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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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Election Over-reaction

[ 0 ] November 3, 2009 |

Several races today have received an inordinate amount of attention as tests of public opinion regarding the policies and effectiveness of the (still) nascent Obama administration. The Democrats will lose two of the three races being hyped, and very possibly all three.

Many will argue that this will be a setback for Obama, especially considering the political capital he has expended in NY-23, and especially in the New Jersey Gubernatorial election.

This is, largely, bunk. While special elections (NY-23) or even Gubernatorial elections can be suggestive of public opinion towards national politics (the 1991 special election for the Senator of PA is a good example here), this is relatively rare in American politics. Gubernatorial elections are about state politics, not national politics. The incumbent in New Jersey, Jon Corzine, is in a statistical draw at the moment because he’s Jon Corzine. As Silver reports at 538, Corzine has not polled higher than 44%, and 53% of likely voters have an unfavorable opinion of the incumbent. This is a race about neither the Obama administration nor the relative popularity of Republicans in a blue state; rather it’s a race about the unpopular incumbent governor facing off against a lackluster challenger and a third-party spoiler.

In Virginia, an argument that this is a referendum on national rather than state politics is more credible, but where Silver assigns a 3-1 split between national and local, I’d go no more than 50-50, and only then if I were sniffing glue. Contextual factors specific to the state matter. Deeds, the Democratic nominee, participated in a three-way primary that, while he handily won, could not have helped position him against Bob McDonnell, the Republican nominee. Second, while these very two faced off for Virginia Attorney General in 2005, and McDonnell only won by something like 300-odd votes, McDonnell has spent the last four years as a state-wide elected official, while Deeds did not. I’m not suggesting that this gives McDonnell an insurmountable edge in the rematch, but it does give him a marginal (perhaps very marginal) advantage.

Finally, and most critically (for all three races), the composition of the electorate will be significantly different in November 2009 than it was in November 2008. When turnout decreases, as it does for off-year elections and especially for odd-year elections, the underlying composition of the electorate is altered at differing rates. Those with lesser levels of education, lower levels of income, lower age, and less attachment to place drop off at a much higher rate than the wealthy / educated / home owners / etc. It’s not terribly difficult to make the leap (actually, a small hop) from this to speculating (correctly) which party will benefit from the changed demographic composition of lower turnout.

As for NY-23, it’s a Republican district. Yes, there was significant ticket splitting in 2008, but it’s a strong Republican district: a Democrat wasn’t even on the ballot in 2002. Perhaps it is not a wingnut Republican district, but it looks likely that it will be represented by a credible wingnut following this election.

Indeed, as Silver points out, the Republicans in the two Gubernatorial races aren’t exactly hyping up their Republican street-cred. Granted neither are the Democrats especially so, but the Republicans are running from their label. If these were truly referenda on national politics, one would expect to see this distinction made more plain.

None of this is to suggest that Democrats still have it easy. The Republicans and right wingers are, as usual, far more adept at framing the narrative and mobilizing their support. Furthermore, the Democrats will lose seats in the House in 2010. But then aside from 1998 and 2002, the incumbent party in the White House always loses seats in the off-year Congressional elections. But, the results that I will wake up to tomorrow will not have me terribly concerned about the fate of the Obama administration, progressive (or even centrist / moderate) politics, or the fate of the free world. Furthermore, seeing how the New York Yankees can’t possibly have won the World Series by (my) tomorrow morning, it’s all good.

And all the better if Sarah Palin takes credit for any or all of these election results.

Me, I’ll be watching R-71 in Washington State and Prop 1 in Maine . . .

The Tories and Europe: More of "What the Hell"?

[ 0 ] October 31, 2009 |

I was going to write something about this, but that’s too easy: the “drug czar” of the UK gets the sack for very publicly disagreeing with the Government’s drug policy, and terms Gordon Brown and the cabinet “irrational luddites”. He has a point, but it’s too simple to point out the hilarity of a Government, in its waning days, ignoring its chief scientific advisory panel on drugs. Could they be scrounging for votes instead?

Rather, I’m perplexed by this bit of amateur diplomatic tomfoolery. What the hell is Cameron playing at? First, partially through the hack handedness of the otherwise steady William Hague, shadow foreign minister, Tony Blair’s chances of being named the new EU President have faded dramatically. While it looks as though it is typical Euro-dithering that has led to the rejection of a Blair candidacy, it doesn’t help to have the opposition in your own country (and likely next Government) publicly reject you.
I have to admit, I don’t understand this for two reasons. First, why threateningly come out against one of your own citizens for the top job? It smacks of petty politics domestically, and in to the EU the threatening tone of Hague’s remarks instantly remind all and sundry of the not-exactly-cooperative approach adopted by earlier Tory administrations. Second, I don’t see the value in European leaders wanting a “chairman rather than a chief”. A recognizable, public face as the putative leader or figurehead representing the EU will help not only abroad, but within the EU itself. Not noted for its democratic transparency, distrusted by more than just the British, and perceived to be run by faceless Eurocrats in Brussels, such a “president” would help raise the profile of the EU within the EU.
Then the Tories did themselves no favors with Cameron’s recent stunt in writing a letter to the Czech president which appears to be encouraging the Czech president to delay being the final signatory to the Lisbon treaty until after a Tory election victory in (likely) May of 2010. It’s always sound to piss off, say, Sarkozy, Merkel, and José Luiz Rodríguez Zapatero, the latter of whom matters because Spain will hold the rotating EU presidency from January to July of 2010. The Tories will already have the lion share of the anti-EU vote in 2010, so I’m not too sure just what they’re playing at.

Well, This Doesn’t Help Turnout

[ 0 ] October 30, 2009 |

but at least it will SAVE SAVE SAVE £65 million. Because, when the public debt is at some obscene number, and when the annual deficit is approaching 12% of GDP, £65 million will get the UK back on sound financial footing.

Of course, if they’re really concerned with turnout, they just might take a peek at an electoral system that affords a strong ruling majority in Parliament based on 35% of the vote.
I’m just sayin’ . . .

UPDATE: well, that didn’t last long.

Well, At Least That’s Cleared Up

[ 0 ] October 28, 2009 |

While I’m flying on a NW A-320 tomorrow from the west coast to, presumably, MSP, I now know who will not be piloting the aircraft.

And to think, just the other day in ATL I was lamenting Delta’s buyout of “my” airline.

Griffin, the BNP, and the BBC Redux

[ 0 ] October 25, 2009 |

I, and several others, suggested that in the wake of Nick Griffin’s appearance on the BBC, support for his non-racist British National Party would not appreciably increase. Indeed, Andrew Rawnsley writes a scathing, at times hilarious, piece in “Comment is Free” in today’s Observer, in which he admits surprise that Griffin turned out to be “a big, blubbery wuss . . . a nervous, sweaty, shifty, amateurish and confused man, manically grinning when confronted with his back catalogue of repulsive quotes and occasionally venting bursts of incoherent nastiness.”

In fact, his own party is critical of his appearance on Question Time for not going far enough, for attempting to portray the Party as modern and moderate, and, worst, for not being prepared: “Maybe some coaching could of been done so that Mr Griffin could of answered any questions articulately.”

However, while Rawnsley points out that:
The more people see of the BNP, the more poisonous they will see them to be. I take that view even though they claim – not a boast to take at face value anyway – that they got 3,000 new recruits from a programme watched by an audience of 8 million. So the BNP’s “breakthrough moment” won over, on his own figures, less than half of a thousandth of those exposed to its leader.

A YouGov poll conducted for The Times in the aftermath of Question Time has some surprising findings — surprising if considered without context. It’s common for any hyped appearance by political actors to receive a polling bump following said appearance, the most obvious of which is the “convention bounce” that the two nominees for the U.S. Presidential election receive following their convention appearances. The same largely occurs in the UK with the party conferences. I interpret this as no different. Indeed, those who would vote for the BNP if an election were held tomorrow increased from 2% prior to QT to 3% in this poll: neither a large boost, and well within the margin of error for a sample size of around 1300. In other words, meaningless.
More interesting, and likely to scare more people, is that 22% of respondents would “seriously consider” voting for the BNP in an upcoming election. Again, I’m not terribly worried that the UK will suddenly become a fascist state (at least not more of a fascist state, at any rate). We don’t know the motivations for these responses, but my strong suspicion is that it has far more to do with the general mood in the UK regarding Parliament and the major parties considering the ongoing MP expenses scandal and a general if perhaps unarticulated disquiet with the electoral system. On the latter, the third Labour government was elected with only a little more than 35% of the vote in 2005, meaning 65% of those who voted voted against Labour and Tony Blair / Gordon Brown. Hence I suspect that this vague support for the BNP is a classic manifestation of protest voting, which will (and has been — the EUP election as an example) manifest itself to greater degrees in second-order elections: those that don’t matter as much if at all.
Again, Rawnsley:
The BNP has two main sources of support. At the core are extreme racists. The greater and softer section comes from disaffected voters who feel ignored and disenfranchised by the conventional parties and to whom the BNP presents itself as a stick with which to beat the political establishment.

Hence, I’m not terribly worried about Griffin’s QT appearance dramatically inflating support for the BNP. There were only 3,000 more membership applications filed out of the 8 million viewers, and his own party isn’t terribly happy with his performance.
The only people happy with the performance are likely the BBC.

Nick Griffin Caused Controversy? For Real?

[ 0 ] October 23, 2009 |

Nick Griffin, leader of the avowedly non-racist British National Party, appeared on the BBC’s Question Time Thursday night. Although currently in the US, I’ve had it recorded so I look forward to being adequately entertained upon my return.

While I have a lot of time for United Against Fascism (and I’m also in favor of oxygen, my daughter, beer, baseball, and opposed to domestic violence — I’m really going out on a limb here), their suggestion that Griffin be banned from the BBC is dead wrong. While abhorrent, the BNP were surprisingly successful (by their standards) in the EU Parliamentary elections (receiving nearly one million votes) as well as a smattering of local elections across England. In a democracy, this matters; furthermore, the remit of the BBC requires it to be politically inclusive given that everybody on the island with a (color) TV will be paying £142.50 this year for the privilege. Indeed, as Sholto Byrnes argues in The Independent, Griffin should have perhaps been given more respect, not less. While his fellow panellists “could have given him all the rope he needed to hang himself”, they treated him as a pariah, interrupting and shouting him down. This is the behavior we expect out of the teabagging wingnut brigade in the US, for whom reasoned debate is a foreign concept where one’s ideas just might be challenged, but not front-bench representatives of the three leading British political parties.

This is an easy, obvious line to take, but there’s little chance that Griffin added to his support. If anything, he would have lost potential supporters who were on the fence. Reviews of both Griffin himself and the rest of the panel are mixed. The Times invited several of their writers to share their observations. According to David Aaronovitch, his demeanor would not exactly remind one of “gravitas”:
For much of the programme Nick Griffin’s body language was that of a ten-year-old on his birthday. He was nervous and excited, given to exaggerated nodding and head-shaking.

“Nick”, as everyone called him, did quite well during part of the show, but only when he was silent.

However, it appears that Jack Straw did even worse, which is surprising. By most accounts, Bonnie Greer injected some much needed humor into the event, the Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne “was lucid and confident, and spoke cogently, but said little that was distinctive; he didn’t lead; he didn’t take the argument forward”, keeping in line with the Lib Dem approach to, well, anything (aside from Vince Cable of course); and it appears that Lady Sayeeda Warsi, a member of the Tory shadow cabinet, won the day. According to Matthew Parris at The Times, she “was cool, she was measured, and spoke with quiet passion. She sounded sincere and avoided fireworks.”

If the polls are correct, Lady Warsi is coming soon to a government near you.

The British being, well, British, have to complain. I disagree with the assessment that the BBC erred by making Griffin appear bullied and sympathetic, but I also strongly disagree with some of the lunatic fringe commenting over at the often entertaining Guy Fawkes’ Blog. A sampling includes these gems:

“Classic left wing BBC. Which is why I will never buy a TV licence.”

“Shame on you all and how do we unplug the BBC>?”

What was it that I said a few months ago about some of the British not appreciating what they have in the BBC? These comments were left by supporters of Griffin (of which there were several who crawled out from under their log to comment, if not eloquently, at least vociferously). Would Griffin’s good mate David Duke receive similar exposure on a national network in the United States? For the record, Griffin defended Duke, arguing that Duke was an ex-leader of “a” Ku Klux Klan, one which was “almost totally a non-violent one, incidentally” (clip can be found at the top of this page here), a stance which didn’t particularly impress the Chicago born Bonnie Greer, sitting to his left. Predicating your legitimacy on the suggestion that Duke et al. consider you a “sell out” strikes me as a somewhat precarious strategy.

As (presumably) one of the non-indigenous indirectly responsible for ethnically cleansing London by making it a non-British and non-English, or to quote Griffin directly while he was whining about the unfairness of having Question Time in London (where, you know, the studio is and stuff):
“Do it somewhere where there are still significant numbers of English and British people [living], and they haven’t been ethnically cleansed from their own country.”

He added: “There is not much support for me there [in London], because the place is dominated by ethnic minorities. There is an ethnic minority that supports me: the English. But there’s not many of them left.”

I feel that this is precisely what the BBC ought to be doing (in addition to East Enders and Strictly Come Dancing, of course). It also resulted in the highest ratings in the 30 year history of Question Time. Furthermore, it offered Griffin a platform to, perhaps unconvincingly for a former holocaust denier, assert that he is not a Nazi.
My favorite line, brought to my attention last night by a good friend who lives just down the street from me in Plymouth, and repeated in most of the coverage I’ve read, is recounted in this article in The Guardian:
A British Asian man was clapped when he accused Griffin of wanting to hound him out of Britain. “You’d be surprised how many people would have a whip-round to buy you a ticket and your supporters to go to the South Pole. It is a colourless landscape that will suit you fine.”

"God rather hates Higgs particles and attempts to avoid them".

[ 0 ] October 21, 2009 |

or so suggests physicist Holger Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. I’ve been following the various crackpot theories of how the Large Hadron Collider at Cern will lead to the end of the world, if not the end of the Yankees, with mild amusement. This is equally amusing, but it’s not sourced from the tin foil hat brigade, but a couple real live physicists doing, presumably, real live physics and mathematics. The basic theory is that the Higgs boson does not want to be found, and will go back in time to disable any bit of kit designed to reveal it, even if that kit cost £3 Billion.

And . . . he is not being rejected out of hand by physicists associated with the LHC. For example, Professor Brian Cox at the University of Manchester suggests that:

“His ideas are theoretically valid. What he is doing is playing around at the edge of our knowledge, which is a good thing.”

“He is pointing out that we don’t yet have a quantum theory of gravity, so we haven’t yet proved rigorously that sending information into the past isn’t possible.”

Which basically says that it’s theoretically possible, but with a strong implied undercurrent of “not bloody likely”. In case it is, however, Cox has all his bases covered:

“However, if time travellers do break into the LHC control room and pull the plug out of the wall, then I’ll refer you to my article supporting Nielsen’s theory that I wrote in 2025.”

Now that’s a man with a plan for coping with time travel.

Old Firm Heading South?

[ 0 ] October 19, 2009 |

Like Scott, I need to apologize for my inactivity over the past six days. Travel interrupted: I missed my connection at ATL, and it was very much not my fault, but did enjoy 14 unplanned hours in said city, split between the airport and the hotel room that Delta grudgingly subsidized. I’m not a fan of ATL, and will attempt to stick with DTW, MSP, and EWR as my hubs of choice when flying from the UK / Europe to the West Coast. Following this unfortunate travel event, there was a conference.

Back in my homeland for a brief visit, it seems logical that I write about soccer.
First, as a Celtic FC supporter, I agree with Spiers that both Celtic and Rangers will have to leave the SPL. Both clubs are in a strange position of having some of the largest support bases and average attendances in Europe, yet play in a league that can not command a decent TV package. Teams in the EPL, including such giants as Stoke City and Hull City, receive about £40 million per year in TV revenue. The Glasgow giants each receive £2.5 million. Whereas prior to the advent of the EPL both Celtic and Rangers could compete in the European Cup (Celtic were the first British side to win that competition after all, in 1967) these days all they can manage is the occasional last 16 appearance (Rangers in 05-06, Celtic in both 06-07 and 07-08) and decent progression through Europe’s second-tier competition: the old UEFA Cup (now the Europa League). Celtic lost to Porto in the 2003 final, while Rangers lost to Zenit St. Petersburg in 2008.
The logical move is for both to join the English pyramid. Ideally, this would be in the EPL itself, but fairness dictates that they should begin in the second tier and work their way up. While this would break one of the golden rules of football associations, that clubs play in leagues in their home associations (IOW, they play in the leagues in the countries where they are located) there are several exceptions to this rule in the UK and Ireland. Several Welsh clubs play in the English pyramid, including Cardiff City and Swansea City who both play in the Football League itself, while Wrexham and Newport County both play in the Conference and Conference South respectively (5th and 6th tiers on the pyramid) and there are a couple of other Welsh clubs somewhere in the English structure. There are also the examples of Derry City, who do not play in the Northern Irish league, but rather the league based in the Republic, and the now defunct Gretna, who before joining the Scottish league, played south of the border in the English pyramid.
A move into the English league would benefit both parties. Both Celtic and Rangers are a larger, more glamorous draw than at least several of the clubs populating the less expensive real estate of the EPL table. Likewise, they both come with a relatively large travelling support. Add both to the EPL and the profile of the league increases such that it could demand even more for its TV rights (and I’m all in favor of taking cash from Rupert Murdoch and distributing it elsewhere — anywhere).
There are some downsides to a move. If the move is to the EPL, the annual five Old Firm derbies is reduced to two, and this is one of the most passionate, if occasionally disgusting, ties in all of soccer. If the move is not to the EPL, it invites the pernicious possibility of some sort of European Super League or a lesser “Atlantic League“. And those three to five matches per year against Falkirk would be lost. If there is to be a move, it would be to the EPL, and not to a European or Atlantic League.
A counterpoint can be found over at They Think Its All Over. While I disagree with a lot of his reasoning, it’s worth a read. To wit, he argues that:
It seems to me that whenever we hit on something good, which the Premier League undoubtedly is, those in charge can never seem to accept it for what it is and have to try and keep updating it . . . Back before football became a business the structure of the English football league simply went from Division One downwards until you reached the non-league Conference etc. And to be fair, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that. It worked, and everyone knew where they stood.

However, then some people with lots of money came into football and decided to spice things up a bit at the top of the scale, so they took Division One and called it the Premier League, because it was England’s… well, premier league. That was all well and good, and it’s fair to say that that venture went pretty well.

So basically, change is bad . . . unless it’s good. He then goes on with a semantic argument (e.g. how can one have an English Premier League 2 when Premier means . . . well . . . Premier) and then assumes that if an EPL2 were formed out of the existing pyramid, with 36 clubs in both EPL1 and EPL2, the 14 lifted out of the football league (plus the two Glasgow sides) would have to be replaced by bringing clubs up from the Conference into the Football League itself.
This is not necessarily a safe assumption, but it does have some merit. The last time a bunch of clubs left the Football League, to form the Premiership in 1992, those clubs were not replaced. The League simply contracted from four divisions to three. It’s possible that this time around that the League would further contract from three divisions to two rather than seek to repopulate the League with non-league clubs. However, as the EPL2 proposal has two divisions of 18 each, if you include Celtic and Rangers, 14 clubs would need to be “elevated” from the Championship (the current second tier) to EPL2. With 92 clubs in the top four divisions at present, this would create an awkward arrangement of 58 clubs in the remaining third and fourth tiers of English football. Therefore, he may have a point that some clubs would have to be promoted from the Conference to the Football League, and the Football League would likely have to remain at three divisions.
It should be pointed out that many of the current Conference sides are former League clubs to begin with anyway. Looking at the current Conference table, there is Barrow (who left the League in 1972), Cambridge United (2005), Chester City (2009), Kidderminster (2006?), Luton Town (2009), Oxford United (2006, and a former First Division side at that), Rushden & Diamonds (2006), Wrexham (2008, after a continuous run in the League going back to 1921), and York City (1929-2004).
But how many clubs? If it were to be three divisions of 20, then only two more clubs. Three of 24, as is the norm now, 14 clubs. 22? 8 clubs. If it’s the dilution of quality that is the chief concern, three divisions of 20 would not appreciably dilute either the existing Football League or the Conference. Simply promote York City and Wrexham back into the League, problem solved.
He goes on:
Of course, the driving force behind this idea seems in many ways to be related to the desire of many to introduce the Old Firm to the Premier League. This idea has been floated many, many times over the years despite little apparent enthusiasm from the fans of the Scottish clubs nor any compelling evidence that they would even belong in the Premier League in terms of quality or footballing ability.

Of the 100+ members of the Celtic Supporters Club in Plymouth, most would like to see a move south. Celtic would still get to have the odd fixture against Clyde, Dundee, Inverness Caley Thistle, and Aberdeen in the Scottish FA Cup, but playing in England would make those European nights that much more productive. And yes, I agree, at present neither Celtic nor Rangers necessarily belong in the EPL. I suspect that both would avoid relegation as is, but they would not be in the top half. It should be pointed out that in the past three years in Europe, Celtic have beat Man Utd at home (and lost at Old Trafford 3-2), as well as beat Milan at home (and played Barcelona quite well). But given a couple of years worth of EPL money, they would not only be competitive, I’d see both as serious threats to break the hallowed Big 4.
Other points are made, such as forcing Celtic and Rangers to start in the pyramid at the same low spots that AFC Wimbledon and FC United have done, but that’s bonkers. The away support from Celtic alone would overwhelm most grounds below League 2.
Of course, if Celtic can’t even beat Motherwell at home, as they couldn’t manage on Saturday, I’m not sure they even belong in League 2.

Random Airport Blogging, Heathrow Edition (World Cup Qualifiers)

[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

I’ll be in the air during most if not all of the final round of qualifying for South Africa 2010, so I will miss a few mini dramas:

Uruguay v Argentina. This is perhaps the most interesting match on offer. With a win or a draw, Argentina avoid the ignominy of being dumped into the playoff against the 4th placed CONCACAF qualifier (against whom they would likely win). There was considerable debate a night or two ago on BBC 5 Live whether or not Maradona will get the sack even if they qualify (as well as whether or not David Beckham or Michael Owen deserve any consideration for making the 2010 squad for England). However, their opposition is Uruguay away, so there’s a decent chance that Argentina lose. Worse, an Argentina loss combined with an Ecuador win away to already qualified Chile results in Argentina not even making the playoff spot — unlikely, but possible.
Imagine a World Cup Finals without Argentina?
In CONCACAF, the only real issue left unresolved is who goes to the playoff against South America 5, and who automatically qualifies, as both the USA and Mexico qualified this past weekend. Costa Rica has a two point lead on Honduras, but face the stiffer challenge: Costa Rica play away to the USA at RFK, while Honduras play away to El Salvador, who have nothing to play for. 1st in the group is still open between the USA and Mexico with the US holding a slender one point lead. While both teams are level on goal differential, that will not come into play: the only way they end up level on points is if the US loses and Mexico draws; such a result would give Mexico a superior g/d.
I predict a US and victory over Costa Rica, and Honduras a slight edge to gain all three points out of El Salvador. While their combined g/d give Honduras a +10 advantage over El Salvador, when they played in Honduras earlier in qualifying it was only a 1-0 victory to the latter.
Assuming the US wins the group this year, don’t necessarily expect a seed in the World Cup itself.
Prost Amerika has a run down of those teams that qualified this past weekend.
There’s not much left to settle in UEFA. 2nd in Group 1 could go to Portugal, Sweden, or Hungary (and I would personally embrace a reality where Christiano Ronaldo is not in the World Cup Finals.)
Groups 2 and 3 are relatively wide open, with neither the automatic qualifier nor second place determined; surprises include Switzerland the likely winner of Group 2, the Czech Republic finishing second at best (and that’s no sure thing), Northern Ireland being mathematically (if not probabalistically) alive on the final match of qualifying, and Poland tanking. For those interested, and I know a couple people who very much are, the chances of Fox News admitting their sins by owning up to the salacious affair with the wingnut branch of the Republican Party, and as a mea culpa get fully behind ‘cap and trade’ as well as criticising Obama for not pushing for the Public Option are higher than Northern Ireland finishing second. NI would need to win away to the Czech Republic, while Slovenia would have to freeze on the big stage of playing away to San Marino and lose big to the mountaintop that could. This would only result in a points draw; the existing g/d advantage to Slovenia is +7 compared to NI.
But hell, it’s possible, right? After all, San Marino have scored a goal during this qualifying campaign, while conceding only 44.
Groups 4 and 5 are settled (Germany and Spain qualify, Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (!) finish second). The only real news in these groups is Turkey’s inability to finish even second.
Group 6, the group that England dominated until they won it, is down to Croatia or Ukraine for second. Groups 7, 8 and 9 are done (qualifying are Serbia, Italy, Netherlands; second are France, Ireland, and Norway). Shocking for France that they finished second to Serbia, and there is an outside chance that Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina would all qualify for the World Cup finals. That would be sort of cool, in a USA v Iran 1998 sort of way (or a South Korea v North Korea 2010 sort of way, both of whom have qualified).
It’s a safe bet that the one of nine second place teams to miss the cut for the second place playoffs is Norway.
As for LHR, there’s a reason I avoid this airport. I had to catch an 0330 bus from Plymouth to get here with any time to make my flight (and in this case far more time than I needed), and the bus drops one off at the Heathrow Central Bus Station. This is very convenient to Terminals 1, 2, and 3, but if you’re unfortunate to find yourself departing from T4 or T5, there’s a combination of long walk and tube journey (technically the Heathrow Express, and that is free) to get to your destination. Total time invested to get from the Heathrow bus station to Heathrow T4 was slightly over twice as long as it takes to fly from Plymouth Airport to Bristol Airport. Since T5 opened, T4 has turned into something of a ghost town as well, but the line for check-in was short (I suppose that has something to do with checking in about four hours in advance of take off?) and security was, surprisingly, a breeze.

Support for the Far Right

[ 0 ] October 13, 2009 |

I’m off to Canada tomorrow to present a paper on the relationship between asylum seekers and support for far-right parties in English local elections (authored with a Ph.D. student of mine) at a conference. Rather than force you to read this article once it sees the light of day in publication (let alone now in its rather unpolished form), I’ll skip to the end: variance in the number of asylum seekers across constituencies has no observable relationship with support for the BNP or UKIP.

However, the punchline: both (legal) immigrants and indigenous non-white population do have a strong relationship with support for far-right parties. But, as I’ve been saying all along, they’re not racist. Or at least they say so. As for their supporters . . .
An interesting aside here will be to further break down differences in support between the BNP and UKIP. UKIP are clearly populist, and their appeal has racist undertones, but they strongly claim to not be racist (unless you’re an EU immigrant, which they want to ban) and placing them on the far-right scale is not as easy for political scientists as, say, the explicitly “non-racist” BNP.

The State of the (non) Left

[ 0 ] October 13, 2009 |

I’ve been meaning to find the time to write about this, but Daniel over at Crooked Timber makes a lot of the same points that I wanted to make in offering a fairly classic Downsian analysis. One major extension to his thesis is that I would argue, somewhat lazily, that the wholesale move of the left to the center is not completely a function of internal dynamics and strategic electoral decisions; rather there is also an exogenous force at work as well. If I really wanted to move beyond my comfortable niche in electoral systems and comparative political behavior, I would explore globalization and its effect on domestic electoral politics. I suspect that it is more than coincidence that as globalization has increased, mainstream parties of both the left and the right have gone to the center (and, hence, turnout has declined). I teach as much in a class I designed on the effects of globalization on domestic politics and institutions — but I do allow as how the link is suggestive, and far from firm in an empirical sense.

Of course, from a social science perspective, conceptualization would all begin with an acceptable definition of globalization (before we go off to measure and all the other fun stuff that we do). The literature on globalization, while vast, is also unsettled, and outright contradictory in places regarding a definition.
Daniel sums up the state of the left as such:
My personal view is that what we’re seeing is the end of the electoral strategy which began with Bill Clinton and which (arguably) is still being kept alive by Kevin Rudd in Australia. Basically, it’s the view that you can keep a balloon flying by constantly chucking out left-wing ballast. Which worked very well in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it does have a limited lifespan built into it. After a while, you run out of ballast to throw out and you find that the hot-air burners aren’t working any more; the traditional left-wing base of your party has switched off, the unions can’t provide blocks of support and you’re left as a more or less identikit technocrat party, largely indistinguishable from your opponents and trying to compete on the basis of more efficient provision of “public services”.

Which does resonate. David Cameron is direct about how the next election is not one of ideological revolution (which would only flame existing suspicions that the British have about the extent of the modernization of the Tories) but rather who would better manage the economy and government.
Because electing the best technocrat is really inspirational to casual voters.

Continuing the Sports Theme on LGM . . .

[ 0 ] October 10, 2009 |

The NYT reviews The Damned United, which piques my interest. When I have time, which latterly has not been plentiful, I devour film reviews, perhaps because Plymouth is not exactly in any one’s cinematic top 20 (this is one of the things I miss the most about Seattle).

I read the book when it came out, and it prompted me to buy several other David Peace novels. I have yet to see the film, however, so my observations on the review itself are understandably suspect. Scott gets one thing wrong in the review (though it may have been an editor in all fairness): when Don Revie left Leeds United, he took the England national team job, not the “British national team” job. Scott also charmingly admits that he hadn’t heard of Brian Clough, but then why should he have? Clough is a legend in England, was an enigmatic television presence (there’s plenty on youtube worth a watch) and had a magnificent career — probably the greatest English manager to never manage England. One of my best friends on this island grew up in Nottingham and was a Forest fan before a few years ago she unwisely traded in Forest for the mighty (and this year, relegation prone) Plymouth Argyle (she attended an Argyle – Forest match here at Home Park with loyalties deeply divided; she emerged an Argyle supporter and undoubtedly has regretted it ever since). While with the Argyle now, she still waxes eloquent about “Cloughie” (and retains a strong dislike for a certain Irish midfielder that Clough developed and then sold on to Man United). Clough’s son, Nigel, is continuing the family business; after an excellent turn at non league Burton Albion, Nigel took the Derby County job that back in the day made his father’s name.
If you can’t see the film, the book is definitely worth a read.
And as this is an international break, with WC qualification coming to a conclusion, I’ll have more to say about this particular sport soon. But first, I need to sort out some appropriate tags for this one from our limited stock . . .
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