Free: The Dismal Deal

Chris Anderson’s provocative new book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, argues that in the digital world, “free” pricing is a realistic and normatively good approach to pricing information products. Unlike the physical world of “free” products, which is plagued with fraud and tricks, the properties of the digital world make free actually possible when bits are sold. The physical world is limited, but the digital world is abundant. Businesses can leverage this abundance, and give it away while making money by charging for whatever is still scarce. For instance, software can be given away free while support can be charged for. Stripped down products can be provided free, while expert users will pay for fully-featured products that subsidizes the free.
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This day in Crankery, November 16th

So who here has actually read the health care bill?. I’ve been devoting a bit of time each week to peruse more and more of it, and while there are endless obstacles to a complete understanding of it (including legalese and the annoying tendency of legislation to contain edits to other bills without including the text of the other bills being edited) it is telling that opponents of the bill are having some difficulty coming up with real criticisms of it. For example, the now infamous death panel fiasco was a willful misunderstanding of a completely wholesome concept, the idea that physicians should be compensated for having end-of-life discussions with patients. It makes sense on multiple levels to reward such discussions. For one, they are hard conversations to have, and without a motivating factor, they are avoided by many physicians. The result is a situation in which many patients fail to communicate their desires for the end of their lives, they fall in the default pathway of over-utilization of resources at the end-of-life, with invasive and often pointless interventions that have no benefit and burden and overwhelm the health-care system. The ideologues who sank that language in the bill should truly rot in hell, because they destroyed a good thing just to create a bogus political argument.

And speaking of the death panel conspiracy theory, has anyone been checking out Arthur Goldwag’s coverage of Sarah Palin’s conspiratorial beliefs? How sad is it that we still have candidates for national office that believe things that fail the snopes.com test? Palin gives me the creeps, she represents my worst nightmare, a crank candidate with inroads towards a national campaign. Goldwag’s writing on the birther movement is also excellent and I’m glad to see these crackpots are being laughed out of court for the fools they are. In particular I liked the text of Judge Carter’s decision describing what it’s like to deal with cranks in court:

The hearings have been interesting to say the least. Plaintiffs’ arguments through Taitz have generally failed to aid the Court. Instead, Plaintiffs’ counsel has favored rhetoric seeking to arouse the emotions and prejudices of her followers rather than the language of a lawyer seeking to present arguments through cogent legal reasoning. While the Court has no desire to chill Plaintiffs’ enthusiastic presentation, Taitz’s argument often hampered the efforts of her co-counsel Gary Kreep (“Kreep”), counsel for Plaintiffs Drake and Robinson, to bring serious issues before the Court. The Court has attempted to give Plaintiffs a voice and a chance to be heard by respecting their choice of counsel and by making every effort to discern the legal arguments of Plaintiffs’ counsel amongst the rhetoric.
This Court exercised extreme patience when Taitz endangered this case being heard at all by failing to properly file and serve the complaint upon Defendants and held multiple hearings to ensure that the case would not be dismissed on the technicality of failure to effect service. While the original complaint in this matter was filed on January 20, 2009, Defendants were not properly served until August 25, 2009. Taitz successfully served Defendants only after the Court intervened on several occasions and requested that defense counsel make significant accommodations for her to effect service. Taitz also continually refused to comply with court rules and procedure. Taitz even asked this Court to recuse Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakazato on the basis that he required her to comply with the Local Rules. See Order Denying Pls.’ Mot. For Modification of Mag. J. Nakazato’s Aug. 6, 2009, Order; Denying Pls.’ Mot. to Recuse Mag. J. Nakazato; and Granting Ex Parte App. for Order Vacating Voluntary Dismissal (Sep. 8, 2009). Taitz also attempted to dismiss two of her clients against their wishes because she did not want to work with their new counsel. See id. Taitz encouraged her supporters to contact this Court, both via letters and phone calls. It was improper and unethical for her as an attorney to encourage her supporters to attempt to influence this Court’s decision. Despite these attempts to manipulate this Court, the Court has not considered any outside pleas to influence the Court’s decision.
Additionally, the Court has received several sworn affidavits that Taitz asked potential witnesses that she planned to call before this Court to perjure themselves. This Court is deeply concerned that Taitz may have suborned perjury through witnesses she intended to bring before this Court. While the Court seeks to ensure that all interested parties have had the opportunity to be heard, the Court cannot condone the conduct of Plaintiffs’ counsel in her efforts to influence this Court.

Plaintiffs have encouraged the Court to ignore these mandates of the Constitution; to
disregard the limits on its power put in place by the Constitution; and to effectively overthrow a sitting president who was popularly elected by “We the People”-over sixty-nine million of the people. Plaintiffs have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution which set forth its jurisdiction. Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this Court is not unpatriotic. Quite the contrary, this Courtconsiders commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism.
Therefore, for the reasons stated above, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

You can just taste the crankery. The complete looseness with the truth as long as it conforms to the warped worldview of these crackpots is part and parcel of cranks the world over. Reading the follow-up of this case from right wing sites like Free Republic, and Storm Front, it’s impossible to tell the difference between the conservative ideologues and the unrepentant racists. All the appeals to patriotism and the constitution are such weak cover for the fact these cranks are angry we have a black president.

I continue to work the long hours of a surgical intern and must say, it’s a lot of drudgery. Internship is much more about paying your dues than about learning a whole lot, although my daily routine is occasionally punctuated by moments of extreme excitement. For instance, I will not forget the first time I placed a chest tube in a patient in the bedside, the blood that poured out of the guys chest that was keeping him from breathing, or the time I walked into a room to discover a patient in the midst of having a heart attack. Luckily, the training sets in, and we have a lot of supervision, so even when things get crazy I’ve always got someone with me who has seen it all before.

I also am increasingly motivated to write more as I feel less plugged-in than ever to the outside world since writing at least forced me to read tons of diverse information on lots of different topics. Cranks and crankery are all around us and I’m constantly reminded of the problems they create. It seems every time I see some topical show, and the commentators pause to reflect for a moment on the problem they’re all facing, it seems like they all know what the problem is but just don’t have a good name for it. The problem is that lies can be equally effective as the truth, and denialism creates very real problems for us and our democracy every single day. Denialism works, and cranks run amok throughout our country and the world. We have to keep writing about it until rather being on the tip of everyone’s tongue, people are willing to come out and call out denialism for what it is, and shout it down when it rears its ugly head.

Get the H1N1 Vaccine Where the Poors Are!

The Viking and I ventured out early this morning to get the H1N1 vaccine and found long lines in the tony neighborhoods. SF Gate reports that the Marin public vaccination clinic was swamped. (The irony!–Marin is a hotbed of the anti-vaccination movement.) So where can you get the vaccine quickly? Downtown! We were in and out in less than an hour! There’s almost no one there.

I Increasingly Am Horrified by My Sex and Apologize Collectively for All Men to All Women


Exhibit 1001, on our great college and university campuses, this wretch can complain of coyote ugly. The nerve. Nice hat, BTW. Do you have a matching jersey? Ladies, imagine waking up with this puffy misogynist! Via Gawker.

Exhibit 1002, Southern Football’s Dating Game in Today’s WSJ.

Who Peruses Playgirl?

All this excitement about Levi Johnston in Playgirl Magazine is pretty interesting. We have the forthcoming tell-all book about Sarah Palin and fam, and the author posing naked.

And who reads Playgirl anyway? It occurred to me this morning that we could get some idea from looking at the magazine’s datacard, which at least would tell us something about subscribers.

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So, not that many subscribers. Not much of a surprise. And over 30% male…not much of a surprise. And only 230 from Canada! Could you imagine having a dinner party for the Canadian subscribers to Playgirl magazine? That might be an interesting crowd.