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.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I promise I didn't cheat.

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.
You're totally weird and very proud of it.
Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick
What American City Are You?

posted by Michelle @ 9:10 PM, 0 comments

Market influence in Mexico

In political science, there's a lot of debate regarding the ways in which "the market" (or globalization) affects policy outcomes, not only in developing but also developed nations. There's some general sense that the market potentially constrains policy options, though there's a lot of debate regarding the extent of those constraints. At least one political scientist has asked "the market" (or one segment of it) what it considers when evaluating investment opportunities in foreign markets.

Somehow, the policy preferences of the market get transmitted back to voters, politicians, or policy-makers. Maybe they see the market punish bad policy in other countries. Maybe they are warned by international financial institutions. Maybe the market warns them directly. This part of the causal chain is studied less often.

However, here's at least one example of how the market makes its policy preferences known in Mexico.

posted by Michelle @ 11:17 AM, 0 comments

Follow-up on controversy in Puebla

For a comprehensive follow-up to my earlier post regarding the on-going political controvery in Puebla, go to the special page at La Jornada, with links to all the articles published in the last two weeks and transcripts of the phone tapes. The paper has titled the page "Power and Pederasty."

posted by Michelle @ 11:12 AM, 0 comments

Report on Mexico's Dirty War leaked

The Fox administration had commissioned a special report on the abuses of the PRI regime, but the official report has not yet been released. A copy of it was leaked, however, to the National Security Archive at GW (which has posted the entire report online), Eme Equis (which focuses on acts in Guerrero), and the New York Times (which erroneously implies that there is only one "Libro Blanco," when the term refers to any general accountability report--rendicion de cuentas--of the government to the people). Prominent Mexicans also have copies of the report apparently.

Thanks, Anonymous, for the links.

Added 2/28: NPR has a short story on the report as well. Also, stories from today's La Jornada.

posted by Michelle @ 10:45 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'06 Mexican elections

According to MexiCronicas, polls from late January indicate a tight 2-way race between Lopez Obrador (PRD) and Calderon (PAN), with Madrazo not far behind. Among those that say they will definitely vote, Calderon has a slight edge.

posted by Michelle @ 8:34 PM, 1 comments

Summers resigns

From the Harvard website. From Reuters. AP.

posted by Michelle @ 8:08 PM, 0 comments

Monday, February 20, 2006


In a little candy bar.

posted by Michelle @ 5:06 PM, 0 comments

Political Science Journal Monitor

That's the name of the blog. Will be interesting to see if/how it develops.

posted by Michelle @ 10:19 AM, 2 comments

Friday, February 17, 2006


Not only have I already filed my 2005 income taxes, but I have already received my state and federal refunds. Yipee!!

posted by Michelle @ 2:06 PM, 0 comments

Protests against ISSSTE reforms

In the capital city and in other states.

posted by Michelle @ 1:32 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The good and bad

The good. The bad.

posted by Michelle @ 10:31 AM, 0 comments

Inspiration for Danny Ocean?

Or would it be more like the outcome for Professor G.H. Dorr and his companions?

Read about tunneling bank robbers in South America.

posted by Michelle @ 10:24 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bad press

The last couple of days has witnessed a whirlwind of media attention in Mexico on the governor of Puebla and the release of some audio tapes of him talking to a prominent businessman.

The short version is something like....a female reporter published a book in which she linked the aforementioned businessman to another businessman who is charged with pederasty.....the female reporter was arrested in December and spent two months in jail....tapes are released of the aforementioned businessman calling the governor of the state to thank him for his help with the reporter and asking where to send the governor a great bottle of cognac [the governor's mansion, BTW]....crazy media frenzy ensues.

The story broke yesterday in La Jornada. Today's paper has the follow-up reporting on the righteous indignation of other reporters that the governor would behave that way.

You can listen to an excerpt of the tapes here [real media file]. It is posted with this story from TVAzteca.

posted by Michelle @ 10:35 AM, 0 comments

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fox warns of continuing congressional deadlock

Fox has said that the future President of Mexico will face difficulties in dealing with an opposition Congress that he has faced as president. While Fox is correct in attributing many of his difficulties in office to a hostile and divided Congress, Fox also hasn't been the most adept politician either.

I second Fox's comment:
“I hope the next president has the political skills to achieve consensus and that the next federal Congress takes up its task with more maturity and a greater interest for the nation than for its members’ own political party or personal interests.”

The money question is: Which candidate has those skills?

posted by Michelle @ 2:48 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Nacho libre

This has the potential to be very bad. And I'm a fan of lucha libre.

posted by Michelle @ 10:33 AM, 0 comments

Guau. An FSTSE about face

Just as I finished calling Ayala a political lapdog for his position on the ISSSTE reform, among other things, he stands up and barks. [I'm still picturing something more like a chihuahua than a mastiff....] His bark isn't that fierce, so his bite would be even weaker.

Essentially, Ayala has unilaterally announced that the ISSSTE reform will remain 'frozen' until after the upcoming presidential and congressional elections because this is too important an electoral cycle to disrupt with reform. He also implies that the additional time will give leaders more time to bring more unions on board. Hmm.... what does he have in mind? Fox has been trying to get more unions to agree to the pension privatization since at least 2001. And what does Ayala have to offer the other unions anyway?

My only guess would be that Ayala and others in the PRI or PAN are hoping to use the negotiations over proportional representation lists in order to bargain for more labor support for the reform plan. If I were in the PRI or PAN, I'd be wary of such a bargain because there is no way to enforce it. Once the union reps are on the list and in office, they can defect and oppose the reform. Not to mention that it would be just another instance of the parties negotiating with the leadership without the leadership consulting the base. The SNTSS labor contract negotiations in 2003 should have taught someone somewhere a lesson: Co-opting the leader doesn't give you control over the rank and file, and if the rank and file mobilizes sufficiently, they can block the efforts of the union leader to approve reforms (at least for a while). I think the sun-national union leaders (of the delegations and locals) are learning more about their bargaining power and are using it to negotiate their own party alliances with the PRD. But that's a paper I hope to write soon with a colleague from Redlands.

The article also mentions a meeting between the leaders of the SNTSS and the Telefonistas (of the UNT) and the chair of the Social Security commission (Alonso Raya, a PRDista and member of the teacher's union and strong opponent of the IMSS reform in 2004). Alonso Raya apparently urged the UNT leaders to oppose the ISSSTE privatization. He made three claims: 1) it is as bad for workers as the 1995 IMSS reform, 2) it is essentially a proposal from the Finance Ministry without significant concessions, and 3) the World Bank told the Fox administration to enact the reform. I'm not going to comment on those three claims; you'll have to wait for my book.

In the meantime, it looks like my prediction that ISSSTE privatization before the july elections would be extremely difficult (I had originally said impossible) may come true. [Version espanol.]

posted by Michelle @ 10:08 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Campus intellectual diversity

Chris links to this article about a proposal in the South Dakota legislature to require that state universities submit reports regarding efforts to support intellectual diversity on campus. Chris jokes about being an affirmative action hire (presumably because he's not a crazy left wing nut like the rest of us), but I wonder if this policy would be more worrisome for the sciences.

Of course, the legislative debate (and the article) make it seem like its about making sure, Horowitz-style, that there are conservatives on the faculty to balance the leftists who are out proselytizing to those young minds about Democrats and Republicans. But could the law be construed to argue that biology departments need to hire ID supporters in order to promote "intellectual diversity"? And what about those post-modern physicists who refuse to admit that gravity exists?

posted by Michelle @ 10:59 AM, 5 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mexican labor laws

For decades, Mexican unions, employers, and the government have been discussing the need to reform Mexico's labor law, which had its last significant reform in 1973. I have mentioned this before.

Though there hasn't been a formal reform, many aspects of the current labor law have not been vigorously enforced for quite some time. At least as far back as President Salinas, Presidents have appointed Secretaries of Labor with questionable commitments to the enforcement of labor regulations. Fox's original Secretary of Labor (before Creel stepped down from Secretary of State to run for the PAN's presidential nomination and the Labor Secretary became the Secretary of State) was actually a former president of the largest employer's association in Mexico. Talk about a fox guarding the hen house.

I mention all this because the FSTSE (Federation of Unions of State Employees) has announced that about 300K federal employees are working without labor contracts. This is just another example of the lack of enforcement of the Federal Labor Law.

From my point of view, the irony is that it's the FSTSE who is raising this issue, since it's commonly viewed as one of the most charro unions in Mexico. It's leader, Joel Ayala, is often criticized for being a lapdog of first the PRI and now Fox. His personal disagreement with Elba Esther Gordillo and the dissatisfaction of many FSTSE member unions led, in part, to the creation of the FEDESSP, an alternative labor federation of government employee unions.

So far, the FSTSE has not been fierce in its resistance to the proposed ISSSTE pension reforms. It has sought some minor concessions, but has not opposed the fundamental shift to defined-contribution, individual accounts. With the release of this report about the large number of government workers without labor contracts, it seems like FSTSE is trying to appear strident in its opposition to reform plans without actually committing itself to try to stop the reforms.

posted by Michelle @ 10:29 AM, 6 comments

Monday, February 06, 2006

Mid-morning rant

I don't usually rant. I try not to even complain that often. But somehow, dealing with car mechanics usually has a way of making me irritated.

You see, I have a couple of advanced degrees. That means that at a minimum, I study hard and can follow directions. Aside from that, I have an engineer for a dad who bought me my first erector set when I was in second grade. I learned how to use a screw driver at a young age. In high school, I taught myself (with help from my mom) to change the oil and replace the spark plugs in my '85 pontiac fiero. [Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of my fiero, which had the dubious distinction of being stolen (and abandoned) three times.] Anyone whose ever looked under the trunk/hood of a Fiero will know that changing the spark plugs or oil on that car is not easy. The point is that I'm educated and handy.

Fast forward to this morning. My '03 Jetta would not start. Long-story-short, I took it to the dealer because it's still under warranty. (There's another story about how the service department in this dealership didn't listen to me when I told them what was wrong the last time I took the car to them about a month after I bought it. They replaced the wrong part, and I was back the next day to get the part replaced that I had told them needed to be replaced in the first place....but I digress.)

While at the dealership, the young kid at the service desk says, "So it wouldn't start?" And I had to be very pointed and ask that he listen closely because the car starts fine now. It won't start cold and to get it to start you have to do this-that-and-the-other. He pretended to dutifully take notes.

Then, I say, "Oh, and I'd like to get the oil changed, synthetic oil only. I know the manual says replace the oil every 10K, but I like to do it every 5K, and it's over due."

His reply: "No, you're supposed to change the oil every 5K..." [shaking his head and looking like I'm some poor ditz...]

"Really? My manual says 10K."

"No, it's 5K, unless you have a diesel."

"No. Mine is a 2.0 L and it's 10K."

"'re overdue for an oil change."

"Well, now I've got to look at my manual because I could have sworn it was every 10K, and I make a point of doing it every 5K because I want to take good care of my Jetta."

[I go outside to my car and pull the manual. He follows to check the mileage on my car. I show him the page in my manual that lists my engine and says the scheduled oil changes and maintenance are every 10K miles. It was in bold and clear and indisputable...or so I thought.]

He says, "Well, it's a difference of interpretation. I've called VW and asked them and it's every 5K."

I say, "Interpretation? I don't think there's any problem with interpretation. It says plainly right here that my engine is every 10K. Diesels and Turbos are every 5K."

He continued to act as if he were right and shake his head and claimed that it was just a matter of interpretation.

I just left. But if I were Munger, I would have said, "No. It's a matter of being able to read plain English." It was one of those times that I wished I were more like Munger and would have made a bigger fuss about it. But, I'm wondering, would it even work since I'm a 5 foot, blonde who looks a bit younger than she is? Is Munger able to get away with pointing out how stupid people are because he's a big guy?

posted by Michelle @ 11:26 AM, 6 comments

Friday, February 03, 2006

ISSSTE reform

ISSSTE is the social security administration for public sector employees in Mexico. It is estimated that nearly 10% of the population has ISSSTE coverage for health care and other benefits. The Fox administration has been planning a pension reform for the ISSSTE system, and the proposal is now in committee in the Senate. Some unions are fiercely protesting the reform, while others are going along and seeking concessions at the margin.

You can read my paper about this reform and others. It has been translated into Spanish and will be published shortly in Foro Internacional in Mexico.

posted by Michelle @ 9:37 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Decision against Coke Mexico regarding case

A judge recently sided with a man who brought a case against Coke-FEMSA in Mexico claiming that he was dismissed for his sexual orientation. The case will be further investigated in Mexico. Read the story for more details.

This man's case in part explains the banner pictured below that was part of a the Mexico City gay pride parade last spring.

posted by Michelle @ 2:14 PM, 0 comments

Recent AMLO stump speech

La Jornada has coverage of a recent Lopez Obrador campaign speech. In addition to claiming that the PAN candidate has more TV ads than popular cupcakes, he has said that if elected, 50% of his cabinet ministers will be women. But will he pick a woman for the important posts of Gobernacion (State) or Hacienda (Treasury)?

Maybe AMLO's commitment to women in his cabinet explains the recent declaration by Gordillo that she'd like to be AMLO's "friend."

posted by Michelle @ 2:08 PM, 2 comments

Remittances to Mexico from US up 20% in 2005

That's according to this article. No doubt the increase is in part due to increased migration to the US but another part is also probably due to the increased economic activity in the US over the same period.

According to some, remittances from workers in the US to their families in Mexico is now the second largest component of Mexico's economy, after petroleum and before tourism.

posted by Michelle @ 2:05 PM, 3 comments

Mexico City slideshow

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