Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

I started publishing the Spectacle in January 1995. As I wrote the articles for the first five issues, I was also compiling the material for An Auschwitz Alphabet, which appeared in the June, 1995 issue. Since that day, the Alphabet has accounted for about 40% of the overall traffic on my site, and for about as high a percentage of the letters I receive. Correpondingly, the Alphabet ranks as the work I am proudest of, though it contains little of my own writing. Letters such as the one in this column, telling me that the writer learned about the Holocaust for the first time from reading it, will tell you why. I am sometimes asked if I plan to revise or expand it. After correcting some typos and removing some bad links, I have decided not to. The Alphabet would not benefit from being longer, or more detailed. As an attempt to encapsulate the entire Auschwitz experience in 26 pages, it speaks for itself.

Sometime last year, a reader flamed me for my views on gun control, and I published his intemperate words in this column. Recently, he wrote to me angry that I had published his letter without his express permission. I thought it was self-evident that if you write a letter to the editor of a publication, that letter may appear in print; in fact, he was the only reader who had ever complained. (On a few occasions, people have concluded a letter by asking me not to print it, or to withhold their names, and I have always respected the request.) Anyway, if this needs clarification: I assume any communications I receive are public unless you explicitly tell me otherwise.

Please keep those cards and letters coming! You can reach me at jw@bway.net.

Dear Jonathan:

I am a regular reader of The Spectacle and I love it! Finally we agree on something, outright: I am not a Libertarian, either. Unfortunately, unlike yourself, I'm not sure what I am... I thought things were simpler than they are, or seem. I guess that makes me a Simpleton, perhaps, or a "Simpletarian," if I may coin a word (if it hasn't been coined already)...

Us Simpletarians require simple rules that all (or most) can understand... We will no longer tolerate fast talking nonsense and complicated legal procedures that leave us all at the mercy of "that..." Everybody votes in our new system of government, every election. No getting out of it. No voter registration is necessary (or allowed). Manipulation of the system by a slim majority of a small minority is impossible. Everybody has to vote, every time, whether they want to or not. It's not just a right, anymore. It's a requirement!

Everybody eats well in this new system of government, every day. Everybody gets a roof over their head, a clean bed to sleep in and a hot shower, every day... Maybe even a telephone. Universal health care is provided. All basics are provided. Extras are earned. The penalty for stealing is solitary confinement. Legal reprisals are not allowed. Torts and tarts will be handled in some, new, simple way... (God knows what.)

There is no more "selective" service in this new system of government. Everyone serves in a universal draft. Everyone! The weak, sick, infirm, ignorant, handicapped, self righteous, whoever... There is no more death penalty. We're all going to die, anyway. Solitary confinement should cover it. Doctor assisted suicide will be legal, but discouraged...

Majority rules. Minority rights. That's about it. KISS. KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid.)

Meanwhile, you've got to learn how to listen if you ever expect to hear anything... You've got to learn how to slow down, if you really want to get there in a hurry... I hope this response finds you well, in a good sense of humor and all that. Sometimes you lawyers who are 2/3rd's libertarian can get rather testy, I'm told...

Social welfare systems in the past have failed because of their extremism. They started out with a good idea and over did it. They over generalized... I feel America may be on the brink of a major change in it's direction, for better or for worse, depending on it's ability to maintain a true majority of popular support. As long as most Americans are happy, most of the time, everything tends to work out just fine (or at least as fine as it can be). The trick is to keep the majority happy without having to give away the store or the farm, or lose it in a riot... The incentive is happiness, common sense, survival...

Sharing can be learned and logically reinforced given a Basic Necessities Credit Card that money can't buy. I got this idea from hearing about a credit card system at a public school, somewhere, where each child is issued a credit card for school lunch. All cards look the same, nobody knows who's getting subsidized or not, no stigma, no cash! Mom and dad receive a print out of each meal "credited". They know what their kids are eating. Those who can, pay; those who can't, get a record of what they owe on behalf of their children… How about that? The world is a better place!

Food, books, supplies, medicine, musical instruments, first aid: no cash! The kids are committed to learning, not going without lunch in order to buy crud with their lunch money, or going without lunch because they are ashamed of their financial status... Credit Cards for School Lunch! Let it start there. Then for breakfast and dinner... books, supplies and whatever. Who cares how much it costs? What is the price we pay for our greed and ignorance? Who says we can't afford it? Show me the shortage that says someone must starve or go hungry that only money can buy...

Written Exams to get a Marriage License? You don't have to pass the exam! How about that? You have to take a test to get a marriage license, but you don't have to pass... You and your spouse have a chance to evaluate if you really know what you're doing, or not, or if you really want to go through with this thing, forever? If your potential love mate gets a low score (or a very high one) would you marry them, anyway? Will they marry you? You have to take the test, that's the point, but depending on how well you do, or don't do, maybe you might change your mind — before it's too late! Classes to improve your score would be available, but they would not be mandatory...

We need more homes in America (in the world)! We need to know more about what a real home is! It's not a question of money, money is not the issue! (We pay a high price for neglect.) It's a question of reason: it will be cheaper in the long run to provide everybody a home, than to end up dead, living in a castle or a prison. I think so. But then, what do I know?

Sure sounds good though, doesn't it? Let's take a vote.

That's my reaction for this month. I'm looking forward to your treatise on Revolution. I feel one coming... Have you ever been to the Hall of Presidents at Disneyworld? Or the American pavilion at EPCOT? Those are two shows that should go on the road...

Until then. See you in the morning...


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Good lord, an electronic journal issue on libertarianism that is not entirely stupid! You're to be congratulated, especially for Seth Finkelstein's "Libertarianism Makes You Stupid". That article is one of the best descriptions of popular libertarianism that I've ever seen.

I'm a little surprised that you didn't ask me for something for your issue: I would have been happy to produce something original for it. Perhaps my delusions of fame as an opponent of libertarianism are overblown, but I'm very glad that there was a link to my site in Seth's article. Still, a fair number of mainstream journalists find me to ask for information.

I expect you'll get substantial critical (and hate) mail from your readership, many of whom are no doubt libertarians. Enjoy it: you can measure your worth by the enemies you've made. :-)

Along the lines of your "tragedy of the commons" argument, Garret Hardin has written that he should have titled the article "The Tragedy Of The UNREGULATED Commons". That's a crucial distinction, which blows away 90% of the uninformed argument against commons by libertarians. Regulated commons do often work very well. And of course the reason why commons exist at all is due to basic economic facts about prohibitive transaction costs of enforcement of private rights claims to them.

But enough preaching. Thanks for a good job: I'm off to create some links to your articles for my site. You might consider my site for addition to your links page.

For rebuttals to libertarian arguments, check out:

Critiques of Libertarianism http://world.std.com/~mhuben/libindex.html
Liberalism Resurgent http://www.scruz.net/~kangaroo/tenets.htm

"Warning: Some ideologies on the Net are smaller than they appear." Seth Finkelstein

Mike Huben mhuben@world.std.com http://world.std.com/~mhuben/

Dear Mr. Wallace,

Congratulations on your nice August issue. I was looking forward to reading what you had to say on libertarianism, as a self-identified libertarian, though I expected it would be somewhat negative.

You are missing any strong philosophical defense of libertarianism, and I had thought to offer to write one, but on reading your piece and Seth Finkelstein's piece (and his references) I am reminded of some of the many inaccurate prognostications which usually appear in strong philosophical defenses of libertarianism, and how strongly rooted in a particular dogma about human nature and the efficiency of markets -- rather than good philosophy -- libertarian writings can be.

So I've started some notes for a piece titled "The Accidental Libertarian" explaining why I think libertarianism is correct, even though (if I have to think about it) I don't actually like the economic side of libertarianism. The general concept is that true moral conclusions can still be "repellent" -- and that law should never be based on compassion. (The basic point of view, I suppose, is disagreeing strongly with Seth Finkelstein that the libertarian concept of "initiation of force" is a fabrication, while agreeing with most of your own predictions about what might happen under a libertarian absence-of-government. And then trying to reconcile the two.)

Would I have any chance of getting this published (if it should turn out to be any good)? I realize it's terribly off-topic for your September issue. :-)

Seth D. Schoen sigma@ishmael.nmh.northfield.ma.us

Free Speech on the Net
Dear Mr. Wallace:

I have just recently gotten your book. It caught my eye at my local library. I have found it to be very informing and very interesting. I have used online stuff for years now, and I never really knew anything about censorship on the net and stuff. I heard about cases where parents sued ppl and stuff like that, but I thought it would die down and eventually disappear. Your book proves some good points. I wanna thank you for publishing it and for all your hard work on it, I am enjoying it very much.

Thank you
Mandy Stine of Pennsylvania

Hi Jonathan,

Just a few comments to help shore up your argument.

I'd be wary of saying that connecting to the internet is analogous to acquiring materials. The material is not actually in the library until it comes over the wires from the server to the client computer. Stuff that is blocked has, in fact, never been acquired. It has never physically (in digital form) been in the library.

Even when books have arrived in the library, they have not officially been acquired until they have been actively selected. This is quite clear in the case of donations and review copies. These books have arrived physically in the library but have not yet been selected nor "acquired". "Selection" is an integral part of the library acquisitions process. Simply hooking up to a system of telephone lines does not constitue "selection" of all resources connected to that system.

So (unfortunately) your analogy fails on both a test of physical presence and a test of active selection. Both of these are usually necessary to "acquire" library materials.

I feel this is an obvious and easily exploitable error in your argument.

Good luck!


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just wanted to say that I agree with both you and Peacefire. The Cybersitter software sucks. They don't just block indecent material, they block opinions, which in my opinion is WRONG.

Rune Viken rkdv@hotmail.com

Gun Control
Misters Wallace and Wilson,

I suppose that I'm not really surprised that gun control continues to be a topic in The Ethical Spectacle, two and a half years since the last time I wrote about that subject. But I am disappointed that you still haven't addressed some of my major points on this subject:

1. In 1995 I reported that the per capita homicide rate was the same today as it was in 1933. Since then, it has continued to drop, making this one of the safest times to live in America - even in our urban areas. Even that "modern Sodom", New York City has become a model of safe living. Brutal killings have become daily events in our lives - but not because of the wide spread availability of guns. Instead, it is because our population is many times what it was in those "safer" times and because the local news media find it a cheap way to boost ratings.

2. Since 1970 the number of accidental shootings in this country has fallen by more than half - in total numbers, not just per capita, which means the chances of anyone being accidentally shot are about the lowest they've ever been.

3. Despite the acute disbelief of city dwellers, the crime rates have fallen significantly in Texas since the right-to-carry laws were passed - whether or not that drop would have occurred anyway is an arguable point, but you certainly cannot claim that the right-to-carry laws have lead to a rash of homicides and suicides.


Given these three facts, in addition to the fact that we have co-existed with firearms for more than 220 years, why do we suddenly need to restrict gun ownership? Why do you assume that someone who abuses a hand gun won't abuse a knife or a tire iron?


Despite my three points above, it is also true that pistols are now available for less real money than at any time in our country's history. Since the weapons used in crime are, overwhelmingly, pistols (and not "assault weapons") why not support efforts to raise the cost of such pistols? A $100 tax on $25 and $50 pistols would go a long way to eliminate the "downstream" pollution that Jonathan complains of, without having any impact on our ability to own long weapons, or (really) the ability of a home owner to afford a pistol for home defense. Why not consider it?

Michael Heinz Michael_Heinz@lotus.ssw.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

The following is just one of the instances envisioned by our founding fathers when they wrote the Second Amendment:

Monday, August 25, 1997

Texas Deputies Raid Wrong House as Real Suspects Watch and Laugh

Texas deputies looking for drug dealers raided the wrong house and strip-searched a schoolteacher and her daughter, while the real suspects sat on their front lawn down the street, watching and laughing. Kaufman County's chief narcotics investigator was removed from his job after last Tuesday's raid by 15 of his deputies in Terrell, Texas, a town 30 mile southeast of Dallas. June Nixon, 57, and her 28-year-old daughter, Melissa Cheek, were watching television around 7 p.m. when deputies kicked in their front door and stormed into the house. Officers handcuffed both women and searched the residence, then a female deputy strip-searched both women in front of Cheek's 6-year-old daughter....

Sources: "Texas Deputies Raid Wrong House" Associated Press August 25, 1997; Charles Ornstein, "Wrong home, people searched in Terrell" The Dallas Morning News August 25, 1997.

Consider also the meaning of the following statement: "A well educated electorate, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books, shall not be infringed."

Keep up the good work, as misguided as it sometimes can be!

Steve Mohr froggy@cdsnet.net

An Auschwitz Alphabet
Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thank you for your work, for putting this where people can see it. I was deeply moved and saddened by your compilation...As a Jew in America, I have done my share of reading about the Holocaust, and certainly heard much about it in my thirteen years of Hebrew school. Your commentary on genocide and the numerous incidences of it in world history should be read by everyone; unfortunately, those who read it here probably already think as you do. I fully agree with your comments on the United States, the world's dangerous child. I must go now to absorb all that I have read. Again, thank you for your efforts.

melanie frank melanie@together.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

We have received a grant to create a Jewish Student Online Resource Center (JSOURCE) that will be designed to be a kind of cyber encyclopedia Judaica. We're trying to avoid reinventing the wheel and looking for existing material we might use. I wanted to see if I might use the text from two or three of your definitions from the Auschwitz Alphabet (A, B and O).

Incidentally, we are a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Thanks for your time and assistance.

Mitchell G. Bard, Ph.D.
Executive Director
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE)

Dear Mr. Wallace:

In your article you bring some very valid points. In fact, though I am not Native American I am first to say that if the Whites had had the technology Hitler had, they probably would have used it against the Natives and the true owners of this land. Every time I hear of what had happened to these people, read the explorers' diaries, church documents, etc. I want to cry, and I do sometimes.

I am a creative writing sudent, entering my Senior year. As an honors thesis, I was asked to write some kind of a fiction. I am writing a historical fiction about the Sand Creek massacre. The outline of the story is not important... I had already written a short story, which will serve as the basis for my larger work...

I understand your points...all of them but one: What the Israelis did in 1948 was part of a war. The Arabs had their chance to get much more land for themselves, and they refused, thinking that if they bargain tehy will get more. The minute Israel was established, it was attacked from all sides. What were the Israelies expected to do ? The Arabs wanted to push them to the sea and finish the job the Nazis started. As a Jew, you of all people should understand... I don't know, maybe your heritage doesn't matter to you. But you see, the bottom line is that there is only one Jewish state... If G-d forbid a new Hitler arises in America (and if you're realistic, and you've learned anything from history, you know that it could happen)then Israel is the only country in the world that will take you in and protect you - and they will not ask if you've ever said anything bad about the war in 1948.

You see, you might not agree with what the Israeli government is doing, or has done in the past...but it's the only government that will stand to protect YOU if you need its protection.


Adva Klein advak@pipeline.com

I hear this a lot, unfortunately. In summary, I should not judge Israel because (a) I have not lived there (in which case, I shouldn't judge Nazi Germany either) and (b) I am Jewish. And, as a backdrop, a moral statement: "All murder is wrong, except those we commit in pursuit of an important goal." See this issue's piece on revolution for more discussion of this idea.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Whew! I won't waste your time by writing pages and pages to express what cannot be expressed in words about the impact of your work. . .

And I do have a suggestion. I appreciate your point about not using the Holocaust to push an agenda (the "blank check"). I can also appreciate your personal conclusions about the non-existance of God. However, the section on God seemed only to communicate your personal agenda. It lacked the depth and breadth that the other sections had. You alluded to concepts of God by prisoners in other parts of the alphabet, which was very thought-provoking. But, unlike the rest of the alphabet, the subject of God wasn't explored in a way that communicated the reality of the prisoner's and/or perpetrator's experience of God.

I recommend to you the author and speaker Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust, and I believe she was at Auschwitz. She has written several books, and traveled extensively speaking about the Holocaust. She was able to retain a belief in God throughout her imprisonment, which included the death of her family members. Her books communicate her experience, as she grappled with faith in the face of such an ugly reality. You will find her books moving and riveting. In spite of your conclusions about God, I hope you will allow your exploration of the Holocaust to broaden to include this well-known woman's testimony.

Karen Walker mkwalker@shaka.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Just a quick note to tell you I found your website well presented and informative...I really related to the introduction. I was refered to your website by a non Jewish friend, who is reading through it carefully. I appreciate your effort.

Hanig Sharon stdt1@juno.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I only just started this Internet thing this week so I am hopelessly ignorant. I am a 53 year old woman living in a tiny town in Wisconsin, and I am thankful that it was your writing, whoever you are, Mr. Blumen, that I encountered as I do this Internet thing. I am not Jewish. I am not religious. But the elements of truth and the BEAUTIFUL writing that you offer to those of us who would read you have been the best and I am sorry to ramble on... for all I know the fact that I am not Jewish would automatically make you distrust or dislike me. I just want to say I like your writing and I can't figure out where the remainder -- that which follows after 1995 would be. Have you written a book that was published? I would read it. As it is, I will read what you have written here. I am kind of obsessive-compulsive for gathering together information about the history of the Jews. I have never done anything like this before.

Kathy cooper@pcii.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am very sorry for this horrific time to have happened, but let me ask you a question, not to be hostile, but I want to know.

My husband was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark. His mother and father were taken to the German concentration camps along with many other Danes, Poles, and others.

Why do we read about Jewish people and Jewish people alone going thru this?Why aren't the other people talked about too? I know that a lot of Jews were cremated, but so were other nationalities.

Just wondering.


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I came across your pages on Auschwitz via The Prisoner's Dilemma Pages which in turn I accessed starting from a page on JAVA applets.

I would like to say that I am very impressed by these web pages. I have looked at them for something like an half an hour now but have to do other work now. It makes me feel good and I find it important to see information on the web which bring home some truths about one of the key events of the 20th century. Trying to get to grips with these events has taken up a lot of energy for me when I was a youth but I could not help it. As someone aspiring buddhist ideals, I find it essential not to close my eyes to anything: in myself or around me, be it beautiful or as ugly as Ausschwitz.

Thank you for providing this service which touches my heart.

Norbert Voelker norbert.voelker@FernUni-Hagen.de

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just finished reading the entire Alphabet, and honestly I dont know what to say. I sent a friend, who is Jewish, to your site a few weeks ago, and much to my surprise her response was "This is not news to me." I tell you that, because it is news to me.

I grew up in a small town in Illinois and the holocaust was never taught to us in the school system. We learned about WWII....we learned about the nazis, but we didn't learn about the holocaust. My first real taste of what the holocaust was like was in seeing the movie Schindler's List a few years back. After that, I met my friend who has done much to inform me of what the conditions were like in the camps during the war. Still, I was not prepared for the information I found when I started reading what is in your site.

I am very happy that you have taken the time to put up this page. Maybe it will teach and inform others like me who only know what the world wants them to know about what really happened. I salute you for the time, effort and love you put into this project.

Sincerely, Dave Coughlin newton@accessus.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I was very interested in reading your tackling of the subject of pornography which I came across while researching a series of panels I am organizing for next year at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito. My focus is tending towards the attitude and use of and by artists (e.g. Sally Mann, Jock Sturges) towards porn and pornographers (there are two from the 70's -- Fred Halstead and Doris Wishman -- who sort of got this whole thing going))

I was wondering if you are aware of anyone who has maybe focused on the "artistic" issue vis-a-vis porn in an interesting, intelligent fashion (i.e. not the euphemistic/justifiying use which has been often employed nor the sensationalistic approach.

Thank you,
Brian Karl Lenkerd@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

First off, let me begin by congratulate you on running what I believe to be one of the most effective, least biased treatments of major issues on the entire net. I've been on the net for 7 years next week, and I will say that I was about to give up on the presence of unbiased political sites. Places such as intellectualcapital.com and policy.com are obvious in their general biases if you only care to read.

I've got some strong feelings regarding politics, society, ethics, etc., but they ar not traditionally conservative nor liberal. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a forum where I feel such ideas would receive a fair and unbiased treatment. Until I found your site, of course...

I was wondering what would be required to become a columnist/writer for the Ethical Spectacle, what kind of limitations you have, what kind of credentials you require (I only bring to the table someone who's believed everything at one point or another - on purpose - to try and feel what the mile in someone else's shoes is like)

. If you'd like, I can work on sending you a sample of my work for possible inclusion in next month's collection - a piece on revolution, I believe? Or I can just send you some of my pieces, maybe something on he nature of education.

As for myself, I tend to have political, social, and ethical beliefs across the political spectrum. I beleive in a mostly laissez-faire economy, but I believe in the design of government as an arbiter of disputes between people and the management of those things that individuals and corporations cannot themselves manage. I am a proponent of some radical ideas, such as funding schools on a head tax, as opposed to a property tax, basis, using vouchers only to non-parochial schools that meet certain standards, the establishment of "environmental trusts" in estates, and the organization of Solerian arcologies to replace existing urban centers. As you can see, there are a number of things I feel strongly on, and I'd like to think they're well thought out (I bought into Libertarianism for a while, but it was too utopian - but you'll see a strong libertarian leaning in my writings. They're onto something)

If nothing else, I'd like to get someone else with an open mind to critique some of my core ideas. To make sure I haven't overlooked something obvious.

But I ramble... I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Corwyn J. Alambar corey@londo.ncd.com

Hi Jonathan,

I remember Kent State too. I got to listen to my 'Christian' room mate try to justify the shootings.

My definition of GOD is: The order of reality.

Our task is to discern the order. It's interesting being part of it as well.

I enjoyed your bio.

I am 46 now, but I didn't really start waking up until 1980. I'm still waking up, developing my awareness that is. Later

Sam Grove

Dear Fellow American,

We have recently launched the Official Paula Jones Legal Fund Web-site at:


This site was created by volunteers to combat the White House spin-doctors and give Paula a fighting chance against the most powerful man in the world.

We would appreciate (and greatly need) your help. If you would include a hyper-link from your Web-site to ours, it would go a long way in stopping another Clinton injustice.

These next few months are critical. Any support in the form of a hyper- link, donation or just helping us get the word out could make the difference between justice and injustice.

Please check out our site. I know you will find it worthy of a hyper-link.

Thanks for your support.

Bob Schleicher

Dear Friend ,

Could you please add the following site http://www.freelebanon.org/ to your list of Links (Under Politics and Commentary)?

Although it is still under heavy construction, it is bound to be a great site regarding Lebanese American views on the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East region..

Regards and thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Ziad Abdelnour zka@hampton.net

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thanks for the Spectacle. I would like to recommend the Web site of the Critical Thinking Community as one of your links. The address is http://www.sonoma.edu/cthink/default.html. The perspective on education and thinking at this site is one that I think you will really appreciate and enjoy. I hope that you can contact Richard Paul, whose work is feature at the site, to see if he would submit some articles for your magazine as I think your readers would be challenged by what he has to offer.

Bill Baehr
Defiance, Missouri

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Can I take up your offer to link pages? My home page has your page in this section: http://mcnutt.mit.edu/wright/beware.html; the entire page is at http://mcnutt.mit.edu/wright/wright.html.

In addition to general mischief, there's some things about disability rights in the "HMO and Other Fascinomas" section.

It's messy but I hope you'll like it. :)

Michelle Wright smithie@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Any sites on police watch, curbing injustice, the like?


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Do you have any info regarding the ethical questions about reproductive technology?

Jessica Rogers Elle333@aol.com

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am currently writing an article on the ethical issues raised by the Human Genome Process. The issues raised are countless. Among the more important are (1) insurance company discrimination based upon information revealed in gene testing; (2) employment discrimination based upon information revealed in gene testing; and (3) genetic engineering of humans, to name but a few.

I would appreciate you directing me, if you know, to a site where this information can be found. If there is none, please consider adding this to your list of topics. The only information I have found has been on Westlaw.

Thank you.