there life was hell. T.R. Stabber5689@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

My name is Whitney Anderson and I have been working on a research report for my english class. Upon searching the internet for information on Auschwitz I came across your alphabet. Not only did I get a large amount of usefull information for my paper, but it also opened my eyes to the severe brutality administered to the Jews and other prisoners in Auschwitz. Among all the accounts of the horrible events that took place, I found the killing of the children the hardest to read, and was in tears all the way to Z. Thank you for your incredible alphabet and the depth behind it..........it is something I will never forget.

Dear Mr. Wallace,

Thank you for your web site "An Auschwitz Alphabet", I found it very informative (if disturbing).

The reason I am writing is I am interested in how in the world anyone survived in those camps. Your commentary along with the citations, "Survival in Auschwitz" by Levi, Primo; and "The Survivor" by Des Pres, Terrence; go a long way towards answering this question.

Would you have any additional suggestions for finding materials focusing on the question of the tactics, strategies, methods, and circumstances which led to survival; as opposed to those which did not?

Best, Charles DeWitt

Dear Sir:

I am sorry to bother your day, but I would like to trouble you to spending a few minutes and reading this letter. I am a 13-year-old Jewish girl who lives in one of the most remote, nameless towns in Wisconsin. I am one of about 15 Jewish families in the whole area of about three entire cities of a little over 20,000 people each. Needless to say, it is relatively hard for me to go through a week without at least one person asking me, "Do you believe in G-d?" After being introduced to the Holocaust, I did not know what to say. Of course, trying to fit in as best I could, I'd say, "Yes of course! I'm not that different from you!" After really researching this drastic, life-changing (or life-taking, with all due respect to the deceased) event, I found the exact words to reply to my unanswered question: Who is G-d, and what is His purpose?" If you are the author of the webpage "Aushwitz Alphabet", then you've stated that "There is no G-d". I'd like to challenge that response with my own. I know there are many different ideas of G-d, but I believe mine will help me through anything. I'd like to begin with a story that suits these circumstances:

When I was watching TV in a public area after the September 11th crash, I heard the man next to me ask himself, "How could G-d let this happen? Who does He think He is?!"

G-d is obviously not someone you can listen to, but he is someone you can talk to, and He will listen. G-d is not someone who has your fate already planned out for you. He does not know when you will get married, or even if you will marry at all. We hold our own cards, and G-d is simply there to be a shoulder to lean on through the hardest, roughest times of our lives, like the Holocaust or September 11th. Those who depend on G-d to steer them down the path of life will amount to nothing, but those who steer themselves down the path of life with G-d in the passenger seat will do great things.

Please consider what I have just said.

Thank you for your time.

With all due respect,


Tara later sent the following poem:

Tara's Aushwitz Alphabet

A G-d exists,              
Beckoning us to
Come and follow Him.  Some are
Determined to fullfill His deeds, but
Everyone else
G-d might punish them, but they
Have to learn from their
Ignorant mistakes.
Just because innocent people are
Killed, doesn't mean our G-d doesn't
Love us.  He can be
Mean and cruel, but He can be
Nice, and is the majority of the time.
Only non-believers
Perish in the
Sustaining flames of a
Terrible Hell.  There,
Underneath our different,
Vibrant skin,
We are all alike.
X-crutiating events ask if we should believe.
Yes, we can, and we should love the Lord.  Even
Zyklon B can't take our hope and determination away.

Thanks again.

Your friend,


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I fully understand where you are coming from but I also implore you to realize that the "Holocaust" is not only a Jewish undertaking.  There have been many Holocausts throughout history.  Even against ethinic Germans perpatrated by the Russians and Yugoslavs under Tito during WWII, which bore similar losses of life and some greater per capita. 


"But the message is very mixed. On the one hand, we must remember the past; on the other, what happened there could never happen here, because the Nazis were different, and we are not like them." 

I ask you to look around and ask why these terrorist sentiments are harbored against the US.  We kill millions of women and children a year with our enforced embargos and bombings of third world and middle eastern nations such as Cuba and Iraq not to mention countless others. 

"You poke your head outside of New York City and discover that there are people who never learned about the Holocaust, universities where it is regarded exclusively as a Jewish studies issue, and lots more people who think the Jews killed "our" Lord."

And why do you think that the world must exclusively hear about Jewish sufferings?  What makes crimes against Jewish people more abominable than others?  Why must it be a precedent to be taught in American schools and schools around the world?  What about the Holocausts comitted against the Native American people that inhabited this land before we systematically destroyed their population?  What about the Chinese, Germans, and Koreans?  Don't they deserve equal amounts of sympathy and coverage?  

"There are nice, decent, friendly people out there, with no overt sign of prejudice, who when they read in the paper that a seventy year old former camp guard, who murdered with his own hands, has been arrested ask: "When will they let them rest?"

What happend at the Nurenbureg trials was a travesty.  There is a supposed statute of limitations.  The trials happened over 30 years after the war had been over.  They went against all international laws and were unjust.  If we tried every person from every country that had ever been involved in war crimes in the past 70 years it would be a joke.  What makes the persecutors over Jews, and there are more than just the Germans as well as persecutors of others than Jews, more deserving of attention than the rest?

"Then, there is a vocal minority who run around saying that the Holocaust never happened; that Auschwitz existed, as a prison camp, but that no-one was ever gassed there, that the only deaths were from the same want and privation that the Germans themselves suffered as the Allies closed in."

Did you know that what the Americans and allies did with German POW's was an abomination and complete disregard to international law?  After the war the Allies let the German POW's starve and die at a rate of 89%.  There were close to a million casualties of German POW's while the Allie mortality rate in German POW camps was the same as in there own countries. 

"Here is the basic issue. In 1941-1945, a cloud passed over the face of Europe, and when it dissipated, the Jews of Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Holland, Greece, and all of Eastern Europe were decimated, along with Gypsies, homosexuals and millions of civilian bystanders to the war. The Holocaust is a human issue; as I say in my closing essay, it is but the largest and most significant of the many genocides in this century, and one of many in human history. The Jews were singled out this time and have been before (it sometimes seems as if anyone, on his way to a fight, stops to punch a Jew"

I find this statement to be a gross bias.  Every nation suffered a holocaust onto itself, and why again do I ask the Jews be singled out from the others?  What about what we did to the Japanese when we dropped teh Atomic Bomb?  They are still feeling the effects today.  Please, I ask you to consider all sides when making statements like this. 

Respectfully Yours


The Nuremberg trials were of course right after the war, though other war crimes trials took place decades later.