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Category: Dave Brockington

Black Turnout

[ 28 ] May 9, 2013 |

The story has been floating around the past few days, but it’s been confirmed with the release of a report yesterday from the US Census (specifically the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement).  African Americans voted at a higher rate than the (non-Latino) white population for the first time in 2012. Turnout among the black population was 66.2%, and the non-Latino white population 64.1%.  I’ve skimmed the report, and I’ll read it with greater attention tonight or tomorrow morning, and hope to have some more to say about it.

When we consider all the barriers both attempted and actually erected in the name of suppressing minority turnout fraud prevention,this is pretty remarkable. More so when we consider that for each percentage point increase in a state’s black population, the average wait increased nearly half a minute at the polls; nationally, Latinos and African Americans waited an average of 20.2 minutes, while whites 12.7 minutes.

(Sir) Alex Ferguson

[ 57 ] May 8, 2013 |

is finally retiring. Ferguson has been rumored to be retiring for over a decade now, and I can still recall the sure bet that it was about ten years ago for Celtic manager Martin O’Neil to take over United. Being a right thinking individual, and an Arsenal supporter, I’m not a fan of Manchester United, like I’m not a fan of the New York Yankees. Likewise, I don’t really like Ferguson. However, it’s difficult to ignore the results. What he did with both Aberdeen in the 1980s, and United since 1986, is pretty remarkable. While the Aberdeen side he took over were sporadically competitive, he broke the Old Firm monopoly with three titles in eight seasons, capped by a (now defunct) European Cup Winners Cup victory over Bayern Munich in 1983. In 1986, Man U had last won the league title in 1966/67 (and the European Cup in 1968, one year after Celtic became the first British side to win it, mind), and were even relegated at the end of the 1974 season. When Ferguson was hired, they were 21st in the league. It would take seven seasons before United won their first title under Ferguson in 1993, which indicates a patience not typical in the present day. Including 1993, United have won 13 league titles, two European Cups (in the guise of the UEFA Champions League), five FA Cups, and four League Cups. In short, United under Ferguson have been consistently more annoying than the Yankees.

Yeah, he’s been annoyingly successful. More interesting is comparing that success. The media here on this island are lauding him as the best British manager ever, and they might be right. Major trophies include 16 league titles, nine FA cups, five league cups, two European Cups, and two Cup Winners Cups, as well as a series of minor European and domestic trophies. I don’t have the time to do a comprehensive review, but the competition that comes to mind include Bob Paisley (only six top flight titles, no FA cups, but three European Cups), Matt Busby (5, 3, and 1), and Jock Stein (10 and 8, but all in Scotland, and one European Cup). It gets a little more competitive (and complicated) when comparing Ferguson internationally.  Ferguson is one of 17 managers to have won the European Cup twice (the record remains Paisley’s three). I’m curious if anybody has replicated his sustained success both domestically and in European (or the relevant regional association) competition. The names I’m coming up with all seem to fall short somehow. Rinus Michels (four Eredivisie, one LaLiga, one European Cup, one European Championship, one World Cup funner-up), del Bosque (the World Cup, European Championship, two Champions Leagues, but only two LaLiga titles). Trapattoni? Maybe Hitzfeld (seven Bundesliga titles, two Swiss titles, and winning the Champions League with two different clubs)? What is clear is that if Real Madrid could have stuck with one manager for longer than five minutes at any point in their career (especially the late 1950s) Ferguson would have clear competition. And the next generation have a couple candidates that, if they replicate his longevity, might likewise compete (Guardiola and Mourinho specifically). But such longevity is rare; Johan Cruyff, who is five years younger than Ferguson, hasn’t managed a club since 1996.

A couple interesting facts about Ferguson — his first managerial job was at the mighty (and this past season, peer of Rangers) East Stirlingshire, subject of a very good book about quite possibly the worst professional team in Britain: Pointless. Second, his first match in charge of Man United? A 2-0 loss at Oxford United, who are currently settled in the fourth tier of English soccer.

SC-1 Special Election: Sanford vs. Colbert Busch

[ 77 ] May 7, 2013 |

This is relevant to very few people outside of the 1st Congressional District in the state of South Carolina.  The district has a PVI of R+11 (I’m surprised that it’s that low), has been represented by Republicans since January 1981, and voted +18 for Romney. That the word “competitive” ever enters the discourse on this race speaks volumes about the quality of the Republican’s Appalachian Trail candidate (due in court two days following the election) who must “rise from the ashes” in order to win. Most of the analysis really goes out on a limb in a) predicting a low turnout election, and b) the candidate who mobilizes their support best is more likely to win. In anything other than a Presidential election, that usually can be interpreted as “not the Democrat”.

Regardless of the idiosyncrasies of the candidates, the structural conditions favor a Republican blowout. The best electoral context for Democrats in this district in recent times was in November, and Democrats got hammered. Any decline in turnout will impact the two parties asymmetrically; a May election in an odd year is the worst possible case for Democratic turnout. However, even though the polling has been all over the map on this one, it’s currently (according to PPP) a one point Sanford lead. That Colbert Busch might win is remarkable, but I’m not betting on it. Even if she does win, she’d likely be one of the first Democrats to fall in 2014.

Correlation or Causation? The NRA and Armed Rebellion

[ 66 ] May 6, 2013 |

I’ve been largely out of touch the past couple of weeks (some would say it’s been considerably longer) so apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere.

When the incoming President of the NRA (by my understanding, a largely ceremonial position; we’ll still have Wayne LaPierre around to frighten into submission) inspires his already over-inspired audience with rhetoric such as this:

“This is not a battle about gun rights,” Porter said, calling it “a culture war.”

“(You) here in this room are the fighters for freedom. We are the protectors”

is it really “staggering” that 29% of Americans believe that “in the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties”?

As Erik suggested a few days ago, by all accounts, the tenure of James Porter is going to reliably bring the crazy. While most of the discussion about Porter highlight his batshit side (e.g. his lamenting the war of Northern Aggression, being a birther, etc.), this is more telling, and confirmatory about our assessment of the NRA:

“Porter, 64, whose father was NRA president from 1959-1961, is part of the small, Birmingham, Ala., law firm of Porter, Porter & Hassinger. The firm’s website notes its expertise in defending gun manufacturers in lawsuits.”

It’s not about rights.  It’s about money.

Are We Safe? (Soccer)

[ 24 ] April 20, 2013 |

One of the joys of following soccer is, even approaching the end of the season, nearly every game matters. As I’ve been writing here, the side local to my England residence has been in the relegation zone of the fourth division for most of the season. Coincidental (not to be confused with causal; we social scientists need to pay extra care to this) to my periodic consideration of the fortunes of Plymouth Argyle FC here in LGM, which started about six weeks ago, they’ve been on their best run all season, a run that has seen them improve from 24th to 17th in the division. There’s two matches remaining this year, and Gordon Sparks (of BBC Radio Devon) has produced a handy low tech guide to their safety:

You can play along here for the English fourth tier, and here to see if Arsenal have a chance at finishing fourth in the top flight.

In related news, last Sunday night I strangely witnessed the team local to my Oregon residence score a goal and win a match. While my allegiance to the Timbers is minimal, the atmosphere in (what is now known as) Jeld-Wen Field is stunning. We can do two things in that ground that we can not in Plymouth (or Glasgow) — stand during the entire 90 minutes of the match, and drink a beer.

Rutgers Practices Were Not a Hostile Work Environment

[ 40 ] April 7, 2013 |

Which perfectly sums up the lunacy of big time collegiate sports in the US.

Most of us know the story now, and it appears that plenty of administrators at Rutgers knew the full story in late November. An outside report was commissioned, but not to determine whether or not the coach and his methods represented a throwback to neanderthal times, but to ascertain whether or not this provided evidence of a hostile work environment:

The interviews and documents reveal a culture in which the university was far more concerned with protecting itself from legal action than with protecting its students from an abusive coach.

University officials focused on the technical issue of whether Mr. Rice had created a hostile work environment, a potential legal justification for his firing, while paying less attention to the larger question of whether Rutgers should employ an authority figure who hurled slurs at and physically provoked its students.

Without irony, the report concludes that while the coach was maybe perhaps if you squint just right, a teensy weensy bit demeaning, “Coach Rice’s conduct does not constitute a hostile work environment”.

It’s safe to say that even the report admits the environment was, at times, hostile. Hence, the focus is on the word “work”, and clearly these athletes are not working for the university. Which has a side benefit: once their scholarship is over, the universities are no longer responsible for any lingering health issues resulting from injuries encountered during their studies.

Jeff Spicoli’s Time Has Arrived

[ 42 ] April 5, 2013 |

MJ reports new Pew Research data showing that 52% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, against 45% opposed, which fits with the recent initiative success in Washington and Colorado (more thorough analysis here.)


Likewise not surprising is the similarity of the trendlines in the graph above as well as below. The data on support for same sex marriage obviously doesn’t go as far back into the past, but in 1996 support for SSM was 27/68, while the graph above it looks to be roughly the same for marijuana legalization in 1996. Indeed it might have been a bit lower. Without downloading and quickly eyeballing the GSS from 1996, I’m left with this story, which states that “there has also been a change among the Baby Boomer generation – half now support legalization, up from 24 percent in 1996.”

There’s a research question in there considering the similarities (and differences) in the two issues, but as I’m a bit addled with jetlag, I’m not very imaginative at the moment. I don’t believe either presage the vaunted coming Democratic majority, an idea I’m skeptical about, but I will note with some pride that my home state of Washington passed initiatives on both this past November, the only state where one can recreationally smoke a bowl at the reception of a same sex marriage.

Today in “What? This Isn’t From The Onion?”

[ 38 ] April 4, 2013 |

Headline: Georgia Teens Fight for Racially Integrated Prom Because It’s 2013, for Chrissakes.

Black and white students at Wilcox County High School in south Georgia aren’t allowed to go to the same prom. Instead, students and parents sponsor segregated proms — yep, in 2013 — and kids that break the skin-dress code are barred entry from the caucasian rager. A mixed-race group of friends who hang out all of the time but can’t wear corsages and dance to Top 40 together are trying to encourage their peers to participate in a radical social experiment called NOT BEING RACIST.

“We’re embarrassed, it’s embarrassing, yeah it’s kind of embarrassing,”

Yeah, I’d be kind of embarrassed to attend a high school that holds a prom which, you know, bans any member of the First Family of the freaking United States from attending.

Global Warming, As Seen from 1982

[ 27 ] March 31, 2013 |

Yet another factor enters into the world food picture – a new and ominous phenomenon. The climate of the world seems to be changing; it may, say our best scientists, be warming up. This slight, almost imperceptible, but relentless warming of the past ten years has already brought tragedy, and may forecast worse. The southern fringe of Africa’s Sahara desert, the Sahel, has already spread to parch central Africa. A decade of sorrow and starvation have followed. The same climactic change has punished Russian food production — first in 1972, again in 1975, and again in 1981.

White, Theodore H. 1982. America in Search of Itself: The Making of the President, 1956-1980. Harper & Row, New York. pp 139.

I don’t have enough information about the two specific events cited above (African starvation or the three bad harvests in Russia) to know if the causal claim (e.g. climate change –> drought –> starvation) is robust, but a mainstream journalist discussed the concept 31 years ago, and yet there are some who still debate the phenomenon. While I don’t know the extent to which the actions of humankind were blamed in 1982 (which does seem to be a fair percentage of the remaining debate), by the time I was taking meteorology in college in 1988 the existence and cause were both clear, but not yet embraced as consensus. Given that my meteorology class in 1988 was treating it as cutting edge science, I’m impressed to see White put it in print in 1982.

Republican Wanker of the Week

[ 37 ] March 29, 2013 |

I’m thinking Don Young, R-AK, has it in the bag. At least he meant no disrespect.

How do you compete with that if it’s only Tuesday? For your B-side, on Thursday you advise people to drink alone as it reduces domestic violence:

Young, in office since 1973, has made the news over the years for malapropisms and worse. On Thursday, he addressed a Choose Respect noon rally at the Capitol in Juneau and appeared to advise people to drink alone to reduce the risk of domestic violence.

“Watch the alcohol and the drugs,” Young said from a podium on the Capitol steps. “You look at the relationship between violence against the loved ones you love, (it) is usually related to either one of those. And I’m going to suggest for those that may be drinking together — Stop it! If you want to drink by yourself, you may do it. But when you drink together, the possibility of harm becomes greater every day.”

The Commercialization of Academia: A Case Study

[ 226 ] March 28, 2013 |

I’ve been sitting on this post for over 20 months; writing it, editing it, deleting it, writing it again. It was initially inspired by a book review written by Stanley Fish in the New York Times, which generated some online discussion, then the University of Virginia firing and subsequent unfiring of Teresa Sullivan last summer. Finally, we there is the effect that Coursera specifically and MOOCs in general will have on our understanding of the role of higher education. Higher education in the United States is facing a series of challenges, from the erosion of legislative support for state universities and colleges, the emergence of Coursera and its ilk, to a whole scale reassessment of the role of higher ed. In America, the concern is that the sector is being pushed towards a mission dedicated solely to the production of vocationally-equipped graduates with skill sets easily measured, all administered in a commercial framework driven by ever changing business models glossily packaged in the buzzwords fashionable to the day .

We’re already there in Britain.

In immediate response to the firing of Sullivan at Virginia, Siva Vaidhyanathan wrote an excellent piece at Slate. The following two passages are pertinent to this post:

The biggest challenge facing higher education is market-based myopia. Wealthy board members, echoing the politicians who appointed them (after massive campaign donations) too often believe that universities should be run like businesses, despite the poor record of most actual businesses in human history.

Universities do not have “business models.” They have complementary missions of teaching, research, and public service. Yet such leaders think of universities as a collection of market transactions, instead of a dynamic (I said it) tapestry of creativity, experimentation, rigorous thought, preservation, recreation, vision, critical debate, contemplative spaces, powerful information sources, invention, and immeasurable human capital.

Read more…

The Past Ten Days (or so) in Soccer

[ 35 ] March 25, 2013 |

Seeing as how we’ve been outed as a blog of eight white guys these days (c’mon, there’s a little diversity here, one’s Canadian and I have lived in, you know, Europe for over a dozen years), it’s time to revert to type and talk sports.

It’s an international break.  The USMNT beat Costa Rica 1-0 in a bit of a snowstorm on Friday.  This is how we should play Mexico every home game. The official line is a match was scheduled in Colorado in March in order to prepare the squad for playing at altitude, as the next match is at Azteca against Mexico tomorrow. That has some credence, but Costa Rica have filed  protest with FIFA about the conditions. They have a legitimate point. The match between Northern Ireland and Russia was cancelled both Friday and Saturday in Belfast due to “wintery conditions”.

There’s been grumbling about the Klinsmann era, and qualification is more difficult this cycle than we’re accustomed.  The next two matches are away to Mexico and away to Jamaica. Jamaica drew Mexico 0-0 in Azteca on Friday February 6.  There’s two ways to interpret this: pollyanna (hey, Jamaica drew? We’ve got a decent shot against Mexico!) or chicken little (holy crap, we’ve already lost once away to Jamaica during qualifications, and now they’ve got the temerity to hold Mexico to a 0-0 draw? At Azteca? Shit.) I’m not worried — it’s early days, as they say here — but we could be on four points following the first four matches of the final qualification round. Read this if you need a dose of realistic optimism.

Demarcus Beasley received a surprise start, and at left back no less.  I remember when he broke out during the 2002 World Cup, and how he was going to be an omnipresent key component of the USMNT. It didn’t quite work out that way. Oh, and Landon Donovan’s taking a break. Thoughts?

England scored eight goals against San Marino. Why is this notable, aside from a mountaintop of 30,000 with its own international side competing in real matches that matter? It’s England. Not too long ago they struggled somewhat in a WC qualifier against Andorra.

Blackburn Rovers are looking for their fourth permanent manager this season, having sacked the third last week. This was once a proud team, a mainstay in the EPL, where Brad Friedel had 287 appearances in eight seasons. They were relegated last season to the Championship, and under their newish ownership, have become something of a joke for inept administration. While we don’t really have any evidence (yet) of managers in baseball having a measurable, systematic effect on the probability of success of their team (something I posted about a few years ago), apparently the owners of Blackburn believe that its of paramount importance in the second tier of English soccer. I suspect it matters more in soccer, though a) measuring it in a rigorous manner is difficult to imagine, and b) going through at least four managers in one season is perhaps not the best way forward.

Charles Green, chairman of Rangers, has floated the idea of Celtic and Rangers playing in England. This comes up at least once a season. It won’t happen any time soon, much as I’d like to see it. Incidentally, Rangers drew 0-0 to the mighty Sterling Albion on Saturday, so perhaps playing in the English fifth tier does look appealing in comparion. Never mind, Rangers have a 21 point lead in the Scottish fourth tier.

Argyle Watch: my local club, Plymouth Argyle, were in 23rd place in League Two when I last posted on Soccer eleven days ago. As League Two is the fourth tier the English pyramid, that placed them 91st in a 92-team league. They’ve been on quite the roll since I publicised their fight against relegation; they defeated Fleetwood 2-1 at home, beat Southend away 2-0, and had their match at Chesterfield postponed due to conditions (which, ordinarily, would have been a cause for celebration in Plymouth). They now find themselves in 21st, two points above the relegation zone, and with a match in hand versus the three clubs below them and the two above them. Ironically, the defeat of Southend led to the sacking of Argyle legend Paul Sturrock, who had two spells in charge of the club, 2000-04, and 07-09. In his first spell, Sturrock not only saved the club from relegation from the fourth tier (a familiar story down here), but won two promotions in three years, and was poached by Southampton, then playing in the Premiership.

There might be some hope for Argyle’s survival in the league yet.

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