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...
The much-anticipated televised spin-off of Ira Glass's <i>This American Life</i> debuts this week. Will video kill the public radio star?
Dave GilsonMar. 21, 2007 3:00 AM
The third episode of the new Showtime series This American Life opens with a wonderful animated short. As cartoonist Chris Wares adorably geometrical characters bumble about, host Ira Glass interviews a guy named Jeff about a childhood incident in which he and his fifth grade classmates started carrying make-believe movie cameras everywhere. As they obsessively filmed their everyday lives, what began as a fun trend soon devolved into the schoolyard version of COPS. The camera really changed the way we behaved, Jeff observes. Glass agrees: People act different if theyre behind a camera.
I'm lovin' it. McDonalds has asked the Oxford English Dictionary to change its definition of "McJob." Since 2003, the OED has defined it as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector." Mickey D's house lexicographer claims that such a definition "is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day." Actually, the two definitions don't conflict at all; the OED just bothers to mention that service sector jobs are poorly paid. Maybe it should redefine "minimum wage" while it's at it; something like, "An artificially high, mandated wage that prevents the creation of exciting opportunities for talented, committed, hard-working people who want to make people smile." Hopefully, OED will stick to its guns. Otherwise, they may have to redefine "chutzpah," too.
This is a bummer. The great 'zine Stay Free! is about to stop publishing. If you're not familiar with SF!, then you've been missing out on a fun, intellectually curious indie mag that walks the fine line between critiquing consumerism and mass media and appreciating pop culture. It came out sporadically, but each issue was packed with smart interviews and articles on advertising, psychology, conspiracy theories, and pranks. It also did some great ad parodies, assuming the culturejamming mantle shrugged off by Adbusters when it decided that a sense of humor can't break windows at Starbucks. Sadly, the financial woes that have beset the rest of the words-on-dead-trees biz have affected SF! as well, and so it's going blog-only after its next issue. It's a shameI'll miss having issues show up unpredictably in my mailbox. But you can still readand buyback some issues here. The Stay Free! blog is still worth checking out, too. But it just won't be the same...
Maxed Out, a new documnentary on the dark side of the debt industry, opens today in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, D.C., and other cities. I haven't seen the film, which is getting good reviews, but I just reviewed the companion book written by the director, James Scurlock, in our current issue. It's a good readit feels wrong to describe a book like this as entertaining, but it's a surprisingly readable look at how the financial industry is taking millions of Americans for an expensive ride. It's packed with disturbing tidbits like this: Low credit card balances actually hurt your credit rating, and if you're one of the lucky few who can pay off your bills each month, you're what's known in the biz as a "deadbeat."