Number 264, March 21, 2004

"Mind Your Own Damned Business"

[Letters to the editor are welcome on any and all subjects. To ensure their acceptance, please try to keep them under 500 words. Sign your letter in the text body with your name and e-mail address as you wish them to appear.]

Letter from L. Neil Smith

Letter from e.j.totty

Letter from Bob Tipton


I can't remember how this thread got so far away from the subject, but before it goes away. I'd like to say something about the novel, Hope.

I enjoyed writing it, and The Mitzvah, as well. I especially liked writing about Dana Li and have a swell idea for a sequel, set slightly ahead in the future, when Linda Alvarez is President, and Alex is nominally retired. He and Dana now have a bunch of kids, and advanced medical science is keeping him young. He doesn't play golf, so he's bored.

A scientific event occurs that pulls Alex and Dana into a sort of murder mystery chase of world-shaking proportions. What I have in mind is a sort of Nick and Nora Charles adventure, for those who know what that means.

The trouble is that my esteemed co-author, Aaron Zelman, doesn't think we've sold enough of Hope to merit a sequel. He'd be delighted to be proven wrong, of course. He and I had great fun working together every day.

So ... if you'd like to read the sequel — which would be called EarthScan, you can do two things. First, buy more Hope (go to my site at, or to Aaron's at Second, pass this message along to whomsoever you think would be interested in any or all of the three books.

Thanks for "listening", commercial over.

L. Neil Smith

Dear Editor/Mr. Ed,

Re.: Law versus reality - Part II

Well, I see that Mr. Stone, the third, has struck again, like a bandit in the night!

Same old story, but with a few interesting twists, regarding 'intellectual property.'

Once again, Billy boy, in reference to those same pages in "The Complete Jeffereson," it was Mr. Thomas Jeffereson, who — in keeping with the idea of private property, suggested to the Congress "A BILL TO PROMPTE THE PROGRES OF THE USEFUL ARTS." That was on the seventh of February, or 1791.

Additionally, Mr. Stone, the third, continues unabated with the taking of liberties, concerning the quoting out of context the essence of another's thoughts.

But, now that I consider my last thought, Mr. Stone's modus operandi pretty much fits the profile of a thief of the intellect: It matters not what was said, when it was said, where it was said, or even the subject; rather to him who would steal the essence of your ideas, what matters most is that s/he may quote you endlessly — entirely out of context, and proceed to make your words fit his/her world view.

An overview of all of this causes me to consider that Mr. Stone, by his own professing of facts at the end of his posts, indicates that he possess a number of IS/IT certifications.

I'm almost there, having attended several courses of instruction at a local community college, to attain the following:

A+ (computer service),
Network+ (IT basic),
Server + (IS Basic),
CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate),
CWNA (Certified Wireless Network Adminstrator),
MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator),
CISSP (Certified Information System Security Professional),
CEECS (Certified Electronic Evidence Collection Specialist),
CCCI (Certified Computer Crime Investigator),
CCFT (Certified Computer Forensic Technician),
and a few more.

Now, ya know?

There's a degree of hypocrisy being expressed by by Mr. Stone, in the regard that he professes to possess certifications, while on the matter of intellectual property, he digresses endlessly.

For the more astute, you'll have already guessed where this is going. But, for those scratching their heads, allow me to explain further.

Here's the rub: What is a certification, if not a discrete proclamation that the possessor has unique knowledge about which s/he professes?

A certification is after all, a claim to fame.

IT IS A LICENSE provided by whatever authority, not unlike a patent.

This is not unlike a Lawyer's Sheep Skin: You have the knowledge, and you have proven yourself.

Granted, some certifications are good for a limited time, but so aren't patents.

Does not a certification give you the right to say: "I know whereof I speak"?

Is that not exactly the same thing as "I am the originator"?

If no one else is around to claim that, then you are the only game in town.

Essentially speaking, a certification actually limits the degree of competition that would otherwise happen. So, in reality, a certification is really a mini-patent.

There is a GREAT degree of consonant concurrence here, in that the possessor of a patent knows more about his/her idea, than anyone else, and that the possessor of a certification professes — by dint of that certification, to be more aware of his/her field than anyone else NOT in possession of that certification.

The clincher is this: A patent allows its owner to acclaim whatever s/he might in the way of monetary attainment — depending upon the market.

A certification does exactly the same thing

So now, who's being hypocritical here?

If, during the term of official ownership, a patent owner may seek to control the use of the thing patented, and if during the term of a certification, the possessor of it may claim a degree of superiority regarding knowledge, then what's the difference between either?

To paraphrase what that infamous socialist from California, Sen. Feinstein, said about firearms (now about certifications): Turn them all in, Billy boy!


Re.: Law versus reality - Part II

Dear editor:

William Stone's recent articles concerning "Law vs. Reality" suffer from a failure to consider other examples of law or custom that might conflict with someone's perception of reality. Mr. Stone asserts that since "intellectual property" is only an idea, it has no basis in reality as property. However, couldn't the same argument be made for ANY type of property that isn't actually carried on your person? Primitive man had no concept of property at all — his only possessions were those things that could be carried on his person, to be used when needed. It took generations for the concept of land ownership to become generally accepted. Once the idea had become generally accepted, it could be enforced. Whether the property rights were enforced by government or through private contracts or simply custom is irrelevant to this argument — if the concept of property ownership wasn't generally accepted, it couldn't be enforced by anyone. What is land ownership, if not a generally accepted legal fiction? I can't carry my land with me, or hold it, but I can still reasonably expect others to respect the boundaries of my property holdings. The most I can do is put a fence or a wall around it, but that doesn't guarantee that the boundary will be respected. A person from a culture that didn't recognize land ownership, for example, might consider my fence or wall to be nothing more than a slight barrier.

To revisit one of Mr. Stone's examples: while it is true that once a song has been performed, the singer can't prevent someone from remembering it, the singer does expect others to respect the generally accepted interpretation of song ownership. If another band were to perform her song, and negatively impact her income, I would argue that they had in fact initiated force against her. It would be no different than if I began planting my crops slightly farther over into your property each year, thereby reducing your income while increasing mine. If the generally accepted idea is that singers have intellectual property rights to their songs, wouldn't they be correct in interpreting the violation of those rights as an aggressive act, worthy of some type of response?

Would Mr. Stone consider it acceptable for squatters to start settling a portion of his property, simply because they didn't recognize his concept of land ownership? If the squatter simply jumped the fence and sat down, wouldn't that act, and a subsequent refusal to leave, be an initiation of force? After all, the boundary of his property is nothing more than an imaginary line, and there are still some cultures today that have very different ideas about property and ownership than what is generally considered reasonable. Wouldn't the owner still be entitled to use force to drive off the squatters, even though the squatters hadn't committed what they would consider to be an act of aggression?

Mr. Stone's suggestion that the Zero Aggression Principle is sufficient to prevent people from killing one another is an over-simplification. If two individuals hold different views on what property is, then there could still be force used to resolve the issue between them, even though both people followed ZAP. What would be an appropriate level of force in response, however, would be a matter of opinion. ZAP doesn't guarantee a force-free existence. If anything, it places an even greater burden on an individual to be prepared to defend their beliefs with force, and therefore to carefully choose what beliefs they follow.

Bob Tipton

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