Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Case of the Missing Beef Jerky

For one brief shining moment, there was a recent op-ed by someone named Michael Turner, "Free as the Air - Except for", up at Now it's gone. This op-ed seems to be at least an allusive response to a press release by Gregory Nemitz, which is also gone from You might still be able to read both of them right now if you look hard enough.

It's no secret, exactly, that Gregory Nemitz has invoiced NASA for $20 - his price for a century's worth of parking fees for the NEAR Shoemaker probe on an asteroid Nemitz claims: Eros. Obviously he's not in it to recover legal fees. He's seeking a decision that can establish what he feels would be a positive precedent. Presumably he has excellent counsel, who have ruled out that the possibility that a decision against him would set a dangerously negative precedent for his hopes.

One might accuse him of being little more than a publicity hound for his company, I don't think so. To his credit, his space property rights crusade is not mentioned on the company's home page, though the Eros Project home page naturally mentions as a sponsor. He seems sincere enough to me.

Sincerity isn't everything though. Sincerity, passion, intensity - all good things in the name of a good cause, you'd think. But balance, practicality, and objectivity also come in handy, if you want to be effective. Mr. Nemitz's style of confrontation brings into question whether he has draws enough from that second set of qualities, which I will assume he has, to be effective. Let me support that suspicion - with his own words.

First, in his press release, he's quoted as saying this:
"There will be no commercial activities to harvest the vast and valuable resources in Space without official respect for private property rights."
Now that sounds sensible enough, but on my planet, Earth (though not on the Martian moon I claim, Phobos) there's a long history of commercial activity in resource extraction from public lands. Look at America's national forests, for example - a great deal of logging takes place on them, and I think that's fine as long as some reasonable criteria for sustainability are met. I think we can all agree that sustainability isn't exactly a looming issue in space resource extraction. And I'm not going to get into angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument about exactly when a tree becomes the private property of a logging company. It suffices, I think, to say that the land itself is a public trust, and that trees are made of resources that the trees extracted themselves from public soil, from air and rainfall that belongs to nobody and everybody, and from sunlight nobody has claimed.

Mr. Nemitz's press release continues, saying that "Nemitz's long-held viewpoint was recently confirmed by the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond," supporting that "confirmation" with a quote from the report beginning this way:
"Because of this treaty regime, the legal status of a hypothetical private company engaged in making products from space resources is uncertain ...."
Not "impossible." Just "uncertain." Personally, I think those uncertainties should be addressed. But that doesn't mean I want to put words in anybody's mouth. The report specifically recommends addressing space property issues, while admitting that the issues are complex. Nemitz's claim on Eros is not complex: he says he owns it.

If Mr. Nemitz's argument ended there, I'd only fault him for mild hyperbole. After all, perhaps I've uttered some such bloviation myself at one time or another. Finally - did Mr. Nemitz write this press release? It's unsigned. Perhaps "confirmed" was not his choice of word.

Unfortunately for his argument, the press release continues disastrously. Nemitz is quoted again:
"The United States, in its defense of the U.S. Department of State's and NASA's Official Determinations in this matter of Rights v. Treaty, espouses a position that endorses and is in complete accord with the first plank of the Communist Manifesto."

The cited plank being:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes." Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848, Marx

The United States "espouses a position that endorses" abolition of property and diverting all rents to public purposes?! What can this possibly mean? A position can't endorse anything - only people can do that. Well, whatever: Did the judge say anything like that? Can we find the Order to Dismiss from the U.S. District Court in Reno, Nevada? I'll save you the work: it starts here with Eros Project: U.S. District Court Judge McKibben's Order to Dismiss, Page #1.

This copy of the Order to Dismiss Mr. Nemitz's claim is tough sledding - a bad scan - but I can't find the document on the U.S. District Court site for Nevada, only a document order form. I'll transcribe as well as I can from the Eros Project scan, where I see fit.

Judge McKibben argues on p.2 that "[a] complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for a lack of a cognizable legal theory SmileCare Dental Group v. Delta Dental Plan of California, Inc...."

SmileCare v. Delta is an interesting decision to me because it was used against a man I've spent a few hours with, John Gilmore, in his case naming John Ashcroft as defendant. Gilmore claimed his constitutional rights were violated by a requirement that he either show ID, or subject himself to light body search/scan, before boarding an airliner. Gilmore lost.

SmileCare V. Delta itself seems to have been about anti-trust, and the ruling was in favor of the larger corporation. I have not read about it in any detail.

The Order to Dismiss Mr. Nemitz's case goes on at greater length, of course, citing sundry other decisions. Perhaps somebody can find something in it where Judge McKibben "espouses a position that endorses and is in complete accord with the first plank of the Communist Manifesto." Me, I'm scratching my head.

Now, what's this about some missing beef jerky? I believe that was the based on the highly credible statement of some Michael Turner who has claimed

(1) major physics breakthroughs
(2) the Martian moon Phobos
(3) atmospheric air molecules
(4) a global conspiracy to deny him all three.

Without a shred of evidence! He also claims, without evidence

(5) that he has ordered some beef jerky from Mr. Nemitz
(6) that he has filed suit against Nemitz for failure to deliver and failure to refund.

Of course, if Mr. Nemitz decides to look into the matters of (5) and (6), I'd suggest that he get his priorities straight. He should first determine whether this Michael Turner has filed suit against him, and not even bother checking whether there was any such order placed.

If Mr. Nemitz can satisfy himself that there has been no such legal action taken against him by this Michael Turner, I recommend he write gentle e-mail to that person, pointing out that Mr. Turner is taking himself way too seriously, should check his own records, and should perhaps seek professional counseling.

If he can't find that particular Michael Turner's e-mail address, he can send it to me at I promise to pass it along.


At 6:14 PM, Blogger OrbDev said...

Hello Michael,

I ran across the blog:

and see you are unhappy with the SpaceDaily article being withdrawn.

I tried to contact the author to discuss the "missing beef jerky" and received no response. Simon Mansfield, the SpaceDaily editor, decided to withdraw the article because it was libelous and defamatory to

I researched my sales records and found no orders by "Michael Turner", and notified Simon. When Simon contacted "Michael", apparently he was not satisfied with any evidence of a beef jerky purchase.

Just because you are not pleased with my political opinion concerning property rights in space, that dissatisfaction doesn't give you license to defame my business.

Now if you can provide some evidence of a beef jerky purchase that wasn't received, I'd be happy to publicly apologize and refund your costs.



From: "Michael Turner"
To: "Gregory Nemitz"
Subject: Re: Eros Project
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2004 01:01:41 +0900
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

I never ordered any beef jerky from you.

The piece was intended to be satire. The only way it could have damaged your business is if someone took one part of it seriously: that I hadn't gotten some beef jerky that, in reality, I never ordered. But the only way anyone could take it seriously is if they believed the reasoning I put in your mouth in that made-up story. And why would they believe it, in a clearly satirical context? Because they
had come to doubt your sanity. And why would they
doubt your sanity? Your own press releases - with their absurdist reasoning - make the reasons for any such doubt clear enough. And if you didn't want this aspect of your mental health widely known, why did you issue a press
release that makes it so starkly obvious?

If you're going to sue me, then sue me. If you're not going to sue me, then forget about it. Or get a sense of humor already.

-michael turner

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