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, June 30, 2006

Arrest warrant issued for former president


posted by Michelle @ 9:05 PM, 0 comments

Mexican Presidential election update

Matthew Shugart provides a better round-up than I'm prepared to offer. He makes some interesting points regarding the dynamics of the Congressional elections, too. Go read it.

posted by Michelle @ 9:01 PM, 0 comments


Yesterday: 1 typed page (because I had to spend time making up for the fact that I never took the IR security core in graduate school)

Today: 7 typed pages. Goal: another 10 to produce a 20-25 page conference paper

Update today: Two more typed pages and notes for rest of paper.

posted by Michelle @ 5:09 PM, 0 comments

Thursday, June 29, 2006

In today's mail

posted by Michelle @ 1:51 PM, 0 comments

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quick links to recent Mexican presidential campaign news

Well, there's not much since campaigning officially ends tonight. The vote is Sunday. Did you know that alcohol is not sold on election day in Mexico? Interesting, huh?

Now that Mexico's out of the world cup, my Google "Mexico" newsfeed has regular news again, though I can't say I'm happy about it.

Early in the day, Reuters and Bloomberg were pointing out that Mexican stocks opened low, but by tonight, both were commenting on the overall rise in stocks today.

La Jornada dedicated three stories to a claim by a Mexican journalist that the PAN has used voter registration information target their campaign:
El martes pasado, la periodista Carmen Aristegui denunció que el PAN realizó -con base en el padrón- su propio mapa de georreferencia para identificar a ciudadanos por nombre, apellido, dirección y hasta preferencia electoral, con el fin de utilizarlo en su campaña. Tal operación se pudo descubrir al ingresar a la página de Internet de las Redes por México, de Calderón, con el usuario hildebrando 117 y la contraseña ''captura''. De acuerdo con la legislación electoral, los partidos sólo pueden utilizar el padrón para revisarlo. Cualquier otro uso constituye un delito.

The PAN's response was to claim that it was a trick by the PRD to make the PAN look bad:
''No caeremos en las provocaciones del Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). Con mentiras no ganarán la Presidencia de la República'', aseguró la dirigencia nacional que preside Manuel Espino, cuando se le solicitó una entrevista sobre el eventual uso ilegal del padrón. Inclusive anunció que el tema no formará parte de la agenda político-electoral y de paso advirtió a los periodistas que "no esperen ningún comentario sobre las empresas de Diego Zavala''. [both quotes from the first article above]
The IFE has said it would investigate and that only 192 people have legal access to the voter rolls.

The leftist Mexico City daily is continuing to fan the flames of claims that social spending funds are being used for electoral purposes. This time, they claim to have thier own evidence pointing to PAN mischief. La Jornada is also continuing to criticize perceived inaction by Ugalde (the head of the electoral institute) to stop the CCE spots.

And, last but not least, just when we thought the teachers' strike in Oaxaca was cooling off, things turn for the worse. (see also)

Of course, if you read the other Mexican dailies, you're likely to get rosier, or at least less biased, news about the national Mexican futbol team or the closing rallies of the campaigns.

posted by Michelle @ 9:30 PM, 3 comments

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Today's progress--Yay!!

So far, 8 typed pages. And still going.

I know. Academic Coach recommends stopping while I'm hot, but I've got service work to do I feel I should keep going while I can.

[And, besides, with my box set of Antonio Aguilar loaded on my iPod (thanks to my good friend Liz back in the D.F), I'm super inspired.]

Update, 11:15pm: Have reviewed Chapter 2 and made list of issues to review/resolve before I can write more. Time to review my notes on class power and institutional change.

posted by Michelle @ 10:35 PM, 1 comments

Monday, June 26, 2006

More progress

About five pages newly written. More revising/parsing/sorting of information.

posted by Michelle @ 11:54 PM, 0 comments

More on the electoral use of welfare in Mexico

The use of social welfare for political gain is nothing new. In fact, if governments don't provide social benefits to earn votes, they would they provide social benefits at all? Since the late 1980s, however, Mexican governments have been a bit more direct in their use of anti-poverty programs for electoral purposes. The most blatant effort was Salinas's use of Pronasol. Zedillo apparently cleaned up some of the most overt political manipulation when he converted Pronasol into Progresa, though some studies have found that Progresa was also a political tool. (I have a published paper on Pronasol; Tina Green has a good paper on Progresa.)

Recently, two studies have suggested that Oportunidades (the program that replaced Progresa) has also been politically manipulated, primarily by local politicians rather than the national government. This was the topic of the editorial I linked to last week.

Today's WaPo has an article discussing the findings of the two recent studies of Oportunidades. You can read the press release from one of the studies at the Alianza Civica website.

Just when you start to think that maybe democracy will improve the efficiency of anti-poverty programs or at least prevent the programs from being used as a tool of intimidation, the realities of rural Mexican politics surface.

posted by Michelle @ 1:10 PM, 0 comments

Today's progress

3-4 pages typed/revised, to finish Intro. 1-2 pages of Chapter 2 written; other parts reviewed/outlined (80% finished).

posted by Michelle @ 12:02 AM, 0 comments

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An ugly close to the Mexican presidential campaigns

Lopez Obrador called Calderon's camp "traffickers in influence," and Calderon accused Lopez Obrador of supporting "los malosos" in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The final stop on AMLO's campaign.

Madrazo was just trying to minimize the defections from his campaign, following the announcement by the CROC last week that it would urge its workers to vote for Lopez Obrador. The CROC has been one of a handful of faithful PRI-affiliated unions since the 1930s. Its leader defended the decision to support the PRD by claiming it was trying to stop the right and saying it had nothing against Madrazo personally. In response, the CTM, the largest of the PRI-affiliated confederations (but still withered compared to its heyday in the 50s-70s) threw Madrazo a final campaign event.

Tomorrow, two of the three largest members of the largest independent labor confederation are expected to reiterate their support for AMLO. They are the social security workers' union and the union of the national university in Mexico City.

posted by Michelle @ 9:14 AM, 0 comments

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I like this foto

From a story in today's Milenio covering another meeting between Lopez Obrador and the business elite, this time from Jalisco.

Also, several papers are responding to the suggestion in a WaPo editorial that immigration to the U.S. would increase were AMLO elected:
The country's pro-market president, Vicente Fox, leaves office this year. His successor will be chosen in an election July 2. The leftist Andr?s Manuel L?pez Obrador is a strong contender.

If Mr. L?pez Obrador wins and pursues the populist economic policies he's been associated with in the past, the flow of Mexican arrivals in the United States could accelerate.

What kind of unsubstantiated drivel is that? Why would immigration increase exactly? If AMLO's such a populist, I'd expect more immigration of the elite than the poor.

posted by Michelle @ 12:47 PM, 0 comments

Who tries to hide in Puerto Vallarta?

Really, now. How uninspired.

posted by Michelle @ 12:40 PM, 0 comments


Flights, train from Philly, hotel in midtown (with 2 free nights!!), and Yankees tickets all booked. Now just to fill in the rest of the weekend with things to do.

What else could a girl ask for?

[Imagining Brian in background...."A completed book manuscript?".....]

Ok. Back to work.

posted by Michelle @ 12:22 PM, 0 comments

Friday, June 23, 2006

Today's progress

Despite low page count (about 2), I read back over what I've got so far and made some notes, and I'm happier with what I've got than I thought I would be. So, I guess that's good.

Oh. And I did a decent chunk of work on that service project that is paying my summer salary, and cleaned my desk off.

posted by Michelle @ 11:18 PM, 0 comments

Brian thinks he's funny

By taking a picture of my desk, titled "Clutter," and posting it to Flickr.

posted by Michelle @ 1:37 PM, 0 comments

Important but less interesting news

Ugalde, who heads the government body that certifies elections in Mexico (IFE), has said that he will announce the results of the 'quick count' at 11pm the night of the election. Of course, his announcment may be that the race is too close to call, but he has committed to give a progress report of the count and vote shares, nonetheless. The IFE has also gone through several simulated vote counts over the last month to ensure that there can be no electronic irregularities during the count. [Of course, this is an oblique reference to the computer malfunction in 1988, which lasted a week and, some argue, was used as a cover for the PRI and Salinas to steal the election from Cardenas.]

At the same time, the Secretary of State is working with the parties to ensure that no one claims victory prematurely on election night.

posted by Michelle @ 12:10 PM, 0 comments

3rd party political ads in the Mexican elections

La Jornada is stirring up debate over (television?) ads of the CCE (Employers' Coordination Board) that urge voters to vote for economic stability.

Two of the ads are posted on the CCE website. The first ad [watch online] shows a young boy with a $20 peso bill (roughly $2 US). The announcer asks him how he would feel if those 20 pesos were only worth 10. The boy looks frightened and asks, incredulously, if that could really happen? Then, the announcer (off screen) says (not to the boy, but to the viewer), that indeed it is possible and that Mexico must protect the economic stability it has created.

The second ad [watch online] shows a number of small shopkeepers opening for the day. The voiceover remarks that in the last 10 years, Mexico has attained the economic institutions necessary for growth, and that when the economy grows, everyone benefits. It then says Mexicans should defend what they have accomplished.

I think there are at least two interesting points raised by the La Jornada coverage. First, the newspaper quotes some people that defend the CCE ad campaign by arguing that the social security union's website clearly supports Lopez Obrador. Here's my initial reaction to that comparison:
1. Anyone's whose visited the SNTSS website will see that it's so overrun with flash as to be barely tolerable;
2. I'm not convinced many voters who were considering voting for Calderon would visit the SNTSS site;
3. And how many people have internet access anyway (or at least that they're not using to instant message or fiddle with their myspace?);
4. Is a photo of AMLO and some ugly PRD flash really the same as a very slick ad campaign?; and
5. I'm not really sure that a photo of AMLO with Vega is really going to help AMLO, it might actually hurt him (Vega is Secretary General of the union and is finishing a term as a PRI Deputy. More importantly, Vega's not very popular with the rank-and-file, many of whom were unhappy with his handling of the last 2 contract negotiations).

Second, another article discusses dissent within the CCE over the ads. This is instructive because it highlights some important (and historical) divisions among the business elite. You can read books by Shadlen or Schneider for the details, but my short version is this:
The CCE was created in the 70s to serve as an umbrella for several existing industrial/commercial organizations regulated by the state. It has been dominated by the stronger industrial interests of the north (that is, Northern Mexico, not necessarily the U.S.). One of the (smaller) members of the CCE is the Canacintra, which represents small and medium industrial firms. Members of the Canacintra benefited from Mexico's old state-led development model and have suffered from neoliberal reforms. I once read somewhere that they are the Marxists of Mexican business, but I think that's a little strong. They just benefited from the rents provided by the state for so many decades and were understandably disappointed to see them go.
Apparently, the Canacintra is also unhappy with the CCE ad campaign because presumably they'd rather not see Calderon elected.

posted by Michelle @ 11:32 AM, 0 comments

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Yay! NYC!

Just took care of my APSA travel arrangements and plans for the rest of the holiday weekend in NYC! Yay! I haven't been there since I left in '94. When I was there as a student I was working (work study in the women's studies department, one of two high school secretaries for the JTS high school, and The Gap at 96th and Broadway) 20+ hours a week, so I didn't see much apart from work, the library, and the WBAR studio.

Due to mucked-up air travel to the Midwest in April, I had a free vouche--so Brian can come, too. And then, I think I have enough Hilton points and airline miles to get 2 free nights at a midtown Hilton. Of course, it took about two hours on the phone and web to figure out how to make it work.

NYC agenda: museums & a Yankees game

Book progress today: 2 pages, but the night is young.

posted by Michelle @ 11:43 PM, 2 comments

This made me cry....

Because I was laughing so hard.

Linked here.

posted by Michelle @ 7:16 PM, 0 comments

More Mexican presidential election poll results

From Milenio.

Could they have found a more unflattering image of Madrazo?

With this nice overview of trends.

posted by Michelle @ 12:15 PM, 0 comments

Today's progress

5 new pages. (That's a total of 18 since last Thursday)

Theoretical breakthrough tonight. Some bibliography grunt-work.

Still need to pick up the pace.

posted by Michelle @ 1:19 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm not the only one

Glad that Mexico has made it to round two of the WC? Of course.

But I was really referring to this bit from an article by a Financial Post reporter:
Even if Obrador wins the day, he is no Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan who's flirted with Cuba's Castro, threatened to kick out foreign resource companies and to divert oil exports away from the U.S.

Mr. Obrador has talked about renegotiating the North American free trade deal. But so did Canadian Liberal candidate Jean Chretien back in the 1993 election and yet he did absolutely nothing to make good on that "promise".

Such gringo-bashing is favoured by self-styled populists in Mexico and Canada alike, but fail to resonate with a majority of the populace in either neighbouring country. This is not only because it's dismissed as rhetoric, but it's also increasingly appreciated that the NAFTA deal makes inordinate good sense for all three countries.

As for Mexico's resource industry, there's nothing to nationalize. Mexico's federal government owns the monopoly oil company, PEMEX.

And no candidate is talking about privatization either.

posted by Michelle @ 12:45 PM, 0 comments

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Today's progress

On the book: 1 typed page + 5 pages of new outline for next section with detailed notes.

On that service project: Productive meeting with colleague where we agreed on objectives and outlined next steps

On fall team-teaching (in same meeting): Agreed on schedule of topics and books to be ordered

posted by Michelle @ 11:30 PM, 0 comments

Lopez Obrador seeks to calm markets

Over the last week, the Mexican stock and bond market has been fairly volatile. I've resisted the temptation to repeat the ups and downs on a daily basis. In any event, Lopez Obrador made a campaign stop up north (i.e., Monterrey) to calm markets and assure the business community that he's no Hugo Chavez. I'm not sure they'll believe him, but it's worth a try.

In any case, when I visited Tec de Monterrey in early June, I was telling some skeptical Regios that though Lopez Obrador is a leftist, he's not a Hugo Chavez. I suggested that he understood the importance of business support and foreign capital, and I cited his behavior during the desafuero last year as evidence. I'm not sure I convinced them either.

Now that the election is fast approaching, I thought it'd be worth posting links to some of my earlier predictions and analyses.

My November post predicted a 2-way race between AMLO and Calderon. [Don't be too impressed--that was a fairly obvious one....]

From last April (April 2005), I commented on the Finance Minister's recognition of AMLO's restraint and discussed the issue of markets and the attempt to prevent AMLO from running for President.

I still say AMLO's more likely to turn out to be a Lula than a Chavez, if elected.

posted by Michelle @ 6:14 PM, 3 comments

The horserace continues

Poll results released by Excelsior puts Lopez Obrador ahead by four percentage points, with a margin of errror....not reported.

Go to original

The horserace reporting of polls will end 10 days before the election, during which time the publication of polls is not permitted by law.

posted by Michelle @ 10:44 AM, 0 comments

Monday, June 19, 2006

Today's progress

5 new pages.

Tomorrow I have a teaching/service meeting at 2pm and will have to spend 1-2 hours preparing in the a.m.

posted by Michelle @ 11:49 PM, 0 comments

Another op-ed

This time by a colleague and friend. On the important issue of women's human rights in the Mid East.

Go, Sylvia.

posted by Michelle @ 10:06 PM, 0 comments

Zogby Intl polls on Mexico

The most recent Zogby poll has Calderon narrowly in the lead (methodology).

The spin in the press release implies that Calderon is a sure to win, though their results are not entirely consistent with other Mexican polls.

To me, it all suggests that it's going to be a very tight finish.

posted by Michelle @ 7:52 PM, 0 comments

Profesora cited in Mexico City daily

Last week, I received a nice email from Jose Luis Reyna, a sociologist at Colmex whom I've never met. He wrote to tell me that he'd cited my research in an op-ed piece that he wrote for El Milenio.

The opinion piece discusses claims that the Secretary of Social Development is using social programs for the poor to earn votes for the PAN. He cites a 2000 paper in which I demonstrate that similar programs were used in the early 1990s to get votes for the PRI. His citation and quote:
El Pronasol de Salinas funcionó con criterios políticos más que asistenciales y no estuvo “dirigido a las estados o regiones más necesitados del país”. (M.Dion. “La economía política del gasto social: el programa de Solidaridad de México, 1988.1994”. Estudios Sociológicos Núm. 53, mayo-agosto de 2000).

Nifty, huh?

posted by Michelle @ 2:54 PM, 3 comments

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Today's progress

2.5 new written pages and 2 revised pages.

Plus an eye exam for new glasses and contacts.

posted by Michelle @ 12:03 AM, 0 comments

Friday, June 16, 2006

Today's progress

Three new typewritten pages.

Of course, it's the first real progress since before I went to Monterrey. This service stuff can be really disruptive, even during the summer.

I think I'm back in the groove now; just wish it hadn't taken so long.

posted by Michelle @ 12:17 AM, 0 comments

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The alpha dog?

Mance has a nice dog bed, in a coveted spot next to my desk at home. However, it seems that the cats have kicked him out of the bed, and he has to sleep on the hard floor.

More like the omega dog.

posted by Michelle @ 10:02 PM, 0 comments

Some of you may recall

Dr. Simi

He's also mentioned in a recent Reuters piece on the Mexican presidential candidates:
Some of the most colorful campaigners cannot legally run because no political party will back them.

They include oddball magnate Victor Gonzalez, who has adopted the persona of his pharmacy chain's rotund and grandfatherly mascot, "Dr Simi," with fluffy white hair and mustache.

Claiming more Mexican fans than Mickey Mouse, and fond of models in mini-skirts, Gonzalez hires people to wear spongy Dr Simi costumes and dance outside his pharmacies.

"I have money but I earned it honestly. I have women but I am single. The people love these things," he said recently.

posted by Michelle @ 9:08 PM, 0 comments

Oaxacan teachers

Early yesterday, the state government of Oaxaca decided to raid the encampments of striking teachers in the capital city. Many people were injured. La Jornada has several stories covering the events. Though Oaxaca is the center of disident teacher unions, the central leadership of the SNTE headed by Elba Esther Gordillo has denounced the government action, and other sections of the teachers' union have announced their solidarity with the Oaxacan teachers.

In the aftermath, the national Secretary of State (and former Secretary of Labor) has announced that there will be no more displays of force in Oaxaca; human rights groups are calling foul; and Subcommandante Marcos chimed in.

posted by Michelle @ 2:51 PM, 0 comments

East Coast vs. West Coast

Or, perhaps, pre- and post-debate.

There's this NYTimes article from June 4.

And, there's this LATimes article from June 15.

Both about AMLO.

posted by Michelle @ 11:26 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Even Reforma gives AMLO the lead

Refoma's latest poll gives AMLO a narrow lead over Calderon following last week's debates. This is signifcant since the Reforma polls were the first to suggest Calderon had a lead in early May. Since AMLO claimed the May polls were bogus when they said he was behind, it will be interesting to see how he responds to news that he is now ahead.

Trivia tidbit: The lead pollster for Reforma is a U of Michigan political science Ph.D. (ITAM professor, Publications, and CV)

Here's the Bloomberg update.

posted by Michelle @ 10:34 PM, 0 comments

Number of possums caught in our yard in the last week


And the second one is tiny.

posted by Michelle @ 9:40 PM, 0 comments

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

New polls following 2nd presidential debate

This poll suggests that AMLO has a slight edge over Calderon, even a little beyond the margin of error. It's the first to be published (that I know of, since Reforma requires a subscription for their content) since the televised debates last week.

Here's Bloomberg's coverage.

Here's the Milenio article in Spanish.

UPDATE: The poll by El Universal suggests that Calderon has a narrow lead. Just goes to show how subtle differences in question wording and order may have an effect on poll results.

posted by Michelle @ 4:16 PM, 1 comments

Sunday, June 11, 2006

People in funny suits, replay

From my periodic series of photos of people in funny suits.....

It's periodic because I only seem to be able to take these photos when I'm in Mexico.

Other photos from my Monterrey trip are posted to flickr.

posted by Michelle @ 1:02 AM, 2 comments

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

No progress, no posts

Today I spent time trying to figure out how to keep a baby possum out of our kitchen (getting a trap from the county animal control and taking a trip to Lowe's to figure out how to cover the hole s/he uses behind the oven), getting a new Mexico guide for my trip tomorrow (since I gave my old guide to a D.F. friend who was planning a trip to Oaxaca when I last left Mexico; getting the new guide required stops at 2 BnN), packing for my trip tomorrow (clothes and work-related stuff); and fending off a really bad headache (unsuccessfully).

So no progress.

And there will probably be no posts for the weekend, since I'm taking a trip to Monterrey to set up a new study abroad program for Summer 07 at ITESM. It's not the D.F. (by a long shot) but it will have to do. At least there will be real tacos and chilaquiles, and maybe some fruit salad or Mexican-style sushi (which reminds me....I should tell you my story about trying to find good, authentic chilaquiles in Atlanta, sometime). My trip may also include a baseball game, but only because I need good photos to help recruit for the study abroad (uhmmm, right).

Anything else I should do?

posted by Michelle @ 10:22 PM, 2 comments

Must have apps for ADHD academics

Stay on task.

posted by Michelle @ 12:34 PM, 0 comments

Watch the second Mexican presidential debate

On YouTube.

posted by Michelle @ 11:43 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Today's progress

Typed up more notes. Not as much as I'd like.

But also had a very productive 2 hour meeting for a service project that I am working on. Since the project is paying some of my summer salary, I shouldn't complain too much. Also, I handled some things pending for a scouting trip I'm taking to Monterrey on Thursday to set up a study abroad for next summer.

Tomorrow, I'm doing nothing but staying at home to work, though.

posted by Michelle @ 11:58 PM, 0 comments

The quagmire that is Mexican politics

So earlier today, a commenter asked my opinion about recent developments in Mexico, and I said I'd have to follow-up later. Specifically, anonymous (who appears to be from the D.F.) wants to know what I think about the fact that gunmen shot at the armored SUV of the wife of a businessman who is in jail after videos surfaced two years ago showing him bribing a D.F. official and close aide of Lopez Obrador. This happened this morning, the day that new videos, documenting corruption by another AMLO-government official, were to be presented.

Since I can't watch the debates, and I'm too zapped to work on the book (ok, that's a bit of an excuse, I am just procrastinating a bit, but I'll get back to work after I post), I poked around the interweb a bit to see what I could find.

Here's the crop of articles that I skimmed quickly, followed by my reaction:
Milenio overview
Hearsay description of contents of videos that weren't released (El Universal)
(I won't speculate or comment on the fact that Robles and Ahumado chat on the phone.)
Lopez Obrador's campaign claims videos won't hurt him (El Economista)
Some inconsistencies hamper the investigation of the gun attacks (El Economista)--this is the story that is repeated most often

My summary of what happened and a little background for readers

A couple of years ago, while AMLO was Mayor of Mexico City (affectionately known as the D.F.), videos surfaced of a businessman (Ahumado) giving large bribes to a close aide of AMLO in the city government. The videos showed the aide grossly stuffing large bills into his pockets, etc. Lopez Obrador was able to claim that he didn't know what his aides were up to and pretty well distanced himself from the corruption scandal. Some, however, continue to be skeptical...and skepticism is always helpful when you're talking about Mexican politics.

Fast forward to now. Sometime recently (I don't know exactly when; I haven't followed it that closely), the businessman's wife and/or others have said they would be releasing additional videos that further implicate officials in Lopez Obrador's government of corruption. Those videos were to be released today. This morning at 6:30am, someone shot at the wife's SUV as she took her children to school. Nine to ten bullets hit the vehicle.

The following items currently being reported lend themselves to interesting speculation and/or conspiracy building:
  • The presentation of the videos has now been postponed indefinitely, according to the wife.

  • The wife says all this could be cleared up if they would allow journalists to interview her husband.

  • The police claim that there are some problematic inconsistencies in the witness accounts of the shootings.

  • I'm fairly agnostic about the interpretation of events, but I can imagine how the pro-AMLO and anti-AMLO camps will try to spin these events.

    The pro-AMLO spin:
    This is just another example of the conspiracy against AMLO (possibly even engineered by Salinas). The videos won't prove anything and probably don't even have anything damaging. It's all a stunt to try to make AMLO look bad. The videos, the shooting (the Suburban was armored, after all, so it wasn't a serious attempt), the withdrawal of the videos is all a well-orchestrated stunt to smear AMLO just before the debates. If the videos really were damaging, they would have presented them anyway. They were trying to use the videos to blackmail the PRD city government into giving Ahumado certain privileges. This just goes to show how far the anti-AMLO forces will go to keep him out of office.

    The anti-AMLO spin:
    This is just more evidence of the bad, marginal, corrupt way that AMLO and his clique do politics. It's not surprising given the types of seedy types his government has cultivated for support. (I'm imagining here people thinking about AMLO's ties to leaders in some poor barrios of Mexico City.) Of course, some gangster shot at Ahumado's wife to try to intimidate her into not releasing the videos, and apparently it has worked. If we elect AMLO, this is the type of gangsterism and lawlessness that we can expect to continue. Oh, and of course the pro-AMLO police are going to make it seem like a set-up; we all know we can't trust the police.

    So which is the truth? Heck, if I know.

    The pro-AMLO position smacks of conspiracy-theory craziness, and the anti-AMLO position makes you wonder if supporters of AMLO would really be dumb enough to think that shooting at Ahumado's wife would be better for AMLO than the videos being released. If his supporters are that simple-minded....Well, it doesn't say a lot for him even if he is elected.

    posted by Michelle @ 10:43 PM, 3 comments

    I guess the debate isn't online...

    Or, at least I can't get the feed to work. Maybe it's blocking foreign IP addresses?

    So, I'll have to wait until tomorrow to watch the videos on YouTube.

    Bummer. I guess that means I get back to work now.

    posted by Michelle @ 10:15 PM, 0 comments

    The debate will be streamed

    If you're interested in watching or listening to tonight's second debate among Mexico's presidential candidates for the upcoming election, the Federal Electoral Commission Institute will be streaming it online at 8:30pm CST. This is the only official debate feed of the debate among the candidates.

    Update: Read more about the rules and content of the debates.

    posted by Michelle @ 11:32 AM, 2 comments

    Yesterday's progress

    Yesterday, I gathered all the materials for one chapter and typed notes for the chapter, too. Not as much progress as I would have liked, and I would hope that today would be better except that I have a service-related meeting this afternoon and will need to spend about an hour preparing for that. Grrr.

    NOTE TO SELF: Next time I plan to write a book (or even just in general), type notes/summaries of the things I read as a I read them.

    posted by Michelle @ 11:28 AM, 0 comments

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Tomorrow's debate is key

    Read this FT article.

    posted by Michelle @ 10:11 PM, 0 comments

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Today's progress

    Pages written: 1-2
    Chapters reorganized and outlined, but not entirely revised yet: 1

    Goal for tomorrow: Finish outlining/taking notes for rest of chapter. Begin shaping it into final form. Get more done!

    PS. Of course, I know no one really cares about my progress except me...but I find that it's helpful to think that I'm going to post my progress each night before bed.

    posted by Michelle @ 11:12 PM, 3 comments

    Google trends

    Caleron and Lopez Obrador in online news and searches.

    posted by Michelle @ 12:46 PM, 0 comments

    Choice bits on the AMLO & the presidential election

    Overall, today's NYT Magazine story about the Lopez Obrador and the upcoming presidential election in Mexico is pretty good. I'm not sure that I entirely agree with the conclusion:

    As the presidential campaign enters its final and critical phase, there is no longer any question of where this campaign is being fought: on the terrain of populism. The fact that Calderón has chosen to challenge López Obrador there, on what had always been AMLO's home ground, is a testament to how much López Obrador's campaign has changed Mexican politics. Of course, if López Obrador goes on to lose an election that, three months ago, most Mexicans thought he would win, that fact is not likely to be much of a consolation to him.

    I say that I don't entirely agree only because I'm uncomfortable with the emphasis on populism, especially given its recent association in the press with several South American leaders. Rather than try to categorize candidates or races, why not provide a better explanation of their positions? But, I guess it wouldn't be as catchy without a way to group a whole range of candidates and positions together.

    Luckily, in the rest of the article, the author tries to provide a more nuanced portrait of Lopez Obrador and his positions:

    López Obrador himself scoffs at these fears. "Change is possible," he told me when we spoke in April on the patio of his home in the gated community of Galaxia in Villahermosa, the capital of his native state of Tabasco. "Of course I understand that globalization is a fact and that one has to act within its parameters. But this does not mean that we here in Mexico have to continue as we have been doing. This country is immensely rich. Its problems are problems of maladministration — above all, of corruption." And he added, "The point is that the Washington consensus" — as the neoliberal model of development is known — "was applied more rigidly here, by successive Mexican governments, than it ever was in the U.S. and Europe, where there are many protected sectors, above all agriculture."

    The passage above suggests that Lopez Obrador is critical of neoliberalism but also understands that a return to the economic policies of the 1970s (i.e., populist spending) would be unwise. Which is why it is surprising that the author would then go on to write this statement about AMLO:
    In fact, he insists, the model has not worked, and he vows that if he is elected, he will pursue a very different set of policies, ones that serve the poor rather than the rich.

    What I've read doesn't suggest that AMLO will pursue a "very different set of policies." Instead, it seems that he will keep many of the neoliberal reforms in place (i.e., keep free trade provisions, will not nationalize industries that were recently privatized, respect central bank policy, etc.), but what he has promised to change is spending on the poor. Granted, how he'll pay for all that is a difficult, and unanswered, question.

    This passage about migration also reflects a more subtle picture of AMLO, the candidate:
    "If I am elected," he told me, "I will propose a conference on migration with the United States. Building a wall is not a viable solution. The only thing that will work is creating jobs in Mexico. Fox was not able to maintain good relations with Washington. But I can't see any reason why I can't succeed in doing so."

    This accomodationist language toward the United States might seem surprising coming from the politician the Calderón campaign has tried to associate with Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro's greatest ally and the Latin American politician Washington fears most these days. But, in fact, it is consistent with the position López Obrador has taken throughout the campaign. His aides often point out that he has no quarrel with the United States, and in his campaign he reserves his scorn for the political and business establishment of Mexico. Although some American observers remain fearful of his leftist tendencies — The Wall Street Journal ran a column in March worrying that AMLO might be "laying the groundwork for an assault on the private sector" — none of the Americans I spoke to in Mexico seemed to believe that López Obrador will nationalize oil and gas resources, as Evo Morales has done and Hugo Chávez has threatened to do.

    Update: After poking around the blogosphere some more, I find that Greg had a similar reaction to the article. The article is inconsistent--perhaps the effects of an editor trying to spice it up?

    posted by Michelle @ 10:30 AM, 1 comments

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    New pages written today:


    posted by Michelle @ 11:58 PM, 0 comments

    First two paragraphs of my book manuscript

    In the first half of the twentieth century, the most economically advanced Latin American countries established extensive welfare institutions for government and industrial workers, only to begin the process of dismantling some of those institutions, notably pensions, in the last two decades of the century. Social insurance, including extensive pension, health, and worker’s compensation programs, protected formal sector workers, or those in the regulated labor market, in the majority of Latin American countries by mid-century. These welfare institutions were often central to the fabric of political life. The debt crisis of the 1980s ushered in a new economic orthodoxy and efforts in most countries to substantially reform social insurance institutions, though with varying success. The reform or privatization of public pensions was the most notable of this trend, though public health insurance was also targeted for reform. Given their political importance, the reform of these welfare institutions was (and is, where reform efforts are on-going) highly contentious. Despite the centrality of these welfare institutions to Latin American politics, few studies have systematically examined their political origins and historical development. This lacuna is conspicuous when compared to the extensive comparative literature on similar welfare institutions in the advanced industrialized economies of Western Europe and North America. This book begins to bridge this gap in our understanding of the dynamics of welfare in Latin America through a comparative historical analysis of social insurance institutions in Mexico since the Mexican Revolution.

    The study of welfare in Mexico provides a good opportunity to deepen our understanding of the politics of welfare in Latin America because Mexico suggests a number of interesting theoretical puzzles. For instance, why would a country that was predominantly agrarian in the 1940s opt to invest considerable political and economic resources into welfare institutions that benefited a small, but growing, number of primarily urban, industrial workers? If the creation and expansion of welfare in Europe is associated with the expansion of suffrage to workers and the consolidation of democracy at the turn of the twentieth century, why were welfare institutions created during the consolidation of authoritarianism in Mexico? And, if organized labor was so co-opted and weak during the height of Mexican authoritarianism in the 1950s through 1970s, why was this the period of greatest expansion of welfare coverage and benefits? And more recently, if the regime that dominated Mexican politics for the majority of the twentieth century had so completely established control of organized labor, why was the regime unable to impose all the pension and health insurance reforms it favored during the 1990s? The answers to these questions, I argue, can be found in the relationship between organized labor and the state and in the processes of institutional change. My explanation is not one that stresses Mexican exceptionalism, though Mexican history does reveal certain particularities. Because my explanation is theoretically grounded in the literatures on welfare and institutional change, it emphasizes the theoretical affinities between the Mexican experience and those in other countries that have faced the incorporation of an organized working class into national politics.

    posted by Michelle @ 1:20 PM, 0 comments

    Who is Carlos Slim?

    This piece does a good job providing a little background.

    posted by Michelle @ 11:48 AM, 0 comments

    The AMLO the U.S. press won't be covering

    Because of course, they like to paint him as a Chaves (Venezuela) or Morales (Bolivia) figure, when he's probably more like a Lula (Brazil), at least when it comes to the economy. In recent campaign appearances, he's tried to reassure voters (and investors) that he won't destabilize the economy:
    "Las reservas de divisas del Banco de México las tienen que manejar el gobernador y los técnicos financieros de la institución. Para que quede claro: la política económica que vamos a manejar va a guiarse con criterios técnicos, no ideológicos", dijo el candidato presidencial de la coalición Por el Bien de Todos, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, antes de iniciar el primero de sus cuatro mítines este día por Jalisco, en su séptima y penúltima gira de campaña por la entidad.

    I think this statement is consistent with his past behavior, especially during the desafuero (also). And, with no re-election, an AMLO in office would have little incentive to use outrageous populist spending--the best legacy would be stable economic growth, and I suspect that AMLO knows that.

    posted by Michelle @ 10:40 AM, 0 comments

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    New pages written today:

    2. But that's ok.

    posted by Michelle @ 9:42 PM, 0 comments

    Best compilation of Mexican poll results online

    Includes results from various polling agencies, not just Reforma.

    Super interesting.

    Also visit this great site where you can view public candidate statements by topic. Like this search on pensions.

    Both via MexiCronicas, with this clever animated .gif. [Calderon in blue, AMLO in yellow, and that other guy in red]

    posted by Michelle @ 3:57 PM, 0 comments

    Don't know if it's fair, but it's certainly not balanced

    Today, La Jornada is running a story that tries to besmirch Calderon's reputation. During his tenure as President of the PAN, the party ran television ads to convince people that FOBAPROA would effectively rescue the banking system. FOBAPROA was a banking bailout that has been highly criticized for compensating the rich for risky investment and banking behavior. It is highly unpopular. During Calderon's tenure as party President, the party asked for 5 million pesos reimbursement from the government for the FOBAPROA ads. And the leftist La Jornada is now reminding voters of that.

    posted by Michelle @ 10:10 AM, 0 comments

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    Number of new double-spaced pages written today

    12. I'm hoping for at least another 10 tomorrow.

    posted by Michelle @ 11:52 PM, 2 comments

    And I thought political methodologists could be persnickity...

    At least I haven't heard of any of them threatening violence.

    The following are excerpts from the editor's report for Sociological Methodology (scroll down to SM):
    Your editor reports a year of drama and success in preparation of his final volume of Sociological Methodology....

    This has been a year punctuated by drama. Your editor seems to have encountered once again a small, previously unrecognized, nascent social movement that he calls the Thin-Skinned Scholar Movement (TSSM). TSSM serves the needs of scholars who object to publication of opinions that contradict their own. Your editor believes that the goals of TSSM are misguided, as his own professional fortunes have been advanced by the publication of debates about his own research. More important, disagreement is fundamental to scholarship, making the suppression of disagreements a fundamental violation of the purpose for which Sociological Methodology is published....

    Your editor is deeply distressed by the style of the TSSM. In particular, consider the following incident: Several weeks ago, I encountered a thin-skinned scholar, who was driving in his car as I walked to my own car in a parking lot. Apparently unimpressed by the writings of Miss Manners, this scholar opened his car window, loudly and repeatedly declared strong views about the composition of my head and the phylum in which I should be classified, and rapidly drove his car so close to me that it did, on the third such maneuver, brush against my pants. I wonder still, is this thin-skinned scholar just a talented and kind-hearted stunt-driver with unusual ideas about parking? Or does he reveal true malice, a will to evoke fear and a willingness to use his car to damage a pedestrian? These are questions that I cannot answer. But answers are suggested by his emailed statement (with copies to others) that he would be pleased to see my body lifeless and in pieces. More to the point, these are questions that no editor should have to consider. This thinskinned scholar has wasted great volumes of an editor's time and effort, reviled the editor in numerous hostile email letters (with copies sent to a variety of others), delayed publication of Sociological Methodology, wasted hours of time by talented and highly-paid lawyers, and badly strained relations between an editor who sought to uphold the principles under which scholarly journals are published, and the ASA executive officer, who sought to save the ASA the expense and trouble of a lawsuit by an enraged scholar.

    This makes those Lodge and Russo books seem less like fiction.
    Via Freakonomics, where Levitt asks readers to publicly out who the culprit may be. [The editor is on the faculty at Chicago.]

    posted by Michelle @ 10:51 PM, 0 comments

    University email etiquette with students

    Miss Manners has suggested that students address their emails to Professor X or Dr. X, even when the professor signs "Firstname."

    I usually use the strategy used by Chris. I sign "md" with my signature below, with the following exceptions--if an undergraduate student sends me an email with a salutation "Hey" or "Miss Dion" or the dreaded "Mrs. Dion" OR if a graduate student sends me an overly formal email with "Dear Dr. Michelle Dion" (yes, this happens). In the former case, I sign my reply "Dr. Michelle Dion," with the signature and in the latter, I sign "Michelle" with the signature. I'm hoping to correct overly informal and overly formal tendencies in favor of some middle ground. [In my department, several faculty members expect even graduate students to address them as Dr., so I also have to be careful not to deviate too much from that norm.]

    Unlike Margaret, I am annoyed when I get a "hey" email. I also work in an engineering institution with too many young male students who seem to refer to my male colleagues as "Dr. Whoknowseverything" and my female colleagues as "Miss Whatwasyournameagain."

    While I'm personally not real picky with how students address me as long as they are respectful (which in my case has seldom been a problem--I'm a commanding 5'1"), I am sensitive to the pervasive gender biases among our students. To make a point to them, I address the problem directly, often with humor. By the end of the semester, students always get the gender pronoun right when we discuss different authors of the articles we read, so I feel justified in my little bit of consciousness raising. And no one has ever complained about it on my evaluations either.

    posted by Michelle @ 2:37 PM, 0 comments

    Mexico City slideshow

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