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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Denying AIDS – A book by Seth Kalichman

Seth Kalichman is a better man than I. Kalichman is a clinical psychologist, editor of the journal Aids and Behavior and director of the Southeast HIV/AIDS Research and Evaluation (SHARE) product, and he has devoted his life to the treatment and prevention of HIV. Despite a clear passion for reducing the harm done by HIV/AIDS, to research this book he actually met, and interviewed, prominent HIV/AIDS denialists. I confess I simply lack the temperament to have done this. To this day, when I read about HIV/AIDS denialists, and the the 330,000 people who have died as a result of HIV/AIDS denialism, I see red. I think violent, bloody thoughts.

The HIV/AIDS denialists, like Celia Farber, object to being called denialist, a quote from her in the book:

Those who wish to engage the AIDS research establishment in the sort of causality debate that is carried on in most other branches of scientific endeavor are tarred as AIDS “denialists,” as if skepticism about the pathogenicity of a retrovirus were the moral equivalent of denying the Nazis slaughtered 6 million Jews.

To this I would reply that the HIV/AIDS denialists like Duesberg are worse than holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers are anti-semitic bigots and horrible people sure, but the HIV/AIDS denialists are responsible for an ongoing campaign of death. Because people like Duesberg have convinced morons like Thabo Mbeki of their pseudoscience, hundreds of thousands of people are dead.

This is why I see red. Denialist is about the nicest thing you could call the likes of Farber and Duesberg.

Kalichman’s book is well-written, timely, thoroughly researched, and to his great credit he uses my definition of denialism. Ha! How could I help but love this book? The fact that he pursues denialism from a psychological angle, and interacts directly with the critical denialists behind this story make it a profoundly important study and resource in understanding not just HIV/AIDS denialism, but all forms of denialist pseudoscience. This takes a very patient, very dedicated person. I would have lost my temper, lost my patience, or lost my mind to have delved so deep into this madness. Not to mention, I’m not very forgiving or nice to people I perceive as being so detrimental. It’s a personality flaw, I recognize it. That’s why we’re lucky to have people like Seth Kalichman.

Let’s discuss some of Kalichman’s findings below the fold…
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Storm World

I’ve been reading Chris Mooney’s Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming for the last week or so, and I’ve got to say, this is excellent science writing. A book on science for the non-expert reader should accomplish 5 things. It should let you know the history of the field and its prevailing theories, it should give you background and explanations that allow you to attain a basic grasp of the science or key concepts, it should be well-written, it should make you care about the subject, and it should be entertaining. Mooney gets a 5/5. It also was highly entertaining to me, because in the course of the development of hurricane science there have been lots of examples of downright cranky behavior, as innovators who developed key ideas would refuse to relinquish them in the face of new data and observations. Mooney casts the debate in terms of two camps, which are broadly, the empiricists vs. the theorists, each of which throughout the history of the science have had better or worse luck explaining the data and accepting changes in the field.

One should also read the preface and introduction of the book, which sets the non-alarmist/non-polemic tone and really makes you care about learning the subject right of the bat. Mooney writes:
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