It’s Amore

by Henry on June 22, 2004

As mentioned in an “earlier post”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002053.html, Silvio Berlusconi didn’t cover himself in glory during Italy’s Presidency of the European Council. Now, CT can tell you why. Berlusconi spent a big chunk of the Italian presidency reliving his career as a cruise-ship piano-bar singer by “co-writing the songs”:http://www.encanta.it/intervista6.html on Mariano Apicella’s recent CD release, “Meglio una Canzone”:http://www.universalmusic.it/web/album/index.php?id=10416&PHPSESSID=43b9b52dd8ae484ebb6fef524b38c881. I was in Italy last month, and morbid curiosity drove me to buy a copy – I can now confirm that it’s precisely as dreadful as you might expect. Soft glissandos, cheesy strings, hammy vocals, and inane lyrics (the last are courtesy of Silvio). Popular love songs typically don’t have much in the way of artistic merit, but “Meglio una Canzone” fails to achieve even the usual level of mediocrity. Desperate lovers swooning, happy lovers crooning – all the usual stereotypes in words of three syllables or less.

My copy of the album comes with a special offer form: if you send it in before June 30, Mariano Apicella himself (perhaps with Berlusconi in tow: who knows) may come to perform at your wedding. If there’s any eligible CT reader with impending nuptials in Italy and either (a) a taste for syrupy love-songs, or (b) an unusual sense of humour, I’m happy to pass it on.

Tech Active

by Eszter Hargittai on June 22, 2004

There is lots to blog about while in London and Paris, but I am saving most of it for when I’m back in the States. (I really cannot justify sitting at a machine when I could be running around the streets of London and Paris, sorry.) However, this one event will be over by the time I get back to regular blogging so I wanted to post about it.

The Stanhope Centre for Communication Policy Research is sponsoring a panel discussion next Mon (28th) in London on “Tech Active” or the promises, successes and challenges of both using the Internet to change the world and using social policy to change the Internet. Both scholars and activists will engage in this discussion including Cory Doctorow, Gus Hosein, Lisa Nakamura and Bill Thompson. Thanks to Christian Sandvig for organizing the event. I am sure he will have interesting thoughts to add as well. I am sorry to miss it, but my flight leaves London a few hours earlier. The event is free and open to the public so I hope people will take advantage of it!

A Piece of the Pie

by Kieran Healy on June 22, 2004

Via “Nathan Newman”:http://www.nathannewman.org/log/archives/001769.shtml#001769, “Kevin Drum”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_06/004194.php links to an “EPI graphic”:http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_snapshots_05272004 showing differences in the growth of corporate profits, labor compensation and private salary income between the current business cycle and the average of the last eight recoveries. This time round, Kevin summarizes, “workers have gotten almost nothing while corporate profits have skyrocketed.” Then he asks,

bq. But how can anyone defend this? Easy. The free market extremists at the top of the modern Republican party argue that economic growth is caused by the risk-taking executives of Fortune 5000 companies, and therefore they deserve the benefits of that growth. Worker bees don’t make any contribution — they just work — so why should they get anything?

bq. Treating labor like a commodity is a morally bankrupt policy, but it’s one that’s become an epidemic in the Republican party …

The thing is, the “free market extremists” Kevin complains about have it backwards. Treating labor like a commodity is a way to transfer the burden of risk _away_ from businesses and on to workers. In general, CEOs of big corporations do not engage in the kind of risk taking that they typically ascribe to themselves. Or more precisely, there is plenty of evidence that they do not have to suffer the consequences of the risks they take. The United States has always been ahead of other advanced capitalist democracies in this department, because it offers less in the way of social insurance than its counterparts. (Instead of a welfare state it has a “prison system”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000386.html.) But much of what got called “downsizing” in the early ’90s and the “New Economy”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001213.html a few years later can be seen as a new round of risk-redistribution noticeable in even the U.S.’s “nominally unregulated”:http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?AJSv104p1030PDF labor market. The stuff you see these days in the Business Section of Barnes & Noble about the brave new “Free Agent Nation” and its “creative class”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/files/drafts/culture-newecon.pdf is the optimistic spin the disappearance of defined-benefit pension funds, the decline of decent health benefits, the rise of temp work, and other changes in the employment bargain that push more of the risk onto workers.