July 2011

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Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. Send your comments to me at jw@bway.net. 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 do so. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with 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 Mr. Wallace:

I'm willing to translate your article Why I Am Not a Libertarian to the Belorussian language (my mother tongue). What I'm asking for is your written permission, so you don't mind after I'll post the translation to my blog. The translation is intended only for web, no print copies planned. Visitors of your website, who come from Minsk (Belorussia) will be the ones, who will read this blogpost, that's the only way to spread them, no additional instruments we can use. Every translation we ever do does not costs a penny for the webpage, which is translated. All we ask is to link back in whatever way you feel confident about it.



Galina's translation is here.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I ran into your fascinating article on Ambition today in The Ethical Spectacle. I've always wondered about ambition: it's reason for being, it's link to art and the artist, it's origins and dangers. It seems to be we would be purer souls without it, but not as productive, and possibly not as creative.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

just a note to say how much i love your blog

if you are ever in chicago I would love to buy you a drink!!! Julian

Dear Jonathan,

Regarding your last "rags and bones" items of this month, on "Fat, broken, slow technology":

Look into the combination of ubuntu/open office/firefox

That's what I use on my netbook. There are other flavors of linux out there, but that is probably the easiest for someone coming from windows.

We certainly don't have to make do with whatever the monopolists throw at us, anymore!

(but be sure to make backups before doing anything like changing your OS, including making a windows recovery disc should you decide to go back later).


Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for your kind words and recognition of my writing.

Sadly, I feel I must take issue with your latest Ethical Spectacle piece, Permanent War.

Let me state at the outset I can only imagine the pain and trauma of being so close to an event like 9-11. To see a terrorist attack that results in the death of so many people must be excruciating. I can certainly understand the hatred you must feel towards Osama bin Laden. However, personal enmity does not make for good law, for good policy, or for that matter even for victory over one's enemies.

Even if it is true that Osama bin Laden " ...publicly ordered murders and gloated about them, engaged in subterfuge and surprise, caused the murder of thousands of civilians... and vowed the destruction of our nation and our way of life," that doesn't mean our laws are incapable of dealing with such a man. His crimes were heinous and his reach broad. But can you honestly say that one man poses such a clear and present danger to our way of life that we are justified in throwing out our entire system of laws in favor of an extra judicial assassination by a highly trained squad of professional killers?

I have no doubt that putting Osama bin Laden on trial would have been a circus; a legal mess of gargantuan proportions. As such, your point that his murder and subsequent dumping of his body is quite arguably the most expedient and "cleanest" result is very well taken. But since when is true justice all about being expedient and clean?

While you are correct that Osama bin Laden was a wealthy man who "had both the desire and the ability personally to warp, transcend, and work towards the destruction of the polities he opposed." The same can be said for almost any wealthy and powerful individual. I personally abhor the politics and methods of conservatives such as the Koch brothers. I think there is ample evidence they have been working hard to destroy the polities they oppose. But I hardly think employing a group of professional hit men to rub them out is either a just or even an efficacious way of dealing with them.

The main point I object to in your piece is your characterizations of conflicts against terrorism as "war." To equate the actions of a handful of fanatics wielding box cutters with the organized military attack on our nation displays an acceptance of a political party line that I frankly find surprising in one such as yourself who puts so much independent thought into world events. To my way of thinking, war is, was, and always shall be, a head to head struggle between nation states. To even put the threat from Al Qaeda and that posed by Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan in the same sentence is to elevate a rag tag group of extremists to the same level as a highly organized and well armed invasion force. The latter requires thousands of soldiers to defeat it. The former can't be defeated no matter how much money or how many soldiers you throw at it.

I agree with you most wholeheartedly that with regard to foreign policy the American dysfunction is becoming extreme. But I would argue that killing bin Laden and dumping his body in the sea is every bit as much a part of the American "dysfunction" as is the "shock and awe" bombing of Iraq, the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, or targeted drone attacks in Pakistan.

If al Qaeda represents a danger to our country and our way of life, it is not a danger that can be disrupted, dismantled, or defeated with hundreds of billions of dollars, with thousands of soldiers, and with hundreds of army bases. I would posit further it is not a threat that can be neutralized by elite teams of commandos on search and kill missions.

I have not had your experience with the law. As such perhaps I am being naive. However, I believe the only way we are going to be truly safe from organizations such as al Qaeda, the only way we'll ever defeat men such as Osama bin Laden is through the patient application of the non-expedient, and very messy process that is our legal system. If men like bin Laden operate "outside all human and national law," the way to neutralize them is to bring them back within the law. As much as you and others in the nation feel an understandable sense of closure over Osama's death, I feel that ending such a man's career by Seal assassination or drone attack is something of a Pyrrhic victory.

The moment we agree that the only way to defeat al Qaeda is by abandoning our system of law I believe we have already handed the terrorists the victory they so desire.

I remain your very respectful friend,

Thomas Vincent

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The Craigslist piece was an outstanding assessment. Outstanding. I have had some interesting scenarios with craigslist but had not bothered to look into their oddness until today and immediately ran across your experience and thoughts. You raise some great questions in various ways, some which are much grander for our society than probably the original reason for your post.

What would the world look like if we all could get in the ballpark of the golden rule? Commerce would look so different, and society would not even be recognizable from what it is today.

We wouldn’t have a country where sheep cheer in the streets for the assassination of a human being like we recently saw here in the States. Amazingly, most do not even realize any number of heads of state, sec.’s of state from this country, and high ranking Pentagon and other officials and “intelligence” are on record saying bin Laden was dead almost a decade ago…including now assassinated Bhutto who said he was dead right on CNN and died shortly after. We are an empiring society, empiring via our lapdog-like populace and destroying millions of people’s lives including the majority of our own oblivious to the mechanisms being wielded against us in the interest of global governance. This sort of society will of course always look ridiculous, devoid of compassion, kindness or common decency, and thus its institutions will reflect this, including craigslist.

We cannot separate the warring, the thieving, from the ridiculous behavior we have on the internet and media in general. They are all but symptoms of the same disease.

The internet has much to offer as a mechanism to reconnect people together. For the moment, it can still operate somewhat outside the toxic, unfeeling, heavy-handedness of govt bureaucracies that know no common sense and more sinisterly are a mechanism for re-engineering society. These entities that our society has deferred its personal power to have taken over the say of much of our lives. Our sad societal equation that includes a total lack of responsibility, lack of common decency, and lack of awareness in general saturates everything that is our culture.

With any luck, this collective pain will give sufficient impetus for us all to rise up and remember our own divine origins, our own humanity and thus create something much different. Who acts this way unless they are in tremendous mental pain, and completely deluded, completely separated from their fellow man and their god-self? Yes, our society is in much pain.

The internet and other technology has such a possibility to open worlds to people, but unfortunately they will only reflect the existing human condition. Right now the human condition is reaching a very interesting state.

May we live in exciting times,