the Ethical Spectacle http://www.spectacle.org

Letters to the Ethical Spectacle

Letters Policy: I live for email. If you write me (jblumen@spectacle.org), I am likely to publish your letter. I will include your name and email address unless otherwise requested.


Dear Mr. Blumen:

Could you please add a link to my site, the Liberal Information Page, at http://falcon.cc.ukans.edu/~cubsfan/liberal.html.

I will add a link to your excellent page shortly. Thanks! Mike cubsfan@falcon.cc.ukans.edu


Dear Sir:

I am writing with regard to your article "Dissolve the CIA," in the May 5 Ethical Spectacle. I wanted to raise the point that is so often missed when the CIA comes up: the covert action arm of the CIA is just that, only one arm of a good-sized agency. Much of the CIA's budget and manpower resources goes to intelligence gathering and interpretation -- two valuable functions that the U.S. has discovered in the past that it cannot do without. For example, in the early 1930s, the State Department's intelligence department, which was then the U.S.'s only civilian intelligence agency, was disbanded. We paid the price for that mistake when we failed to predict the accession of Hitler, to see Hitler's weakness at Munich in 1938, and to predict Pearl Harbor.

It would be foolish to think that because the Soviet threat is gone there are no other threats. While covert action may be relegated to the past, the gathering of intelligence is not. Would you have us turn off our satellites? Satellites are run partly by the CIA through the National Reconnaisance Office.

Perhaps covert action is outdated. Fair enough; the new DCI, John Deutch, is likely to sharply downsize that aspect of the Directorate of Operations. But please try to avoid the pitfall that often entraps critics of the CIA: equating the entire body with the Operations Directorate.

Finally, no, I am not affiliated in any way with the CIA.

William M. Jay
wjay@fas.harvard.edu
http://fas-www.harvard.edu/~wjay

OK, you're right--information gathering and interpretation is important and I am not suggesting we stop it. However, every indication is that the CIA has done a lousy job of this as well, missing major calls such as the fall of the Soviet Union. My suggestion: shrink the CIA to an infromation gathering entity with minimal interpretation capabilities and then get a widely spread group of nongovernmental experts--professors, businesspeople, other citizens--to serve part time as an interpretation panel. The reason: the last person you can trust is a full-time, professional watcher whose ideology eventually colors his or her interpretation--exactly what happened to the CIA. Its not an exact analogy, but as a businessman dealing with IBM, I knew it was in trouble years before the professional stock analysts perceived the problem.


Dear Mr. Blumen:

Thank you, and thanks for the very nice compliment on my article.

I must say that your counterpoint is an excellent one and makes a lot of good sense; yet, I think we'll probably remain in disagreement with respect to a fetus not being a person. What makes a person? A social security number? or, possibly a name and address? My desktop dictionary says, "1. A living human being, esp. as distinguised from an animal or thing". By calling a fetus an entity you're making it out to be a thing - to call it an animal would be insulting to all of mankind. Now going on a little further within the same definition, "7. Law. A human being or organization with legal rights and duties" - now here is why I think the law needs to intervene - who else are to define legal rights?

Your argument is very sound if what you say, "A fetus is not a person", is true; only, it will really really take some doing to convince me and all those who value the sanctity of human life from the very point of conception to believe otherwise.

Sincerely,

Jerry Lavelle lavelle@resd.vf.ge.com


Dear Mr. Blumen:

The article on Kent State was well done and very timely. It shows that there was a period of time when the federal government was out to silence its critics, and was willing to condone murder for it. Partially thanks to the excesses of the Nixon and Reagan years, the public is far more aware of how power can be abused, and is far more apt to insist on accountability and responsible judgment by the people in power. The bombing at Oklahoma City is an extension of the murderous excesses of the National Guard at Kent State, not the anti-war protesters of the period.

A few quick comments on the anti-abortion article:

With Roe V. Wade the stage was set for making abortion legal with the court's ruling that a State may impose virtually no restriction on the performance of abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy

Not really. Abortions were legal in many states before Roe v. Wade. What the Supreme Court did was apply what we would now call libertarian, get-the-government-off-our-backs 'privacy' rights to the issue.

I think the real argument is where the state regulation protective of fetal life should begin.
No it isn't. That already assumes several things I don't agree with. First, that such a thing as 'fetal life' exists. Second, that the state should regulate non-viable zygotes.

Abortion is an unnatural act and must be regulated severely.

Actually, abortion occurs spontaneously and naturally all the time.

Still, it's nice to hear someone in favor of government regulations. Now, if only we could convince the gun lobby...

I pretty much agree with your comments at the end. I would go even further. The number one problem in the world is overpopulation. Family planning of all types is a desperate need. And WANTED children are much more likely to grow up emotionally and physically healthy than unwanted children. If a woman is forced to have a child, you have ruined at least two lives.

Re: Shutting down the CIA. In general, the hallmark of conservatives is that they haven't figured out that they've lost. The major exception to this is the military. In this case, they haven't figured out that they've won.

It's clear that the US needs intelligence (in more ways than one). It's also clear that a) the primary mission of the CIA has been accomplished (ie defeating the Soviets) and b) the CIA has routinely violated it's legal mission of covert operations OUTSIDE the US only. (Inside was the purview of the FBI.) So simply dissolving the CIA isn't a good idea; reexamining and redeploying the intelligence networks of the US is long overdue. If this means shutting down the CIA and moving some of its operations to other agencies, then so be it.

I agree with you about school lunches, and how the Contract On America is the moral equivalent of the Reagan era "catsup is a vegetable" outrage. This is actually an extension of the previous discussion on abortion. I would be far more comfortable with the extremist anti-abortion positions if the right-wing didn't demonstrate over and over that their position is that federal protection of life ends at birth. If they can demonstrate that life is valuable from birth to death, then we can debate when life begins and when it ends. Until then, I'll concentrate on the wanted, living humans. Similarly:

The reason you can characterize either type of aid as supporting the "innocent" or the "guilty" is because both types of people are included in both populations. Therefore, any popular trend to end welfare, while leaving disaster relief alone, is based on the false premise that there is in fact a moral distinction between the two groups.

While I support your conclusions, I don't think this is a valid argument. Usually, disaster relief accomodates destruction of property and displacement of an entire community. Usually, welfare accomodates the inability of a person to support themselves. This isn't a matter of guilt or innocence, it's a matter of economics and compassion. Personally, I think rebuilding an individual is as important as rebuilding a community, but the issues and implementation details are different.

In a giddy atmosphere in which hate is again becoming acceptable, the demonization of the poor has only just begun.

Are you really saying that the demonization of the poor was started by Newt "Let them eat cake" Gingrich...

Promising a tax cut and deficit reduction simultaneously is like promising weight loss without dieting or exercise.

True, true. To balance the budget, this country needs to raise taxes on the people who can afford it. On the other hand, every time this has been tried in the last 10 years or so, the public has shot down the courageous politicians. That's why we have the cowardly conservatives now in power, who take their positions from misreading polls, and who have no desire to lead. Perot was useful in raising the debt in public awareness; it would have been good if he had said, "if my company isn't making money, we raise prices" to justify tax increases.

Senator Helms is a public embarrassment. Not only does he support right-wing death squads, as you detail, but his support of tobacco subsidies makes him a mass murderer on a par with Stalin. Is it too late for his impeachment?

Re your detailing of how Lamar Alexander made millions as a politician:

This modest proposal is the only solution: let's require a vow of poverty from anyone who wants elective office. There is no other way out of this.

The Constitution guarantees the saparation of church and state, it does not guarantee the separation of business and state. Further, one of the responsibilites of elective office is managing trillions of dollars. I want people who have proven economic experience (and preferably success) to manage budgets.

Further, I think it's a good thing that people in general and politicians in particular are willing to put their money where their mouth is. If a politician thinks, to take one of your examples, that commercial jails are a good idea, then his backing of the idea as both a private citizen and public official is entirely consistent. That he made money on the deal means that the idea is viable. As long as he admits that he has money riding on it, I don't see that his supporting it as an elected official is an abuse of power.

Having said all that, let me agree that the potential for abuse is great, and that potential is excercised all too often. A vow of poverty will not work. But we need a great deal more public accountability. Any watchdog outfits will inevitably be accused of politicking, and blind trusts don't work all that well, so I'm not sure what can be done aside from reporting what deals are made when.

I'm going to avoid the gun control war, except to point out that the Oklahoma City bombing and the NRA's treasonous fund raising letter pretty much means that the 'guns for tots' crowd has lost its public support, and this is a good thing.

TTFN, Dave romm@winternet.com

Dave writes, produces and acts in a radio science fiction comedy show called Shockwave. You can find a script at http://nam.ing.com:80/minicon30/shockwave-script-1995.html and Shockwave FAQ 4.0 is at http://nam.ing.com:80/minicon30/shockwave-faq.html.