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Category: Dave Brockington

To Know is To Hate?

[ 19 ] August 20, 2010 |

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

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

ConDemed Coalition and Thatcherism

[ 3 ] August 15, 2010 |

William Keegan draws some chilling parallels in The Observer today.  Broadly in agreement, Left Foot Forward offers evidence suggesting that the emergency budget is hurting the economy.

Troubling to me is the sustained fall in housing prices, while my house sits on the market . . .

Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives

[ 8 ] August 14, 2010 |

I wonder where this rates?  Sadly, this sort of invective, especially the advice to not marry out of one’s race, will likely enhance her ratings.

And hell, we have a black President, right, so racism is over now, not worse, right?

When is Commuting a Sentence to Hanging a Good Thing?

[ 2 ] August 13, 2010 |

When you’re on Iran’s death-row, which has seemingly been convinced to upgrade their standards of decency to the level exercised by my home state of Washington, at least in terms of method.

I’m not entirely comfortable, however, with the use of “commute” in “her sentence of stoning has been commuted to hanging”.  Technically correct, I suppose, if one accepts that hanging is a less severe form of punishment than stoning.

Who Will Make it Three?

[ 5 ] August 11, 2010 |

Dan Rostenkowski, 1928-2010.  The quintessential Chicago pol.

Managerial Responsibility

[ 14 ] August 9, 2010 |

Or, what can Don Wakamatsu and Martin O’Neill possibly have in common, besides either newfound unemployment or having managed teams that I give a damn about (the Mariners and Celtic, respectively)?

Aston Villa manager O’Neill shockingly resigned with immediate effect only days before the season is to commence.  Rumor has it that transfer policy this off-season sent him over the edge.  Specifically, it looked as though Villa were about to lose two of their top players, James Milner (late of the England World Cup debacle) and Ashley Young, while O’Neill was not allowed to re-invest 100% of the proceeds from the sale, nor did ownership sanction the contract demands of Stephen Ireland, coming in part trade from Manchester City in the proposed / rumored Milner move to Manchester.  O’Neill, perhaps correctly, interpreted this as a surrender of ambition, and walked away.  O’Neill is highly regarded, and considered a hero by Celtic faithful.

His timing is crap for not only Villa, but also his own; walk out a couple weeks ago, and the Liverpool job is his.

Less surprisingly, the Seattle Mariners just fired their manager, Don Wakamatsu, and several members of his coaching staff.

Wakamatsu did not deserve this.  Last year, he was regarded for his brilliance, if not for every tactical decision he made on the field, for his ability to actually manage the cast of highly paid athletes / egos under his supervision.  This year, a 42-70 could have had the effect of attenuating the perceived brilliance, and his correctly showing Ken Griffey Jr. the exit door to his career made him close to universally unpopular.  These are superficial, anecdotal pieces of evidence; the sabermetric literature (that I am familiar with, I am now a couple years behind I’m afraid, although there is some interesting stuff here) has had a difficult time establishing that the field manager of a ball club has much measurable effect at all, and is negligible at best.

If baseball managers do not have any (as of yet) measurable effect on the probability of team success, is the same true for soccer managers?  Typically, soccer managers have a dual role from an American perspective: GM and field manager.  Player acquisition / disposal, the starting lineups, and on field tactics are wholly under his (or her) control.  This is not so in baseball, but also not the entire point.  While analysis on this question is highly limited, my non-rigorous, unsystematic hunch informed by anecdotal evidence perhaps hobbled by some subconscious selection bias tells me that the manager has a measurable effect on the probability of success.  Note, I’m not suggesting that the manager is the sole determinant of success, but that it is measurable.  (That study does not quite get at my question, but it’s the most rigorous I’m aware of).

I suspect that a “name” baseball manager would have also walked if presented with the situation O’Neill faced: the classic ‘fire sale’ followed by a clear lack of ambition, because his reputation is on the line.  However, the difference in the two cases is that the reputation of O’Neil is deserved, while the reputation of Wakamatsu, be it his brilliant 2009 or his miserable 2010, is not.

Milk Snatching in the UK

[ 5 ] August 8, 2010 |

has been avoided for the 21st Century, in a comical manner.

Last night as I went to sleep, I was informed by BBC Radio 4 that the coalition government was going to eliminate free milk for the under five set as it did not “provide value for money”.  At £50 odd million, it’s not very expensive, and while I doubt that it makes a huge difference in terms of public health, it does allegedly teach good dietary habits.  But, I immediately recognized the scale of the political blunder.

In grasping free milk from my daughter’s delicate hands, the government, rather stupidly, invoked the image of “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”, when Thatcher did the same for 7 to 11 year-olds as Education Minister in the early 1970s.  The last thing that David Cameron would want is a direct and valid comparison with Thatcher.

Hence, a classic U-turn, clumsily executed.

Turkey in the EU

[ 26 ] July 27, 2010 |

Finally, something the PM and I agree on.  I especially like the comparison regarding French intransigence regarding the UK’s membership in the 1960s and their same position today regarding Turkey — though it’s likely that their position vis-à-vis Turkey is more racially motivated than that regarding the UK, which had more to do about entrenching French “power”.

The logic of Turkish membership has always seemed clear to me.  Political scientists who study the EU have long held on to theoretical notions of how potential EU membership prods a country to adopt progressively more democratic features, and once membership has been secured democratic norms and institutions become entrenched.  Turkey has come a long way on the former with the explicit goal to satisfy Brussels; the only point I see blocking formal accession talks is Cyprus.  Furthermore, the benefits of Europe in institutionally embracing a Muslim nation are plain (even if this means a watershed moment in legitimizing cults everywhere, especially in Tennessee).

I’d be surprised if this were a popular position back on the (British) island.  Indeed, the poll in the Daily Mail, which otherwise did an atypically even-handed job with this story, runs 80% against.  While it’s a self-selecting population of self-selected Daily Mail readers, rendering the results theoretically a hair short of reliable, that 80% of British citizens are opposed to Turkey’s membership doesn’t seem too wide of the mark.

The PM risks more than alienating several EU partners, but also his own party:

Mr Cameron’s words put him at odds with France, Germany and Tory Right-wingers who believe Turkey may be incompatible with the EU.

Though it must be said that those same Tory right-wingers also believe the United Kingdom to be incompatible with the EU.

Privatize by Stealth.

[ 2 ] July 24, 2010 |

After seven years of living in the UK, two institutions that I admire (which never fails to invite derision from some quarters in Britain) are the BBC and the NHS.  The former is funded by one of the most regressive taxes on the planet, one that I happily pay every December.  Last August, at the height of the health care “reform” debate in the United States, I wrote at some length about my personal experiences with the NHS.

Fortunately, with the Tory erm, so-called “coalition” government, privatization is once again all the rage, so neither are likely to emerge from the current Government unscathed.  The BBC is under a muted threat, with Tory plans to reduce the annual license fee.  Their incentive for doing so is unclear: the license fee tax is solely used for the BBC, so their incentive is either demonstrating their tax cutting prowess in a manner that doesn’t affect the current fiscal position, or a spiteful assault on the institution.

The NHS is under a more direct threat.  The best MSM analysis I’ve read about this comes from the NYT, which is perhaps understandable given the distance.  Devolving budgetary authority and responsibility to GPs is risky, bonkers, and is unlikely to generate the savings promised.  What is clear to me is that this is a Tory wet dream: it’s a stealth privatization scheme, one utterly inconsistent with the promises of the coalition Government.  But hey, it worked for the trains.

Considering the weight and direction of these policies, one has to wonder what the hell the Liberal Democrats are doing in this coalition (besides selling out)?  Lib Dem supporters are themselves befuddled, with deserters breaking 2:1 to Labour.  Lib Dem support is down to 16%, and only 41% of the electorate support the coalition government.

It would be easy to quip that it’s little wonder the Tories want to adopt a five-year fixed term Parliament, but in reality it is now in the interests of the Tories for the government to fall.

The Purpose of Higher Education

[ 24 ] July 22, 2010 |

Something that I and other colleagues have noted at institutions similar to my current employer is that there seems to be an omnipresent implied, when not explicit, anti-intellectual current defining the place.  While a bit muddled at times, this CIF entry in The Guardian captures this sense.  I chuckled at this line:

This has undoubtedly led to a mass increase in the population of students in the UK, but with it a rise in degrees in such subjects as sports, human resources and marketing – which may have slender academic perspectives but are in essence vocational.

During the most recent reorganisation of my home institution (where we slimmed down from seven faculties to five and dispersed the social sciences as an organized, going concern in any recognizable form) my “department”, a political science department, was placed into the “School of Management” in the Business School, along with, yes, human resources and marketing, among other intellectually and pedagogically compatible departments (e.g. shipping and logistics).

I was completely unaware of the meaning of “former Poly” when I applied for my present position, being neither British by birth nor culture, and naturally assumed that if the word “university” was in the title, the institution did as it says on the tin.  My initial ignorance of the term “former poly” aside, this entry does seem to capture the ambiguity of the position such institutions find themselves in.  At mine, the current pitch is all about vocation and applied knowledge, period.  We have styled ourselves as “The Enterprise University”, emphasis in original, for the past two or three years, after all.

The budget cuts the sector has only just begun to face in the UK (and it will get a lot worse in the next few years) does beg the question, and not to sound glib or flip, but: what’s the point?  What purpose should a university serve in broader society?  The British have a clear idea, again pointed out by the Guardian entry: “which is why we have the total absurdity of the business secretary, not the education secretary, pronouncing on the future of higher education”.

While pondering this, I’ll return to writing a book proposal . . .

Convert ‘em While They’re Young

[ 10 ] July 13, 2010 |

and, no, this is not about the regrettable Polanski affair.  I’m befuddled and bemused by that one.

This, on the other hand, makes obvious sense: LGM’s favorite ex-Governor of Alaska needs not only her own auto / biography, she also needs one aimed at nine to 12 year-old children.  Imagine the shitstorm that would arise from Wingnut Central HQ if a similar book were pitched about the life and achievements of the sitting President of the United States, as opposed to a failed VP candidate who is also a quitter.

Lazy Friday Blogging: Cliff Lee, Austerity Budgets, England in the WC Final

[ 6 ] July 9, 2010 |

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to this, and like Rob, I’m delighted — even though it’s a rare deal within the same division.  This seems to be a better deal than the mooted Yankees offering.  It’s only a shame that the M’s couldn’t put together a season that justified keeping Lee around all year.  He’s had an amazing year.

I wonder what the Miami Heat put forward as an alternative to the Rangers’ package?

I had been trying to cobble together a piece on the UK Coalition Government’s austerity budget, but found it all a bit too depressing.  The New York Times does a decent job of aggregating the grim, and they’re not impressed.  Oddly enough, the kids over at think 40% cuts are fantastic (in a good way).  I’m not sure if my daughter would agree, with I being ostensibly a public sector employee, and her police officer mother very much an employee of a department that is not ring fenced.  Yes, even the Conservatives admit it: Cameron is little more than a Thatcherite — with one small exception: Thatcher relied on the cops a hell of a lot to quell the concomitant riots that her policies ensued.

At least Labour are devouring one another rather than fielding a credible opposition, as David Miliband goes out on a limb and critiques Gordon Brown.  Only a year too late, mate; I’d link to my several posts on the subject, but the archives link under my name doesn’t seem to be functioning.

And, yes, the English have made the World Cup final.  The refereeing team, that is.

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