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Author Page for Dave Brockington

Born in San Jose, grew up in Seattle, received a Ph.D. in poli sci from University of Washington, worked for three years at Universiteit Twente in Enschede, Netherlands, and have worked at the University of Plymouth for eight academic years now in Plymouth, United Kingdom.

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It’s the Economy Stupid. Oh Shit.

[ 162 ] June 2, 2011 |

This could be problematic.  I’ve been fairly sanguine about Obama’s re-election chances, but no incumbent has been re-elected with an unemployment rate over 7.2% since FDR (and the 7.2% belonged to Reagan).  It’s currently around 9%, and could possibly increase with tomorrow’s data.  It will not improve to 7.2% in time to have a (positive) effect on Obama’s chances in time for the election.  While the 7.2% figure is arbitrary, and this election might not hinge on the usual simple domestic economic factors, it is still cause for some concern.

While Obama is currently ahead of the extant / potential Republican field (Romney +7, Gingrich +14, Palin +17), and there is an informative debate surrounding the utility (or lack thereof) on polling data this far in advance of the election (which I wrote about here in February), I likewise don’t find much comfort from these numbers in June 2011.

What is clear is that Congress and the Administration are unlikely to find common ground over economic policy, and the Republicans are playing a game of chicken over the debt ceiling.  Indeed, I’m sure it’s not lost on some Republican members that it’s in their electoral interests to hurt, not help, the economy; hopefully they don’t seriously use the debt limit as their primary bargaining tool.  So in all likelihood, this is the economic context in which the 2012 election will be fought.

What could help?  It’s beyond blaming the previous administration.  Rather, a sustained, perceptible, positive movement over the next year would help, but that’s largely beyond politics or campaigning.  It may come down to having faith in the Democratic Party in framing an issue or issues to their favor, such as the Republicans’ Medicare policy.  Relying on faith in the Democrats’ ability at electioneering rarely places me in a comfortable position.  At least, as with our newest colleague here at LGM, I have a wedding to look forward to (one month from today no less).

As my grading is finally done for the academic year as of an hour ago, I imagine that it’s in my interests to start paying some more attention to said event.


Moron FIFA

[ 15 ] May 31, 2011 |

I recognize that I’m carefully flogging a dead horse here, but things are moving apace.  The Guardian has a good live blog on the ongoing patheticness.  The news today is that both the English and Scottish FAs have called for the election tomorrow to be postponed.  Yesterday’s allegations included the surprising suggestion that Qatar might have bought the 2022 World Cup.

Blatter, of course, now facing precisely zero opposition, is quite clear that Qatar 2022 will go forward.

FIFA Shenanigans (Again)

[ 25 ] May 29, 2011 |

It appears that Sepp Blatter’s cunning ploy succeeded.  Mohamed Bin Hammam has pulled out of the race to serve as FIFA President, leaving the field about as competitive as a number of US House seats (though Blatter himself is now also under investigation for corruption).  Refreshingly he didn’t pull out to spend more time with his family, but rather to prevent the sullying of the FIFA name.

However, in the wake of Chuck Blazer’s apparently well evidenced and documented allegations last week, FIFA still have some ‘splaining to do.  Tory MP Damien Collins has launched the charmingly named “International Partnership for the Reform of FIFA“.  As its blog suggests, this is an embryonic organization.  It’s not clear to me just what leverage such a body, or the politicians from among Germany, Australia, and the United States that constitute it, can have to encourage or force reform of FIFA.  The most effective play that they can make is trying to convince member associations to leave FIFA and set up a new governing body.  This is a long shot at best, though Collins has not rejected such a move.  The mere threat of withdrawal may convince FIFA to reform from within in order to save its role in the sport, especially if one of the regional associations (e.g. UEFA) goes along.

With Bin Hammam out of the way leaving the election uncontested, I doubt there will be any substantive reform from within; indeed I fully expect Qatar 2022 to go ahead as insanely planned.  Likewise, any movement for reform brought on exogenous to FIFA lacks the leverage necessary to effect change from without.

I hope I’m wrong, but optimism eludes me.

In other soccer news, there was a small match in London yesterday, where Barcelona owned Manchester United.  I didn’t shed a tear, but then I’d root for the New York Yankees against Man U.

Palin v Bachmann

[ 58 ] May 28, 2011 |

Nice piece over at Democratic Strategist on this ongoing saga.  Apparently Crazy Plan B had a bad day.  It’s in the interests of the Republicans that only one model of this iteration of crazy runs for the nomination.  It’s in the interest of Democrats that either one model of this iteration of crazy runs, and wins the nomination.  I suspect that a Palin (or Bachmann) nomination would depress Republican turnout, which enhances down-ticket chances.

I’m still holding out hope that Palin runs, as she has a decent shot at the nomination.  While Bachmann is, as Ed Kilgore writes, “Bachmann is sort of an improved version of Palin–more intensely serious, more experienced, more devoted to her day-job, and more deeply rooted in both the Christian Right and the Tea Party movement”, but her odds of getting the nomination are slimmer than Palin’s.

Speaking as a Democrat, we want some form of crazy at the top of the Republican ballot in 2012.

Helicopters over Libya

[ 25 ] May 27, 2011 |

As Rob wrote on Wednesday, Britain and France are deploying attack helicopters to support the mission in Libya.  Last night, Radio 4 reported that the British contribution is four Apaches (why only four?  surely HMS Ocean can have a few more on board), while France is supplying 12 Tigers.

I’m curious as to what people think of the inherent trade-off involved.  While the precision of targeting, especially target identification, is enhanced, Helicopters are considerably more vulnerable to individually operated anti air ranging from rifle fire to shoulder launched missiles (though I have no idea about the loyalists’ assets and capabilities in this area).  If this NYT story is accurate, Qaddafi is playing for time, banking on a continued attenuation in European public and governmental support for the mission (what other options does he have at present?)  If one of these British Apaches goes down with casualties, public opinion here will rapidly head south.  While I’m confident that both the British and French will have search and rescue assets in the air, that far from guarantees recovery.  Hence, the risk.

Of course, it could be the threat of the helicopters that has Qaddafi reportedly hiding in hospitals at night.

Mladic in Custody

[ 122 ] May 26, 2011 |

Timed rather conveniently for Serbia’s bid for EU membership, it would appear.

FIFA. Corruption. Qatar. Elections.

[ 5 ] May 25, 2011 |

Chuck Blazer weighs in.

I still believe that this is an admittedly risky tactic that Blatter is using to ensure his reelection, and once that’s secured normal business will resume (FIFA is not corrupt!  How dare you imply otherwise!) but there remains an outside chance that Qatar will be stripped of the 2022 World Cup.

Lords Reform

[ 29 ] May 25, 2011 |

In my department I am something of an all-rounder: a lot of what I teach is outside my official areas of expertise, at times chilling out in the Oort cloud of my expertise.  Political institutions is in a close orbit, thankfully.  Pedagogically, I attempt to engage my students to think critically (don’t we all?) regarding a balance between democratic theory and empirical example.  The House of Lords (and the United States Senate) serve as useful foils to explore this tension.

Over at Britain Votes, an ex-student of mine, Chris Terry, offers a splendid examination of the current proposals by the Government regarding democratic reform of the House of Lords.  I don’t have too much to add to what Terry has offered beyond a few comments.

Largely powerless, the value that the Lords add to the democratic process in the UK is, as Terry offers, a house of “experts”.  With 80% of the new Lords to be directly elected, it is difficult to imagine how that expertise can be sustained.  A solution, which would likewise be in the interests of both Labour and the Tories, is to abandon the proposed STV electoral system in favor of a closed list PR; this would allow the parties to choose whom to place in the Lords, thus allowing a continuation of the expert convention.

Second, the new Lords will be term-limited to single 15 year terms.  The proposed eligibility for candidacy for the Lords includes a rule stipulating one can not run for the Lords until five years have passed since their last service as an MP, nor can a term-limited Lord stand for Parliament until five years have passed.  While this is likely to serve as a disincentive for the career-minded politician, I’m not sure how the proposed waiting period for eligibility works to further either the goal of an independent institution or attracting a “different sort” of politician.

Finally, the retention of 12 Lords Spiritual (Church of England Bishops) is questionable (down from the current 36).  While not a particularly religious country (if the Rapture had or does indeed occur, sudden depopulation wouldn’t be Britain’s biggest problem) retaining members of the upper management of one faith is inconsistent with a reform claiming to democratize the institution.

Ultimately, I agree with Terry: while this is a limited step, nothing in this country changes but through methodical incrementalism.  Of course, if the Lords is subjected to democratic reform, I’d have to re-write a couple of lectures; perhaps that’s the source of my criticism.

Celebrity Privacy v Press Freedom (Farcical UK Edition)

[ 41 ] May 24, 2011 |

Ryan Giggs v 75,000 Twitter users; Lib Dem MP comes to the rescue confirming what we already knew.

The use of the “injunction” or “super-injunction” is fairly common in the United Kingdom.  It is essentially a preemptive gag order, through which one can prevent the media from reporting on an issue relevant to the individual in question.  To the best of my knowledge, a super-injunction is distinguished from the more bog-standard variety where the former prevents the media source from even revealing the existence of the injunction itself.  As freedom of the press is considerably less legally sacrosanct in the UK than in the USA, this comparative lack of protection for the press allows a Premiership soccer player, rich, famous, skilled, or otherwise, to preemptively gag the media from reporting on allegations regarding his “private” life.

The issue has been somewhat controversial this year (see a decent overview here) and all quite comically came to a head yesterday as outlined in the Guardian article linked above.  That purveyor of truth and reason, The Sun, had been arguing in the High Court to have an injunction lifted against its reporting of an allegation of an extra-marital affair between Giggs and a reality TV star.  Simultaneous to a hearing in court, a Lib Dem MP announced in Parliament that it was Giggs, confirming what 75,000 Twitter users, the foreign media, the Glasgow Sunday Herald (claiming that English / Welsh law doesn’t apply in Scotland), and David Cameron himself already knew (Cameron is quoted in the above-linked Independent article as saying he knew the identity “like everybody else”).  Newspapers couldn’t even report the (not entirely clever) chants and taunts Blackpool fans directed at Giggs during the Man U v Blackpool match on Sunday.

As recently as Friday, the Giggs legal team was preparing to sue Twitter to reveal the identity of the 75,000 miscreants, presumably in order to sue them as well.  The Sun duly lost its case, and even after the revelation in Parliament (thus allowing the media to report the words of the MP), the High Court judge on the case refused to lift the injunction, claiming (as quoted in the NYT article here) “The fact that tens of thousands of people have named the claimant on the Internet confirms the fact that the claimant and his family need protection from intrusion into their private and family life”.

Essentially, the core question here is libel law; in the UK the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove she or he did not commit libel, whereas (my understanding at least) in the US the burden of proof is the opposite.  Courts in the UK also have far less room to manoeuvre in terms of judicial review, which explains both the high court’s unwillingness to lift the injunction even after everybody knows, and the following quote by Justice Eady of the High Court:

“Should the court buckle every time one of its orders meets widespread disobedience or defiance? In a democratic society, if a law is deemed to be unenforceable or unpopular, it is for the legislature to make such changes as it decides are appropriate”.

The result is the sort of ludicrous hilarity that we witnessed yesterday.

FIFA to take a Mulligan?

[ 29 ] May 23, 2011 |

This hasn’t really been picked up by the media, but according to Prost Amerika Soccer, FIFA is entertaining the possibility of overturning Qatar’s sensible victory in hosting the 2022 World Cup.  Slightly more here at The Guardian.  Of course, refusing to rule out a re-vote is likely a ploy, given that current FIFA chief Sepp Blatter is being challenged by Mohammad Bin Hammam, from . . . Qatar.  Bin Hammam was “heavily involved in lobbying for his nation to win”, hence if corruption existed, he was likely aware.  Anything that tarnishes Qatar’s bid conveniently undermines Blatter’s opponent.

The 2022 selection vote was between Qatar, the USA, South Korea, Japan, and Australia.  Presumably a re-vote would exclude Qatar, and neither South Korea nor Japan ought to receive much attention as they recently hosted it in 2002.  Among the existing bids, it would be between the US and Australia; with Australia only receiving one vote in the first round of voting, the USA should be favored.  A new entrant or entrants is possible, but with 2018 being held in Russia, a European bid would be ruled out (sorry, England).

Blatter, shockingly, is on record as denying that corruption exists in FIFA.

In soccer news not involving corruption, the rise of AFC Wimbledon is good story.  I’ve been loosely following their rise since their founding in 2002.  After five promotions in nine seasons, AFC Wimbledon are now in the Football League proper, promoted to the fourth tier of English soccer.

UPDATE (5/24): Qatar play the “disgruntled ex-employee” card to dismiss the allegations of corruption, pointing out that said allegations are “completely unsubstantiated and false”.  Of course.

Is Your Cat Confused by AV?

[ 29 ] April 30, 2011 |

While there was a wedding of some apparent note yesterday on the island where I work and usually live, more interesting are the series of elections on May 5.  These include local elections, both the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, and the second ever UK-wide referendum.  As most here know, the latter is on whether or not the UK should scrap the FPTP electoral system for elections to the Westminster Parliament, and adopt the Alternative Vote.

It’s almost certain to lose.  It’s easy to understand why.  The Tories are dead-set against, Labour is deeply divided, with only the Liberal Democrats in strong support.  Of course, the ranks of Liberal Democrats is considerably smaller than it was just a year ago.  While I’ve been quite occupied with a variety of work-related shenanigans the past couple of weeks, I’ll have more to say about this in the nest few days.

For now, I leave you with this pithy guide:

h/t Chris Terry at Britain Votes.

Pierre Celis, 1925-2011

[ 11 ] April 10, 2011 |

Pierre Celis, who died yesterday, is something of a legend in the beer world.  The basic story is that he unilaterally resurrected the style of Belgian Witbier back in the mid 1960s, eventually sold out, and recreated the brewery in Austin, Texas, in the early 1990s.

In the mid 1960s, Celis was reminiscing in his home town of Hoegaarden with some old timers about the local Witbier that had last been brewed in 1955, and he decided to bring it back.  Celis started the Hoegaarden Brewery, now famous for its Hoegaarden Witbier.  At some point in the mid to late 1980s, a fire severely damaged the brewery.  Several other brewers chipped in to help get him going again, one of whom was Interbrew, the Belgian giant.  Over time, Interbrew (now known as Anheuser-Busch InBev) made demands on Celis to, essentially, dumb down the recipe, so Celis sold out to Interbrew.

He decided to take advantage of the growing popularity of good beer in the United States by relocating his brewery to the US.  The mineral composition of water makes a difference to many (but not all) beer styles, and Celis required a water profile as close as possible to Hoegaarden.  He found that in Austin, and opened the Celis Brewery (1992?  1993?), using a recipe for the Wit that was, he claimed, the original Hoegaarden.  This was a fantastic beer, and in order to aid in distribution, Celis sold a stake to Miller.  In a familiar story, Celis sold out entirely to Miller, who eventually closed the brewery in early 2001 claiming that it wasn’t selling enough.

A brewery in Michigan bought the equipment and brands in late 2002, and their version is every bit as good as the original (the two or three times I’ve had it).  Additionally, it’s been “contract brewed” in Belgium by two different breweries (most notably by Brouwerij van Steenberge), leading to the oddly gratifying situation where a (good) American beer is being brewed under contract in Belgium for the Belgian market.  I’ve also had this several times, and it’s also excellent.

Celis was a purist, and possibly not the most business-savvy player in the brewing game — Roger Protz did say that he had been “so badly mauled by global brewers that it was good to find him sprightly and cheerful” when they met for an interview five years ago, and at the time of the Miller “investment” in Celis Brewery, my circle were not optimistic that this was perhaps the best way forward.  However, his impact on beer style, both in Europe and in the United States, can not be overstated.  I had the pleasure of meeting him twice, and back in England I have a couple terrific pictures of us together at a beer festival here in Portland, Oregon, from the early 1990s.  (Suffice it to say that neither of us were 100% sober).  He always seemed to me to be a jovial good natured guy, but then that might have been the beer.  I also brewed my own version of a Belgian Witbier, which, while I don’t think Celis ever tried, the late Michael Jackson did, and he rather enjoyed it.

Tot ziens, mijn vriend.

Additional testimonials from Austin can be found here and here.

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