Atlas Shrugged Miniseries

Oh noes, some morons are planning to create a Atlas Shrugged miniseries!

Gawker does a nice job summing up the story:

Charlize Theron would like to star as … Dagny Taggart, the lady who runs her brother’s railroad and enjoys violent sex with secretive entrepreneurial geniuses. But there is a problem: the book has not ever been filmed because it is terrible and involves a climactic 70-page monologue about radical libertarianism!

I’ve really dropped the ball on the development of the Ayn Rand Deprogrammer.

Free: R.I.P.

Wow! In a strange turn of events, Chris Anderson got it all wrong, while Malcolm Gladwell got it right. What’s that? Free. Chris Anderson thinks it is the future of price; that companies should give their products away free and find other, magical ways to generate revenue. Gladwell roundly criticizes this idea; it’s worth reading his review because his critique is effective on several levels.

Moving on…I want to make some crazy predictions here. Free is dead. It’s a Ponzi scheme, and we’re all invested in it. We all love free, but it has a price. We all think advertising will pay for everything, but in the end, something has to pay for advertising, and that something is in a recession.

Subscription was the model for media for a long time. In the last century, advertising subsidized subscription, and in some markets, subsumed it. In the 21st century, we’re going to have to start paying for things again.

Would you be willing to pay for sites such as the New York Times (as many people, myself include, do for the top-tier reporting of the Journal)? Would the tradeoff be worthwhile if there were less advertisements? What if, assuming that websites are wealth maximizing, these sites charge subscription fees, continue to advertise, and continue to sell users’ information? Would you be willing to demand more from publications if you actually paid for them?

The next crazy prediction: free is going to create a backlash similar to the anti-Wal-Mart movement.

Vitamin Lead: All Natural Component in your Nutritional Supplements

Stephanie Rodgers of the Mother Nature Network reports on a recent study of lead content in popular multivitamins by Consumer Labs. According to the news summary (the report is subscription only):

Of the 300-plus children’s vitamins and prenatal vitamins tested for lead, only four were found to be lead-free. Those include TwinLab Infant Care, Natrol Liquid Kid’s Companion, NF Formulas Liquid Pediatric and After Baby Boost 2 (for lactating women). No multivitamins for adult women tested negative for lead, but the ones with the lowest concentrations include FemOne, Viactiv Multivitamin Milk Chocolate, Family Value Multivitamin/Multimineral for Woman, and Women’s Basic Multi.

Now, since there are trace amounts of lead in nearly anything, it’s hard to say what this report means. Sciblings, do any of you have access to the actual report?

It seems to me that the market would be really effective in eliminating vitamins that contained high levels of lead, if only the information about contaminants were easily available and consumers could choose safer alternatives.

The Taxman Cometh via Ticketing!

You’ve probably heard that California is in trouble financially. No one wants to cut services and at the same time, no one wants to pay taxes. So what do you do? Ticket ticket ticket! And raise the fines for those tickets.

In the years I’ve lived in California, I’ve never seen so much traffic enforcement. They’re radaring all over the highways. And check this out–those fancy new parking meters are capable of neat tricks. For instance, it’s pretty easy to change the hours to 8 PM. 8 PM! In Oakland. Some ticket fines have more than doubled! The linkage to the financial crisis is explicit:

Oakland has raised the price of parking tickets, extended meter times to 8 p.m. in most parts of the city and is more aggressively enforcing parking violations, including in residential neighborhoods.

The decision is driven by the city’s budget woes, which deep cuts to city services alone did not solve. Falling sales and property, property transfer and hotel taxes have contributed to a $51 million decline in revenues.

One way or another, they’re going to get this money out of us. Would you rather just pay taxes or be nickled and dimed by the police? Which, of course, raises a related issue…why limit your fee collection to speeding and parking fines? Charging people for crimes, such as DUI, may be a money maker too…