Monday, July 31, 2006

AMLO and the U.S. Media

AMLO’s mass rally (over a million people) in Mexico City has led to the type of story in the U.S. media that we’ve come to expect. The article must constantly repeat that AMLO is “leftist” and then insinuate that violence is imminent.

The NYT’s first paragraph doesn’t mention AMLO’s name, but refers to him as the “leftist candidate.” It goes on to say:

So far, the protests and marches he has led have been peaceful, though he said Sunday that more acts of civil disobedience would be planned.

The second part of the sentence does not follow from the first. I guess the idea is that these crazy leftists must surely get violent at some point.

Now, on to an AP story running in the Miami Herald (and elsewhere, of course). The headline and first paragraphs say that AMLO wants to “blockade” Mexico City, with dire consequences:

If Lopez Obrador supporters heed his call, blockades could have a catastrophic effect on already chaotic city traffic, hurting downtown commerce.

The problem is that I cannot find reference to any blockade. In fact, the article admits:

The leftist asked his followers not to "invade public spaces" and demonstrators said they wouldn't block streets, but Lopez Obrador also apologized in advance for "any inconvenience our movement might cause."

So “the leftist” is actually telling people not to be disruptive. The blockade idea apparently came from a random AMLO supporter the reporter interviewed on the street. Michelle has a link to Milenio, in which AMLO:

Propuso una asamblea permanente hasta que resuelva el tribunal el fallo. Invitó a sus simpatizantes a, “que permanezcamos aquí, día y noche, hasta que tengamos presidente electo”.

That is not the same as a blockade—it says the protestors should “remain here, day and night, until we have a president-elect.”

Yes, it is a tense situation, and I cannot claim that no violence will ever occur, but it’s crazy that day after day, articles in the U.S. media assert that violence and/or mayhem is just about to happen, and each day they've been wrong. In fact, I think it’s noteworthy that all these massive rallies have been non-violent.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Six Months

I just realized that it's been six months since I started the blog, so I thought I'd change the look. I forgot to save the code for the books I had listed, but I figure I will start fresh again.


Cuban oil

The issue of offshore Cuban oil has been percolating for some time, and a reporter asks whether it might finally end the embargo, since the U.S. is searching (albeit half heartedly) to end its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. There are already bills in both the House and Senate to exempt oil from the embargo.

Of course, the Cuban American National Foundation and Floridian members of Congress are opposed. The response by the CANF executive director, however, struck me as odd:

"Those who would advocate for ... allowing U.S. companies to drill off Cuba lose sight of how that would damage our ability to press the Cuban government on other issues, such as human rights."

This assumes we have any leverage with the Cuban government at all—I would argue that our Cuba policy over the last 40+ years has put us in a position of having zero leverage, so we can’t have less than that. I’d be more inclined to listen to the environmental concerns, as well as the idea that we should more aggressively pursue alternate sources of energy rather than just drill anywhere we can.

With regard to U.S.-Cuban relations, however, common sense usually goes out the window. I can’t see that (or our current policy) changing anytime soon.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Venezuela and the UN

Here is a solid NYT piece on Venezuela's bid for the UN. It discusses the dynamics of the eventual vote, but I wish it had more on the attitudes of specific Latin American governments. I see most of South America going for Venezuela, but I am less sure of Central America (since Guatemala is the U.S. candidate), Mexico, and the Caribbean.

If the region cannot designate a country, then the entire UN General Assembly will cast ballots, and winning requires a 2/3 vote. Who knows what will happen between now and October, but if I had to bet, I'd put my money on Venezuela.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Venezuela's arms deal

It is now official: Venezuela has agreed to pay $3 billion for a variety of Russian jets and helicopters, on the top of the already purchased rifles, with rumors of future surface-to-air missiles in the future. The U.S., of course, opposes the entire transaction.

This depresses me on at least two levels. First, $3 billion is an enormous amount of money in a country beset by serious socio-economic problems, and weapons don't feed people or create jobs (well, they will in Russia, but not in Venezuela). Second, if Venezuela were viewed as an ally, then the U.S. government would be happy to sell those weapons itself. Our claims that "the arms purchases planned by Venezuela exceeded its defensive needs" rings rather hollow.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

The U.S. and Chile

The U.S. continues to pressure the Chilean government not to vote for Venezuela in its bid for the UN Security Council—the Defense Minister reported that Rumsfeld made it clear that such a decision “wouldn’t make any sense” (no sería comprensible). This prompted Bachelet to make a speech insisting that her government would not bow to any external pressure. Chilean politics are also involved, because Bachelet’s approval ratings have dropped and she is facing a gas crisis with Argentina, so it was an opportune time for a tough speech.

However, this is another example of our incoherent Latin America policy. The Bush administration claims to want democracy and free trade in the region, and Chile is an example of both. Yet we are punishing Chile, both with regard to the International Criminal Court and Venezuela. Leaning on Bachelet has made it far more difficult for her to vote against Venezuela, because no one wants to be viewed as following orders from Washington. As so often happens, U.S. actions may result in the outcome—Venezuela winning the seat—that it explicitly sought to avoid.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Latest on immigration reform

The Washington Post got wind of a new Republican proposal intended to bridge the gap between the House and Senate. The idea is that no immigration laws would change for at least two years, while the government puts new security measures into place (fences, biometrics, the whole nine yards). Ultimately, people here illegally right now could eventually become citizens, though only after a minimum of 17 (!) years. But before even that began, the president would have to “certify” that the border was “secure.” What “secure” means is anyone’s guess.

I tend to agree with the following paragraph:

The impasse will not be easy to break. The push for a pre-election compromise has lost its sense of urgency, as both sides privately calculate that no deal might be the best politics and produce the best policy.


Academic journal reviewers

In a previous discussion about my rejected article, I mentioned the idea of creating a typology of reviews. After thinking about it, I decided instead to create a typology of reviewers. I put them in alphabetical order, though my own biases will be immediately obvious.

Also, perceptions are important. I am willing to bet that most of us consider ourselves fair reviewers, while some of those we review would beg to differ.

The Admirer – a rare bird, but not unknown, this reviewer loves the manuscript and recommends publication with only editorial revisions. These are fun to get. If you do get one, then enjoy it while you can, because your next round of reviews may include one from Simon Cowell (see below).

The Contrarian – this type of reviewer explains how the entire manuscript should be rethought, reconceptualized, and rewritten. Unless you conform, your article is toast. These are difficult reviews to use, because you have only two choices: follow the orders or ignore them entirely.

The Destroyer (aka The Simon Cowell) – he is, of course, the insult-hurling judge on American Idol. I know a senior person (who I actually like very much personally) who shares the same mentality. These reviewers believe that bluntness is the best way to get through to people; if an argument is weak, then don’t mince words. Mixing praise with critique (a la Paula Abdul) may lead people to think their work is better than it really is. Instead, we should make sure bad manuscripts are shoved in a drawer forever. However, this easily crosses over into craven insults—I have both received and heard about the insulting (and even absurd) things reviewers will write under the cloak of anonymity.

The Scholar – by this I mean someone who is genuinely interested in the advancement of ideas and knowledge, and who therefore goes over the manuscript carefully, provides citations and specific examples when critical, and gives the author specific suggestions, even when recommending rejection. These suggestions can be greatly beneficial even in the case of rejection, at which point you need to improve the article and find another journal.

The Slacker – this is the sort of reviewer who likely put off the review until the last minute, or just feels too busy to bother much with it. They are generally very short, vague, and negative (the reviews, not the person, though maybe that holds as well). It suggests they glanced over the article, decided immediately it was not up to snuff, and scribbled out their initial impressions. They are singularly unhelpful to the author, who cannot make use of them.

The Unfocused – this reviewer focuses not on the main argument, but on other specific parts of the manuscript that interest him or her more. These reviews are generally easy to address, because they do not entail any wholesale changes.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Padres need a third baseman

The Padres have been floundering at third this year, and Vinny Castilla was recently released. Geoff Young has a nice chart listing the potential candidates. His preference is Morgan Ensberg, though I wonder what the price would be. For best value he chooses Rich Aurilia, who I might accept even though he was a longtime Giant.

To highlight this problem at the hot corner, he is even selling "Will Play Third Base For Food" t-shirts.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that we're scouting Greg Maddux, though it doesn't say whether anything has happened beyond that.


Getting a Ph.D.

I know a good number of my students read the blog, and for them in particular I recommend the discussion by Michelle Dion and Chris Lawrence about the decision to get a Ph.D.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Choosing the right academic journal

One of Michelle’s recent posts about her travails in getting a particular article published got me thinking about a topic that, to my knowledge, is rarely discussed: how do you go about choosing a journal? Especially for graduate students and untenured faculty, this is a critically important decision, because choosing the wrong journal can lead to long delays.

I think it is an art more than a science, thought you can use some empirical evidence to help you out. It can actually get quite complicated. These can be tweaked depending on the discipline, but as I think of journals, I need to assess:

--if the journal has published on my topic (and even whether I am engaging a debate surrounding previous articles in the journal)
--if the journal has recently published too much on my topic
--if the methodology meshes with the journal (though a good many journals are open in this regard)
--whether I should aim at a Latin America journal, a Political Science journal, or a “developing world” journal (this can be quite important, because each has different expectations and audiences)
--whether the journal is acceptable to the department in terms of merit pay, tenure, and and/or promotion (of course, this varies widely)
--whether changes in editorship have changed the orientation of the journal (personal note—at my own journal I am open to any topic on Latin America, regardless of discipline, methodology, etc.!)

I always have a journal in mind when I embark on a paper. This does not mean I always choose well—on the contrary, there have been times (as with my last submission) where after reading the reviews, I realize the given journal had not been a good choice. Sometimes I change my mind halfway through writing, but I try to keep my potential journal audience in mind as I write.


Chávez in Belarus

Hugo Chávez is in Belarus as part of his current international tour:

“Belarus is a model of a social state, which we are also building,” Mr. Chávez told reporters at the Minsk airport at the start of a two-day visit. “We must defend the interests of the individual and not the hegemonic interests of the capitalists, wherever they may be, in Europe or Latin America.”

Now, when I think of countries in which "the interests of the individual" are defended, Belarus really doesn't come to mind.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

The name game

Amazingly, the congressional debate over immigration continues to reach new levels of absurdity. The latest is that House Republicans are trying to pretend that only Democrats support the Senate bill. Thus, what is normally referred to as the “McCain-Kennedy” bill has been transformed into the “Reid-Kennedy” bill, replacing John McCain, who has been a vocal advocate, with Harry Reid, the Democratic leader who in fact at one point tried to scuttle it.

Of course, this convenient amnesia also ignores the fact that President Bush favors the Senate version. I suppose the strategy revolves around the basic idea that if you say something enough, then people will start to believe it.

I had to chuckle at McCain’s response to the issue:

Asked at a recent news conference how he felt about the bill’s name and being purged from it, Mr. McCain said, “You can call it a banana if you want to,” as long as it eventually becomes law.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mercosur and Venezuela

Venezuela is now a member of Mercosur, which will set in motion all sorts of interrelated dynamics. For example:

--Mercosur is now officially backing Venezuela for the UN Security Council seat.

--there will be a lot of hand wringing in the U.S. about this "leftist" bloc (wait for all the editorials), but presidents of Mercosur countries are all very different. There will be serious jockeying to determine Mercusour's orientation.

--Mercosur will likely become a very political organization, which it never has been.

--There will be immediate efforts--mostly on the part of Brazil and Venezuula--to become the de facto leader of the organization. Both Chávez and Lula view their countries, and themselves, as regional leaders. I wonder whether either can accept sharing. Kirchner could very well also be in the mix.

--Mercosur has the opportunity to achieve real benefits for its member citizens, and to be a counterbalance to U.S. influence, but because of the above issues will face the threat of constant squabbling and disastrous infighting.


Friday, July 21, 2006


This has nothing to do with Latin America, but I laughed so much I could not resist. Senator Ted Stevens gave a speech in which he referred to an email as an "internet" and said the internet was a "series of tubes." Then somebody made a parody video on YouTube.


Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club

I finished Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club, which is a fun read. It is historical fiction, set directly after the U.S. civil war, where a serial killer is committing murders in styles that mirror Dante’s Inferno. This is a time when Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and other prominent intellectuals (who comprise the "Dante Club") are doing the first American translation of that work, so they set out to solve the mystery.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Free Trade Agreements and Latin America

While Boz points to India's pursuit of a free trade agreement with Peru, and other Indian deals with Bolivia and Ecuador, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies just approved a free trade deal with China. It will now move to the Senate for a vote. It would be the first non-Asian FTA for China.


More on Little Tony

Yesterday, Tony Gwynn, Jr. got his first major league hit, a pinch hit double to right, at age 22. Tony Sr. got his first hit, also a double to right, on the same day 24 years earlier, at age 22, with Tony Jr. in the stands in utero.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Not too long after writing my previous post, I read this from Plan Colombia and Beyond. If you are on the left, then you call your political enemies “fascists.” If you are on the right, then you call your enemies “terrorists.” Since the Bush administration, and Republicans generally, hate Hugo Chávez, they now claim Venezuela is a “terrorist hub of the Western Hemisphere.” This came from a hearing of the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism.

The evidence showed scant support for the terrorist claim, but plenty for stupidity in both governments.

In an unrelated issue, the blog also mentions something I didn’t know—one of the members of the subcommittee, Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Illinois) is the son-in-law of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who I recently discussed.



In the “huh?” category I put the following comments by Hugo Chávez, referring to President Bush’s now infamous words with Tony Blair:

''His cynicism, his class and his fascist personality were unmasked before the world,'' Chávez said. ``He doesn't care about the world, whether everyone dies.''

For anyone who happened to miss it, here is the main Bush comment, with everyone up in arms because he said the word “shit.”

“See, the irony is what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.”

This comment certainly demonstrates that the president is incapable of using the word “irony” correctly. How it reveals him to be a fascist is less clear. I must admit that the casual use of “fascist” is a pet peeve of mine. Bush has authorized all sorts of objectionable—even impeachable—policies, but I feel like it’s an injustice to compare our situation to Nazi Germany or Franco’s Spain. The word “fascist” has been thrown around so often that it has come only to mean “politician I don’t like.” The word “terrorist” is heading in the same direction.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Study on Latinos in Charlotte

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute released a needs assessment study of the Latino population in Charlotte—the Institute funded my work this past year, but I wasn’t involved in this particular study, which did not address politics. For anyone interested in new growth Latino immigration or Charlotte specifically, it is worth a look. Kudos to Jana Harrison, the Senior Associate Director of the Institute.

One thing I found particularly interesting is that although there are some services for the Latino community, they are not located where that population lives. Perhaps there is an assumption that Latinos would live downtown, which is where the services are, but they don’t. Nice maps too, from my colleagues in Geography.

Also, in contrast to the stereotypes flying around about the Latino population, it shows many signs of stability. For example, 65 percent of respondents in the Institute’s survey were married, and 41 percent owned homes (though, as they note, the transient population would be under-represented in their survey, so that number may be a bit inflated). Amazingly, although 78 percent of the Latino population makes $40K or less a year, one quarter of those still owned their home. One problem with this, as the study notes, is that they may be overextended—in fact, foreclosures have been a major topic here in the past year.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Immigration reform falling apart

Thanks to Michelle for pointing out in comments that the Mexican press has quoted President Fox as saying immigration reform is dead for the year. His source was President Bush.

This was apparently a press conference with Fox, so I am surprised no one in the U.S. press picked it up at all (do reporters from different countries talk much?).

Meanwhile, even Fox News conservatives are getting fed up. As I did a quick google search to see if this news was picked up in the U.S., I found this commentary lamenting how the Senate voted to build a 370 mile wall, but also voted not to pay for it.

Update: The U.S. press did pick it up.


Thoughts on academic journal reviews

I got a letter (amazing how many journals still use snail mail) informing me that one of my article manuscripts was rejected. I got two reviews, one of which was useful, and one of which was much less useful. I like this paper, but there are a number of things I need to work on.

That alone isn’t very interesting--it happens to all of us. In my eyes, more important is something I think is too common, namely sloppy reviews. Now, we’re talking about a very good journal, so one would expect good reviewers. But one of the reviews was literally riddled with typos, suggesting it had been hammered out quickly. Also, it committed what I think is a reviewing sin, which is not to back up claims. In my paper, I wrote something to the effect that “X has been neglected in the literature” and then discussed that. The reviewer wrote “X is *not* neglected” but failed to provide even one example. I would think that if the reviewer were that sure, he or she could come up with at least one example off the top of their head. If you can’t, then it suggests you are less sure than you claim. It may simply be that the reviewer felt the point was so obvious that he or she need not prove anything to such an obvious dullard as myself. The ultimate result, however, is that the review was almost entirely unhelpful to me.

Maybe sometime I’ll come up with a typology for types of reviews. I’ve received a wide variety, from glowing to absolutely nasty. I think my favorite might be a review for my textbook draft, where the reviewer said that he or she would probably adopt it, but needed to make sure it had a nice looking book cover.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Chile in a bind about Venezuela

The saga of Venezuela's efforts to get on the UN Security Council continues. The Venezuelan ambassador to Chile formally requested Chile's vote. This puts President Bachelet in a bind, because she had talked about finding a "consensus" country, but no such thing exists, and had hoped to vote against Venezuela to show solidarity with Peru, but now Peru seems to be moving toward voting for Venezuela despite Hugo Chávez's role in the presidential election. The article in La Tercera suggests that her only other option is to abstain. It seems that the main reason not to vote for Venezuela is that the U.S. has made clear it will react. Or at least I can't immediately think of another.

Along those lines, that same link to La Tercera describes how the Chilean Defense Minister is in Washington, in part to lobby Rumsfeld not to punish Chile (by cutting military aid) for refusing to grant waivers to U.S. citizens with regard to the International Criminal Court. No doubt the U.S. will link the UN issue to that.


Tony Gwynn Jr.

The Brewers called up Tony Gwynn Jr., who made his major league debut, going 0-1 with a groundout. He has some good minor league numbers, and looks like his dad did in the early part of his career (i.e. thin and athletic). Let's hope he does better than that other son of a former Padre, Fernando Valenzuela Jr. He's also a San Diego State alum, so all the more reason to hope he does well.


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Congressional work on immigration

Even if Congress passes no immigration bill this year, it is already working to appropriate funds for more enforcement. We can forget coming to a sensible solution on immigration quotas or a guest worker program, but rest assured because we’re passing laws on jail sentences for tunnels. This last was a Feinstein-Boxer brainchild, demonstrating that even prominent Democrats are willing to avoid the difficult issues in favor of things that sound tough but will achieve little.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Jobs in academia

Especially as a result of reading blogs, I periodically think about how strange academia can be, even capricious. Reading Post Ph.D. Blues and In a Way I am MetamorPh.D (and I am sure there are many more) provides a reminder of how it is easy, as a graduate student, to feel like getting the Ph.D. will suddenly open doors, whereas the truth is that the job market is very tough and unpredictable, to an extent that few people outside the profession understand. Failure to get a tenure track job can even lead to a sort of existential crisis, because you’ve been working so long (and with so little reward) in graduate school, and then are faced with the possibility of leaving the profession due to financial or family pressures. It is certainly much harder when you are married and have children, because your flexibility decreases markedly.

I wish I had better advice than just to hang in there as long as you can.


Pastrana resigns

Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. (and former Colombian president) Andres Pastrana resigned, protesting the fact that another former president, Ernesto Samper, was named ambassador to France. The Clinton administration believed Samper received money from the Cali cartel during his administration (for a nice analysis of U.S.-Colombian relations during that time, see Russell Crandall’s Driven by Drugs). The Colombian Congress, however, did not impeach him.

At Plan Colombia and Beyond, Adam Isacson offers a really interesting discussion of that development. In particular:

--despite all the news about how Uribe’s victory was also a victory for the Bush administration (since it was not “leftist”) the Colombian president is showing very clearly that he is willing to do things the Bush administration really doesn’t like.

--there is reason to believe that Pastrana wanted an excuse to resign, but it’s not clear why.

--it’s not entirely clear what Uribe had to gain by naming Samper (though the comments in Plan Colombia and Beyond offer some speculation).


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Republicans and the immigration debate

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an Op-Ed piece entitled, “A Conservative Statement for Immigration Reform,” signed by 33 establishment conservatives (e.g. Jack Kemp, George Shultz, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Bill Kristol). They ask what conservatives often ask when confronted with a dilemma: WWRD? What would Reagan do? Reagan, they say, would support the Senate bill, and they blame the ills of IRCA (passed in 1986) on the inability of future administrations to address enforcement. Thus, “The best way—the only way—to realize President Reagan’s vision is through comprehensive immigration reform legislation.”

Incidentally, this is not a common way of interpreting IRCA, because President Reagan signed a bill that explicitly made it easy for businesses to avoid penalties for hiring illegal immigrants. Congress ensured that enforcement would be lax, so there was little future administrations could’ve done without revamping it (as President Clinton would do, though equally unsuccessfully, ten years later).

At about the same time, President Clinton was quoted as praising President Bush’s stance on immigration: “I'm proud of him for doing it and I thanked him for doing it.” Another example of how this debate has created strange bedfellows.



In response to an arrest order by a Spanish judge, Former Guatemalan dictator (and recent presidential candidate) Efraín Ríos Montt says he was unaware of any atrocities committed while he was in power. Further:

Rios Montt insisted that he is being accused unfairly by a judge who fails "to remember that there was a war in Guatemala, a guerrilla war in which terrorists destroyed bridges, schools, electric plants and other buildings of the people."

The Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (often referred to as a “truth commission”) released a report in 1999 after five years of work investigating human rights abuses during the civil war. One of its conclusions was the following:

Human rights violations and acts of violence attributable to actions by the State represent 93% of those registered by the CEH; they demonstrate that human rights violations caused by state repression were repeated, and that, although varying in intensity, were prolonged and continuous, being especially severe from 1978 to 1984, a period during which 91% of the violations documented by the CEH were committed. Eighty-five percent of all cases of human rights violations and acts of violence registered by the CEH are attributable to the Army, acting either alone or in collaboration with another force, and 18%, to the Civil Patrols, which were organised by the armed forces.

So when Ríos Montt talks about the threat of terrorism, he is correct, but the threat was primarily state-sponsored terrorism. In other words, him.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

All Star game

I figured I would post about the All Star game, maybe even address Matthew's post on AL dominance. Then Trevor Hoffman, the sole Padre on the squad, and in my opinion the second best Padre of all time (first, of course, is Tony Gwynn) blew the game in the ninth. So I'm not in the mood.


More on the Pinochet cocaine story

Following up on yesterday's story about Pinochet and cocaine: his family has filed a defamation lawsuit against Manuel Contreras. Here is another nugget:

The former police chief also stated in the document that former chemist Eugenio Berríos, who worked for the secret police and was found dead on a Uruguayan beach in 1995, is in reality alive and was turned over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

This is all so remarkable. Pinochet and Contreras dominated the country for years, believing themselves unaccountable, and now are just squabbling. The former is in disgrace and hounded by constant accusations and questioning, while the latter languishes in jail (for the second time).


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rats deserting a sinking ship

Former DINA (secret police) chief Manuel Contreras now says Pinochet produced and sold cocaine, which is a source of his ill gotten gains.

In the sick and murky world of the Chilean dictatorship, anything is possible, but we need to consider the source. As I've written, Contreras also claims that the "disappeared" really just left Chile and are living the high life in Europe, pretending to be dead in order to make the military look bad. As I was doing work for that book chapter, I read one of the books Contreras wrote to claim his innocence, and was constantly struck by what a lowlife he is.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Minor league baseball

One thing I really enjoy is going to minor league baseball games. Last night we saw the Kannapolis Intimidators (Single A for the White Sox) lose to the Greenville Drive. Kannapolis is a small town just north of Charlotte (and hurting from the disappearance of textile jobs). In what seemed like the perfect example of small town minor league ball in NC, a woman behind us kept my son occupied for long periods of time, teaching him in a soft southern accent to shell peanuts.

For the first time, I actually recognized a player’s name at a Single A game. We see this overweight lefty come up, and hear that his name is Fernando Valenzuela Jr. Maybe he should’ve become a pitcher like his dad, because now he is just a short first basemen who doesn't seem to have much power. Interestingly, he was sent here after being in the Padres organization.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rally in Mexico City

The U.S. media routinely—even gleefully?--touted the fear gripping Mexico in anticipation of Saturday’s rally, which, it was said, would quietly likely lead to violence. Once it was peaceful, we’ve now turned again to predicting potential future violence. The NYT headline is:

Leftist Predicts Unrest Without Complete Recount of Mexican Election

So you have the two things that make a Latin America story juicy—violence and leftists. Even worse, I find this paragraph:

Mr. Calderón would seem a certain ally for the United States, and political analysts have suggested that a Calderón presidency could signal an end to the advance of left-wing politics across Latin America, as neoliberal economic policies from Washington have fallen from favor.

So who are these political analysts? Elections in the past few years in Latin America have yielded a stew of conservatives, populists (of various stripes), and social democrats, but only a sprinkling of anything we could really call “left-wing.” Yes, many people are wary of the Washington Consensus, but that does not automatically make them devotees of Hugo Chávez.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hearings on immigration

The "hearings" being conducted about immigration are about as ridiculous as you might expect. Although the guest worker program and potential avenues of legalization were the most contentious issues, Republicans have ignored these and instead have a single message: we're being overrun by terrorists.

"Border vulnerabilities are opportunities for terrorists"

"Immigration reform must be national security reform"

"Terrorists and violent criminals may exploit smuggling routes used by migrants to enter the United States illegally and do us harm"

"Reducing illegal entries across our borders is now, more than ever, a matter of national security"

"Homeland security rests in large part on border security"


Friday, July 07, 2006

Venezuela's bid for the UN Security Council

The vote grubbing for the UN Security Council is really fascinating, pitting Venezuela against Guatemala, which is backed by the U.S., which has been actively twisting arms. The latest is that the 15 countries of CARICOM have announced that they will not support Guatemala.

Apparently, part of the issue is that Guatemala continues to have claims on part of Belize. However, money (in the form of oil and bananas) is also talking:

CARICOM officials said they would send a delegation to Caracas to clear up some issues relating to Venezuela's relations with the Caribbean, including details of PetroCaribe deal, an arrangement that allows Caribbean nations to buy oil on preferential terms.

But Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt said CARICOM ''has decided to support the candidacy of Venezuela.'' In addition to its issues with Belize, leaders here accuse Guatemala of contributing to the collapse of the Caribbean's banana industry by leading the fight against banana exports to Europe.

The Guatemalan Foreign Minister claims the country has 90 of the 127 votes (which is 2/3 of the General Assembly) necessary to take the seat. It needs fewer if not all countries vote. The jockeying will continue, as the vote will not take place until October.


Immigration and the Republican base

Last month I happened to see the story of a Utah Republican primary, which was purportedly being watched by the party because it would demonstrate whether a challenger supporting enforcement-only immigration policy could upend the incumbent. Further, I speculated that it could be a test case that would inform Republicans about how the issue would play in swing districts.

Matthew disagreed, concluding, “I just don't think 'enforcement only' politics is primarily about the base.” I thought it was worthy of further speculation.

If I understand him correctly, then the argument is that Republicans see immigration as an issue important to everyone, but not something that could whip up the base. As I’ve discussed many times, I agree with the former (the “will of the people” argument pops up constantly). But I think Republican leaders do believe the latter, even though President Bush is not on their side—I think they are likely wrong, but they believe it.

The reason is that enforcement-only is a neat little package encompassing many points of concern to the base. Concerned about security? Enforcement-only appeals to those concerned about national security. You can portray Democrats as soft and unwilling to enforce the laws that could prevent terrorists from entering the country.

You can then use the word “amnesty” to characterize how Democrats want to break the law. Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who is fighting an uphill battle for re-election, is putting immigration front and center, and doing exactly that.

Concerned about jobs? You can blame the influx/tide/wave/invasion of illegal immigrants. They are ready-made scapegoats.

Concerned about the erosion of American culture? It is due to the fact that we encourage law breaking while accepting the encroachment of Spanish. Those multiculturalist Democrats invite the destruction of our heritage. I would argue that all the talk about English-as-national-language is akin to the gay marriage fiasco, where Republicans bring up a sure loser just to prove to the base that its values are being fought for.

Furthermore, in Charlotte there have several high profile cases in which illegal immigrants from Mexico have killed others while driving drunk. Rep. Sue Myrick in particular has been vocal about how an enforcement-only policy would prevent crimes from being committed in the first place.

The cultural aspect also implicitly includes the fear of a large number of darker-skinned Catholic people with different (read potentially dangerous) customs. Even political scientists like Samuel Huntington play into that. Our national identity is at stake if these people continue coming. It is a sort of cultural nationalism the Republican base can relate to.

I think that Republicans overestimate how much their constituents care about immigration, but I see them making this more prominent as we get closer to November to make sure their people don’t just stay home.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

The media and Latin American politics

OK, here is one of the many empty-headed articles about, as the AP author puts it, the "leftist tide" in Latin America. This tide, which actually never rolled forth, is now at its "high water mark." It is nice to know that something that never happened is finished.

Conservative Felipe Calderon's apparent victory could signal that the leftist tide sweeping Latin America has reached its high-water mark, as voters frightened by the radicalism of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez seek refuge in more mainstream ideas across the region.

That trend has emerged with Mexico's presidential vote count Thursday, the setback dealt to Bolivian President Evo Morales in a referendum Sunday, Peruvian moderate Alan Garcia's victory over Chavez ally Ollanta Humala last month and the landslide re-election of Colombian conservative Alvaro Uribe in May.


Mexican election saga

After being on vacation, I am slowly catching up. Michelle has a nice graph showing the narrowing gap between AMLO and Calderon, but it appears AMLO has under 200,000 fewer votes than Calderon, and will be calling for a recount. He has also called for a rally on Saturday.

Annoying note. An article in the Washington Post proclaims:

Mexican See-Saw Tips Towards Calderón
Trailing by 100th of a Percent, Obrador Stirs Fears of Violence

Yet in the article there is no mention of violence, or any reason that fear of it might be stirred. This entire “AMLO is a leftist and therefore automatically prone to violence” is getting old. I can’t say there won’t be violence, but let’s have a little evidence at least.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Seattle breakfast

Went to Queen Anne Cafe this morning--a smoked salmon omelet is a good way to begin the day. It does not have a website, but I found this review, which was fitting. In addition to excellent food:

The noise level in the light, high-ceilinged room muffles most infant and toddler shrieks.

My son was engrossed in his strawberry pancakes, while my daughter's shrieks were muffled.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Mexican presidential election

We're going to have a tense few days, especially if AMLO and Calderón don't each back off their insistence that they won.

From the NYT:

Mr. López Obrador said at a downtown hotel he would respect the decision of the election institute even if he lost by one vote. Yet in the same breath he maintained he was convinced he had won by 500,000 votes. "This result is irreversible," he said.

Appearing before supporters a few minutes later at his party headquarters, Mr. Calderón rattled off the results of several surveys of voters leaving the polls and counts of key districts that showed he had won. "There is not the slightest doubt that we have won the election," he said.

A key aspect of democracy is losing well. Thus far we aren't seeing any signs of it.


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