February 2012

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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:

Regarding your abortion essay.

You wrote:

The most logical, compassionate and libertarian rulebook we can adopt--in fact, the one we already adopted, which the right is trying to undo--says that a woman need not permit anything to use her body or her bloodstream without her permission.

perhaps the logical and compassionate decision in her part would to have not had sex in the first place and the second best choice would have been to ensure that she was taking every possible precaution.


John T. Broom, Ph.D.


I enjoyed your article on abortion and pretty much agree with it. However, I think that there is a chink in the armor of your argument. In evolutionary terms, sex developed ages ago as a means to continue a species, and since it wouldn't be a good thing to have procreation be an unpleasant experience, sexual pleasure evolved to make the experience a good one. Such pleasure and any attendant emotional fulfillment that go along with sex are, however, secondary matters to the need to continue the species.

Humans have evolved enough intellect to overcome some of the simple imperatives of biology. Abortion and the treatments for various diseases are evidence of that, and they allow people to enjoy the secondary elements like sexual pleasure for their own sake. Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes pregnancy or disease results accidently, and, by your excellent arguments, a person has a right to treat the problem so that "a woman need not permit anything to use her body or her bloodstream without her permission."

However, I see one little philosophical problem. Absent rape, deliberately having sex nevertheless invokes the evolutionary imperative, whether the woman thought about it or not, since biology continues on its own terms regardless of intellect or will. I see here that voluntarily having sex implicitly gives permission for conception to occur and for a fetus to grow. Our laws and reason recognize that even in that case, the woman has the legal right to terminate the pregnancy. But there is still the issue of giving permission for the inner organism to grow and later revoking that permission.

You being a lawyer, I would think that arbitrarily revoking a previously made agreement would give you something to chew on.

Bruce Clark


Re the Rags and Bones item "Property and OWS" - Like yourself, I'm a free-speech absolutist. I support vigorous protest, even when I disagree with the goals of the protest, as an expression of the democracy that we claim to hold dear. However, in line with this, there is something that irked me from the very beginning about the OWS and other Occupy protests in various places. They were not protesting, for the most part, on private property with the permission of the owner. They were occupying areas that other members of the public had a claim to use, a claim as legitimate as that of the occupiers.

Setting up tents and living in a place, taking the use of it away from everyone else who might have a right to use it, is self-righteous and rude in the extreme. Moreover, it is stupid. One way or another, doing that will make opponents out of people that would otherwise support you.

I remember in the struggle against the Vietnam war, there were always those hippie-yippie dopes wanting to block streets or bridges into Washington or New York or someplace. They couldn't get it through their heads that they would end up driving potential supporters into being opponents.

More recently, I've encountered otherwise sane union protesters who were picketing on the sidewalk and decided to move into the street at rush hour, stopping traffic. The result was a two-mile long wait. The folks waiting couldn't read any signs or banners. They only knew what they read in the next day's newspaper that union protesters blocked traffic to put their own particular demands ahead of the lives of everyone else in the vicinity. How many supporters do you think that generated? I had the opportunity to later talk with one of the demonstrators and ask why they did something so dopey. "Oh, it's more radical" was the reply. I just walked away shaking my head.

I agree with Gandhi's statement that "You must be the change you want to see in the world." If you want the world to be better and more thoughtful and considerate, don't be unnecessarily rude and inconsiderate in your protests.

Bruce Clark

Hello Jonathan

You write --:

There is something in the wind worldwide, that started in Tahrir, in fact in Tienamen all those years ago, and spread to Zuccotti and now Red Square. I am hopeful and enjoying the worldwide spectacle (and doing whatever I can in my small way to help).

Without endorsing the OWS leftiness, your point may be basically correct except that the current wave of protests against government malfeasance did not begin in Tahrir (Square) in Cairo, Egypt, but in the smaller country of Tunisia, two doors down, where the revolt that drove out President Ben Ali pushed the new cycle of events. (There, it began in towns like Kesserine and Sidi Bouzid. In the latter of the two, a young man self-immolated because of government/police harassment and abuse for asserting his right to make an honest living through free enterprise (and not, by the way, as misrepresented often, because he was angry about not having a job.)

Matthew Hogan

Hello... i've enjoyed reading some of your pieces but couldn't find an RSS feed anywhere in order to keep up in future... is there a link of any sort you have ?


I have acquired a method of adopting new technologies: I wait for ten years after they are introduced, then see if I still need to. Since the Spectacle is only updated once a month, wouldn't a Googlegroups list, letting people know when a new issue is up, be just as good? I once had a list for this purpose using a different technology, and it worked pretty well for a while. But it didn't have good security, and I dropped it when someone added a lot of people to it just to annoy them. Googlegroups validates new members so should work better.

Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just read your piece on Lying:.. I think I've been to your site before.. I just read your story. .You are a mensch!!!

It's such a long journey ... eh?

You resemble me, in many ways...

I'm very interested in the "gap between intention and utterance" and the place human agency.. fancy words for what you say more easily.. I'm Jewish in a very non-liturgical way but I love the ontological model... and the ethical model.. although I tend to move more to the Sufi..


Thank you


Dear Jonathan -

Please accept my appreciation for your work in aiding Holocaust education.

I wonder, however, why the Alphabet list seems to omit any attention to the care Jewish prisoners tried to provide one another despite Nazi bans against such behavior?


Prof. Art Shostak