Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 581, August 1, 2010

"The definitive Nero Wolfe"

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Letters to the Editor

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Letter from Paul Bonneau

Letter from Richard Bartucci

Letter from Crazy Al

Letter from Gadget42

Another Letter from Richard Bartucci

Letter from A.X. Perez

Another Letter from A.X. Perez

Letter from Rex "Baloo" May

Yet Another Letter from A.X. Perez

Yet Another Letter from Richard Bartucci

Intellectual Property Rights

It occurs to me, that the only things you can really own, are the things you can prevent others taking from you, all by your lonesome; or with the aid of others who voluntarily assist you. I don't really see how IP rights can be defended this way. It seems to take the state to do it. So unless this is wrong, IP rights are a statist fantasy.

But then I think all rights are a fantasy. Just memes...

Paul Bonneau

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Re: "Arma Virumque Cano" by L. Neil Smith


There is literally nothing so human as the ability—and the need—to acquire and use tools. The fashioning and utilization of tools defines a person as an individual capable of surviving and prospering in his environment, and the peculiar category of tools which we call "weapons" are more proximally and critically valuable in effecting survival than any other type of machinery.

It is thus quite natural for human beings conscious of the value of skill with such implements to proclaim their personal validity in representational art—photographs, f'rinstance—with the display of those personal weapons in which they have invested time and wealth to achieve praiseworthy expertise.

Just as the crew of combat aircraft and fighting vehicles and warships take pains to have themselves photographed with the death-dealing equipment they painstakingly trained to operate, the person who has developed some facility with a shotgun, or handgun, or rifle is naturally going to demonstrate his pride in his achievement of aptitude.

It is nothing more than a sign of good mental health, and it takes a peculiar kind of schmuck to interpret it in any other way.

Richard Bartucci

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Way back when while dead sober I translate the chorus to "Where, Oh Where Are You Tonight?" to Spanish. It's hilarious. Buck Owens' heirs would probably be pleased. Or maybe not.If I ever profit from singing this I owe them a piece of my action.

Here's why. If Owens' heirs and assignees are forced to beat the crap out of me to stop me from singing the ditty in question and that is the only way they can stop me they will only have to answer for whether they beat me worse than necessary. If I apply force to Owens' heirs and assignees to get them to go along with my rending I will face criminal charges even if all I did was threaten the use of force to obtain permission to sing or continue to sing "Donde, Donde" in public.

This is called them enjoying intellectual property rights.

Crazy Al
Somewhere in Far West Texas

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Regardless of our opinions of Time... please help make this viral!

TIME Cover

The Plight of Afghan Women: A Disturbing Picture" by Richard Stengel


[Now if this "Humanitarian" foundation would start supplying Afghan women with personal defense weapons that would help make things better—Editor]

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Re: "Conservative Shortcomings" by Sean Gangol

For the traditionalist conservative, the foreclosure of effective education in the government schools is less a matter of "teaching abstinence" or advancing the "War on (Some) Drugs" than in the imposition of ignorance, the obliteration of dispassionate and intellectually honest information on those subjects of which these creatures are psychoneurotically fearful.

I submit that the openness of the human child to new experiences and to learning sets the person of a conservative inclination into a state of deep disquiet. The conservative is by definition a neophobe, almost viscerally terrified of anything remotely novel, even if that thing is objectively harmless. He will strive quite irrationally to forestall, foreclose, and evade anything which departs from his idea of what is familiar and therefore comfortable.

The conservative therefore looks upon the education process as a sort of prolonged nullification of the most central characteristics of the human child and adolescent. He does not want their learning abilities to be cultivated. He wants those capabilities carefully obliterated, so that each child is sculpted purposefully into a simulacrum of humanity which does not fill the conservative with disquiet and dread.

This neophobia on the part of the conservative is one of the reasons why their confrontations with libertarians—whom one would think to be natural allies in the struggle against "Liberals" and similar scum—are so stressful for conservatives. Libertarians tend reliably to accept the fact that things change, and understand that the only way to cope with reality is to seek a dynamic optimum in adaptation.

The conservative is psychologically incapable of such an attitude, and this is demonstrated quite clearly in the conservative's projection of his neuroses upon the curricula of the government schools.

In sex education, the conservative advocates abstinence because he desires that the child be neutered, for all practical purposes castrated into sexlessness. I am frankly surprised that the conservatives do not advocate the compulsory administration of depot-formulation gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) antagonists so that children and adolescents would not be able to manufacture male or female sex hormones, and thus be deprived of even the endocrine stimulation leading to the development of secondary physical sexual characteristics.

So too with psychotropic drugs, invoking not only the specter of Pavlik Morozov (the adolescent "Young Pioneer" who denounced his peasant father to the Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie during the murderous agricultural collectivizations of 1932, and was in turn killed by his family) but also imposing the astonishingly ineffective "Just Say No" doctrine which has been demonstrated again and again to fail in preventing older children and teenagers from succumbing to drug abuse and addiction.

Because the conservative does not want schoolchildren to actually learn anything factually accurate about psychoactive substances—and therefore be genuinely forewarned about the impairments these chemicals truly impose—he actively prevents them from making effective choices about their actions, counting upon knee-jerk conditioning which does not survive the years of late childhood.

As for "creationism," I confess that I take great delight in the conservative's effort to slide his Old Time Religion into the science classroom as a literal deus ex machina. I am not unwilling to confront the possibility that there might indeed have been the intervention of "intelligent design" in the development of life on earth, but instead of something supernatural, wouldn't it be nice to admit the sort of "Purple Space Squid" scenario in which intelligent extraterrestrial aliens purposefully seeded Earth with DNA-based progenitors of our present population, and then either backed off to observe or wiped themselves out in some kind of catastrophe linked to a shortage of telephone sanitizers?

Certainly such a speculation is no less reasonable than a recitation of the Yahweh mythos, no?

Let us by all means allow equal time for the Purple Space Squid.

Richard Bartucci

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Fanny Patting

Fanny patting is a common gesture of affection, horseplay, and expression of sexual attraction. It can be anything from a brief deliberate touch, extended carress, swat, to a towel pop. Certain persons are more generous in permitting their fanny to be patted than others, certain people are in professions where people assume it is implied they have pretty much granted general permission to everyone to give them a fanny pat.

Unless the person attached to the fanny in question specifically requests that another person keep their hands off. Then it is understood that even if the rest of the human race has permission to pat said fanny, the person requested to keep his or her hands off must honor that request or face civil suit, criminal charges and/or physical retaliation to the degree the possessor of said fanny needs to enforce his or her rights.

If people have the right to demand that their fannies be considered sacrosanct, do they not also have the right to demand that their ideas be considered sacrosanct, to decide whether someone sampling their music or borrowing their written work has permission to do so?

Notice I am not arguing against "fair usage." I am saying that the creator of an idea has the right to determine who and under what conditions a person has the right to use that idea.

I am saying that if you tell someone they must stop using your idea or pay a fee they must stop or pay even if you let others use it gratis. It's at least as wrong as someone putting their hands on your or anyone else's fanny after they have specifically been denied permission and deserves the same response.

A.X. Perez

[see also "On Plagiarism" by Richard Bartucci in this issue—Editor]

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A Response to "A response to 'Little Criminals' with a challenge..." by Seth Cohn

I read "Melancholy Elephant" back in the day. I respect Mr. Robinson's argument that extending copyright on into infinity was harmful to creativity. Please note that there is this thing called public domain,i.e., that after a certain amount of time an author/ inventor, loses exclusive rights and is not entitled to compensation when people use his ideas (for example, why there are so many clones of the Colt 1911 out there, essentially the design has gone into public domain since sometime in the 1980's.). Usually for written works copyright expires some time after the author's death. Mr. Robinson was talking about ending public domain and why it was undesirable.

Last I heard L. Neil Smith writes his ideas down on paper for a living. He feeds his family off the money he earns from royalties. Have you ever heard the expression "What food have I stolen from your children's mouth?" (Wayne Newton when warning Johnny Carson he had gone too far in his jokes about Wayne Newton, back in the Seventies I believe)? It is used to ask someone why he is picking a fight with someone who does not know what harm he has done to the person looking for a fight. I submit that commercially to use Mr. Smith's ideas without giving him a piece of the action or at least credit and free advertising is stealing food from his family's mouths.

Secondly, to use someone's idea without giving him credit, even if you modify the idea to meet your needs better, is considered a big academic no no (and pardon me for switching from high brow to low brow usage). That is what foot notes, end notes and parenthetical notes are for. Did the Shire Society even bother to give Mr. Smith this academic recognition? If so I didn't see it on the copy of The Covenant of Unanimous Consent the Shire Society posted.

Mack Reynolds wrote a couple of novels based on Bellamy's Looking Backwards. In them he predicted a variation of the internet, and he addressed how authors could and would be compensated for people downloading their work. Reynolds can best be described as a socialist with libertarian leanings and he thought giving someone compensation or at least recognition for the use of their ideas was necessary.

Now if you want to tell me that studios and publishing houses are going too far in blocking the download of movies, recordings, and books I might agree. But if you claim that it is appropriate to use someone else's ideas without compensation or at least acknowledgement you better be prepared to tell me why this isn't plagiarism if not outright theft.

A.X. Perez

[see also "On Plagiarism" by Richard Bartucci in this issue -- Editor]

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New OBUMMER bumper sticker!

Get your new OBUMMER sticker here!

Rex May
PHONE: 1-970-218-0889
All about me here:

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Re: Arma Virumque Cano by L. Neil Smith

It ain't just guns, boys and girls:

Krisstian O'Neil (a.k.a. A.X. Perez)

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Re: A response to "Little Criminals" with a challenge... by Seth Cohn

In response to your essay denigrating Intellectual Property Rights, I would draw your attention to the concept called "theft of service."

Let us say that you had steered your vehicle into a high school student organization's fundraising car wash, gotten it laundered, and then drove away without paying a dime of the posted "donation" requested.

It might be that none of the students slopping suds and hosing down car after van after pick-up truck were aware of your petty peculation when you ducked the bucket, but you will have violated a tacit contract with malice aforethought and gotten away with a palpable good—a freshly-washed car—in what is unarguably a theft of value.

The kids were scrubbing fenders and squeegeeing windshields with a purpose in mind, and you knew it. You stole. Not something of great monetary value, but nonetheless you entered into a deal with your fellow human beings, and you skunked out on your end of it.

This is precisely what happens in the deliberate violation of intellectual property rights. The creator of an entertaining or educational element undertakes—ceteris paribus—the effort involved with an expectation of compensation, else he would not have brought that valuable good into existence or made it possible for other people to obtain it.

Anyone who evades the obligation to compensate that creator as the originator demands is perpetrating theft of service akin to the diner who sits down to a meal in a restaurant and then blithely walks out of the establishment without stopping at the cash register to pay the tab.

Much that goes on in the marketplace happens in situations where there are tacit contracts between vendor and purchaser. The writer or artist's creation of novel work—and the publisher's role in bringing it to the marketplace—imposes upon the consumer a requirement to comply with the originator's terms of remuneration for services rendered.

Thus we have intellectual property rights of the kind defended by Mr. Smith.

You are in the position of the scapegrace freeloader who feels the hand of the diner's manager on his shoulder while scampering out the door, indignantly arguing that the soup that had vanished from the table you'd occupied "...was already cooked when I came in here, and it would have just gone to waste if I hadn't eaten it!" therefore there's no reason why you should be held responsible for making payment thereupon.

Letting you get away with that kind of shameless bullshit—and then crow about it self-righteously—is a sure recipe for the elimination of creative effort of all kinds, not just the production of speculative fiction and expostulatory prose.

Richard Bartucci

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