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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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Next British Election May Not Comply With European Court of Human Rights Law

[ 0 ] December 9, 2009 |

and not because the Tories may win, or even that the election may result in a hung parliament.

Rather, the EUCouncil of Europe is upset that the UK has been delaying the enactment of a 2005 European Court of Human Rights judgment that it is inconsistent with human rights law to disenfranchise convicted prisoners.
Come on, Britain, if Maine, Vermont, and even Canada can do this, so too can you.
Seriously, this places the lifetime voting ban of convicted felons, a grotesque anti-democratic practice of 14 U.S. states (according to Wikipedia . . . 11 of which, shockingly, are located in the South; I’m certain race does not factor into this policy whatsoever) in context. Of course, as this is state jurisprudence, felon enfranchisement law varies; I am having a difficult time confirming the wiki numbers. However, let it be duly noted that a resident of Mississippi convicted of timber larceny (whatever the hell that is) permanently banned from voting. This heinous crime doesn’t appear to be on the Alabama list, so I’d recommend crossing the border and setting up home in Alabama after release . . . but beware of committing treason (against the U.S.A.? The C.S.A.? The State of Alabama?) because that will blacklist you there.
A number of states require the convicted, and released, felon to appeal to the governor for a full pardon or clemency in order to enjoy the restoration of their voting rights. I guess that’s because in a number of states the governor doesn’t have anything better to do than determine, on a case-by-case basis, the fitness of his or her citizens to cast a ballot.
In attempting to understand how prisoners are treated for apportionment purposes, I found no clear guidelines, but I did find this observation:
“The American incarcerated population, 2,212,475 persons strong, is larger than the population of the fourth-largest city in the United States, commands a greater population than fifteen individual states, and contains more people than the three smallest states combined. If the incarcerated population of the United States were a state of its own, it would qualify for five Electoral College votes.”

And two U.S. Senators!

According to this source, 5.3 million Americans are denied the franchise due to past or current felony status. Again I’m stunned to note that there’s a race element involved:
African-Americans in particular were disproportionately disenfranchised and living in states where disenfranchisement is permanent even after a felon completes their sentence. Today, an estimated thirteen percent of black men are unable to vote due to a felony conviction.

13%. This is bonkers.
But at least the Europeans (and Canadians!) have a handle on the issue. Those wacky Europeans. What the hell will they dream up next as a human right, I wonder?

World Cup draw Part II

[ 1 ] December 6, 2009 |

I largely agree with everything that Paul has written, and the comments thread off of that one is excellent. Having had my daughter for the last three days, I’ve not had an opportunity to do much of, well, anything beyond pay her attention and acquiesce to her three-year old demands, so now that I have a moment, I’ll offer some comments.

I’ll take this group by group, and go out on a limb and predict the qualifiers (in order), and then have a bit more to say about our [*] chances at the end, tomorrow.
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
Prediction: Mexico, France.
This group has been underrated, especially by the French media. Yes, S.A. are not so good, and in the international media they are two names, in this order: Pienaar and McCarthy. But I own a Kaizer Chiefs jersey so I figure I should defend these guys (the Chiefs were in Durban the same time I was; they for a match, me for a conference, they checked in as I checked out, and I said hey, can I? Couldn’t tell the lads that I really wanted an Orlando Pirates jersey, could I?) SA will have the home side advantage, and as Paul notes, the host side has pretty much always made it out of the group stage. Second, there is talent there. I know this kid probably will only see garbage time, but a name to remember is Claasen. Plays for Jonge Ajax. If I remember anything from my three years in Amsterdam and Holland, it’s that Ajax still have one of the best youth academies on the planet.
All that said, they don’t qualify. Why Mexico over France? Having watched both legs of an above average Ireland side against France, the latter were out played. France aren’t France any longer. Furthermore, and critically as any Yank knows, altitude matters. Mexico are conditioned and used to playing in Azteca Stadium. I haven’t looked at the fixtures that close, but the critical match in this group, France v Mexico, is at altitude.
Our rivals to the south take this group. And Uruguay don’t suck either, even though they did a France themselves to get past Costa Rica in the playoff.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece.
Prediction: Argentina, Greece.
This is a tough group on several levels. First, who manages Argentina? If it’s the original Hand of God, he has, as one British broadsheet said yesterday, an inimitable ability to make a good side look crap. Give Messi, Aimar, et al. a proper manager, they top the group easy. But it gets a bit more complicated below Argentina. Greece are not what they were in Euro 2004. But then Nigeria also aren’t what they once were. These days, the Super Eagles have Nwankwo Kanu leading the side (and the front line), with the still emerging talent of Mikel Obi as the future. Any Arsenal fan will have an opinion on the soon-to-be relegated Kanu. I don’t see Nigeria being what they once were. I suspect that South Korea finish third ahead of Nigeria, and it’s not because Celtic signed Ki Sung-Yong. There’s more talent in every position on this side, whereas Nigeria seem to be isolating their value in a few key players.
Group C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia.
Prediction: England, United States.
Right. Don’t underestimate Slovenia, any of you.
Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana.
Prediction: Germany and Serbia (and a punt).
Germany win this group. But any of the other three can finish second. If I had to bet, I would bet on Serbia, but don’t underestimate the Australians (see 2006.) And if England finish first, and the Australians finish second, your best match of the last 16 (outside of the match the Americans are playing in) is England – Australia, just for the sheer provincial jingoistic value of it (it would be like cricket in reverse).
And Ghana may be all about Essien in the international media, but they have a reputation of being well organized in a disorganized way. Which, as a faux statistician, I can appreciate. But more critically, they have a lot of youth, and their kids have done well in FIFA tournaments in the past decade or so. That said, I still see them finishing last in this tough group. Serbia are that good.
It’s a tough one to call, Group D.
Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon.
Prediction: Holland and Denmark.
The Oranje are not playing ‘total football’, and they’re better for it — they haven’t had a Cruyff, Neeskens, or even a van Basten in a generation or two. Hell, Bergkamp hasn’t played for the Oranje since Euro 2000. They win easily. The Ajax keeper is solid, van Bronckhorst only gets better with age, van Bommel has peaked but is still useful, hopefully van Persie is fit, and the rest, man, we wish we had this side. Denmark have a core of talent that has peaked under excellent management — allowing Martin Olsen to manage the side since . . . when? 2000. This has instilled a sense of stability, and considering, superficially, the relatively thin side talent-wise, this is impressive. They topped Portugal and Sweden (and an impressive Hungary side) in qualification. Japan always play well, and are smattered with some talent (Nakamura, who plays for Espanyol, has the best free kick on the planet, Beckham be damned, but then I am a Celtic supporter), but aren’t up to the Danes. Cameroon have to be a dark horse here. Look at their squad on Wiki, and you’ll see if I am not mistaken, aside from two poor souls who play for Spurs, they each play at different top flight clubs in the top five leagues (aside from the few stragglers who are playing for clubs in Turkey (2), Scotland (N’Guemo has the misfortune of playing for Tony Mowbray at Celtic), Austria and Switzerland). A lot of quality in that side.
Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia.
Prediction: Italy, Paraguay.
Italy are old, over rated, and I dislike them with a passion I would normally hold in reserve for Rangers. But this group is a cakewalk. Slovakia are touted in the European media, because of their group performance. But let’s look at that closely. Who were in that group:
Slovakia
Slovenia
Czech Republic
Norn Iron
Poland
The Mountaintop (San Marino)
I know I gave Slovenia some cred above, but that’s based on their playoff performance against a real side: Russia. This group ought to have resulted in the Czechs and Poland, but both sides were fragile and thin. And as much as I love Northern Ireland and David Healy et al., let’s be realistic: Norn Iron gave this group a respectable run. If the Northern Irish are giving your group a run, it’s not a strong group. There is some quality in Slovakia, especially at the back, but I don’t see them going through.
Paraguay, on the other hand, took four points out of six from Argentina in qualification, won at home and lost away with Brazil (but the goal differential was in Paraguay’s favor: 3-2), lost at home to Chile 0-2 yet won away 3-0 . . . I have to go with Paraguay for second here.
Who was the fourth side in this group? Oh right. The All Whites. Who wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for Australia’s defection to Asia. If their playoff hero is one Rory Fallon, of my local side Plymouth Argyle (who have been in the relegation zone all season of the English second tier) and one of their best players is Chris Killen, of Celtic (who rarely sees the pitch), you’re in trouble. They do have Ryan Nelson, who allegedly plays respectfully for Blackburn Rovers . . .
Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Cote D’Ivoire, Portugal.
Prediction: Brazil (going out on a limb here I am), Cote D’Ivoire.
The so called group of death. It isn’t. It’s not as though every tournament every year requires a group of death. In 2006, Italy, USA, Czech Republic, Ghana, now that was a group of death. On paper, at least until Arena’s side played, there was no pushover. Everybody should get 3 from our nuclear-eneabled friends of the Axis of Evil. Unless Kim calls in an airstrike.
Why Cote D’Ivoire and not Portugal? I’d like to say it’s because the Ivory Coast had a much more impressive qualification run than Portugal did, but let’s be honest: they didn’t. Portugal had a more difficult path, until the playoffs, where they barely managed to get past Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is gut instinct here, Portugal are over-rated, I have a dislike for one Ronaldo that I would normally reserve for the Kenny Millers and Barry Fergusons of the world, and I feel it’s Cote D’Ivorie’s time.
Oh, and they have a couple blokes who play up front for Chelsea.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile.
Prediction: Spain, Chile.
Spain are Spain. The Confederations Cup blip aside, they’re currently in my (Yank) opinion, the best side on the planet. This group comes down to second, and even here, it’s an easy call. Chile performed admirably in a difficult qualification group, finishing second. As much respect as I have for the Swiss side, who have done a good job in the past several tournaments (they have a tendency to qualify . . . and I’ll leave others to exploit the obvious stereotypical cliches) their qualification run wasn’t exactly challenging. It was Greece. Whom they beat by a single point. Somehow, Luxembourg took five points out of this group.
[*] Being a beersnob of some repute, I belong to something of an ad-hoc yet exclusive international mailing list of like minded arrogant fucks (and this is as exclusive as I ever will be: a bunch of pissheads who know their way around a pint). Several of the guys (and yes, sadly, we’re all guys) on the list follow this game. So when the draw was made, I sent out an email to said list, and said something to the effect that “we can make it out of this group”. The first response was from a friend of mine who resides in Manhattan (and by virtue of his owning season tickets to the Yankees, an eternal enemy of LGM): “Who is the “we” (though I have a feeling you mean both your native and adopted lands)?”
I don’t mean both.
UPDATE: Randy Paul’s predictions at Beautiful Horizons match mine, aside from having France win their group (I predict Mexico) and swapping Chile and Switzerland . . . more people seem to be going for the Swiss, but I’m sticking to my guns.

World Cup 2010 seeds

[ 0 ] December 3, 2009 |

The seedings for Friday’s group stage draw were released yesterday.

There were some fairly significant changes from past practice. For the past three, four, or five? World Cups, a combination of past performances in the World Cup (either two or more often three tournaments back) with an index based on current, one year, and two years past FIFA rankings. For 2010, it’s the October FIFA ranking (only) combined with geography. The hosts, as is practice, are also seeded.

Teams are divided into four “pots”; each group will be populated with one team from each pot. Here they are:

Pot 1 (seeds): South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England

Pot 2 (Asia, Oceania and North/Central America): Representing Asia: Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Australia; Oceania: New Zealand; CONCACAF: United States, Mexico, Honduras

Pot 3 (Africa and South America): Africa: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria; S. America: Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay

Pot 4 (Unseeded Europe): France, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Greece, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia

The logic is the “best” eight sides are kept apart in the group stage, and no two teams from the same confederation will meet in the group stage (thus making my dream match of South v North Korea highly unlikely) except for Europe — there will be five groups with two European teams.

Hence, by selecting what FIFA believe to be the top eight sides, even though those top eight sides are not directly related to their own sketchy monthly rankings, and ensuring that those eight sides are placed in eight different group, the odds are significantly enhanced that those eight will make it through to the knock-out stages.

This doesn’t always happen of course; France finishing last in its group in 2002 is a clear memory, but all eight seeded sides did progress in 2006, but it does sharply reduce the odds of, say, an Algeria v North Korea quarter final (but imagine the TV ratings back in Pyongyang).

There are, as usual when it comes to FIFA, some idiosyncrasies. Neither France nor Portugal are seeded, even though they both are (currently) ranked higher than England. I don’t think France are all that any longer, but Portugal did knock England out at the quarter finals of both the 2006 WC and the 2004 European Championships. BBC Radio 5 Live suggested this morning that the French are being punished for the Ireland tie. What has not gone reported is that the seeds were based on the October, not November, rankings, in order to mitigate any built in advantage that teams involved in playoffs (as opposed to friendlies) during the month of November might have enjoyed.

Which is a different way of saying “FIFA sleight of hand”. The only two teams in the top seven in November are Portugal (5th) and France (7th). Neither Argentina nor England would have been seeded.

What does this mean for the USA tomorrow? It’s going to be grim, regardless; put the Confederations Cup performance away (which was uneven in any event). There are several best / worst case scenarios out there in blogosphere, but before we get too depressed, The Times has this worst case scenario for England:

a worst-case scenario would still involve them being drawn in the same group as France, Ivory Coast and the United States.

How sweet of the English media to suggest that the USA are in their own personal group of death. For the US, placing the CONCACAF and Asian and Oceania teams in the same pot means that we can not draw any of them — this screws us as it’s the weakest of the four pots; while ruling out the North v South Korea match, this also rules out the USA v North Korea match (remember France 1998 against Iran? I’d rather I didn’t as well).

Prost Amerika suggests these best / worst cases:

Best Case Scenario: Argentina, USA, Algeria, Switzerland.
Worst Case Scenario: Spain, USA, Ivory Coast, France.

I’d rather draw South Africa from the first pot, but that would rule out Algeria from the third. It’s a worthy trade off I think, so this is my best / worst case scenario:

Best: South Africa, USA, Paraguay, Greece (or Slovenia, or Switzerland . . . )
Worst: Brazil, USA, Ivory Coast, Portugal.

When it comes to drawing from the first pot, outside of the hosts they are all scary; when it comes to drawing the least dangerous of the European pot, there are several that are equally preferable to Portugal, France, or Denmark.

I will be discussing the resulting draw at some point this weekend, possibly even tomorrow evening (UK time).

Now, I’m as Critical of Rabid Angry Uncivil Wingnuts as the Next Guy . . .

[ 0 ] November 30, 2009 |

at least until Michael White goes moderately Over The Top in his latest rambling, expansive Guardian piece on Friday. While LGM readers know that I am highly critical of the Wingnut approach to democracy and debate, and I don’t consider it healthy at all, I’m not about to start drawing comparisons to Ft. Sumter in 1861.

While White may largely be correct here:
It is the scale of the irrational, emotional and, dare I add, ignorant, reaction his presidency has unleashed on the American right, some of it understandable in a fast-changing and confusing world, much of it ugly and increasingly violent in tone.

But a latecomer here:
Friends keep saying: “It’s changed since you lived there, Mike.”

White lived in the US from 1984 to 1988, so, um, duh, of course it’s changed. That’s a generation. I’m willing to bet that Britain has changed since 1988 as well.

I interpret the present reaction of the right not all that differently from that unleashed by Bill Clinton. Since Reagan, the right views the White House specifically, and governance in general, as a birthright. They’re the only true Americans. Fortunately for the rest of us, most of them live in Real America. Therefore the current tone and tenor of debate from the right doesn’t surprise me in the least — if anything they’re more scared, because whereas Bill Clinton won with only 43% of the vote, Obama did significantly better. And, Obama’s a Muslim Fascist-Communist as we all know, born, where was it? Kenya? Indonesia? That must scare the right as well.
To reiterate, unlike White I do not perceive this wave of wingnut lunacy any differently than the Clinton administration. This isn’t new. (Of course, dare I say it, we know how that ended up). Furthermore, while the faults of the United States are legion, this is true of every democracy on the planet — and hey, we didn’t give the world, and the European Parliament, Nick Griffin, who somehow weaseled his way into representing the entire EUP at the Copenhagen climate change conference. His views on climate change are reassuringly similar to his views on race relations.
But perhaps I should have more time for White and his viewpoint: not only was he punched by Alastair Campbell, but he punched him back.

I’m Enjoying This

[ 0 ] November 29, 2009 |

Senator Lindsey Graham is censured by the mighty Charleston County Republican Party for — shock and horrors! — compromising with the opposition on Cap and Trade.

Now, I thought that’s what was supposed to happen in legislative bodies — compromise. Not for the Angry Republicans however. They prefer ideological purity and dictatorial governance.

Where did we last see something like that?

But don’t worry, the moderate wing of the Republican Party isn’t interested in compromising on their conservative credentials, if Marvin Rogers, 33, is representative at all:

“I’m not asking anyone to be any less conservative — please don’t,” Mr. Rogers said. “But be more civil in communicating that conservative message. Don’t get on TV talking about ‘The president’s a racist.’ Don’t get on the radio talking about Waterloos.”

Civility. A civil right wing in the U.S. Now that would be something.

That Could Have Been Me

[ 0 ] November 28, 2009 |

At least they weren’t armed.

Overrated

[ 0 ] November 27, 2009 |

The Guardian published the NME’s list of the best 50 albums of the last decade a few days ago, and I’ve been meaning to comment.

The Strokes are over-rated — they were highly derivative, rather like Beck was highly derivative ten years prior. My favorite band of the last five to six years is easily The Libertines, and while I think they deserve their spot in the rankings, a mate of mine commented down the pub last night that Karl, Pete, et al. owe a lot to the Strokes, which pretty much put me in my place.
So I guess I’m left with bitching about this. Third? When the Monkeys came out a couple years back, they were heralded as the next big thing. They weren’t. Highly over-rated, and just not that interesting, and more critically, they didn’t advance pop music one millimeter.
Discuss.

"In previous decades people would have laughed about it."

[ 0 ] November 25, 2009 |

But, Bruce people laughed about a lot of hilarious things in previous decades that turned out, with the passage of time, to not be bloody funny at all.

So when Bruce Forsyth, CBE, so called “national treasure” of Britain (and still on the telly every week hosting the wildly popular and utterly pointless Strictly Come Dancing, the forebear to what I’m sure is the equally popular and pointless Dancing With the Stars in the U.S.), lamely attempts to convince us that Paki is as racist as Limey, meaning it isn’t racist at all but just something we should all laugh off, all we can do is sigh and continue to pay our license fee* (£142.50 this year, and I pay mine every December . . . )

Or maybe when you’re 81, you may still find things funny that haven’t been since Neville Chamberlin was Prime Minister?

* This is one of the more regressive taxes among the western democracies, and one I happily pay every year. Value for money and all that malarkey, Forsyth, Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross, and George fecking Lamb aside . . .

Reading the Tea Leaves

[ 0 ] November 23, 2009 |

The Observer published the new Ipsos-MORI poll on Sunday on voting intentions for the forthcoming British election, and the media are all aflutter about its implications. Specifically, the Tory lead has shrunk to six points down from over 20 this past summer: 37% Conservative, 31% Labour, 17% Liberal Democrat.

This matters not only because of the electoral system writ large, but the way the constituencies are drawn, weighted (Scotland and Wales still have a built in advantage in population : seats ration, even post-devolution), and how partisan support is distributed. Here at the University of Plymouth we are considered experts in the field of British electoral politics with our Local Government Chronicle Elections Center. Two of my colleagues in the Elections Center have produced a handy media guide that breaks down the redrawn constituency boundaries for the 2010 election, with a matrix that predicts the distribution of seats in the new parliament assuming a uniform national swing. When 37% Conservative is compared to 31% Labour, we end up with a distribution of C 283, L 273, LD 62: a hung parliament.

However, let’s not get carried away, yet. I do have a few critical comments about how the poll is being interpreted. Ipsos MORI are a highly respected polling firm, but nowhere in their releases, hence nowhere in the media, do we find any explicit information regarding the margin of error. We do, however, have the N: 1,006. This basically equates to an MoE of 3% assuming a 95% confidence interval. In other words, the “true” value of support for the Tories is between 40% and 34%, Labour 34% and 28%, etc., with 95% certainty. The best case scenario for the Tories with these numbers equates to: C 329, L 227, LD 63. A comfortable majority.

But wait, there’s more!

The overall N and the estimates reported by Ipsos MORI do not match. The support estimates are based on a rough likely voter model / filter which the firm terms “certain to vote”. This reduces the N to 513, and roughly increases the MoE to 4.5%. Meaning, the true value is somewhere between 41.5% and 32.5% for the Tories, and 35.5% and 26.5% for Labour. When matched against UK Polling Report’s poll tracker, the 6 point Tory lead is an outlier — not an egregious outlier as it is at least consistent with the trend from the past month, but an outlier nonetheless. (Anthony Wells at UKPR also has an informative take in his blog on this poll hitting different issues than I have here.)

Interestingly, the total size of the sample offering a voting intention of any likelihood is 799, and those numbers are 34-34-16. This suggests that Labour’s best strategy is to mobilize their base, or those that are unlikely voters but if they were to vote would vote Labour.

Considering the above, I’m not going to comment on Nick Clegg’s tactics regarding the Lib Dems role in a potential hung parliament, or his own grasp of what democracy is all about, nor am I going to consider all the possible ramifications and political gymnastics leading to a hung parliament, but then I am also not going to boldly come out and proclaim that a hung parliament ain’t gonna happen, cowboy.

I recognize that the media have a news hole to fill, and in terms of electoral politics here in the UK, this is the most interesting story in a while. However, let’s wait for a few more polls to see if this one is indicative, or merely an outlier, before we get all excited about the prospects of a hung parliament.

Atypical Monday Daddy Blogging

[ 0 ] November 23, 2009 |

Both pictures of Imogen were taken this weekend; the only major political event to temporally intercede was the Senate vote on that silly anti-democratic procedure called cloture allowing debate on health care reform.

With my careful guidance and tutelage, I’m sure she will correctly decide between progressive politics and supporting the BNP by the time she is 18.

It’s either that, or she simply thought I was a Nazi for telling her to eat her veg . . .

Who?

[ 0 ] November 20, 2009 |

The European Union selected its President and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Vice President for External Affairs. In the classic stereotype of the dull gray bureaucrat, they’ve selected a couple of relative lightweights (given the nature and stature of the position) whom nobody outside of their jobs, families, and closest work colleagues know anything about. I’ll admit to having “fleshed out” my knowledge of the two appointees just this morning.

The President is the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy. He’s only been Belgian Prime Minister since December 30 of last year, and then, he was reluctant to take up the position following the political collapse of the imagined state of Belgium. The King had to cajole him.

The High Representative for a Number of Important Things is Catherine Ashton, life peer since 1999 so commonly referred to as Baroness Ashton of Upholland, or Lady Ashton here in the UK. She has had a proper lefty background, studied Sociology at University, worked for the CND for a couple years, had a stint working with businesses about issues of social inequality, before entering politics. I’ll admit to gleaning most of her pre-politics background from her Wiki as well as a couple other sources.

I’ll try to imagine some strengths of these appointments before discussing the obvious weaknesses. Van Rompuy has held a country together that by all accounts should not be a country, and nearly ceased being a country in 2007-08, a crisis that I exploited for its humor value early and often in class. By all accounts, his success in holding Belgium together was more than mere competence; he was able to rebuild a modicum of trust between Flanders and Wallonia. These skills should serve him well in trying to keep the 27 member states of the European Union on the same page. Of course, there is fear that Belgium has lost its healer and will once again descend into chaos.

Lady Ashton was the Leader of the House of Lords for a bit over a year, has held the post of EU Trade Commissioner (replacing Peter Mandelson) for a bit over a year, has a reputation for . . . well, hell, I really don’t know anything about her.

I wrote about this on Halloween. While my post was primarily a befuddled questioning of Tory tactics on several issues, I had this to say about the positions:

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.

These appointments will help the image or profile of the EU neither abroad nor within. What they do suggest is that the 27 member states, especially the leaders of the large leading countries (e.g. Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and . . . Italy? Poland?) did not want these posts to have a higher profile than they. So, we get a perhaps diplomatically and politically gifted Belgian Prime Minister whom nobody outside of Brussels or Antwerp has really heard of, and a British politician who, as The Guardian argues, is as obscure as she is unelected. Can you even be a politician in a democracy if you’ve never stood for election?

Critics of the EU will have a field day with this, indeed already are here in the UK. The leader of UKIP (and an MEP), Nigel Farage, argued

We’ve got the appointment of two political pygmies. In terms of a global voice, the European Union will now be much derided by the rest of the world. Baroness Ashton is ideal for the role. She has never had a proper job and never been elected to public office.

But then we would expect UKIP to say that.

A greater problem will be the legacy that they establish in designing their positions. The descriptions are suitably vague enough that a strong political force could have developed them into something useful vis-a-vis the various heads of government in the EU. However, George Washington they ain’t.

Speaking of American Presidents, Obama did claim that these appointments would make the EU an “even stronger partner” to the United States.

Did he say this before, or after, looking them up on wikipedia?

Note: while I may appear to be overly critical of Belgium, I rather love that country, and spent a lot of time in it when I lived in the Netherlands. In fact, one of my top five beer bars on the planet is in Antwerp.

La main de Dieu, for a New Generation

[ 0 ] November 19, 2009 |

France 1 (1) – 1 (0) Ireland. AET.

France qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
I recall watching the 1986 World Cup on TV, which was a rarity at the time from the United States. I vaguely recall watching the Argentina v England quarter final match as well. However, not being an England fan, and only an 18 year old American at that, the infamous Hand of God goal by Maradona didn’t resonate at the time as it did on the island where I now reside. Living six + years here, and being a soccer fan, I quickly learned just how fantastically lame that was. In my mind, the so-called “goal of the century” that Maradona scored a few minutes later didn’t absolve him of that central sin. For all of his greatness as a player, his reputation is also blighted for being a cheat.
Thierry Henry’s glorious career, likewise, took an unrecoverable turn last night:

(UPDATE: I originally included a clip from youtube, but Sportsfive, who own the rights to the broadcast from the match, have been busy scouring the intertubes for copyright infringements. Or something like that. Did I mention that they are French? Anyway, check out the comments for an active clip).

Granted, it’s not a World Cup quarter final, but it was the final few minutes of qualification, and the match looked to be heading ineluctably towards penalties. It also was not the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1999, either.

I was in the pub for this match (technically only the second half). While Henry claims that he did not do it on purpose, I strongly disagree. The first hand ball was incidental — still a foul, but not purposeful. The second hand ball he appears to direct the ball with intent. Before the replays, we knew something was up: virtually every Republic player had their hands raised, and Shay Given storms out to first the referee, then the linesman, to protest. The replays made the foul plain.
It’s difficult to blame the referee for this; in the main he had a good match. The Anelka dive may have led to a penalty against Given, but that was a judgment call; the hand ball was not. The linesman should have spotted it, and either didn’t, or didn’t believe his eyes. But then he also failed to spot the clear offsides at the same time.
I’m not buying into any of the conspiracy theories — while FIFA and UEFA have a clear preference for large nations to qualify, they sorted this out in the playoff draw. If there was a conspiracy involving the ref, he would have called that penalty against Given, not waited for a few minutes remaining in stoppage time to ignore a hand ball.
As my English club has always been Arsenal, even before the Wenger years, I should be inclined to give Henry the benefit of the doubt and wax eloquent about how any player would have done the same thing.
But I’m not. That hand ball was intentional, and should be called what it is: cheating. And Henry’s legacy will forever be tied to this moment, which is a shame.

UPDATE: The Irish Justice Minister is calling for a replay. I heard rumblings about this on both BBC Radio 4 and 5 Live last night and this morning, which is why I cited the Sheffield United – Arsenal FA Cup Fifth Round tie in the above.

It’s not going to happen. How would it? Any such match has to happen soon, but the next international window is months away, so the players would have to be coaxed from their clubs. While FIFA and UEFA can pry players from their clubs during international breaks, to the best of my knowledge they have no leverage outside of international windows. The current French squad play for such clubs as Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal, Manchester United, Lyon . . . when these clubs say no, and they would within a second of receiving the request, the French players have no incentive to challenge the club position: they’ve already been handed their trip to South Africa (sorry for the dreadful pun, but about half the newspaper headlines today make the obvious easy play).

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