Friday, February 03, 2006


Good afternoon.

Today's interview is with a man who needs no introduction, Randall P. Wentworth, IV. He's known to his friends as "Bartholomew". Let's begin:

Bartholomew, you're a true, rags-to-riches, self-made billionaire. How did you get your start?

Yes, I started with nothing, penniless, on the street.

But you wanted to improve your situation?

Not just mine. It wasn't just a selfish thing.


I looked around at the society, and realized that all the theft was ruining people's lives, damaging the economy, and costing jobs.

I see. So how did you address this problem?

Well, I thought I had to deal with the most immediate problem inpeople's everyday lives. I became a hum catcher.

A hum catcher?

Indeed. See, there was a lot of theft going on. Theft makes everybodysad. And I figured I could have a vital role in stopping it. Whenanyone hums a tune someone else has written, without prior permissionand a royalty payment, they're committing an act of theft.

And how did you go about catching these hums?

It wasn't easy, being penniless and on the street.

I imagine not.

What I did was use high powered directional parabolic microphones withdigital audio recording decks and parallel processor computers running in tandem on custom-written software.

Sounds very complicated... It must have been difficult to acquire all that.

Not really.

Well, it must have been quite a bootstrap operation. After all, youwere penniless.

I was. I had to ask my dad.

Oh. He wasn't penniless?

Lord, no. He's a multi-millionaire.

He is. I see.

When I told him my idea, he gave me seven-hundred-thousand dollars.

Ah. And you used this to invest in equipment for your enterprise.

No, I bought a jeep.

A jeep. Well, that must have been quite an... expensive jeep.

Not really.

So you invested the rest of the money in your enterprise.

No. I drove around in the jeep until I'd blown all the money on cocaine and hookers. A jeep is a very stupid vehicle you know. Unless you're actually driving off-road, there's not much point. The only benefit it offers is that it tips over easily on curves.

I see. So I suppose you had to take the curves slow.

Of course, but that's not as easy as it sounds.

No, I imagine not.

Especially with all that cocaine.


But the cocaine was an unfortunate necessity.

It was?

Sure. Driving a jeep is sooo boring.

And why is that?

'Cause you have to take those curves so slow, of course.

Of course.

So I ran through the money pretty fast because of that. That and the hookers.

Ah. And then, when you hit bottom, you realized it was time to getyour life back together. You settled down and worked your way back up.

No, I just asked my dad for another seven-hundred-thousand dollars.

And this time you used the money wisely.

No, I bought another jeep.

I see. So, you're a rags to riches story like Bill Gates or Donald Trump -you started out fabulously wealthy, and you're fabulously wealthy today.

It's the American dream.

But you did eventually start catching hums.

I did, yes.

Because you wanted to improve society.

And get rich. And squash people.

I see.

I tried to become a cop, but I scored too high on the intelligence test.

Yes, I can see that. So, what sort of hums did you catch?

Well, I'd catch children, mostly. The Muppet Theme was a big moneymaker for me early on.

And what did you do when you caught them?

Terrify them. Threaten their parents with lawsuits. Did you know Happy Birthday to You is copyrighted?

I did hear something about that.

Well, we'd slowly patrol neighborhoods until we found mailboxes withballoons on them, then we'd camp outside with sensitive listening devices until we heard the song.

What did you do then?

We had the police kick the doors in and arrest everybody.

That sort of trauma, one imagines, could destroy a child's life. Must've been hard on the police, doing that.

Not at all. We used the drug police. Very handy for that sort of thing, and used to destroying the lives of people who aren't doing any harm to anyone.

I see. So by protecting that song, you were preventing theft.

Yes. We haven't managed to copyright the words, though.

The words to the song?

No those are copyrighted, but we'd like someone to get a royalty everytime the words Happy Birthday are uttered.

You would?

Why not? The phrase was invented by someone.

I suppose so.

Invention must be rewarded, that's how we spur new inventions. Why do you think no one's improved on Happy Birthday all these years?

No one's getting paid for it?

You see my point. Someone should get a royalty. We'd like to get one for the words used together, separately, or in any combination.

Not a lot of combinations in two words, one imagines.

Still, it's the principle. Someone could go Birthday Happy!, and use that loophole to get around our copyright. Or Happy Happy! or Birthday Birthday To You!

I see your point.

Of course you do. And that's just a start. We need to get all words copyrighted, and soon.

But, aren't words part of our common heritage?

Copyright has been extended so long now that we say why not make it forever. If I make aviolin or a butter jar, it's mine forever, or my family's, or whoeverI sell it to.

What's a butter jar?

The point being everything is better if someone owns it. Otherwise,you get the Tragedy of the Commons, where no one owns something so noone cares about it.

I've never heard of a butter jar.

Look at the state of our language, people mumbling all the time.

A honey jar, sure, but never a butter jar.

Now, if words were owned by someone, they'd have an interest in preventing that sort of thing.

Like, "effect" and "affect".

Or "hopefully". Indeed. And you couldn't just add -ize to something togive it a new, business-speak use, unless you paid a lot extra for that. There'd be a lot of jobs created in marketing just such words.

Wouldn't that harm society, the common discourse, all that?

Oh, on the contrary. Not at all. Corporations would ensure theirproducts would be used wisely. They'd protect the common discourse from, say, ridiculous skits like this one. With the words owned,corporations would have a vested interest in making sure everyone was literate, so that there was a bigger market for their products. That'show the free market takes care of itself.

It does tend to do that, doesn't it?

Also, the language is often quite shabby, people mumbling and so forth. That's because there's no pride of ownership. If someone had paid for a license to use the world "regardless" for example, they'd certainly want to protect their investment by not mumbling.

Or using meaningless constructions like "irregardless".

You see my point.

What about works that might be considered lewd? I hate lewdness.

We all do, of course, but the invisible hand of Adam Smith would take care of that.

I'll thank Adam Smith to keep his invisible hands to himself.

Speaking of lewdness I'd like do something about home shagging.

About...? You mean, you'd copyright that, too?

Well, something has to be done about it. It's just causing huge losses to the prostitution industry, you know.


Of course. We calculate billions are lost daily. Practically killing the industry.

And ownership would make it better?

Works with everything.

So what's next?



Well, it's a huge problem.

It is?

Of course: People are getting it for free. When something's free, they don't appreciate it. You're not appreciating the air right now. But if I were to take it all away from you, you'd see its value.

I imagine I would, yes.

But you get it for free, so you don't. And why should anyone getanything for free? You have to work for things. Water has been privatized; why not air? Nothing in life is free.

I suppose it would generate a lot of economic activity if air were privatized, and, as we know, all economic activity is good. Are there other benefits to this?

Certainly. Suppose I'm spewing a lot of arsenic into the air near your house.

You're not, are you?

It's a hypothetical.


So, supposing I'm doing that. Now, I've bought the air that I'mpoisoning, so it's mine to do as I like with.

Of course it is.

So, I put a chemical marker in the smoke, and if you're breathing myair, without prior permission in writing, you're violating my copyright.

Oh heavens, I wouldn't want to do that.

Of course you wouldn't. Plus I'd have you arrested.

That doesn't sound very fun.

Believe me, it isn't. So, to avoid that, you'd have to buy oxygen tanks and breathe with air masks. Whether piped in our delivered by tankertruck, air would become a service like any other, just as it should be. And you'd be much healthier for it. Do you realize 40,000 people ayear die in the United States as a result of air pollution?

I didn't, no.

That's 'cause nobody owns it.

You're quite a visionary. Thank you for sharing your views.

Oh, don't get me started on views, especially not on sharing them.


They infuriate me. Billions are lost daily on view pirating. Why do you think everything keeps ruining the view?

No one owns it?

Exactly. When fat people stand in front of you, you can say, "You're blocking the view!" all you want, but because it's hard to show a monetary damage, you can't have them arrested. If you could, they'd have an incentive to lose weight.

People need incentives.

They do. Privatizing views is essential. Every view should be owned and copyrighted. It would be marvelous for the economy. For example, there'd be royalties from the photographs.

It must be difficult for you, having to think how much damage is being done to the economy by view theft.

I get so infuriated every time I see a picture of a lovely sunset.

I'm sure you do.

Almost as infuriated as when I see a kitten.

You'd copyright kittens?

Don't be absurd. You can't copyright a kitten.

No, I suppose not.

I just hate kittens.

You must be very proud of Bill Frist.

Incredibly. Anyone who would cut the beating hearts out the living kittens is a natural-born Republican leader. Other students were just out drinking or maybe studying - Senator Frist was cutting the beating hearts out of living kittens, after he'd kept them as pets.

But some have criticized him for that, saying it was sadistic or even psychopathic. He now calims it was the result of being under so much pressure.

Well, then, I'm relieved the man found a low-pressure job, something that won't bring out his natural sadism. He is, in any case, an inspiring example for all Republicans. Vicious little things that they are.


Kittens. Tadpoles make far better pets. Very loyal, and you don't have to declaw them to keep them from biting your elbows.


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