January 2012

Top of This issue Current issue

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.

The following barely registers as a flame, and I probably would have let it pass, except the author so badly wants it to be:

I picked out the funniest thing you said in your essay on Schindler's List:

"Schindler's List is dishonest because the number of Schindlers in Germany, or for that matter anywhere in Europe, was so small as to be statistically insignificant."

Now let's apply your logic to the movie "Patton":

"Patton is dishonest because the number of Pattons in the U.S., or for that matter anywhere in the world, was so small as to be statistically insignificant."

Now let's apply your logic to the movie "Downfall":

"Downfall is dishonest because the number of Hitlers in Germany, or for that matter anywhere in the world, was so small as to be statistically insignificant."

Now let's apply your logic to the movie "The Passion of the Christ":

"The Passion of the Christ is dishonest because the number of Christs in the Middle East, or for that matter anywhere in the world, was so small as to be statistically insignificant."

Now let's apply your logic to a biography of Abraham Lincoln:

"The biography of Lincoln is dishonest because the number of Lincolns in the U.S., or for that matter anywhere in the world, was so small as to be statistically insignificant."

I'll probably send you some more later; this is pretty fun.

Nice work, rocket scientist; you're really on to something here.

John Swapceinski

P.S. - Feel free to consider this a flame, and to publish it


I enjoyed reading your article My Night in Jail. I am an activist in Australia and have experienced arrest and jail (LOL only half a night in a cell on my own) in relation to protesting against the slaughter of kangaroos (most people raise their eye brows at this point and a sort of glaze appears over their eyes so if you are still reading I will take that as a plus).

But what I fight for here in Oz, even though expressed through this form of activism, is the same as what is being fought for by the OW movement and other 'areas' of protest around the world. It is something that is not easily put into words, and certainly not felt by all, but I 'know' it, I 'feel' it and I support it.

Maybe I'm being presumptuous, certainly I run the danger of generalising...but three years ago I was present at a mass slaughter of hapless kangaroos and the process running up to it...the equivalent of 'de-humanising' (is there a word that covers that in relation to other species??) the kangaroo, the bureaucracy that surrounded the preparation of the public before the slaughter, during the slaughter and after the slaughter....the systematized way it was done....it could just as easily been humans....as it was in world war 2...a powerful connection was made then and there, an epiphany, and I have fought against it ever since in ways I have not done previously nor with the passion I now do so with.

Thanks once again for your powerful article and I look forward to reading the next instalments.

Regards, C


Sorry I haven't been contributing the last few months. I've been phenomenally busy. However, I have been reading the Spectacle and have the following reply to your latest column, in which you describe making a protest sign which says:

"Billlionaires or democracy? Your call."

The main question here seems to be: "Do we have to choose between the rich and democracy? Why can't we have both?"

I am currently reading Glenn Greenwald's latest book: "With liberty and Justice for Some." In it he advances the argument that virtually all the founding fathers were at least resigned to the notion of economic inequality as a fact of life. That is to say, freedom almost ensures there will always be rich and poor. What the founders were insistent upon, Greenwald maintains, is not economic equality but legal equality. In order for Democracy to survive, the founders argued, there should be - even must be - equality under the law. "In his 1795 essay Dissertations on First Principles of Government, Paine thus insisted that 'the true and only true basis of representative government' is equal application of law to all citizens: rich and poor, strong and weak, powerful and powerless, landowner and tenant."

And while as a country we have often fallen short in the justice department (slavery, women's rights, mistreatment of Native Americans) Greenwald suggests it has always been through the courts that injustice and inequality has been addressed with any degree of success.

Applying all this to the Occupy movement it seems what Greenwald and the founding fathers are saying is that the real problems we face today are not the fact that Lloyd Blankfein and the Koch Bros. and the Murdochs of the world get paid billions. It is that the legal system has been corrupted and perverted to the point where ordinary citizens get pepper sprayed and hauled off to jail for sitting on a sidewalk in protest, while billionaires engage in actual criminal acts and no one even considers prosecuting them. In Greenwald's words: "A society that demands equality under the law will move inexorably toward it. A society that renounces this virtue will move in the opposite direction. We have manifestly, become a society that no longer even rhetorically affirms the necessity for this equality, and the outcome is exactly as dangerous, oppressive, and antidemocratic as the American founders warned it would be."

Republican spin-meisters like Frank Luntz have been struggling to defuse the Occupy movement by saying they are protesting in the wrong place. (i.e. we are blaming the wrong people for our troubles.) http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/republicans-being-taught-talk-occupy-wall-street-133707949.html

Once again, I wonder if there is not some merit to this claim. Given that the founders felt equality under the law was and is paramount for a healthy democracy, it leads me to wonder whether the occupy movement wouldn't be better served by moving some of their tents to the steps of the Supreme Court.

Tom Vincent

Dear Mr. Wallace:

just had a quick gander at your 2000 paper on natural rights:

you seem to be quoting other people and reading books

imo natural rights can be found by looking to nature

ignore humanity all together if you like

but you could also look to man as an animal, which we still are, and take note of what humanity has always done, what we innately do, what we instinctively do without thought.

As far as self defense goes we and everything else take measures to preserve our own life- we all flee, hide, or if cornered fight

trees with poisons, ants with acids, cats and bears with teeth, man with their brain- tools- whatever defensive tools are aplicable at the time.

one need not read books or quote persons for this.

think holistic, step back and see the larger picture

If you agree that all life has the right to that life

If you agree that all life has the right to protect that life

that is step 1

the harder step is agreeing that the state can NOT offer adequate protection for all individuals within its care, or to admit that it is often the state itself that will endanger or kill the individuals under its care

but, again, step 1 is the most important and the easiest step


Anyway, nice to see folks with opinions on the net..........

gives me something to do when Im bored! :)


I think I sketched the problem with this approach in the article. The wolves-have-teeth analogy can be used to postulate a right of rape, murder or theft, as we have the physical capabilities to commit any of these in a state of nature, just as we do to defend ourselves. Saying that a "natural right" exists only to perform acts that we now consider "good", but not to commit any we now think "evil", requires a lot of Rube Goldberg- or gerrymandering-style design not found in nature.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

Hi Jonathan, saw your article on Craigslist

Yeah boy you sure did nail it. Very eloquent.

I've been on CL for a long time and lately their fascist policies are about to choke me. I'm admittedly (unfortunately) completely dependent on them for my business. Hey who uses the paper any more??

Lately my ads just never even show up and I'm left with trying to figure out why. It's so frustrating and unfair.

As you noticed, the forums all basically poke fun at you and support their shitty practices, denying you any real help or information.

Have you come up with any new information as to how to avoid this problem or to deal with it?


This letter is in response to the articles covering the decision by the National Transportation Safety Board calling for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.

It seems that everyday we hear of yet another traffic "accident" resulting from road rage, teenagers speeding through curves or the average citizen being in a hurry to go nowhere. Now we are seeing the results of how cell phones/texting devices compromise the safety of a driver and those outside the vehicle.

When I back my car up and the rear of my vehicle strikes the rear of another vehicle (for instance in a supermarket parking lot); that is an accident. But when an individual operating a motor vehicle demonstrates such a callous disregard for the safety of others; that is reckless driving. This phenomenon is indicative of what has happened to our society; people could not care less about their fellow citizens. People would rather experience the "thrill" of traveling at high velocity than consider the consequences of their actions. Now they can travel at high speed and be distracted all at the same time. Evidently the punishments being meted out for these crimes are not severe enough but then again it has never been proven that the death penalty has a direct affect on reducing murder.

One solution for reckless driving caused by the use of cell phones {while driving} is the installment of a device allowing for hands-free cell phone use. Essentially the cell phone operates through the car radio. All drivers must be required to have this installed in their motor vehicle. This solution may not prevent all drivers from being distracted by cell phone use but it would sure be a strong attempt at keeping our attention where it belongs.

As for texting devices, we must outlaw their use in a motor vehicle; period. My nephew was killed in a car accident as a result of a texting argument with his girlfriend. The autopsy confirmed there was no drugs or alcohol in his system. Studies have confirmed that texting lowers a driverís reaction time worse than alcohol.

Unfortunately there is really no way you can stop their use unless you spot someone texting or you find the device among the rubble of a mangled car or truck. There is too much evidence to indicate that most people cannot "chew the fat" and drive at the same time. As for cost, the same argument can be made about the airlines failure to install cockpit security doors. If those cockpits had been secure on September 11, 2001 (after 30 years of airplane hijackings), some 3,000 plus United States citizens would be alive today. My nephew would be as well.

Joe Bialek