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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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Clint Dempsey

[ 0 ] January 18, 2010 |
I have a post on the small matter of tomorrow’s Massachusetts Senate election underway, but figured I’d fire this off ASAP. Dempsey was injured in Fulham’s 2-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers yesterday, which is not a positive development for the US MNT’s chances in the upcoming World Cup.
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And Here’s To You, Mrs. Robinson

[ 0 ] January 9, 2010 |
As I am wearing my Northern Ireland top today (coincidental, and I will not be wearing it come the NI v USA friendly) it seems appropriate to wade into this. At least the big story in the last week in Northern Irish politics has been this, and not the resurgence of a handful of semi-organized Republican assholes who clearly didn’t get the memo.
Juxtapose these paragraphs from The Guardian article:
But no one can have anticipated that this decidedly odd couple – the devout Mrs Robinson, at 59, was old enough to be the then 19-year-old McCambley’s grandmother – would have an affair .

Mrs Robinson’s transgression was the more astonishing given the controversy generated last year when she described homosexuality as an abomination on a par with paedophilia that made her nauseous. As the BBC programme coyly noted, the passage in Leviticus that she quoted contains similar sentiments about adultery.

With this:

“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.
Jesus loves you more than you will know.
Woah, woah, woah.
God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray.
Hey hey hey, Hey hey hey.”

Pure gold.
It’s nearly enough to make me, of a (peaceful) nationalist bent, miss the days of Ian Paisley. Unfortunately, I’m no Paul Simon, and couldn’t get the following to somehow work:
“Where have you gone, Ian Paisley?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Dr. No has left and gone away.”

Labour Frets About Gordon Brown . . . Again, and Again, and . . .

[ 0 ] January 6, 2010 |
Preface: I’m lucky to be writing this, as my internet connectivity at our Oregon Estate (read: two bedroom apartment in a posh suburb) is dodgy. The better half upgraded a few weeks ago, the provider dropped the ball, we’ve been without since 31 December, and I’m nicking bandwidth on some nearby, highly unreliable, open wifi. Upgraded access is restored here on 11 January, which conveniently is the same day I brave the upgraded security regime to fly back to England for the new term.

This latest Labour hang wringing over the leadership (and electoral suitability) of Gordon Brown has taken another ham fisted turn, as covered by the New York Times, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, et al. (OK, I’m sure The Sun does cover it, but first we get to read about how Cheryl Cole lost her virginity at 15, Rachel Weisz is everybody’s favorite MILF, and Patrick Vieira is leaving Inter Milan for greener pastures, presumably Man City, but then it is The Sun).

I’ll make this short: this is stupid. Labour’s chance to ditch Brown, as I pointed out at the time, was this past June. An Alan Johnson leadership would have helped Labour, but now that Johnson instead opted to assume the cabinet portfolio of doom (i.e. the Home Office), he’s in a worse position to help Labour. With Labour slowly regaining traction in the polls over the past two months or so, such that a hung parliament is not out of the question (and third place behind the Lib Dems now seems unlikely), provoking a leadership contest four to five months before an election is lunacy on the scale of Michael Foot’s 1983 Labour manifesto. Stating it lightly, this does not help.
The best analysis, as is often the case, can be found at UK Polling Report. Yes, Brown is a clear drag on Labour, while Cameron is the opposite for the Tories. However, the opportunity costs involved in a leadership challenge and then election while the party ought to be busy writing its manifesto and campaigning on it in a unified (for Labour) manner are immense.
Labour had the chance to ditch the Right Honorable Dour Scot in June, and they didn’t. It’s too late now to do any good.

NW 253 Redux

[ 0 ] December 30, 2009 |

Rob covers most of the points on 253 that I would have touched upon (as well as some I hadn’t considered), but there are a few I want to add. First, as a preface, I’ve flown AMS-DTW six or eight times, and been on that very flight, and I’m happy to report that this experience doesn’t affect my observation or the validity of my opinion (which is always questionable at any rate).

My instinct when hearing about it was “it’s about time”. As Jeff Fecke comments to Rob’s post, “you’re 99% safe everywhere, but you’re not 100% safe anywhere.” Probability suggest that this will happen, and it will happen again, and if this is the best that they can do, we’re in pretty good shape overall. When one considers the sheer number of passenger / flights that occur daily, let alone annually, and by my (possibly unreliable) count there have only been three incidents of note on US or US-bound carriers post 9/11 (the shoe bomber, the British liquid bombers, and Detroit guy) I am not terribly concerned. Two amateur attempts, and one that MI-5 were all over.
Additionally, as commenter Hanspeter points out, this was not a TSA fault:

“Lagos airport technically passes some standard level of security competency, which is why planes leaving there are allowed to land here. Amsterdam airport also screwed the pooch, though, since that airport is supposed to be very good at security.”

Schiphol Amsterdam indeed has excellent security; even pre-9/11, flying an American carrier from AMS to wherever in the US (typically NW) involved an additional “interview” at the gate for every passenger (they ask for all manner of ID, including frequent flyer membership cards, thumb through your passport and inquire about certain trips, etc.); post 9/11, they added an additional security checkpoint at every gate for American-bound US carriers. (Oddly enough, these measures didn’t apply to KLM flights to the US). However, I’m not sure how Schiphol screwed the pooch; if the technology to stop this guy wasn’t installed, it wasn’t installed.

Furthermore, to my knowledge there are no direct flights from Nigeria to the US, because security is not up to standard. (UPDATE: a commenter points out that Delta fly a couple direct flights between Lagos and the US).
Lagos to Amsterdam was a KLM flight. Indeed, to my knowledge passengers connecting through AMS from Lagos have to go through an additional layer of security because Nigeria security is not considered adequate by the EU. If a pooch was screwed here, it wasn’t that security at Schiphol allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board the DTW flight, rather it was a simple old fashioned intelligence failure.
My rather sanguine attitude expressed above does not place me in the ‘don’t violate my privacy dammit’ camp, however. I have no problem that Schiphol is installing the very machines that may have prevented the Detroit thing; I’m comfortable with some random stranger noting that I’m probably carrying around ten post-holiday extra pounds than I should be. As AMS is one of my primary transit hubs (indeed, my flights back to England in early January take me through Schiphol) I’m certain to experience this new technology in any event.
But I’m not going to freak out about the Detroit thing. It may have been professionally conceived, but it was rank amateur in execution. If this is the best that they can do given our widely assailed security vulnerabilities, I’m fairly relaxed about it.

Wait, Acorn Did Not Commit Voting Fraud?

[ 0 ] December 24, 2009 |

You’re kidding, right? At least that’s the line by the reasonable representative from Iowa, Steve King (R). After weighing his complete lack of evidence to the contrary, he finds this report “unconvincing”. Instead, he goes with his well honed imagination:

“This report doesn’t begin to cover the transgressions of Acorn,” Mr. King said.

Admittedly, the authors of the report were likely unable to interview the voices in King’s head, so he does have a point.
“I think Acorn is bigger than Watergate.”

To which all I can think is that I’d like some of that eggnog he is drinking, but I have to drive back down to Oregon from Kitsap County today.
Of course, maybe with that eggnog and King’s imagination, my car might be sprinkled with fairy dust, sprout wings, and we could fly down to Oregon . . . because it must be powerful stuff, seeing as how King has voted in favor of Acorn projects early and often.
Life’s ironies can be delicious.
As an aside, it appears that Congressional legislation cutting off Acorn is vulnerable to a constitutional critique as a bill of attainder. I’d search to see if Scott or Paul have picked up on this, but I can see the wings unfurling from my car as I type . . .

I Always Suspected That Peter Mandelson Was a Wanker

[ 0 ] December 23, 2009 |

I’ll have more to say about this later, but I’m out the door for a Christmas dinner with my partner’s family. Merry Christmas, Lord P.

Of course, the British university system never really recovered from the Thatcher slash and burn approach, only just recently recovering a modicum of respectability. Nobody really believed Tony Blair’s desire to see 50% of British “school leavers” in university was possible (or even desirable), but this is the same government, right, that now claims this:

Lord Mandelson made his position clear in the Secretary of State’s annual letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. He said: “My predecessor repeatedly made clear the risks of student over-recruitment putting unmanageable pressures on our student support budgets.”

And people wonder why most people no longer believe a word that the Labour government has to say about, well, much of anything.

Teenage Runaways Need to Up Their Game

[ 0 ] December 21, 2009 |

Because there’s running away from home, and there’s sailing away from home.

OK, technically, they’re not sure how she transported from The Netherlands to the Dutch Antilles, but I would think that it’s somewhat difficult for a 13/14 year old to just up and buy a KLM ticket and board without any indication that this is approved by a parent / guardian / the state.
Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that Laura Dekker could withdraw €3,500 from her personal bank account. When I was 13 (or 14, as The Guardian reports her age to be) I didn’t have a personal bank account, let alone €3,500 to put in or take out of it. Hell, come to think of it, I don’t have that now.

British Party Leaders to Have Three Debates

[ 0 ] December 21, 2009 |
Because apparently nobody watches the weekly PM’s Question Time.

This is a good idea in general, but a bad idea for Gordon Brown and Labour. As his approval ratings are trailing those of his party, and likewise he is trailing David Cameron, I’m not sure how this will help him. Especially as a lot of his negatives are tied to his personality, not his policies.

I expect that if it adds anything to Cameron’s chances (growing somewhat after having dipped for a few weeks) it will solidify and reassure the support of those who voted Labour or Lib Dem in 97, 01, and 05. The real winner here could be Nick Clegg, because a) nobody knows who the hell he is at the moment, b) like Cameron, the five people who have heard of Nick Clegg have no idea what the hell he or his party stand for, and c) he will appeal in contrast to Gordon Brown even if he fails to utter a single word all night.
I also anticipate that these debates will be of a vastly superior quality to their American inspirations, both in terms of the type of questions asked as well as the directness of the responses. But I’ll miss the Palinesque moments . . .
. . . and I do look forward to the British reaction to their first ever debates, wondering how soon, and how often, some media turd will bemoan yet another Yank import sullying the culture, like Halloween and a currency that one can divide by 100.

Random Text Exchange of the Day

[ 0 ] December 18, 2009 |

Yesterday, I received a text on my US cell that read:

“Hi, I need your address xoxo.”
Fairly certain that it wasn’t from a creditor, yet completely uncertain about the source (the area code is south western Florida, and I don’t think I know anybody who lives there) I replied:
“Uhh, I’m not sure I know you.”
In English, that is usually perceived as an invitation to supply a name or something similar, right? This is what I received in response (names changed to protect the guilty):
“Love, I have had Track in the hospital i’ve never been so tired i’m broke n Todd and I are over”.
This mystery was followed by a picture message, which I can’t view as I use an ancient phone for my US cell that I originally obtained while still living in Holland back in 2002.
I’ve only had this US number for about six months or so, and I don’t circulate it all that widely, so I’m 99.99% confident that I don’t know this person. If it was my British mobile, maybe it was from someone whose number I deleted five years ago or something, but this is a mystery to me. The previous owner of my number didn’t exactly notify all of her people that her number had changed, so I received a string of calls for her for about two months. This may be of that genre.
At least Cliff Lee is still a Mariner, there’s a rumored Carlos Silva – Milton Bradley swap in the works as well (will the brilliance never cease?), and I’m eating Christmas cookies for breakfast, so some semblance of sense still remains in the universe.

Sick.

[ 0 ] December 18, 2009 |

usually it’s the Michele Bachmanns and Glenn Becks of the world who afford me with soft, juicy targets, but the bloody BBC?

And watch in stunned silence as Liliane Landor, the BBC World Service acting head of Africa region, tries to cover her ass: “The programme was a dignified exchange between people who have differing beliefs”.

This isn’t even on the road approaching the suburbs of dignified.

At least both my license fee and the Foreign Office funded this exchange, so I have the pleasure of having paid for it twice.

Random Musings about Baseball, College Students Having Sex, and Airlines.

[ 0 ] December 16, 2009 |
I’d really like to say a few things about the Cliff Lee to Seattle trade, but Scott already put it out there, and as per usual, USS Mariner have it covered.

The New York Post has a newsflash: Columbia University students can now “live in sin – on their parents’ dime.” Because, as we know, college students would never have had premarital sex until the advent of co-ed dorm rooms. This changes everything!

The Times, of course, has a more balanced take. Rather unlike this one commenter to the Post article: “Let’s keep looking into the future. How long would it take for another outrageous move, like government passing a law that would allow a brother and sister to get married?”
I thought that was already legal in some unnamed states?
Seriously, as my partner pointed out, is this really all that radical, or is Columbia simply acknowledging what has been going on informally for, well, generations? (One of the arguments in favor of co-ed rooms is that best friends can share, even if they are of the opposite sex. Had me and said partner done that 22 years ago, perhaps we would have fast-forwarded things. Probably not, that would have been living in sin! Unlike now of course.)
While speaking about sex, the mind naturally wanders to the French. I have a new favorite airline: Air France. When I moved to Holland nine years ago, I tied myself to Northwest / KLM, due in large part to NW 33 / 34, which is (was) a direct flight between SEA and AMS (and until 2003, on ancient DC-10s) Mileage programs create a seductive incentive: always fly that carrier or the carriers in their alliance, as once you get status, it’s difficult to fly anything else, even if you have to pay a modest premium to remain tied to your carrier of choice. Also, living in Amsterdam made it hellishly convenient to go pretty much anywhere.
Fast forward to life in England. When Air France bought KLM, I was concerned, but more of the “better the devil you know” framework. When Delta bought Northwest, I was very concerned, especially after my grim experience flying through Atlanta this past October. So this trip, flying out of Bristol, I ended up on Air France on the outward leg (BRS-CDG-SEA-PDX) and Northwest home (PDX-SEA-AMS-BRS). It’s probably cliche, but the food on Air France was terrific — the best airline food I’ve had since flying Air Cubana a dozen years ago. It came with a menu. In coach. A menu that changes every couple of weeks, which is refreshing after having been fed the same crap on Northwest for two years.
Did I mention that the food was good? Fresh salmon and tomato starter, the beef ragout with mustard sauce was good, even if it came out of a microwave, the Camembert was a nice touch, and the chocolate tart for dessert was delicious. The wine kept flowing, and the flight attendant, when clearing the food service, asked me if I wanted another red wine (without my prompting) to which I said yes, of course; he then added “and I should think you want a cognac to go with that?”
Duh?
This is my kind of airline. The flight attendants were, well, attentive, unlike the stoic (and downright bitter during the bankruptcy and then merger period) Northwest crews, the blunt, methodically efficient KLM crews, or the generally absent Delta crews. They even served champagne in coach, kept the wine flowing happily, and were charming and amiable.
This all made me nearly forget that my bag didn’t make the connection at CDG, or that we hit a patch of the worst turbulence I’ve experienced (the scary bad thank god for the seatbelt and this wine oh crap is the plane really supposed to do this? sort of turbulence) that couldn’t help but remind me of that Air France A330 (same type as I was on) that didn’t quite make it over the Atlantic this past June.
My bag was on to something, I figure. It knew about the impending nastiness of the flight, and opted instead to remain behind in an airport bar in Paris. To Air France’s credit, when I arrived in SEA, they knew my bag hadn’t made it, were prepared, took my details, and it arrived here in Oregon 24 hours later. Class.
Unfortunately, Air France did not supply me with a free sample for this post.

The Point Being Exactly What, Again?

[ 0 ] December 15, 2009 |

From Oregon, I’ve been reading with befuddlement the noises that Gordon Brown might call an early election. Maybe it’s jet lag, but it seems to me that the time to have called an early election was July 2007. Rumor has it he’s considering 25 March, which is only six weeks in advance of the assumed date (to correspond with local elections in early May) and not all that far in advance of the latest possible date for an election (5 June I believe).

It’s obvious that one calls an early “snap” election when it disproportionately advantages your side. For Labour in early (as opposed to mid) 2010, I can only imagine three possible scenarios that would marginally advantage Labour (as opposed to disproportionately advantage). First, they assume that the current, vague trend towards Labour will continue, but hit a ceiling. Second, they assume that things are only going to get progressively worse, and calling an election sooner will at least maintain Labour as the official opposition. Third, they assume that the Tories are not prepared for an election. Or . . . fourth . . . they know that there will be thermonuclear bad news released between 25 March and 6 May. Considering the state of the British economy, the structural problems involved and concomitant threats of the credit agencies to downgrade the rating of the state debt, this scenario is not as far-fetched as it seems.
Of course, when David Cameron hails Simon Cowell and suggests that there is something that politicians can learn from this “incredibly talented” man, perhaps it isn’t too soon to call a snap election.
UPDATE: It was the Tories spreading the rumor. This makes more sense.
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