La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Governors in Mexico

In addition to the heightened role of the legislature and supreme court in Mexican politics, democratization has also increased the political importance of the governors of the 31 Mexican states.

I had never heard of CONAGO before last year, and indeed, I don't know much about the organization's history (though it appears the first conference was in 2001). However, this National Conference of Governors has been very active over the last couple of years. They meet regularly and hold special meetings on topics of importance. They also make policy suggestions for national policies, like social security.

Today, CONAGO is in the news again because the governors and Madrazo, Calderon, and the PVEM presidential candidate have signed an "acuerdo" with regard to the upcoming 2006 presidential elections. Notably, Carlos Slim, the wealthiest businessman in Mexico, was the promoter of the pact, in which candidates agreed to focus on putting forth proposals for economic growth and other good things for Mexico rather than negative campaigning. [Also notable was AMLO's absence. This is not commented upon by the article.]

These pacts are common during campaign season, but of course are not binding. As many leaders of the UNT liked to point out to me during interviews last year, Fox and the other candidates in 2000 signed a pact with the independent labor union to signal their support for certain policies, and Fox has done relatively little on that front.

The more interesting point, for me, is that the governors, through CONAGO, are more often being discussed by the media as political actors at the national level. In real terms, however, it is not obvious how governors have real influence on national policy. Governors do not participate directly in the national policy-making process, for instance. Instead, their influence is probably, as Joy Langston argues, through the national party and the ability to place candidates on the lists or in plurality seats in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

If that's the case (and I think Joy's argument is convincing), then why do they bother with CONAGO? How does CONAGO help them achieve their policy goals? Is there no direct effect on policy but CONAGO instead gives Governors more publicity? [Since there's no re-election, is CONAGO really a vehicle for ambitious governors to create national presence for national campaign bids?] So, what are the incentives for governors to participate in CONAGO, and why do they bother if their real influence is through other (partisan) channels?

I think it's an interesting puzzle, and I think there's a paper to be written there. But, I don't know what the paper's answer to the puzzle would be.

posted by Michelle @ 11:13 AM, 4 comments

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I wanna see.

Even before HP4.

posted by Michelle @ 3:11 PM, 0 comments


And pointless.

How about some wetland preservation or levees instead?

posted by Michelle @ 10:59 AM, 0 comments

The perils of your internet presence

You might receive an email like this....
Hello, Dr. Dion:

My name is XXXX XXXX. I was doing some online searching for some of my old high school friends and was wondering if you were the same Michelle Dion that graduated from Johnston High in Austin,TX. If you are not, please forgive my intrusion.

If you are, how have you been?!?! "Dr."...pretty spiffy!.....

Yes it is, and I am fine, thank you.

This time, it was not a stalker or an unwelcome email, but next time it might be. And in this case, I am still sorry that I ruined this guy's band drumstick in junior high with my spirited cowbell playing during "Tequila" at football games.

[Before you put it in the comments, Walken says: "Can we get a little more cowbell? It needs more cowbell..."]

posted by Michelle @ 10:49 AM, 1 comments

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mexico 06, an update

Despite the lack of posts recently, I have been following the progress in the candidate selection process in Mexico for the 2006 elections. Here's a quick summary, without links to articles.

Madrazo "won" the PRI nomination for president. I qualified the victory with " " because he did not face a real challenger. Earlier this year, the main candidates with a chance against Madrazo formed TUCOM in order to defeat Madrazo's nomination. Sometime this fall, TUCOM decided that Montiel would run against Madrazo and that the other members of TUCOM would not. Then, Montiel had to pull out of the race after allegations of financial shenanigans by his wife and children. The PRI ruled that nominations were closed and none of the other TUCOM candidates were allowed to register after Montiel withdrew.

That left Madrazo and Everado. (Yes, if you asked "Ever-who?," you've got the right idea.) And Madrazo has won a pyrrhic victory. Not to mention that I think he's one of the least electable PRIistas. Some of the TUCOMistas would have been better for the party.

Felipe Calderon has the nomination. ("Whew...we dodged a bullet with Creel.") While Calderon is more electable than Creel (who was a controversial Secretary of State under Fox and spearheaded the desafuero campaign), Calderon will still have to convince voters that he will be more effective than Fox has been. Since Calderon has maintained a healthy distance from Fox while still being part of the cabinet, that might be a plausible sell. Governability will be the big issue for voters and the PAN.

There was never any doubt that Lopez Obrador would have the nomination, especially since he was uncontested within the party. Characterized as a populist by the U.S. press, Lopez Obrador's popularity grew after the PAN and the PRI tried to have him convicted (and thus declared ineligible for election) for violating a court order to stop construction of a road in the D.F. while he was Mayor. AMLO will have to moderate his image while still appealing to the leftist base in Mexico City. While he's popular in the D.F., outside of the capital city, his support is weaker. Many remember his controversial career as a PRIista in his home state of Tabasco.

So, who will be President in 2006? I'd call it a two way race between the PAN and PRD if I didn't think that Madrazo had significant financial backing behind his candidacy. It's still to early to call, and I haven't seen any recent poll numbers of voters.

posted by Michelle @ 10:33 AM, 3 comments

Monday, November 14, 2005

I wish

My blog is worth $18,629.82.
How much is your blog worth?

Because I'd sell it for that (and a downpayment for a house) in a heartbeat.

posted by Michelle @ 12:35 PM, 3 comments

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Catching up

Posting has been infrequent of late due to the demands of work. A little bit of explanation before I try to get back into regular posting. Since coming back to Tech this fall, work has picked up. I'm teaching two courses in our Master's program in International Affairs--methods and international political economy. I've also been getting lots of odds and ends for research projects tied up.

This is my fourth time teaching methods (twice at GT before and once in Mexico last year), so it is not really a new preparation. However, since I realized that I will be teaching methods for the foreseeable future, I am beginning to turn my lectures into powerpoint slides, which means that it has added some to my prep time. The investment will hopefully pay off in the future. Since I require the students to do modest linear regression papers, I spend a lot of time teaching the first semester students how to write a literature review, figure out how to use existing data sources to measure their variables, and then execute a small regression model. In some ways, I bring the work on myself by assigning the projects, but students have said that they really learn a lot from the process. I believe that learning statistics is like learning a foreign language; you don't really become proficient until you have to use the language. Also, like languages, you can quickly forget what you know if you don't apply your learning regularly.

The graduate seminar on international political economy is a new prep for me, though I have taught the undergraduate version on three occasions. Because this is a professional master's program and our undergraduates are so well prepared, the graduate seminar is only slightly more advanced than the undergraduate version. It still takes time grading seminar papers every week.

In addition to teaching, I've been busy finishing up several projects. I've finished revisions and resubmitted two articles for publication, which have already been accepted. I've written a book review essay on five books for another journal. That leaves one more revise and resubmit to finish before the end of the year. I also have two papers that I'd like to revise a tiny bit before sending out to other journals (since I'm trying to keep up with Munger's advice to always have three papers submitted to journals). Then, I need to finish revisions to my book project, including finishing the comparative historical chapter on Brazil, Argentina, and Chile that I began last spring. I can do all that between now and January 10, no?

Aside from that, all of a sudden, my service responsibilities have grown significantly. I'm on a hiring committee, have been on a new ad hoc committee for a big one day campus event, and will soon start work on developing the capstone course for our joint degree with Economics (that, at least, should be rewarding).

All of this is just to let regular readers (and lurkers) know that I haven't forgotten or abandoned the blog. (And, unfortunately Paul decided to go on vacation at a time when I didn't have time to browbeat him about it.) And in a way, it's a good sign that I've been too busy with other things to blog as often, if you think about it.

posted by Michelle @ 6:41 PM, 3 comments

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Mexican Supreme Court rules on marital rape

The Mexican Supreme Court has overturned a 1994 decision and now declares that forced intercourse in a marriage is rape.

Guau. Progress.

posted by Michelle @ 10:25 AM, 2 comments

Mexico City slideshow

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