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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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Tilting at Windmills

[ 28 ] January 3, 2011 |

A superficial analysis of the House Republicans’ pledge to vote to repeal health care reform is that it’s nothing more than a symbolic gesture.  While many might downplay their modest intellectual prowess, they must possess a rudimentary understanding of the basic institutional structure outlined in the very Constitution that they plan to patronizingly read on the floor of the House on Thursday, right?  A slightly more charitable reading of this vote involves internal Republican politics: placate the lunatic fringe that got you elected prior to getting on with the real work of misgoverning.

However, as both the NYT article above and the Chait article in The New Republic cited in an analysis by The Democratic Strategist suggest, this presents an opportunity for the Democrats to take the initiative in framing the debate on favorable terms, for a change.  Taken individually, many aspects of health care reform are popular.  This can be exploited.  Furthermore, the narrative of a party bereft of original ideas which seeks only to obstruct or destroy should be underlined.  If properly framed and executed, this is a debate that the Democrats and the White House can and should win.

Will they?  I wouldn’t bet on it, but I like to be surprised.  If the Democrats do take advantage of this opportunity, it would afford a more colorful interpretation of the Republicans’ pissing in the wind.

An End of Year Analysis of the Three Main British Parties

[ 0 ] December 31, 2010 |

can be found over at UK Polling Report.  They’re insightful, comprehensive, and informative reviews of 2010 and previews of 2011 of the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour.  Not surprisingly, Labour looks in a slightly better position than the other two.

Oh, and while I was typically pessimistic, bow down!

Random Sports Catch-up: Cricket, Plymouth Argyle on the Rocks, and UW

[ 4 ] December 29, 2010 |

I’m recently “returned” to Oregon from a week + in Kitsapland, hanging out for five days with my partner’s family, followed by an impromptu three-night stand with my fleet of cousins.  The latter was a non-stop holiday gala with excellent food, political debate, and, oh yeah, soaked with alcohol of all sorts (and at all times).  Beyond my phone I was well off the grid, literally, figuratively, metaphorically.

As predicted in Revelations, England retained the Ashes for the first time in 24 years in imperious fashion.  This now seems so long ago.  Whether or not this is a sign of the promised apocalypse I can’t say, but as the sun is currently shining in Portland, Oregon, I’m not making any long term plans.

In my other home, the third tier “professional” soccer team, Plymouth Argyle, are insolvent.  In American sports, this wouldn’t matter; when was the last time a major league baseball, football, or basketball team was allowed to go bust?  In Britain, it can, and does, happen; the most recent example being Scottish club Gretna FC who folded in 2008.  Argyle need at minimum something around £750,000 by February to pay their tax bill to the Inland Revenue, otherwise they appear to be done.  Indeed, Argyle face three concurrent “winding up orders” and require between £3 and £4 million by February to clear their immediate debts.  The board is in chaos, the staff (including the players) haven’t been paid on time for the second straight month, gates are significantly down from last year due to their relegation to the third division and their (charitably) mediocre play in said division, are under a transfer embargo by the league thus preventing them from so much as retaining a decent player on-loan from Chelsea, and they will certainly be forced to sell their two best players this January in order to possibly stay afloat.  In addition to selling off their best players, thus enhancing the probability of a second successive relegation, there’s talk of selling the stadium to property developers.

UPDATE: less than 24 hours after writing this, a bid has been accepted for winger Craig Noone.  As he’s in his final contract year, and the bidding team is fellow League – 1 side Brighton, the transfer fee won’t clear the tax debt.

Matt Slater at the BBC has the most comprehensive overview on the causes of what could be the end of a 124 year-old club.  Fans have taken matters into their own hands by setting up a supporters’ trust, in part organized by my student and friend John Petrie.  Ironically, Argyle’s Devon rivals Exeter City were saved from liquidation in 2003 by a similar trust, so there might be hope yet.  (Of course, it should be noted that when Exeter City drew 0-0 with Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup at Old Trafford, the £675,000 cash infusion from the 67,000+ gate did not hurt City’s chances of financial survival).

Back in April, I posted here about how Argyle were officially relegated following their 0-2 loss to Newcastle United at Plymouth.  I had experienced a couple promotion seasons in Plymouth, that was my first relegation season.  Now, being relegated following a match against Newcastle United, or even Huddersfield Town, looks a lot more enticing than experiencing a rare, entirely possible, liquidation season.

And finally, there’s the small matter of my alma mater, the Oregon of the North, playing in the much vaunted Holiday Bowl in San Diego against 17th ranked Nebraska, tomorrow.  I’m certain that Nebraska are all aflutter with the privilege and honor of playing Washington.  I’m equally certain that Nebraska’s 56-21 victory in the third game of the season has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the bowl game.

Umm, go Huskies.

Random Friday Blogging: Cricket, US Politics, Egg Nog.

[ 11 ] December 17, 2010 |

We can all rest easy now, because in the Cricket, normal business has resumed.

An analysis of player performance through the second test at Adelaide can be found here.  Dated, obviously, as Mitchell Johnson no longer rates as “atrocious” following Friday’s haul, so perhaps he should be upgraded to “mercurial”.  Also, I disagree with the analysis of Andrew Strauss.

A charitable interpretation of the budget-busting extension of the Bush tax cuts is that the Democrats understand that compromise is an essential part of democracy.  This is charitable because it sucks in policy terms, and that progressives are bemused and consider it yet another example of how the Democrats love to roll over and have our tummies scratched, but it’s far closer to the spirit of compromise than the other party has been capable of since the halcyon days of the 1980s.

A vote on the repeal of DADT tomorrow?  One that should garner the 60 votes necessary to do so much as use the toilet in the US Senate?  That’s my Christmas present.  I do believe that we can now safely close the book on progressive policy advancement for the next generation or so.

Every year in my final year American Politics class, I show the 1994 documentary entitled “Taking on the Kennedys”, which is an excellent illustration of retail politics (and anything with a Blossom Dearie track as a theme song has to be good).  It also demonstrates to the students that I can also be critical of Democrats.  On occasion.  (An advantage of working in the UK is that I don’t feel the professional obligation to hide my partisan inclinations in the classroom that I did in the United States).  Somehow showing it won’t be the same any longer, and for whatever sentimental reason, I do find this a little sad.  However, comparing the passing of the Kennedys with the emergence of the storied Paul family is  just a bit wide of the mark.

I’m making egg nog this afternoon, which will result in a festive and merry version of me.  A friend recommended this recipe (h/t Jeff Frane).  It’s reasonably close to mine, except for how it isn’t.  I don’t use rum, only bourbon (Makers Mark) and brandy (technically an inexpensive V.S. cognac).  The milk/cream ratio is the same.  I use 4x the eggs, and I do separate the eggs, and use slightly more yolks than whites.  I also don’t use a blender.  It is fantastically drinkable.

I Don’t Understand The Cricket

[ 13 ] December 16, 2010 |

Australia 268 all out; England 29 for 0.

Ashes Third Test, Perth, Day 1 of 5.  England lead the series 1-0.

It’s not cricket that I don’t understand; it’s this cricket.  England should struggle mightily against Australia in England, and when they pull out an Ashes victory (e.g. 2005, 2009) they should be classic, close-faught affairs that serve as an “advert for the sport”.  Indeed it was watching the 2005 series that hooked me.  In Australia, England should lose, be it 4-1 as in 2002-03, 3-1 as in 1998-99, or the somewhat humiliating 5-0 as in 2006-07.

This, on the other hand, is not part of the script.  England winning a test match by an entire innings?  In Australia?  So dominating a performance that the Ozzies were seriously considering bringing their very own Brett Favre out of retirement?  In between the second and third tests, the Shane Warne story was the story from the Australia camp.  While still semi-active at 41, he hasn’t participated in a full test match since 2007, so it was a long shot, and probably better for all concerned that he didn’t come out of retirement.  Nevertheless, it’s becoming quite apparent that Australia aren’t the same without Warne and Glenn McGrath.  Whereas in the past Australia simply reloaded, now they’re rebuilding.

I don’t think every test will be close to the second in Adelaide, but the odds of England retaining the Ashes for the first time in a long time are excellent.  As the current holders, all they need to do is draw the series.  1-1 would suffice with three draws.

As for Adelaide, I’d have loved to have been there, if only for my love of Coopers Brewery, which from my old brewing incarnation still ranks as one of my favorite breweries.

When Is Governing During the Great Recession a Good Thing?

[ 15 ] December 15, 2010 |

When you’re the Conservative Coalition government in the United Kingdom.

The current state of national finances and the dire economic context allow this government to accomplish what others didn’t so much as dream of.  It may be apocryphal, but Margaret Thatcher herself thought selling off British Rail was a “privatization too far”; this didn’t stop the subsequent Major government from doing precisely that, and the Blair government from consolidating the same.  In the current climate, there is no stealth about it at all: privatization is happening across the board, because there is no alternative.  Higher education, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is being thoroughly privitized, without the autonomy that goes along with privatization.  As that post discusses, this will radically alter higher education in England across several levels.

Now, it’s the turn of the Health Service.  The Tories knew that they couldn’t possibly have run as semi-successful a campaign as they had in the 2010 election by being honest about these policies — campaigning to downsize or sell off the NHS will lose votes.  Of course, running on a platform of raising university tuition by 200%-300% wouldn’t have done well either, which is why the Liberal Democrats promised the exact opposite.  The proposed health reform is presented in a more subtle frame than the education bill, but the consequences can be every bit as radical.

I’m sure none of this post-election policy honesty has anything to do with the current polling numbers.  Well, more so than Labour or Ed Milliband, the former still bereft of ideas, while the latter has failed to catch fire with the public or Labourites.

Note, I’m in the USA for the next four weeks or so (until next term begins, whenever that is), so I hope to soon comment on the endless joy that the Democratic Party brings me on a daily basis.

You Know You’ve Made It

[ 2 ] December 11, 2010 |

when LibDemVoice somehow picks up a conference paper of yours (this one presented at EPOP in Essex mid September of this year).  Long story short: the electoral consequences of raising taxes impacts different parties differently.  Caveat: the version cited would seem to be an earlier draft, as my co-author has since argued that we mis-interpreted the interaction term in the model, hence the clean findings related in the link above are, we believe, a bit more muddled in reality.

Coming Out of Hibernation: Education Cuts Edition

[ 18 ] December 9, 2010 |

For a variety of reasons, my time has been quite limited the past three months or so.  Long story short, the job has been atypically demanding (above average teaching load, heavy research hits this term, my university is in a state of permanent revolution: dropping majors, designing new majors, re-desinging majors, dropping those majors; moving departments here, there, and elsewhere; branding, rebranding, unbranding; dropping faculties, merging faculties — the latter just happened again yesterday –it makes for an inefficient enterprise), I’m a single dad at weekends, I’ve chosen to put my house on the market in the worst context outside of Ireland, and I’m on the job market at the worst time since . . . well, you get the idea.

Whining aside, I’m finally coming up for air and for better or worse should be a more regular “feature” on LGM again.

As readers are likely aware, the UK coalition government has dramatically cut spending across the board.  From Defence, where the HMS Ark Royal (and associated Harrier wing) is facing imminent retirement, to Education.  Regarding Education, central government funding for universities is to be somewhat slashed.  I’m not overstating the case: on average, it’s an 80% reduction in the teaching grant paid by the central government per student.  For the lucky disciplines in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, it’s a mere 100% cut.  The plan put forth by the government is to make this up by increasing tuition anywhere from 200% to 300%.

Students, shockingly, aren’t terribly happy about this.  At the University of Plymouth, they have occupied a classroom for the past two weeks.  It’s a largely insignificant teaching space (I’ve taught two or three classes in that room in the past few years), but it’s in a highly visible location in a relatively new, signature building.  It’s not quite Berkeley in the 1960s, but it’s as close as Plymouth can get.

The vote in Parliament on these proposals is due today.  It will likely pass, and that the operative word is likely is a large enough hint at the nature of the controversy.  This has several possible ramifications.  First, it threatens to divide the coalition; specifically, the junior partner.  Second, it can’t at all help the Liberal Democrats, who have sunk to historic polling depths.  But more critically, from my point of view, it will radically alter higher education in England (not necessarily Scotland or Wales, devolution has put paid to that.)

Aside from the obvious, that there will be fewer students attending university (200% to 300% tuition increases will not spur interest, oddly enough), what students will choose to study will also be altered.  One of the many differences between US and British higher education is that here in the UK prospective students apply to degree programs, not universities.  They’ve chosen their major from day one.  At the University of Plymouth, Politics students pretty much take what I tell them to, as I largely designed the program.  With the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences receiving unfortunate extra attention, it’s in the interests of universities to drop those programs (and the associated labor costs) and concentrate their offering on programs that bring in marginally extra revenue.  I suspect that in the next five to ten years, these disciplines will be the purview of elite universities, while second- and third-tier universities will concentrate on vocational or professional degrees.  Those that survive, that is.

Here at my fine enterprising university, things are possibly grim.  Some colleagues in my department are optimistic, which is good, and I’d love to have some of the kool-aid they’re drinking.  The union meeting I attended last week paints a less rosy portrait.  I’d supply some figures from the email I sent my department following the union meeting, but the email server is down on campus at the moment (perhaps the cuts are already hitting?)  From memory, over the last two years “academic staff” has decreased by 9%, student numbers have increased an equally impressive 9% (literally doing more with less), labor costs as a percentage of turnover has been reduced from 59% to 53%, yet the Vice Chancellor’s salary has increased an “obscene” (to quote the local union branch chair) 28%.  (She’s on around £280,000 a year).  That increase alone could fund two new junior professor positions (or she could buy my house with eight months’ salary alone).  Of course, the plan from the high command is to drastically cut labor costs further, and unlike 2008, they’re targeting entire departments.

From an American perspective, students taking to the streets over the government having the temerity to charge a real tuition is quaint.  However, before 1997 (?) universities were free, and since 2006 tuition has been set at only £3000 per year.  The culture here is for a cheap, highly subsidized university education.  An irony is that while the higher education sector will remain state run and controlled, the government will be funding anywhere from 80% to 100% less in supporting these institutions.  Universities will receive little money from the state, yet the tuition that they can charge is regulated by the state (as is the curriculum to a loose degree).  The current arrangement is little different from my experience in state universities in the US, where in state students were subsidized by the state legislature to the tune of 90%.  Take that away, every student is paying out-of-state tuition.

In addition to a diminishing role for the arts, humanities, and social sciences in UK Ltd., more British students will be looking to the United States for their university education, as it’s suddenly become more competitive on price (and frankly, is a superior education in my opinion, but what do I know?)  Nick Clegg will be out of a job come 2015 if not sooner, along with a lot of my less ‘academically mobile’ colleagues.

You’ve Got To Be Joking

[ 25 ] December 2, 2010 |

I’ve been (finally) writing a couple posts, one a ‘coming out of hibernation’ omnibus, but holy crap, FIFA have challenged the laws of physics with this.

I’ll have a bit more of a run down later tonight (or early tomorrow) but I had ranked Russia second or third likely to get the 2018 cup, and Qatar?

I didn’t even consider that bid a realistic possibility.

When was the last time Qatar were in the World Cup finals?  They’ll be there in 2022.  I’m sure they’ll progress far.

At least with England not getting the 2018 cup, we won’t have the embarrasment of Plymouth hosting matches with a 3rd Division club (assuming they’re still in business next week) and I don’t have to worry about any roadblocks preventing the continued depreciation of the value of my house.

Update [Paul]: I’ve got $20 that says the 2022 World Cup won’t be held in Qatar. First the bid is based on assertions that yet to be invented technology will be deployed to deal with the heat in open air stadia (it’s 115 in the afternoon in the summer). Second the security situation is likely to be bad. Third not enough people are going to want to spend big bucks to go to a desert nation with a population of 1.2 million where you can’t drink in public. So what will happen is that in a few years FIFA will raise “serious concerns” about infrastructure, security etc. After an ugly wrangle the thing will get moved elsewhere (cf. the 1986 Cup). The bribes, however, will not be refunded.

Dave Niehaus 1935-2010

[ 5 ] November 11, 2010 |

Dave Niehaus, the broadcaster of the Seattle Mariners since their first game, died yesterday.

Stories / tributes here, here, and here.

I’ll add the usual narrative: for me, Niehaus was baseball.  From their first season in 1977, at the age of nine, I was hooked.  After I moved to Europe nearly ten years ago, I would listen whenever I could when back in Seattle.

Niehaus would call 5,284 out of the 5,385 games that the Mariners have played.  There was a lot of really bad baseball, but Niehaus made it more than endurable, he made it enjoyable.

An Ode to Ichiro

[ 8 ] September 1, 2010 |

OK, it’s not an ode  in a technical sense, but ode is a word I’ve often thought of when considering Frank Deford.

To Know is To Hate?

[ 19 ] August 20, 2010 |

I’m on the road so off the grid not infrequently, but I’ve settled down for a couple days in time to see the new Economist / YouGov poll on attitudes towards the proposed Cordoba House, and while amusing, it doesn’t really surprise.

Some highlights: 14% of Americans believe that mosques should not be permitted anywhere in the United States.  A clear partisan divide exists over both self-reported understanding of, and tolerance for, Islam.  Republicans are far more likely to claim an understanding of Islam either somewhat or a great deal than Democrats: 58.5% of Republicans compared to only 48% of Democrats.  Of course, this self-professed understanding doesn’t lead to tolerance; where 25% of Democrats have a somewhat or very favorable view of Islam, only 8.3% of Republicans share the same outlook.

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