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.

Friday, May 27, 2005

No posts for 5 days....

....because we're going to OAXACA!

posted by Michelle @ 9:03 AM, 0 comments

In election or party news...

Gordillo is shaking things up again within the PRI. Will she resign, or won't she? And some are predicting the worst.

Also, an interesting interview with Cardenas, in which he criticizes the new CEN of the PRI.

posted by Michelle @ 8:52 AM, 0 comments

The violence and fingerpointing continues

Wednesday and Thursday, four more people died as a result of organized crime violence in border states. Meanwhile, the governor of Sinolaa has admitted the inability to deal with drug violence, and Fox tried to organize discussions between federal and local authorities there.

With regard to the femicidios in Ciudad Juarez, the AG's office announced that it would step up efforts to solve cases, and human rights groups were incredulous.

Femicidios have also become a problem in the President's home state of Guanajuato. In the last five years, at least 168 women have been murdered, and already 23 this year. In Guanaguato, there is no mystery surround the murders as in Ciudad Juarez. Over 70 percent of the victims were murdered by a husband, partner, lover, or co-worker. There the problem is clearly one of interfamily violence.

I wonder, because I've never studied it, if studies have investigated whether violence against women increases as women enter the workforce more in more traditional societies. I ask because I believe in the last 20 years, at least, Mexican women have been working outside the home more. Is this a new source of family conflict? Conflicts over money or new friends at work? If someone hasn't studied it, they should.

posted by Michelle @ 8:37 AM, 0 comments

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wanted to buy: Items stolen from office

Or so the ad that is posted on this blog reads.

The ad is from a daily paper in Buenos Aires. But as Uzzi points out, it might as well be Mexico.

Let me tell you a short, true story. A friend of Brian's was on the Mexico City subway with her mobile phone tucked in her blouse pocket. Some teenager grabbed the phone and jumped off the train at one of the stops before she could stop him. Her Mexican friend and she called the phone, and explained that it had important business contacts. This person said they had bought it from someone else for $30US. They offered to buy it for $50 or $100 or whatever. They made a date to meet. The same kid that had stolen the phone showed up. The Mexican friend snatched the phone back from the teenager and told them they shouldn't steal.

Of course, that's not as good as the story about the police officer who gave change for a bribe after they bargained down the price of the bribe (supposedly because the gringa did not have that much money with her).

posted by Michelle @ 3:28 PM, 0 comments

Mexican prices

Dinner delivered: One rotisseried whole (but small) chicken, medium bag of potato chips, 2L coke, and 2 plastic bags full of salsa, generous tip for delivery boy, $7 US$

Tires rotated, balanced, and aligned with state of the art equipment at Firestone (and no, that's not just me being sarcastic), $28 US$

Entire car washed, polished, and waxed by hand, buffed with buffer, plus tip for worker, $35 US$

posted by Michelle @ 11:40 AM, 0 comments

Amnesty International on Mexico

The top news in the leftist La Jornada is the annual report issued by Amnesty International. On Mexico, AI says:
Human rights violations persisted, particularly at state level where arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment and the misuse of the judicial system were common. The federal government maintained its commitment to protect and promote human rights nationally and internationally. Legislation was proposed to strengthen human rights protection in the Constitution and the federal criminal justice system. A National Human Rights Programme was drawn up.

Federal intervention to combat violence against women in Ciudad Juárez continued with limited success. Two prisoners of conscience were released after more than a year in custody. A number of human rights defenders were threatened and three journalists were murdered. Progress in the prosecution of those responsible for past human rights violations was limited. Political violence surrounded local elections in various states.

The full entry for Mexico discusses Mexico's human rights initiatives presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights, stalled and inadequate legislation, and the failure to address political disappearances in some states and the femicidios in Ciudad Juarez.

La Jornada has full coverage of the AI report on their front page.

La Jornada

In a related story, Fox's spokesperson asserted that the President's administration is an advocate of human rights protections and worries about the country's international image. (Certainly. Since tourism is the third largest source of income after petroleum and remittances from workers in the U.S.)

The U.S. was also criticized in the AI report. Here's an exchange with a reporter by President Bush's spokesperson.

posted by Michelle @ 9:57 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

CineMa...movies for mothers

The largest chain of movie theatres in Mexico has a program called CineMa. On Thursdays and Saturdays at select theatres, they have special screenings in the morning for mothers and their babies. The screening costs the regular adult price of a ticket, though babies are free. The sound is turned down, the lights up a little, and they have valet parking for strollers. They also offer diapers, changing tables, towelettes, and bottle warmers. Though the movies are new movies, they are chosen for "young mothers" and their babies. So the current movie is Ice Princess. It's a start anyway.

posted by Michelle @ 6:16 PM, 0 comments

So there. Brian said I would be JarJar Binks.

Link via Unabrewer.

posted by Michelle @ 12:10 PM, 0 comments

Violence along the border

Violence along the border has dominated the headlines this week. La Jornada has had over 20 news articles about the violence and government responses (or lack of responses) over the last three days alone. I can't even begin to link to all the stories. But, I can summarize the main points.

First, the flurry of news coverage seems to have begun with the assassination of several (I mean seven or eight) people (public officials, bystanders, police, narcos) over the weekend. Gangland style. (I had the misfortune of accidently clicking on one of the stories that came with photos.) And it has only gotten worse throughout the week. There were 11 assassinations just yesterday in border states. Yesterday they reported 7 from the day before. The U.S. DEA attributes the violence to a war between cartels. Some of the deaths are due to street gun battles between police and narcos that leave univolved citizens dead or wounded.

What do the politicians do in response? Fox blames the Congress for not passng his judicial reform, and Congress blames Fox for his lack of leadership.

The other big story about violence on the border relates to the femicidios in the sister city of El Paso, Ciudad Juarez.

For years, hundreds of women have been killed and left in the desert. The last two women to be found brings the total to 19 so far for the year, which is more than last year at this time. (One of the two was a murder suicide.) Many young single women move to Ciudad Juarez looking for work in the border factories.

For a while, the U.S. FBI was assisting in the investigation. Some believe that the murders are the result of one or more serial killers or copycats. Some think it began with a cult of wealthy Mexicans who raped, killed, or hunted their servant women for sport. Others think that some are instances where husbands take advantage of the high murder rate to get rid of their wives. Apparently, some men use the murders to threaten their own wives.

In response to the recent public outcry, there will be another special investigation by the attorney general's office. Fox has sent a new initiative to Congress. Secretary of State Creel is trying to promote the initiative. The Senate claims the President's initiative will do little to solve the problem. And in the Chamber of Deputies, they criticized the President's inability to stop the violence. ONGs, experts, and the Human Rights Commission all criticized Fox's plan.

So what is Fox's plan. One main part of his judicial reform calls for oral arguments in front of judges to expedite the trying of cases. Now, everything is done with piles and piles of papers, that all must be read by the judges. The criticism from others is that speeding up court cases will not help reduce violence if the penalties are not reformed (increased) and if the government cannot catch the killers.

posted by Michelle @ 10:12 AM, 0 comments

Fox and Al Sharpton

In the midst of a slew of bad news and press due to increased violence and assassinations along the border, Fox took time to meet with Al Sharpton this week. The photo-op was much less jovial than that of Jesse Jackson.

From La Jornada, click on pic to go to story.

In fact, Al Sharpton left the meeting disappointed that he did not receivethe apology he came for. According to Sharpton, Fox still didn't accept that he had offended anyone, and that regrets are not an apology. From the story in La Jornada:

El reverendo Al Sharpton salió ayer de su cita con el presidente Vicente Fox visiblemente insatisfecho, porque no recibió la disculpa formal que vino a buscar. "Fuimos ofendidos por el comentario'', insistió el luchador por los derechos civiles en Estados Unidos. "Entendí claramente la expresión y no estoy de acuerdo con lo que está argumentando el presidente en su defensa, porque nos está llamando estúpidos."

A diferencia de la semana pasada, cuando vino a México el reverendo Jesse Jackson, a invitación del mandatario -quien lo convidó como parte de una estrategia para acallar susceptibilidades lastimadas a raíz de sus dichos sobre los negros-, ayer, en Los Pinos, no se programó conferencia de prensa para Al Sharpton....

"No aceptó que haya ofendido a nadie, pero esto no es aceptable para mí, porque pienso que la declaración fue ofensiva (...) La expresión es muy clara y así de clara debe ser la disculpa; el arrepentimiento no es disculpa", insistió.

Well, at least Fox admits regrets, unlike some other Presidents we know.

posted by Michelle @ 10:04 AM, 0 comments

Graffiti in Coyoacan

Snapped this picture a few weeks back.

In the interest of being fair and balanced, I should note that there's a fountain near my house with anti-Lopez Obrador graffiti. I just haven't gotten around to taking a picture of it yet. (It's the one can, single line, done in the middle of the night variety. Whereas the graffiti in the picture above was done by the neighborhood committee.)

posted by Michelle @ 12:00 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

My students can be funny

So today was the final exam in my stats class. I gave the students the statistical results from Table 3 of this paper on beauty and teacher evaluations.

One of the questions was: In Model 1, explain the substantive and statical significance of the effect of Beauty on Teacher Ratings.

This was the answer (translated into English):
The effect of the variable beauty is positive on the grade that is given to teachers. For each additional point that a teacher earns in beauty, they will obrain .275 points more on their grade for teacher performance. The effect is very impressive, that if Lindsay Lohan gave me class (Beauty=100) although she may be a lousy teacher, the model would predict a great increase in her evaluations.

[Unfortunately, he forgot to mention the statistical significance of beauty.]

posted by Michelle @ 7:13 PM, 0 comments

Short car update

Called #8 again. This time a woman said that I don't have to do anything. According to the Reglamento de Comercio Exterior (Foreign trade regulation), # 3.2.6 (which is what the other girl cited me), published in the Diario Oficial on March 23, 2005 (pages 168-170), I don't have to do anything. The car permit is automatically extended to conform with my visa.

There is some language about notifying customs of the change in my migratory status within 14 days of the change, but the woman said that doesn't apply to people who paid their import fees with a credit card. It only applies to people who paid a deposit in cash, and who want their cash back. According to her, they can't charge my credit card because I did not leave an open voucher (which is true). So, I guess that means that they have no way to penalize you for overstaying your car's visa if you pay with a credit card and return late or without 'checking in'. But they can keep you from improting another car.

In any event, I must now photocopy my visa and print the regulation to carry in the car so that I can explain the new law to any police officers that try to stop me after my permit expires. Joy. I would almost rather wait in line somewhere or drive all the back to Texas to avoid dealing with the Mexican police.

They are trying, though, to make it easier for foreigners to enter the country and bring their vehicles.

posted by Michelle @ 5:52 PM, 0 comments

Now about the car...

We entered Mexico again in January as tourists because my official (Fulbright) visa as a researcher was still not ready. (We had been waiting since August.) Because we entered as tourists, they gave us a 180 day permit for our car. This permit expires at the beginning of July. We do not plan to leave until late July.

Last week, after 2 trips to the Immigration offices (and 8 months of waiting), I finally picked up my official visa--less than 8 weeks before we are ready to leave the country.

Now, I have to figure out how to extend the permit on my car for an additional 2-3 weeks.

Call 1: I call the main government information number. They give me a number. I call. They can't help me at that number.

Call 2: I call the main information number again. They try to tell me that I can't get an extension. I don't believe them. Ask for another number. They give me another number.

Call 3: I call the new number which is the Secretary of the Economy. They give me another number. (I have no idea where this number is.)

Call 4: I call this new number. They tell me that I handle these things at an office at Hidalgo 77, Col. Guerrero, Window #5. I ask for the Hidalgo phone number. They don't have it, but say try these other ones.

Call 5: I call this new number. After I explain my situation twice, the woman puts me on hold. She tells me that according to Article 106 of the Customs Law, I am entitled to bring my car into the country for 180 days. But, she says that I am able to override the original permit if my migratory status changes, and then, I can keep the car as long as my visa is valid. All this is according to section 4, part a of article 106 of the customs law. (Ok, this I already knew....not the exact law, but I knew I could extend the permit.)

I ask the woman, so how do I go about changing my car's papers. She tells me that I can do it according to regulation 3.2.6 at any one of the 48 customs offices in the country.

But what do I need to bring with me? My migratory document, car papers, and a "escrito libre" with (in rapid fire spanish) my name, address, acitivities in Mexico, the authority to whom I address the request, the request citing the law and regulations that she already told me.

Ok. But what exactly is a "escrito libre." Forgive me, I don't understand. Is it something a lawyer has to write? Can I write it myself? Should it be notarized? Could you tell me again exactly what it needs to include, otherwise they will reject me?

She tells me again, more slowly this time. And in a monotone.

So where is the closest of the 48 customs offices established by law?

She gives me an address on Avenida Cuitlahuac in Colonia Cosmopolita. Of course, she does not offer a phone number. Her name is Elaine (??) Torres. I ask, what about Hidalgo #77, is that one of the 48 customs offices established by law? No, it is not, she says.

Call 6: I call Telmex information to get the number for Mexican customs on Cuitlahuac. I get the correct number on the first try.

Call 7: I call customs on Cuitlahuac and explain what I need. The person tells me that they handle such requests at the Hidalgo #77 office. I ask for that number.

Call 8: I call Hidalgo #77. The person who answers says that I have the wrong extension, but they will transfer me. Another woman answers. Yes, this is the area that handles such paperwork, but it is lunchtime (3:20). Could you call back after 4pm? Fine. Sigh. Smile. Could you give me the exact extension? Yes: 9157-3394; 9157-6569; 9157-3893.

We'll see if they can help me after lunch on call #9.

If you want to read about a similar experience that I had with Migracion, check out this post on the slow burn.

posted by Michelle @ 4:28 PM, 0 comments

Monday, May 23, 2005

Why I wish I were still a Texan

Well, I will always be a Texan at heart.

But, this is another reason to wish I were still a legal Texan. I want to vote for Kinky. Kinky Friedman, the original Jewish Cowboy, is running for gubnor, if he can get on the ballot, that is. His campaign slogan is "Why the hell not?"

In Texas, you have to have a party, and though the Texas legislature is considering a Kinky bill, to enable him to run as an independent. (See the Libertarian Party of Texas's view on the law.)

His campaign site has a blog, where the most recent post is about the need to do something about immigrants dying to cross the border. But, his real campaign issue is in this post about animal rights. Kinky runs a pet rescue ranch, which Laura Bush has financially supported. (Kinky has visited the White House, too. Bush claims he's one of his favorite authors, but we won't hold that against Kinky.) Kinky wants to pass laws to require all animals to be spayed or neutered and to outlaw the de-clawing of cats. You'll find his politics (like his mystery novels) eclectic.

I think I'll keep tabs on this election as well as the Mexican presidential election in 2006. Thanks to Brian for keeping me posted.

posted by Michelle @ 7:52 PM, 0 comments

Pikza, pikza!

Or at least, that's how most people in Mexico pronounce pizza. Anyway, thought I'd share the packet of ingredients that comes with your Pizza Hut pizza here in Mexico.

From left to right: worcestershire sauce, catsup, hot sauce. Yummy.

posted by Michelle @ 12:44 PM, 0 comments

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Heading toward 2006

Several stories from today's paper discuss not only candidate selection in the PRD, but also the potential candidates or alliance strategies of smaller parties like the PT or Convergencia.

Basically, Cardenas is ready to debate Lopez Obrador in anticipation of the PRD nomination process. Convergencia has had talks with the PRD but also with former Secretary (and political scientist) Jorge Casteneda. The PT is leading toward the PRD or the PRI. Essentially, the small parties that have formal registration can become vehicles for candidates that can't win the nomination of either the PRD, PRI, or the PAN. An alliance with one of the three large parties would really preclude having an alternative candidate, but might pay off by guaranteeing more PR seats in the legislature. So small parties have to consider whether the cast-off candidates from the big three that might run under their mantle are really strong enough to have a chance. Otherwise, they are probably better off forming an alliance where they not only get their own PR seats but also get to put some of their leaders on the PR list of the other party.

posted by Michelle @ 1:00 PM, 0 comments

John Williams and Star Wars

Morning Edition Sunday has a great story about Williams's score for Star Wars. My favorite of his scores are those for Indiana Jones and Harry Potter.

posted by Michelle @ 12:55 PM, 0 comments

Mexican movers

On Division del Norte in Mexico City. A fairly large north-south thoroughfare.

posted by Michelle @ 12:36 PM, 0 comments

Pozolin and me

Pozolin is the mascot for a Mexican chain restaurant, Potzollcalli.

posted by Michelle @ 12:27 PM, 1 comments

Happy Birthday Morrissey!

Stephen Patrick turns 46 today. I think it's really funny how many women post comments on Morrissey's My Space telling him how handsome he is. As if he cares. Well, it feeds his ego anyway.

posted by Michelle @ 12:01 PM, 0 comments

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lucha Libre

Last night we took our guest to see LUCHA LIBRE in Arena Mexico. It was great fun, though some of the Stars have changed in the 3 years since we last went.

Last night, a new luchador named Metro had his debut at Arena Mexico. He's sponsored by the free newspaper put out by the Mexico City Metro, called El Metro. His outfit had large M's on the legs. We received two of those annoying inflatable clapper things with Metro on them when we got to the stadium (which of course, the small kid next to me proceeded to wave wildly). And they threw at least 100 free t-shirts into the crowd. It's an interesting marketing ploy since most of the true Lucha Libre fans are moderate to low income and probably take the subway. I've never known a Mexican wrestler to have corporate sponsorship before, and certainly not to derive their name from the sponsor. According to a post on a CMLL discussion board, Metro fought first in Guadalajara under the name of Dr. Quen and is a relative of Bestia Salvaje.

The full program, from big fight to opening fight:
Dos Caras Jr. VS Ultimo Guerrero

Heavy Metal - Negro Casas - Mistico
Perro Aguayo Jr. - Tarzan Boy - Hector Garza

Universo 2000 - Mascara Magica - Apolo Dantes
Damian 666 - Hallowen - Terrible

Allan Stone - Zumbido - METRO
Sangre Azteca - Dr. X - Nitro

Shockercito - Mini Olimpico
Pierrothito - Fire

My new favorite, to replace Olimpico who doesn't seem to wrestle now, is Mistico (the one in the mask). He was very good at playing to the crowd.

posted by Michelle @ 12:09 PM, 3 comments

Al Sharpton to arrive in Mexico Monday

Al Sharpton will travel to Mexico City Monday to meet with President Fox to receive an apology for his comments about undocumented workers and African Americans in the United States last week. Here's the New York Daily News story.

posted by Michelle @ 11:19 AM, 0 comments

Friday, May 20, 2005

On tenure, redux

A mini-discussion on tenure and academia continues. Paul has a follow-up with necessary links to responses by other people. I did not reply to the Five Myths laid out by Munger because after reading them, I realized that I only have one paper under review right now (ugh, since October), one sitting R&R, and one rejection that I need to turn around and send to an even crappier journal. So I dug up the rejection and made a list of revisions. (I already have the list for the R&R.)

Since I don't have the requisite three under review (though I have 2 more waiting in the wings that need minor tweaks before heading out...), I figured I should get with it. Nevermind the 2 invited papers for edited volume and journal special issue and the book review essay for LARR that I need to write.

I will, I will have closure on these projects. And, I will get tenure. Someday. I think. I hope.

Oh, and I interviewed 5 people for my next project this week. All this with visitors from Texas and the requisite trip to the artisan market and pyramids.

Tonight, I'm going to see real wrestling. None of that pansy stuff K Grease is into. (Unfortunately, there won't be photos since last time the security guard tried to take my camera batteries.)

posted by Michelle @ 6:07 PM, 0 comments

Supreme Court on the desafuero

Actually, that should be "Supreme Court decides not to rule on the desafuero." According to today's La Jornada, the Supreme Court decided that it could not rule on the case brought by the General Assembly of the Federal District (i.e., governing body of Mexico City). The General Assembly had claimed that they should have the same rights as states, and that AMLO should be treated as a governor. In those cases, if a governor loses his or her immunity, the case is passed to the local legislature for handling. The legal status of the D.F. has been in dispute for a while since the Constitution is vague. In the court's decision to not hear the case, they have cited that since the D.F. is not a state, and Lopez Obrador not a governor, they have not right to decide the case. Here's a direct quote:
Al resolver los recursos de reclamación interpuestos por la Cámara de Diputados y la Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) en contra del acuerdo de la ministra instructora, Olga Sánchez Cordero, en el que se admitió la citada demanda, predominó el criterio de la mayoría de que la Constitución no considera al Distrito Federal como un estado, ni a su jefe de Gobierno como gobernador, por lo que no había argumentos para analizar la controversia constitucional.
Sin embargo, el ministro Genaro Góngora Pimentel cuestionó la falta de consistencia del pleno en la toma de decisiones, al recordar que apenas el pasado martes, por votación de seis contra cinco -en donde el ministro presidente Mariano Azuela fue también el fiel de la balanza-, la Corte hizo una ''interpretación constitucional'' que no está prevista en la Carta Magna, lo que dio lugar a la figura del ''veto parcial'' que tiene el Presidente de la República en materia de presupuesto.

It's not clear from the article what this means for Lopez Obrador's status. For his part, AMLO has said the issue is still open until the Supreme Court rules on the counter suit brought by the Chamber of Deputies.

At the same time, the new Attorney General says that they are still reviewing the case against AMLO to determine whether or not to press charges. According to the AG, the AG's office "applies the law and does not make political agreements." From El Universal:
El procurador general de la República, Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, aseguró que en la Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) se aplica la Ley y no se hacen acuerdos políticos, al hablar sobre el caso del jefe de Gobierno del DF, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

De hecho, adelantó que el 3 de junio se vence el plazo para que la Subprocuraduría de Delitos Federales determine finalmente si acepta o no la propuesta del Ministerio Público de la Federación por el no ejercicio de la acción contra el político tabasqueño.

En su primer conferencia de prensa el funcionario federal indicó que está en proceso de revisión la resolución el Ministerio Público de no ejercitar acción penal en contra del político tabasqueño por presunto desacato a una orden judicial.

At his first press conference since taking office, the AG says that they are reviewing the recommendation of the Ministerio Publico to not press charges.

This runs counter to the early interpretations that all charges would be dropped. But is consistent with more recent declarations from the new AG.

Is this another case of one of the President's cabinet running amuck of the President's policy? (The first case would be several conflicting statements made by Fox's spokesperson and the Secretary of State Creel.) Certainly, several of the leaders that I have interviewed recently (running the gamut from dissident labor union leader, to PRIista, to business association rep) express the personal opinion that Fox has little control over his cabinet and he does not make firm decisions. That his administration is uncoordinated and heads off in several different directions at once. In the old days, the buck stopped with the President; apparently that is not so with Fox.

Ok. So that interpretation seems consistent with the inconsistencies that come out of his administration. His spokesperson says one thing, but his Ministers say another.

But could it be more devious than that? Are these guys renegade Ministers, or are they carefully deflecting criticism from the President (though of course at the price of making him look like an ineffective bobo )? What's worse for the PAN, that their party seem politically ineffective and incoherent, or that they seem out to get AMLO?

I'm not sure which scenario is more likely; I'm just wondering out loud. Could a man that manipulated his own party enough to get the nomination and win in 2000 really be unable to corral (a fitting word, considering his rancher image) his Ministers, including one only just recently appointed as AG?

posted by Michelle @ 5:21 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Fox and Jesse Jackson

Thought this was a good picture and would direct you to it.

From La Jornada.

Full story is here, but I'm too tired to write about it. Jackson also met with religious leaders.

posted by Michelle @ 9:21 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A day in the life of a comparativist in Mexico

08:00 Leave for US-Mexico Commission to pick up tiny note card needed to pick up visa.

08:30 At Commission, learn that members of the U.S. Embassy visa department have read my blog post about new delays for Mexicans. Apparently, they think I'm an "equal opportunity discriminator." Not sure what that means. Learn that my blog will now be circulated among the Fulbright staff. (Maybe I should take down those pictures of the drag show???)

9:00 Return to house to pick up passport because they may want it at Migracion when I pick up my visa. Kiss husband.

9:30 Arrive at Migracion in Polanco. Wait in line to ask what line I should wait in. Wait in another line, only to be told I can return at 12:00 or tomorrow, even though I have a "ficha" for an appointment today to pick up my visa. The visa is not ready.

10:30 Arrive two neighborhoods away for my appointment with a union leader at 11:30. Park. Look for cafe. Buy yogurt drink from grocery. Wait.

11:10 Go to Union offices to wait for appointment. There is no waiting room. Chat with young man who registers visits and the coming and going of cars.

11:30 My appointment date has not shown up. I continue to wait.

11:50 Ask if there might be a secretary that knows how to reach my appointment. Go find her. She calls my contact. He will arrive in 15 minutes.

12:10 Appointment arrives. Kisses all the secretaries (this is custom, not lechery). Takes me to his office. I explain that I have to leave at 12:45 for another appointment. We have short interview.

12:40 I apologize for having to leave, and we schedule another meeting next week.

12:55 Arrive one neighborhood over at the headquarters of the CNOP. Park on street. Think about moving car for fear of it being towed; cannot find a cuidacoche. Decide to leave it.

13:00 Arrive at offices of second appointment. Learn that the appointment has been cancelled, and a message left on my cell phone while I was in the other meeting. Offered only one option to reschedule: tomorrow at 12:00. Explain that I have another appointment scheduled at 11:00 that I need to confirm. Will call back.

13:30 Arrive home. Call to confirm other appointment. My assistant calls later to say they called her to cancel. Call one that cancelled on me today to confirm for tomorrow.

13:50 Sit down to review schedule of future interviews. Blog. And then make phone calls for interviews for next week.

posted by Michelle @ 2:39 PM, 0 comments

Jesse Jackson in Mexico City

Jesse Jackson arrived last night and will meet with President Fox today to receive an apology in person. There will be a short press conference with Jackson and the President's spokesperon after.

From La Jornada.

Darn. I wish Jesse were speaking in public. I once saw him speak at my high school in Austin, Texas (which tells you a lot about the type of public school that I was definitely on the "wrong" side of town and I wan't part of a bussing (sp?) program). He was pretty amazing in person.

Fox is scheduled to meet with Al Sharpton later this week. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that meeting.

posted by Michelle @ 8:51 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

On tenure

Munger has an interesting post about academic life and tenure. On how others don't understand academic life, he says when family asks if he's 'finished' with his work, he replies:

Well, no, I'll never finish. When I finish this, I have to do something else. The advantage of being an academic is that you can schedule the 70 hours you work anytime you want during the week. But that doesn't change the time commitment, and that is what so few people see.

This is true. Often my family doesn't understand (read: parents don't) why I'm always working and never finished (and never really take a vacation when I visit them). I'll never be finished. In part, that's what drew me to academia. I knew I would work 70 hours a week at any job (that's my personality), but at least with this one, I define the what and when. When I have students heading off to Ph.D. programs, I tell them to enjoy their summer; it will be the last where they don't have something to do hanging over their heads.

Munger also suggests that tenure expectations are not any higher now than when he got tenure. (And, he claims that tenure for him was a non-event....and that tells you a lot about the confidence that Mike has.) Young faculty are just slackers.

Well, maybe. I certainly am the only one in my department at Tech that regularly spends all Saturday in the office, but I assumed that was just because our offices are on the shady (i.e., bad) side of campus and everyone lives in the 'burbs.

Publishing in journals may not have gotten harder; there are certainly more journals to publish in now. However, it is very difficult to publish in the big three (as a comparativist), and many departments only want those publications. Whether it's more difficult, I couldn't say.

It has become more difficult to publish books in the last five years. This, I do know. Publishers have told me that they regularly pass up books that 5 years ago would have been published easily. A lot of this has to do with the downturn in the economy, and libraries aren't buying as many books. Also, digital media are making it easier for professors to assign articles online rather than order books for class.

For comparativists, this is a problem because many of us write dissertations that look like books. And we plan to publish them as books. (Take, for example, my treatise on 70 years of social security--i.e., pensions and health care--politics in Mexico. Yes, please take it. I'm tired of living with it.) And students are still encouraged to produce these types of dissertations. Americanists, however, often write dissertations that are easy to chop into 3-4 journal articles.

I think it has also become more difficult to get grants to support research. Funding is scarce, and I believe the NSF political science program is dominated by a clique that views formal models as the only valid type of theory. I recently resubmitted a proposal that had been rejected on the first round. (I should add that no faculty in my department have NSF political science funding, so I developed my proposal in the to speak.) The panel comments highlighted three concerns of the reviewers, but in general said my proposal showed scientific promise, could make an important contribution, yadda yadda. I revised the proposal to address the three concerns of the panel, and the other concerns of the reviewers.

One reviewer wanted me to present a theory like X and Y in their papers. So, I went and read those papers, and the papers they cite in economics. Their type of formal model is a minority approach in my subject area, but I duly included a discussion of how my data would allow better tests of their formal models. I did not develop a formal model myself because that is not what I do. Nor is it what 90% of the researchers in this area do. Well, this reviewer, on the second round, was very disappointed that I had not taken his advice and incorporated his suggestions. I really tried to, and I thought I had. No, I did not develop a formal model, but I discussed that literature. I now realize there's no way I could make that reviewer happy without developing a formal model.

Another reviewer, on the second time around said only "this is a better proposal, but I still think it won't have broad interest" and will only be of interest to a narrow group that studies Latin America. I will never be able to please this person either, unless I tried to do a cross-regional study, which is highly infeasible for reasons I explain in the proposal (incomparability of data, language requirements, lack of data). Not to mention, it leaves me wondering about all of the funding for Americanist projects. Those certainly are only of interest to Americanists, but they get funded.

One reviewer asserted the project could be done without funding. Nevermind that I explain that travel to research libraries to get the data would be necessary. Nevermind that Tech salaries require summer school teaching to survive, so I will never have time to do the research. It reflects a lack of understanding of how hard it is for professors at non-top 30 departments to do research.

(Yes, I am a little bitter. I didn't expect to get funded, but I did expect a serious review. I didn't realize that reviewers would not be willing to consider my arguments and instead insist on their own methodological preference. I don't think I will ever waste my time, or the reviewers time, in the Political Science division again.)

This really isn't meant to be a rant. Two weeks ago, I would have ranted. Now, I just have too much work to do. And I'm a little disappointed in the narrow-mindedness of my chosen discipline. And I need to go interview a couple of big-wig Mexican politicians.

posted by Michelle @ 9:17 AM, 3 comments

You like me. You really really like me.

Monday was Teacher's Day in Mexico, and I still have a long post pending about the teacher's strike and all the various factions of the teacher's union.

In the meantime, I would like to thank my students here in Mexico for the cake they brought me for Teacher's Day. According to them, they never do that for any of their teachers, but I deserved it. They even sang Las Mananitas and made me blush.

posted by Michelle @ 8:50 AM, 0 comments

Fox apologizes for comments while his allies defend him

I didn't realize that Fox's comments about Mexicans in the U.S. had reached the ears of African American leaders in the U.S. But apparently, they did, and now Fox has apologized. Here's the story in Spanish.

Despite the apology, many leaders still defend the statement and claim that it was misinterpreted.

posted by Michelle @ 8:46 AM, 0 comments

Monday, May 16, 2005

Homophobia, another reason to not like Mexico

According to a preliminary report by the Citizen Commission against hate crime, for every one homicide due to homophobia that is reported, another three go unreported. They estimate that there are 8 homocides a month or 97 a year in the country. The place with the highest number of such hate crimes in Mexico City, but I suspect this is a reflection of the size of the city and probably better reporting. The overwhelming majority of these crimes are against men, though women have been murdered as well.

So even though I regularly see gay couples holding hands in the park by my apartment while walking their dogs, it's clear that such permissive attitudes do not extend throughout the city or country.

posted by Michelle @ 10:09 AM, 0 comments

One of the reasons I don't like Mexico

Racism. In a press conference with reporters, Fox tried to defend Mexican immigration to the United States by saying Mexican immigrants:
...están haciendo trabajos que ni siquiera los negros quieren hacer...
Or, Mexicans are doing the jobs that even the blacks don't want to do.

But what's worse, is when the leaders of the other parties denounced Fox's statement, they did so because:

El señalamiento del presidente Vicente Fox...fue reprobado por los diputados de PRI y PRD, quienes consideraron al jefe del Ejecutivo "inculto, racista y falto de sensibilidad para abordar un tema relacionado con las razas". Los legisladores reclamaron al mandatario una disculpa pública "porque su postura daña la dignidad de los mexicanos"....

El legislador consideró lamentable la posición del mandatario porque afecta la dignidad de millones de mexicanos que no han sido retenidos en el país por el injusto sistema económico que se vive a lo largo y ancho de la República. "Con su pronunciamiento, Vicente Fox se ubica en la postura de un digno hacendado de principios del siglo XX".

Their complaint about Fox is that his statement about the work that immigrants do in the U.S. hurts the dignity of Mexicans. And that his position is one of a hacienda owner at the beginning of the 20th century. Implicitly, the legislators are offended that Mexican immigrants would be compared to African-Americans in the United States. Such a comparison, to them, hurts the dignity of Mexicans.

In some regards, the racism isn't surprising given that the only exposure to African Americans that most Mexicans have is through television and movies, which often portray extreme stereotypes. And even supposed leftists are not immune. I once took a graduate level sociology class at a highly respected university in the D.F. with a faculty member who wrote columns for the leftist paper and dabbled in PRD politics. This professor, during class, told two of the most base/racist jokes about African Americans that I have ever heard. Really childish/stupid jokes. And everyone in class laughed. I was appalled.

Many fancy nightclubs will not let you in if you are too dark skinned. I've been waiting outside an after hours club and had several groups of Mexicans offer to let me join them, thinking that surely they will get in sooner with a white girl in their midst. You can also read an earlier post of mine about racism I witnessed at a Wal-Mart owned grocery story.

So, I'm afraid that the indignant legislators from the PRI and the PRD miss the point. They are worried about Fox being racist toward Mexicans with more indigenous heritage, but looking down on African Americans is clearly acceptable to them. Their own prejudices are so strong and socially acceptable that they can't see the offensiveness of their own position.

posted by Michelle @ 9:33 AM, 0 comments

Saturday, May 14, 2005

One of the many reasons I love Mexico

Friday, Brian and I went to Coyoacan, as we always do on Fridays. We stopped at the main market to get a fruit salad from our favorite fruit stand. The same brothers have been working there since we lived in Coyoacan in 1998, and they still listen to disco and wear tight shirts at 10 in the morning. They are very cute. But really, I go there because they wash their hands, don't touch the money with their bare hands, and have never made me sick.

And you can get a fruit salad like this for less than $1.50 US$.

You can't really tell from the picture, but it's in one of those square plastic to-go containers, and it's overflowing.

posted by Michelle @ 6:05 PM, 0 comments

Zapatistas to play Inter

Inter Milan has been sending money and medicine to Chiapas for some months now. Late last week, Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN suggested a match between Inter and the EZLN team. Inter accepted, though the details have not been decided. The announcement led to this cartoon on the front page of La Jornada.

From La Jornada.

And this archive photo of the EZLN team.

Also from La Jornada.

posted by Michelle @ 4:37 PM, 0 comments

Friday, May 13, 2005

Why is Mexico so economically underdeveloped?

Because of three hour lunches on Friday with wine where no one returns to work in the afternoon. Grrr.

posted by Michelle @ 3:47 PM, 0 comments

New template

I'm working out the bugs in the new template. Please excuse any goofiness in the layout over the weekend.

posted by Michelle @ 1:16 AM, 1 comments

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Another AMLO constituency: Aging prostitutes

In a strange irony, NPR's ATC ran a story on Mexican Mother's Day about aging prostitutes in Mexico City. (Some of the prostitutes have 11 or 12 children.) The women organized, and in response, Lopez Obrador donated an old building to create a shelter for prostitutes over 65, though funding is still needed to remodel the old building for use.

Thanks to Schroeder for the link.

I also have an earlier post about another organization working with sex workers in Mexico City.

posted by Michelle @ 10:00 AM, 0 comments

Robot football

Football, in the sense that every other country of the world uses it. But this is robot football. At Georgia Tech.

posted by Michelle @ 9:53 AM, 0 comments

Mexican politics update

That's why you're all here, after all. While I've been busy waiting for and interviewing politicians, politics as usual has continued. An update of the three biggest stories of the last two days:

1. Continued finger pointing and accusations.

The PRI claimed that there is a secret agreement now between the PAN and the PRD to punish the PRI. The President's office replied by disputing any vendetta against the PRI.

The PRI is so defensive not only because of the administrations turn-around on the AMLO desafuero issue, but also because new fines have been announced in the Pemexgate case. [Yes, it is really called Pemexgate. Some political linguist would enjoy that.]

2. Pemexgate.

Pemex is the state-owned petroleum company. Pemexgate is the revelation that funds from the company were embezzled and/or used for PRI campaign expenses in 2000. The penalties in the case were finally announced: more than $2,000 million pesos ($US 181,000,000) in fines and prohibition of holding public office for 5-20 years for various Pemex functionaries.

The PRI claims that the case began during a bad period of PAN-PRI relations and then was left stagnant once the two parties began working together. The PRI claims that the recent announcement only occured because the PAN is now looking to form a political alliance with the PRD.

According to one of the articles, the PRI claims that the prohibitions against holding public office in the ruling were designed to exclude certain PRIistas from participating in elections, a la AMLO-desafuero. I'm not sure anyone will really buy that comparison. I doubt many will be sympathetic to the PRI's complaints about political persecution.

The Secretary of State says its absurd to suggest that Fox and Lopez Obrador "arranged" the fines and other penalties. At the same time, it does seem convenient that AMLO has been calling for clean election financing in 2006. And then, a big case of dirty campaign financing by the PRI re-surfaces days later.

3. The First Lady's children have been accused of financial improprieties, and the Chamber of Deputies is investigating whether the First Lady has used her position improperly. [I'm not going to bother with the links for this one....maybe later.]

posted by Michelle @ 9:20 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mance as a favicon

Brian made me a very cute favicon of our dog Mance. And, I'm very annoyed because apparently the GATech servers do not support fave icons. Errrggg.

Here it is:

(If you don't see it, you have a lame browser. Upgrade to Firefox.)

I am auctioning off Brian's favicon abilities to the highest bidder.
Update: It works now! Had to add code.

posted by Michelle @ 11:00 PM, 0 comments

Sunday afternoon in Coyoacan

Get your polaroid for $20 pesos.

posted by Michelle @ 10:38 PM, 0 comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Working mothers

Muro, Matvei in El Financiero

posted by Michelle @ 9:41 AM, 1 comments

Fox spokesman clarifies position on desafuero

Sort of. In a press conference, the President's spokesman said that the President's position on the desafuero was clear. The case against Lopez Obrador is closed. If you want to know what the AG meant by his statements over the weekend, you'll have to ask him.

posted by Michelle @ 9:36 AM, 0 comments

Monday, May 09, 2005

PRI trivia

Today, I interviewed a member of the CEN of the PRI. It's the highest governing body. I can't publicly share most of the things he told me, but I can tell you this. According to my source, Lopez Obrador wrote the only hymn (fight song, whatever) that the PRI has. Unfortunately, I could not find the words online. Even better would have been a video of humans dressed as some obscure bird singing the hymn.

The point of this trivia for my interviewee: to emphasize how many of the PRD leadership came from the PRI.

posted by Michelle @ 7:13 PM, 0 comments

Mexico's Dirty War

Students of Latin American politics regularly learn about the Dirty Wars of the Southern Cone military regimes in the 1970s. The learn that Mexico had a different type of authoritarianism, dominated by electoral fraud with an absence of military leadership. But Mexico had its own Dirty War, too, especially in the 1970s.

Following the demonstration and massacre of 1968, the early 1970s were a period of repression while the ruling party struggled to maintain their power. One of the key (para)military groups was Los Halcones. You can read about recent revelations about the group in La Jornada or El Universal. Or, there's a good novel about Los Halcones by Paco Ignacio Taibo II that I assign in my Latin American politics class. Taibo II writes mystery novels (my favorite genre), though some can get too philosophical for my tastes (I'm a plot/action kind of girl).

Anyway, I mention the repression of the 1970s because two stories in La Jornada today cover recent investigations. The first discusses the role of a public attorney in the disappearance of a communist leader in 1974. The second discusses military training to counter guerilla movements in the 1970s in the state of Guerrero (home of Acapulco). The point is that Mexico had its share of leftist movements and government repression in the 1970s.

posted by Michelle @ 9:02 AM, 0 comments

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Clash between the AG's office (PGR) and the Mexican white house (Los Pinos)

Los pinos, Alarcón, in El Financiero.

posted by Michelle @ 12:18 PM, 0 comments

They can't be serious

After everyone, including the NYTimes, TheEconomist, and Washington Post, has concluded that AMLO was in the clear and all that desafuero business behind us, the AG's office announced that criminal charges against AMLO are still possible. I had said that they left the door open for future legal action.

An exchange between a reporter for La Jornada and the Attorney General following the latter's participation in a Fox rally:

LJ: -A propósito del caso El Encino, ¿habrá desistimiento por parte de la PGR? [Has the case been dropped?]

AG: -No, no hay desistimiento, está en consulta el ejercicio de la acción penal. [No, the case has not been dropped. Criminal charges are being considered.]

LJ: -Pero el comunicado del 4 de mayo decía que no se va a ejercitar acción penal. [But the press release on May 4 said that there would not be criminal charges.]

AG: -Es la propuesta del Ministerio Público, pero no hay desistimiento. [That is the proposal of the Public Ministry, but it has not been dropped.]

LJ: -¿Y por parte de la PGR sí se espera que haya consignación? [And on the part of the AG's office, do you expect an arrest?]

AG: -Pues se está analizando la propuesta que hizo el titular de la agencia del Ministerio Público. [Well, the proposal of the head of the Public Ministry is being analyzed.]

LJ: -¿No es tema muerto? [The topic is not dead?]

AG: -Está en proceso de consulta. [It's in the process of being considered.]

LJ: -¿Es posible que la PGR archive el asunto de López Obrador? [Is it possible that the AG will archive/file away the Lopez Obrador issue?]

AG: -Es la propuesta del agente del Ministerio Público Federal con la cual resolveremos en su momento. [That is the proposal of the Public Ministry that we will resolve in time.]

LJ: -Algunos diputados dicen que se hizo mal el trabajo de la PGR con su antecesor, el procurador Macedo de la Concha. [Some Deputies (Representatives) say that your predecessor did a bad job.]

AG: -Se está revisando, está en consulta una propuesta de no ejercicio por parte del titular de la agencia del Ministerio Público. [It is being reviewed; the proposal of the Public Ministry to not proceed is being considered.] {At this point, you can see the conversation is not advancing....}

LJ: -¿Si hicieron mal las cosas, se integró mal el expediente? [Was the work done poorly? Is the case badly put together?]

AG: -No, eso no podemos decirlo. Eso de que está mal integrado precisamente se está revisando. [No, we cannot say that. That is what we are reviewing, whether the case was put together poorly.]

LJ: -¿Cómo ha encontrado a la PGR? [How have you found the AG's office?]

AG: -Trabajando bien, con gente comprometida. [Working well, with committed people.]

An optimist would say that this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. In this case, I'm not an optimist. This exchange occurred just after the AJ met with the President in his home state of Guanajuato.

The pessimist would say that the Fox administration is trying to eat its cake and have it, too. [The key to lame journalism: overuse of cliches.] They want to pretend to play nice and stop the mobilizations of support for Lopez Obrador, but would also like to keep AMLO in line with threats of criminal charges. I'm not sure that strategy will work. Many Mexicans may be poorly educated (underfunded schools, etc.), but they are not stupid. If anything, the strategy is likely to backfire.

Granted, La Jornada is the only paper running this story, so maybe it's only an attempt by the leftist press to stir up trouble. Or maybe they know something we don't know.

Not to miss a beat, the PRD denounced the comments by the AG. As did the AG for the DF.

posted by Michelle @ 12:04 PM, 0 comments

Tired of grading student essays?

Tired of wasting lovely May mornings grading final papers when you should be playing fetch with your dog?

Let SAGrader do the dirty work for you.

As featured on Yahoo!

posted by Michelle @ 11:15 AM, 1 comments

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Remaining Fox reform agenda

As part of the meeting between PRD leaders and Secretary of State Creel, PRD leaders agreed to help push for an extraordinary legislative session, in part to address voting and judicial reform. How quickly the PAN's allies change. A month ago, the PAN was working hand-in-hand with the PRI to desafero Lopez Obrador, Now, the PAN is working with the PRD to get more time to negotiate its legislative agenda.

Lest the PAN begin counting their chickens, the PRI has warned that the PAN needs the PRI to pass their legislative agenda. Since the PRI is stil the majority in Congress, they claim their votes will be necessary to get an extended session.

posted by Michelle @ 1:18 PM, 0 comments

More fingerpointing and accusations following desafuero fallout

Shortly before his meeting with Lopez Obrador, Fox received a briefing from the Attorney General's office on the case against AMLO.

In the meantime, the head of the Supreme Court says that the AMLO case will remain open as long as some of the interested parties have legal options. According to the article, since a reform in 1995 has allowed the Supreme Court to resolve disputes between the branches of government, the Court has resolved 761 disputes and 111 remain to be resolved.

In other news, some leaders of the PRI continue to criticize Fox's decision in the desafuero case. A PRI senator even claims that Madrazo forced PRI Deputies to go along with the desafuero due to a behind-the-scenes political arrangement with former president Salinas. Bartlett has also been criticizing Madrazo for pressuring the Deputies. Some are saying that it was an abuse of Madrazo's power as President of the PRI, and that he has a conflict of interest since he wants to be the party's candidate.

Some think that Creel will be the PAN candidate and that Madrazo will be the PRI candidate. I wouldn't put my money on Madrazo, yet. I think there are probably enough of his party unhappy with him to block his candidacy, but a small number of power brokers within the party may be able to impose him yet.

posted by Michelle @ 12:59 PM, 0 comments

Traveled all the way to Los Pinos, and didn't even get a picture

Yesterday afternoon, Lopez Obrador met with President Fox in the Mexican White House, Los Pinos. The meeting lasted less than 20 minutes, and there was no photo-op.

La Jornada serves up the usual reporting flair: atmósfera era francamente surrealista. Amenazaba lluvia, se aparecieron los pescados, una señora se entercó en no mover su auto y éste quedó atrapado detrás de las vallas metálicas y, desde alguno de los juegos mecánicos de la Feria de Chapultepec, llegaba ininterrumpida y tétrica, la música de la película Halloween.

The atmosphere was frankly surreal. It threatened rain; fish appeared (4 guys dressed as fish to promote the consumption of more fish; a car was stuck in the crush of the crowd; and from the rollercoasters of Central Park, you could hear the music from the movie Halloween.

Image outside the Fox-AMLO meeting. Note the fish. From La Jornada.

Several old and young AMLO groupies were also in attendance.

Fox's office made no official statement regarding the meeting, and Fox left immediately in helicopter for his home state for the weekend.

According to AMLO's press conference after the meeting, he was pleased with the results. The topics they discussed? Importance of Fox's desafuero decision, decline of crime in the DF, extension of the Seguro Popular to the DF, and an invitation for Fox to attend the inauguration of various public works in the DF in coming months. AMLO broached the subject of a national pact for clean elections i 2006, but Fox said there were already institutions in place to guarantee clean elections.

posted by Michelle @ 12:28 PM, 1 comments

Friday, May 06, 2005

Negotiating a political pact

From left to right: Pablo Gómez Alvarez (Diputados, PRD), Guadalupe Acosta Naranjo (Sec. Gen, PRD), Leonel Cota Montaño (Pres. PRD), Santiago Creel Miranda (Sec. of State, PAN) y Jesús Ortega Martínez (Senado, PRD). Original photo in La Jornada.

Thanks to Brian, for the fast photoshop.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Creel (and wanna-be future Presidential candidate) met with leaders of the PRD to discuss the upcoming presidential elections. Fox and Lopez Obrador are probably meeting as I write this.

posted by Michelle @ 8:00 PM, 0 comments

Marketing, Mexico-style


posted by Michelle @ 6:56 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Historical re-enactment, Mexican style

Despite the hype in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is one of the less celebrated national holidays in Mexico. Independence Day and the Day of the Revolution are considered more important.

But, to some Mexicans, the victory over the French on the Cinco de Mayo is worth re-enacting. Hundreds participated in the festivities today.

Cinco de Mayo re-enactment from El Universal

posted by Michelle @ 11:09 PM, 0 comments

Fox, the Government of Change....of opinion

By El Licenciado, Garcí in El Financiero.

Fox's campaign was the "Alliance for Change" and he calls his government, the "Government of Change." TV ads and highway billboards promote government projects saying "El Gobierno de Cambio cumple"; the government of change fulfills its word.

Mexico has another change problem. As anyone who has visited knows, vendors, stores, and restaurants rarely have change. Want to buy a $.75 soda with a $5 bill? Want to pay for a $4 taxi ride with a $10 bill? You're out of luck because everyone is out of change.

So my favorite joke when vendors or stores tell me that they don't have change for my purchase is "Right. What Mexico lacks is change, right? In more ways than one, huh?" They seem to get a kick out of that, or they just humor the poor gringa.

posted by Michelle @ 4:35 PM, 0 comments

The Economist on Mexico

The Economist has an update on AMLO in Mexico. The article mentions that now Lopez Obrador will need to run on a positive platform, rather than a martyr struggling against injustice. True, true.

The U.S./U.K. press has made a lot of noise about AMLO's populist past. But something I read in the print edition of La Jornada rang truer for me. Someone recently asked AMLO about his political stance and he replied that his radical days were over: "Now I am a politician of the Center." Here's the link.

I'd say he's still left of center, but at least he understands the need to moderate his position and rhetoric. Maybe he learned from Lula. Or maybe he realizes that moderating his position, promising not to punish opponents, and keeping a lid on the disatisfaction of his supporters are the factors that helped save his skin.

posted by Michelle @ 4:24 PM, 1 comments

Pity link

Munger is worried about his place in the TTLB Ecosystem. Maybe this will help.

posted by Michelle @ 4:19 PM, 0 comments

What happens now?

Yesterday, an announcement was made that they would not press charges against AMLO because the penalties are not clear in the law. However, some legal analysts believe the decision does not automatically close the case, nor does it automatically restore his mojo fuero.

Most troubling is the decision by the owners of the disputed property to pursue their case. Promoters international Santa Fe has 15 days from today to file another injunction, and their lawyers say that they will continue to pursue the case until the land is returned or they are paid its value. I suspect they will get their land or be paid off.

Lopez Obrador will remain the mayor of the DF until mid-June, when he will step down to begin his pre-campaign for the PRD nomination for President. In the meantime, he is calling for a national agreement or pact among all the political parties and actors that the 2006 elections will be free, fair, and transparent, including campaign finance. Fox has indicated that such an agreement is not necessary since Mexico has a strong independent electoral agency.

Here's a brief timeline of the last year of desafuero events.

posted by Michelle @ 3:12 PM, 0 comments

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I hate to say that I told you so....

But, I told you so.

I did.

Several times.

This afternoon, the Attorney General's office dropped the charges against Lopez Obrador. Citing the argument used by AMLO's lawyers, the AG's office claimed the penalties for disobeying a court order are not clear, though they still hold him responsible for the conflict.

ALMO interpreted the decision as a victory for the people.

The owner of the disputed land still plans to sue to receive compensation for the appropriation.

Goody. Now, maybe I can get some interviews done.

Score 1 for Dr. Dion. I should really be paid to predict these things.

posted by Michelle @ 11:53 PM, 1 comments

Fox and AMLO to meet face to face this Friday

According to Lopez Obrador, the change of heart by President Fox last week was not the result of some secret negotiation. They have yet to meet, but plan to do so this Friday. Lopez Obrador says that they should take advantage of the truce to be prudent and conciliatory.

According to Fox, the AMLO desafuero issue is resolved. The new AG will review the file and decide what to do. But, Fox maintains that last week's announcement about the change in the AG's office was necessary to ensure that the 2006 elections are considered open and democratic.

When Fox and AMLO meet on Friday, they will be alone, unlike earlier meetings where each brought political backup. Fox is trying to downplay the meeting, saying it will be just another work meeting to discuss policy, including public safety and the Seguro Popular.

posted by Michelle @ 10:00 PM, 0 comments

Political doublespeak

In a press conference yesterday, Secretary of State Creel made clear that he does not intend to leave the cabinet, despite suggestions by the President's spokesperson to the contrary. This exchange followed:

La Jornada: -Cuándo dice usted que los tiempos del gobierno sólo los fija el Presidente, ¿está descalificando al vocero de la Presidencia de la República?

Creel: -Por eso lo dije de esa manera, con toda intencionalidad, porque de esto solamente habla el Presidente de la República, y nadie más, en función de los tiempos al interior del gobierno.

"No, I'm not contradicting the President's spokesman; I'm just saying something different."

Come. on.

The good news is, however, that Creel will push for an extended legislative session. They were going to decide on an extraordinary session today. This is good because it means that many of the people that I want to interview will stay in town that much longer. It is all about me, and my research, after all.

posted by Michelle @ 9:38 PM, 0 comments

Oh where, oh where has his fuero gone?

Yesterday (or day before yesterday), PRIista legislators were wondering how they could give Lopez Obrador his fuero back. This after PRI leader Enrique Jackson publicly said they should restore AMLO's immunity.

As with most legal questions in Mexico (including mundane things like whether the prohibition against tinted windows applies to all cars in the DF or just those registered here), legal experts do not agree on when or how AMLO would recover his immunity. Some think he gets it back as soon as the AG's office decides not to prosecute the Encino case; others think it will take an act of Congress.

posted by Michelle @ 8:40 PM, 0 comments

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Actors' strike declared illegal; cast member of Los Simpson let go

According to an article in La Jornada, the Secretary of Labor has declared illegal a strike by actors who dub foreign television shows. One of the cast members of Los Simpson was fired after working for the agency for 15 years. The actor also dubbed roles on He-Man and Transformers.

Los Simpson are much beloved in Mexico, though little understood, I think. The voices are good, but very different from their English equivalents. I've actually been to a party where Mexicans debated whether Los Simpsons was better in English or Spanish.

posted by Michelle @ 8:03 PM, 1 comments

New U.S. social security poll

Paul lists some interesting poll results at the Public Brewery.

It doesn't surprise me that many are skeptical of Bush's social security privatization. I have family members who are devout Republicans who disagree with the Shrub on this one.

posted by Michelle @ 7:16 PM, 0 comments

Dangerous work, if you can get it

At a recent Congress, the Director of UNESCO highlighted increasing violence against reporters. In 2004-05, 70 have died.

Reporters without Borders cite the war on terror as the cause of many deaths. 51 by their count.

Updated 5/4: In a follow-up article, Colombia is the most dangerous country in the Americas for reporters. In Mexico, the national press is fairly secure, but regional and local reporters risk danger from drug cartels and mafiasos.

posted by Michelle @ 10:59 AM, 0 comments

Presidential candidate nomination news

The election of the PRD's 2006 candidate will be September 18. They also expanded the size of the CEN (governing body).

The PAN is also considering when they will elect their presidential candidate.

posted by Michelle @ 10:50 AM, 0 comments

More about Sunday's Labor Day activities

The independent labor unions rejected Fox's proposed labor law revisions and privatization of the energy (petro & electricity) sector.

The official unions had their own ceremony.

In the official executive ceremony, workers and employers expressed support for Fox's new stance on AMLO.

On Saturday, plans for a new teachers' union in the D.F. were announced. The teachers plan to leave the SNTE, and would eventually like to form a Federation of independent teachers unions.

posted by Michelle @ 10:44 AM, 0 comments

Monday, May 02, 2005

The patron saint of Narcotraffickers...

In today's La Jornada, there's an interesting story about an informal tour of narcotraficantes that has sprung up in Sinaloa. Narcotraficantes are drug lords and traffickers.

According to the story, you can visit a small temple with a shrine to the patron saint of drug traffickers, Bandido "Generoso" Jesús Malverd. He was known for giving money back to the community. He's been worshipped as a saint for over 130 years.

Image of patron saint in chapel in Sinaloa from La Jornada.

According to the story, in Culiacan the capital of Sinaloa, there is 1 car per every 4.5 inhabitants, while the national average is 1 car per 15. There are car dealers for Lincoln, Volvo, Toyota, Cadillac, and Hummer. According to one of the salesmen, it's only by reputation that the cars are bought with drug money. Though he did admit that many paid with cash.

The story also talks about lavish homes with murals, columns, and all sorts of gaudy decoration. And many people walk about with a lot of diamonds and other ostentatious jewelry.

Drug trafficking began in Sinaloa at the beginning of the 20th century. According to the article, this was due to its proximity to the US, a country that prohibits many illicit substances. In the 1950s, wars between rivals were so common that Culiacan became known as a "Chicago con gangsters de huarache." (Huaraches are traditional peasant sandals.)

One of the other interesting aspects of the drug trafficking culture is the music, which is not mentioned in the article. Narcocorridos are songs that tell the high tales of drug smuggling. They also have a long history. During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) corridos were songs that told stories related to the Revolution and its heros. The narcocorridos glamourize (mostly) the lives of drug runners. The most famous group is Los Tigres del Norte. They have an extensive discography. Below is an excerpt of one of my favorite Tigres songs, "Pacas de un Kilo"

In it, the singer mentions that he's of a modest height, has a significant farm, and warns listeners that if they meet him, don't be surprised if he doesn't tell you his last names. You can find discs of Tigres hits online at Amazon. There's also an interesting book about narcocorridos written by a guy who hitched rides with truckdrivers along the border. You can also listen to an NPR story about the group.

That's your bit of Mexican cultural history for the month.

posted by Michelle @ 11:18 AM, 2 comments

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Fox announces Social Protection Institute

As part of Labor Day festivities, Fox announced the creation of a new Social Protection Institute. Since I've studied Mexican social security extensively, the new Institute is puzzling in many respects.

The new Institute is going to be housed in the Secretary of Social Development (SEDESOL) and more specifically in Fox's targeted poverty alleviation program "Oportunidades." This just doesn't make public policy sense. Political sense, maybe, but from a public policy perspective, no.

Social "protection" in Mexico is provided mainly by two large social security institutions, the IMSS (private sector) and the ISSSTE (public sector). (Email me for a parts of my book ms if you're interested in an overiew of 80 years of social security policy in Mexico.) The SEDESOL was originally created under Salinas to run his much maligned and much politically manipulated poverty alleviation program, PRONASOL (see my published paper on this).

PRONASOL morphed into Progresa under Zedillo, and then morphed again into Oportunidades under Fox. Granted, Progresa and Oportunidades have better reputations than PRONASOL (i.e., less corruption, manipulation for political ends, etc.), though recent research suggests that Progresa may have been politically maniuplated as well. (Here, I'm thinking of a paper presented by Berkeley Grad Student Tina Green at the MPSA meeting in Chicago, but since her paper isn't online I can't provide you a link...)

Fox's poverty alleviation program (Oportunidades) is essentially an income transfer to poor families so that they can buy food, health care, etc. in the private market.

Anyway, the point is that Fox is creating this Institute within Oportunidades within the Social Development Ministry, rather than housing it either in one of the two social security institutes or creating some overarching coordinating institute. Targeted income tranfers to the poor are not "social protection" and it's ludicrous to create an institute to "protect social security" inside one of the bureaucracies designed to replace formal social security programs.

This is just one more example of how social security (not just pensions in the U.S. sense, but health insurance, etc.) is being privatized piece by piece in Mexico and being replaced with targeted transfers to the poor, a la the U.S. welfare system. It reflects an overall shift in Mexico's welfare regime toward a liberal model. (Again, if you want to hear more about this, email me for book chapters.)

So, from my point of view and a public policy perspective, creating this Institute in SEDESOL makes little sense. From a political point of view it makes tons of sense.

Why? Because the IMSS and to a lesser extent the ISSSTE bureaucracies have been opposed to efforts to privatize pensions, health care, and other benefits provided by these agencies. That's why the Zedillo administration had to create a separate "think tank" to draft the 1995 pension privatization plan--to isolate it from IMSS and the unions. (But I one is likely to do when discussing your research.)

By creating an "Institute of Social Protection" separate from the institutions that have historically provided social protection, Fox can ensure that studies and policy proposals that come out of the Institute are more likely to promote privatization and similar reforms of social protection. Proposals are likely to emphasize targeted benefits for the poor, since that has been SEDESOL's primary focus. Now, I'm not against benefits for the poor, but I am against politically manipulated policies that become new forms of clientelism. I'm also against such policies when they are proposed as replacements for traditional social security. This has been the tendency of late in Mexico.

In sum, Fox's announcement of this new Institute should be viewed with the same skepticism as Bush's claims that the's going to "strengthen social security" through privatization.

posted by Michelle @ 11:39 PM, 0 comments

More procrastination....

From Blogthings:

American Cities That Best Fit You:

60% Chicago

60% Honolulu

60% Los Angeles

60% Miami

60% Philadelphia

Which American Cities Best Fit You? and....

Your Inner European is Italian!

Who's Your Inner European?

posted by Michelle @ 10:35 PM, 0 comments

Professorial procrastination

Compliments of Dr. Crazy. My favorites from her list:

Read blogs.
Feel guilty about reading blogs and not commenting and not posting on your own blog, and so post on your blog about nonsense like alternatives to academic work.
Decide, at 11 PM at night, to clean out closet and sort laundry.
American Idol.
Re-read every single Judith Krantz/Anne Rice/etc. novel that you own from beginning to end.

While procrastinating doing #1, I read #4 and realized I missed the first 15 minutes of the results show, broadcast here in Mexico City 2 weeks late and on Sundays. (I was sad to see Nadia leave.)

Though I don't like Krantz or Rice, I have quickly run through the stack of mysteries that I bought while in Chicago for the Midwest PSA meeting. Spent an hour today reading the beginning of David Brown's first thriller. Poorly written pap, but thrilling nonetheless.

posted by Michelle @ 10:12 PM, 0 comments

Labor Day & AMLO

Today's Labor Day march brought about 100K people to the Mexico City zocalo. According to the press, about half represented the CTM, the largest union confederation formally affiliated with the PRI, and the other half represented independent labor unions.

Unions reiterated their opposition to proposed reforms to the Federal Labor Law. Reforms have been on the political agenda of political parties since the 1980s, but building consensus is difficult.

In other news, AMLO is confident that the charges against him will be dropped this week. I'm a little more skeptical. It will probably take longer than that to negotiate a deal.

posted by Michelle @ 6:05 PM, 0 comments

Mexico City slideshow

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