There's already some derisive buzz about QubeTV, the video sharing site for conservatives who claim that liberal media giant YouTube won't let them play in its digital sandbox. I haven't had time to wade into its archives, but I notice that it's off to a great start by appropriating part of its logo from Altria (A.K.A. Philip Morris). Are the Qubers just lazy graphic designers or image-remixing copyfighters? We'll see what happens when the first cease-and-desist letter arrives...
Billed as a mash-up of Election and Spellbound, this film is a charming portrait of four middle-school presidential elections. You know the drill: There are the popular kids, such as the Marin County, California, girl who admits that she'll win votes because she's pretty, "But that's just the way things go." Then there are the overachievers, like the self-described "politically obsessed dynamo" from Austin. Yet the one to root for is Mick Del Rosario, an utterly winning kid from San Francisco, who runs on a platform of "More fun! Pure democracy!!!" Adolescent drama abounds, but the real story here—as in adult politics—is about money. Mick, whose immigrant dad works two jobs, makes do with a hand-lettered poster, while his suburban peers and their parents print up stickers and T-shirts. At Mick's inner-city school, crummy used textbooks are a hot-button issue; across the San Francisco Bay, candidates promise better flavors of Jamba Juice in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, this divide is one of several questions left unexplored as the filmmakers opt for sound bites over substance.
THE CONSPIRACY: Secret plans are afoot to merge the United States into an E.U.-like union with Canada and Mexico. The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, a trade agreement being discussed between George W. Bush and our neighbors, is actually a cover for a soon-to-be-formed single North American Union. Dollars and pesos will be replaced with a new North American currency called the "Amero." The new "superstate" would erase the current borders, leading to a flood of former Mexicans into the region once known as the United States.
THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: Jerome Corsi, coauthor of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, who's managed to enlist the sympathies of Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist and anti-immigration Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). And Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), who introduced a bill last September stating the United States should not enter into said North American Union.
MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: The spp is real, but it's a run-of-the-mill free-trade program along the lines of nafta. The idea for a single North American currency has been floated by academics, but that's it.
Kookiness Rating (1=maybe they're on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat): 4
The Tribune Company has announced that its holdings will be sold off to Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell. This is the latestthough hardly the lastchapter in the saga of the Tribune Co., whose attempts to use a "convergence media" model to create editorial "synergy" between its newspapers and TV stations perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of placing profits before reporting. As Eric Klinenberg writes in his article on the sad state of the American newspaper in our current issue, Tribune's "cut and gut" approach has been a disaster, particularly for the once-proud Los Angeles Times, which has been bled dry since being picked up by Trib in 2000.
The company's impending sale made some Angelenos hopeful that a white knight such as David Geffen would buy the paper and save the day. But for now, Zell's the man to watch. He has no experience running a media company, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on whom you talk to. One Tribune Co. critic tells the LAT that "Sam Zell is a hands-off guy, so he will pick good people to run this paper and let them run it. The fact that he is a hands-off, strong player bodes well for journalistic integrity." But as others have observed, Zell has a prickly relationship with the media, including his hometown Chicago Tribune. As Dean Starkman observes over at CJR Daily, Zell's company, Equity Office Properties (EOP), was "famously thin-skinned" when it came to the press. And, he reminds readers, "as the going got tough, EOP resorted to a strategy that will sound familiar to newspaper employees: cost cutting." As Klinenberg writes, once you start to see journalism as just another profit center rather than a public service, you start undermining the very product at the heart of your business. You can't cut finanical corners without hurting editorial quality. We'll soon see if Zell has learned that lesson by watching his new company's past performance.
The world of economics is predictably unpredictable; we know that markets will ebb and flow, but not when or often why. So too it goes with John Lott, the undefatigable conservative economist who is guaranteed to pop up in some new controversy of his own creation every so often. What keeps him goingand why places like AEI embrace himremains a mystery. Lott is most infamous for his claims that crime rates are inversely proportional to rates of gun ownership; or as his book title put it, More Guns, Less Crime. Small problem: His research is far from bulletproof, and he's been repeatedly exposed and denounced for what could be charitably called sloppy research. In his defense, Lott has blamed "coding errors," claimed that some of his data have been destroyed, and in his finest moment, created a fictitious online identity to take on his critics. But none of this has slowed him down. For a good rundown of Lott's sins, see Chris Mooney's 2003 piece on our website, which shot some more holes into his work. More recently, Lott sued the Freakonomics guys for defamation after they wrote that he had "falsified his results." A judge threw part of his case out. Now Lott's firing back with a new book, Freedomnomics, a defense of the free market against "freaky theories," printed by renowned academic publisher Regnery. Fact checkers, statisticians, and economists, start your BS detectors...