Germany vs Argentina Open Thread

by Kieran Healy on June 29, 2006

On present form it’d be hard to justify a bet against Argentina, but Germany have home advantage and are … well … Germany.

I should get a job as a pundit or something. Anyway, have at it.

_Update_: Penalties.

_Update_: Looks like “Kai was right.”:

Behind the Sofa

by Henry on June 29, 2006

“Jenny Turner”: in the latest issue of the _London Review of Books_ (or, to be more precise, the latest issue to arrive in print on my doorstep).

bq. ‘All lazy writing about Doctor Who,’ Kim Newman writes in his ‘critical reading’ of what he calls ‘the franchise’, ‘trades on the stereotypes of children watching “from behind the sofa”’ – exactly what I remember doing, though in our house we called it the settee. So do I really remember it, or do I just think I do, because I want to join in? Newman confesses that he can ‘confirm the authenticity’ of the sofa stereotype in his own case; so culturally embedded has the trope become that when the now defunct Museum of the Moving Image curated a Doctor Who exhibition in the 1990s, they called it Behind the Sofa

Me too! I remember the specific episode (if not its name) – it involved Cybermen and a back-and-forth between Earth and Mars where the two light minutes between the planets proved to be a crucial point in the plot. I dove behind the sofa, and refused to come out until my parents told me that the scary part was over. We were living in Darlington for a year and I was six – I then went back to Ireland, escaping the reach of BBC forever (you could get it on the East coast, but not in the wilds of Tipperary). I haven’t been exposed to Dr. Who culture or to Dr. Who itself since, so I don’t think that this can be a false memory. Is this one of those experiences that people from a particular generation share, but don’t necessarily talk about?

(and speaking of cybermen, Michael Bérubé can be “vewy, vewy cwuel”:

Geneva and Guantánamo

by Steven Poole on June 29, 2006

The Supreme Court has found [pdf] that the military commissions set up to try prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are illegal, because Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies there. This is very important news, and has wider implications than for habeas corpus, according to Marty Lederman:

This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely,” and that “[t]o this end,” certain specified acts “are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever”—including “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” […] This almost certainly means that the CIA’s interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).

Meanwhile, there is a certain comedy value in the dissenting opinions of Scalia and Alito, which I have attempted to mine here.

Social Isolation Again

by Kieran Healy on June 29, 2006

Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matt Brashears’ “ASR Paper”: on changes in core discussion networks has been getting a lot of play in the blogs and media. As is often the case with research like this, the commentary doesn’t really do justice to the paper. The summaries tend to be superficial and a lot of the commentary raises questions that the paper addresses, or proposes explanations it controls for. But “I liked this piece”: from CBS’s Dick Meyer. He kicks around various ideas about the significance of the findings and their explanation in the generalizing mode you’d expect an Op-Ed commentator to adopt, but it’s also clear that he read and understood the paper. It’s probably the best journalistic discussion of the issue I’ve seen so far.

The servant problem

by John Quiggin on June 29, 2006

Like many countries Australia is experiencing Industrial Relations reform. The reforms are a curious mixture of deregulation and compulsion. On the one hand, all sorts of conditions and requirements are stripped away, but in their place there has been created an array of new criminal and civil offences, prohibited terms in contracts, requirements to offer particular employment forms such as AWAs and so on.

Making sense of this seeming contradiction is not so hard. The deregulation is all for employers, and the regulation is all imposed on workers and, particularly, unions. Lockouts are now almost unrestricted, but strikes are subject to strict regulation. Employers cannot be sued for unfair dismissal, but employees are prohibited from including protection against unfair dismissal in a proposed employment contract and so on.

An obvious interpretation is the Marxist one, that this is class-based legislation, designed to increase profits and reduce wages by driving down workers’ bargaining power. That’s part of the story but not, I think, the most important part.

The real issue, I think, relates to the personal power relationship between employers and employees. The complaints of employers about bad employees and the difficulty of sacking them echo very closely the complaints of a century ago that ‘you can’t get good servants any more’. The changes made in the IR laws make most sense if they are read as an attempt to remove constraints on the day-to-day power of bosses to be bosses, whether these constraints are imposed by law, by collective agreements or by individual contracts with workers.

This also helps to explain some of the class alignments we see in Australian politics. While political alignments continue to be determined to a significant extent by income, there are groups with relatively high incomes, such as academics and other professionsals, who tend to support Labor. On the other side of the fence, managers tend to support the conservative parties more strongly than their incomes alone would suggest. The obvious point is that managers are, by definition, bosses. Professionals, who mostly in hierarchical institutions, can identify either as bosses or workers, but with the rise of managerialism, most professionals find themselves on the workers side of the divide.

Smarter anti-piracy?

by Steven Poole on June 29, 2006

A friend told me that there is an interesting version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new album, Stadium Arcadium, doing the rounds on internet filesharing services, so I listened to it. (Note to RIAA agents: I’d already bought the CD.) The pirate version is fascinating. It looks like a genuine high-bitrate mp3 rip of all songs on both discs, but the panning – the distribution of instruments in the stereo field – is drastically wrong. John Frusciante’s guitar takes up nearly the whole of the right channel, while Anthony Kiedis’s voice, and even the drums and bass guitar, are relegated to the left. Since lead vocals, bass guitar, and bass and snare drums are nearly always more or less centred in standard rock mixes, this makes the mp3s very disconcerting to listen to on headphones for any length of time. (This is a simplification, of course: for some amazing spatial engineering in rock music, listen for example to Placebo’s new album, Meds. But this pirate Chilis rip just makes you feel kind of seasick.) Now, of course this could just be some software gremlin in the ripping process. But it started me wondering: what if it’s deliberate?
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