September 2012

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Letters to the Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines.Send your comments to me at 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,

Thank you for so succinctly saying what I've believed for a long time: prosecutors will do anything to gain a conviction. It must have been like a serrated knife turning in his gut for Mike Nifong to actually apologize to his victims (word chosen carefully). And it's most probably true that had these young men not been members of affluent families, the case would have gone forward as I'm sure Nifong envisioned.

I'd like his picture posted on the walls of every prosecutor's office in the country with the caption "Don't be a Nifong...." Yet given the abundance of hubris that lies within the bowels of prosecutor offices in general, it seems that most of them would not change their modus operandi at all, with the unspoken sentiment, "I'm too clever/immune to be caught."

Best regards,

Douglas Scripture

Dear Jonathan:

I enjoyed your essay Ethics and Entropy. The major contributor to that was the fact that I agree, and considered many things in the same way myself. I also enjoyed it because you write well, better all the time. I'm guessing that your play writing is the engine behind that. Keep it up!

As happens occasionally, I think I see an insight in your essay that you don't seem to see. You say "Being alive, staying alive, acquiring food and shelter, all are a fight against the Second Law; anything we build or do must be stolen from, or organized against, chaos. Ethical rule-sets are a way of fighting chaos better, more."

Do you disagree that those law-abiding people who choose to own and legally carry guns are in fact creating an ethical rule for their lives that they will try to defend themselves and whomever else is around from the entropy of violent crime? They do it at a cost to themselves, not just the financial cost, but that of time to practice to be safe and accurate. They invest in training both in the law and in handling the tool that supports their ethics. They carry the weight around with them, although they say that the weight of the responsibility is even heavier.

Isn't it time for you to reconsider?

Bruce Clark

I am glad you asked, as you gave me the idea for an eventual essay on guns and entropy. The short answer is that making sure every would be mass murderer in America can legally purchase semiautomatic weapons with extended magazines definitely promotes disorder. The Second Law analogy is near-perfect. The same way that order is expensive and hard and time consuming and disorder and destruction the easy work of a moment (the difference between making a coffee cup and tipping one off a table), a perfectly armed society tips in favor of the murderous and destructive. Despite all of the arguments that, for example, the Aurora incident could have been "mitigated" if people in the theater were carrying their own weapons, the real world result (and I am sure, the way things are going, we will see examples in the next few years) will be shootouts in dark, smoky places in which would be armed good samaritans shoot each other and the innocent and are then shot by the cops. A guy with a powerful weapon and the ability to fire scores of shots in a few moments, who doesn't care whom he hits, will always have a tactical advantage over a defender who wants to shoot only him. So by following a legal or moral rule which puts as many high powered weapons and large magazines in the marketplace as possible, you will always be giving the advantage to the disorderly and destructive.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Some thoughts about property taxes.

According to Wikipedia: "A property tax (or millage tax) is a levy on property that the owner is required to pay. The tax is levied by the governing authority of the jurisdiction in which the property is located; it may be paid to a national government, a federated state, a county/region, or a municipality. Multiple jurisdictions may tax the same property." Two activities concerning the city of Cleveland are on a collision course. One is the passage of the property tax levy and the other is the "tax revolts" attempting to lower individual property tax.

I had the opportunity recently to utilize the tool mentioned in this article and having worked in the mortgage industry for over 16 years I am always befuddled by the questions: How can there be such a discrepancy between what properties are assessed at and what they are actually selling for? How do we find an equitable means of determining value? Further how did we get duped into the mythological mantra of "location, location location"? I fail to see the tradeoff between where someone lives and the quality of the house they choose to reside in. This is also a issue that needs to be addressed soon so that a more equitable balance of the two can exist throughout the country. Nobody can persuade me that the qualify of life obtained by dwelling in a shack in California is the same as that of a castle in Ohio. Sorry but that dog don't hunt.

In different parts of the country there have been "tax revolts" whereby people are challenging the tax assessments and in some cases are getting their property taxes reduced. The problem is that it will only lead to municipal budget shortfalls because the estimated revenue will be less than what was forecast to be collected. Consequently, many cities across the country will be forced to reduce services in order to bring the budgets back into balance. If property values continue to plummet the end result will be one of social catastrophe. The time is long overdue to begin weaning the Schools System off the use of property taxes as a source of revenue. I understand the logic behind trying to persuade voters to approve the upcoming levy {with such a high millage} because those sponsoring the tax increase are doing so in anticipation of the coming decrease in property tax revenue as a result of the "revolts". So effectively voters will pay a higher percentage of their lowered value which will probably net a much smaller increase than what is being argued by opponents of the levy. Privatization of the Schools is becoming more and more evident as a solution to this financial conundrum. The public school system has been used about as far as it could be. The lemon has been squeezed and all that is left is a husk of hope.

Yes, I too intend to vote against the Cleveland levy and conduct my own "tax revolt". The proponents of the levy are attempting to run the old "dog and pony show" so often successfully used to fool the voters of Cleveland. They need to do a better job of demonstrating just exactly what the tax will be spent on and require it be earmarked {or mandated} for that purpose. In a nutshell "show me the money" and specifically where it will be spent. Until then, let it be echoed throughout this country "no increase in property taxation without proper assessment representation."

Joe Bialek