That sound you hear

is my head exploding — again. One of these days, I’m going to learn to quit reading the news before I’ve had enough coffee to function at something close to human levels. For one thing, once caffeinated, I know what stories not to read. You know the stories I mean: the ones that have you wanting to either throw the computer against the wall or that threaten to send you out onto the streets, looking for the idiot in the story so you can “discuss” the situation with him.

I hate to say it, but I’m a slow learner about this one thing. At least it seems that way, especially this morning. There are any number of stories that have me grinding my teeth and looking for something to throw. But I’ll touch on only two of them. One of them has me shaking my head and wondering about some folks’ priorities. The other is a continuation of a story that has been more than a year in the making and yet it still continues to aggravate me to no end.

The first happened in the Kansas City – Baltimore football game this weekend. Fair admission here: I didn’t watch the game. I’m not a huge fan of either team. But I did scan the sports section this morning and saw a mention of an incident in the game. Then, when I went online, I found more about the game and what had to be one of the biggest “WTF were you thinking” moments in NFL history. Even if it wasn’t, it is one of the most embarrassing moments — or it should be.

KC’s quarterback Matt Cassel isn’t the best quarterback in the league and yesterday was not a shining moment in his playing history. If I remember correctly, he threw three interceptions in a game KC lost in what looked like a baseball score: 9 – 6. This was also a home game for KC and, as you can imagine, the fans weren’t impressed by Cassel’s playing.

Coming from Dallas, home of the lukewarm fans, I can understand that. Dallas fans have been known to turn on their own team in a heartbeat. We love winners and demand that of our pro teams. Ask poor Tony Romo after his performance last week. But, to the best of my knowledge, Dallas fans have never cheered when a Dallas QB has gone down to injury.

And that is what happened in KC yesterday. Early into the fourth quarter, Cassel took a hit that left him laid out on the turf for several minutes. During that time, KC fans — and not just a few of them, by all accounts — cheered the fact that he’d been hit and would have to come out of the game. That’s right. These people, and I use the term loosely, were glad someone had been hurt and were not afraid to let others know it. After all, I guess it’s more important that their team win than it is to worry about how badly a player might be injured.

As appalling as that is — and, considering just how seriously some football players have been inured over the years, it is very appalling — something good came out of it. Eric Winston, one of the KC players, was so angered by what happened that he called an impromptu conference after the game. With reporters crowding into the locker room, Winston let loose on the fans for their behavior.

“When you cheer,” Winston said, “when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel – it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams, I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there.”

All I can say is good on Mr. Winston. The behavior exhibited by those cheering fans was sickening. I can’t help but wondering if they are the same parents who stand on the sidelines of their kids’ little league games and yell when their child doesn’t slide, cleats first, into base. Or maybe they are the parents who yell at their child for not taking cheap shots in football or soccer. After all, winning is all that matters — who cares who gets hurt in the process.

Gah. That’s all. Just Gah.

Now for the second head exploding moment of the morning. A little background first. Last month I wrote a post over at Mad Genius Club about Bob Kohn, his comic-strip style brief asking to intervene in the DoJ’s price fixing law suit against Apple and five major publishers, among other things. Funny thing is, my head was exploding over that post too. Guess it’s a good thing my head grows back as quickly as it does. 😉

Any way, glancing through the headlines over at Publishers Weekly, I see Kohn is in the news again. Judge Denise Cote denied Kohn’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit. In fact, her judgment — which I assume wasn’t written comic book style, proving she has more respect for Kohn than he has for the court — was ten pages of explanation of why she was denying his motion, focusing on the fact he doesn’t have standing in the case.

Not that that is going to stop Kohn. As is his right, he’s already filed an appeal of her judgment. My issue with this is Kohn’s reasoning for wanting to intervene. He says, “My aim is to get this case thrown out,” Kohn states, “before it does further damage to consumers, authors and the book industry.” That sounds good. Usually I wouldn’t have any problem with that. The problem is that this is a law suit about price fixing — not about whether or not publishers should be allowed to use agency model pricing. That’s an issue so many folks seem to forget.

Let me repeat that. This is a case against price fixing. The Department of Justice has alleged collusion on the part of Apple and the five publishers to fix prices. It has not said “Agency model pricing bad. Must stop it.” Quite the contrary, in fact. It has said there is nothing inherently wrong with that pricing model. The issue is how the publishers and Apple allegedly decided to implement it across the board.

But this case has become a classic smoke and mirrors defense for the named parties — except the three publishers who have agreed to settle with the DoJ and state attorneys general. They want to put Amazon, a non-party to the suit, on trial. You see, according to them, “Amazon bad. Amazon might do something in the future that might harm us. That means we must be allowed to break the law now to protect ourselves.”

Like I said, smoke and mirrors.

If they realize that argument won’t win you over, they then turn to the “but e-books prices haven’t risen since agency pricing went into effect.” They point to studies that show just how the opposite is true. What they don’t do is break those sales down between the publishers following the agency model and those who don’t. And let’s not forget all those e-books being put out by authors and not through publishers. Those also tend to be much lower than the price of agency model books. But, gee, that’s using logic and that mustn’t be done in this suit.

So here come Kohn, saying he wants to protect the industry and the readers from further harm. What harm? Where has the industry, the consumer and the author been harmed?

Oh, here come the boo-birds, pointing out how Amazon has killed the local bookstore. Nope. Don’t buy it. Why? Because that forgets, oh-so-conveniently, the fact that the big box stores basically killed off the local indie bookstores. Those same big box stores then over-expanded and didn’t adapt to changing economic times or technology demands. Nor does it look at the fact that, in many areas, the local indie bookstores are making a resurgence.

Did Amazon hurt bookstores? Sure. They hurt the big box stores the same way the big box stores hurt the local indies. By undercutting prices. But no one seems to worry about that. After all, as I’ve said before, Amazon is the big evil.

So, how does Amazon hurt the authors? Hmmm….it offers them the opportunity to put their backlists out without having to go through a middle man. It gives them 70% royalty if the author charges at least $2.99 for that book. Show me a publisher that pays that much to the author. Oh, wait, you can’t.

And the boo birds will be back, telling me how much it costs for a publisher to put out a book. Sorry, nope. The figures don’t work, especially if that publisher is also putting out the hard copy of the book. Authors need to get over their feeling that they owe publishers something and remember that they, the authors, are the creators. Without them, publishers wouldn’t exist. Well, I guess they’d find someone who just has to be “published by a real publisher”. Sigh.

How has the publisher been injured? Look, the biggest problem with legacy publishing today is that it continues to insist on operating the same way it has for decades. It has been too slow to adapt to changing times and demands. To fight possible economic ruin, they allegedly stooped to collusion to fix prices. But, according to so many of their supporters, that’s okay because Amazon is bad and might just do something evil in the future.

Whether Bob Kohn has standing or not and, from what I can tell, the judge was right in ruling he doesn’t, he has the right to appeal. But please, quit playing smoke and mirrors and actually address the issue before the court — did the named defendants collude to fix prices or not?

And folks wonder why my head keeps feeling like it’s going to explode.

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