Tuesday, July 31, 2007

LASA paper

Tomorrow is the deadline to get a LASA paper submitted to be included on the conference CD-Rom, so I’ve finished up some final revisions.

I have a rough draft done, though it certainly still needs work (forgive the formatting--I don't have time to get a copy of Acrobat installed on campus at the moment). The title is “The Transition is Dead, Long Live the Transition: Bachelet’s Inheritance of Chilean Civil-Military Relations.” It examines the way in which the concept of “transition” has been used in Chile, the reasons for differences in definitions, and how these often diverge from academic definitions. It has mutated as I’ve worked on it.

The final conference program is now available online for anyone interested.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Fujimori update

Just a quick follow up--as Steven Taylor notes, Alberto Fujimori did not win a seat in the Japanese upper house. Now we have to wait and see whether the Chilean courts will ultimately boot him back to Peru (the ruling against extradition is under appeal).


Robert Dallek's Nixon and Kissinger

I admit it, I am a bit of a Nixon junkie, which got going in the mid-1990s when a spate of Watergate books (as well as a really good documentary) came out. I just read Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger, which I first started reading idly and then really got into. If you’ve read a lot about Nixon, then you won’t find much new about him specifically, but the relationship between the two is morbidly fascinating, based on a wide range of documents and tapes as they talked and wrote to one another. So I’ve put it on the sidebar.

Several themes come out of the book. Each would:

--try to take more credit than the other for foreign policy successes. Both had insatiable appetites for approval, and never received as much as they felt they deserved. Both were also self-pitying. Kissinger threatened to resign about 100 times, and constantly needed Nixon to stroke his ego, while Nixon would call up Kissinger late at night and ask for confirmation that his foreign policies were the greatest in U.S. history. They distrusted but still needed each other.

--backstab like mad, even each other. As soon as Kissinger or Nixon left a meeting, each would talk to someone else about the other’s shortcomings. Nixon was always concerned that Kissinger would be seen as the driving force of foreign policy, so he undercut him whenever possible.

--blame the media and political opponents for any and all problems that arose. Both were incredibly thin-skinned and given to temper tantrums at negative news stories. Dallek gives multiple examples where Kissinger referred to people as “maniacs,” which seemed to be a favorite word of his.

--use foreign policy to distract the country from Watergate, and convince Congress that Nixon’s removal would threaten world peace (to the extent that such a thing existed). Obviously, it didn’t work, but they kept talking about it right until the end.

Dallek is a very good writer, which makes a fairly long book go quickly. My only complaint is that he injects his own opinion a little too much, mostly in terms of what Nixon or Kissinger could’ve done in a given situation. He generally does so to highlight how their public statements did not really reflect their actions, but it doesn’t seem very helpful to discuss things that didn’t happen, especially since the potential effects are so difficult to discern. For example, he says if Kissinger was really concerned about the effects of Watergate on foreign policy, he could’ve tried to persuade Nixon to invoke the 25th amendment and step aside while he dealt with the crisis. Such a decision, though, is far too complex to toss in there in a few sentences.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tony Gwynn in the Hall of Fame

Tony Gwynn is being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. It is fitting that he goes in with Cal Ripken, Jr., because they were both dedicated to the game, dedicated to their team (even to the detriment of salary, in Tony’s case, with 20 years on the Padres) and dedicated to being positive role models, no matter how corny that may sound. Gwynn practically embodies San Diego (even though he grew up in Long Beach) because he attended SDSU, played for the Padres his entire career, and now is the manager for SDSU’s baseball team, with the stadium named after him.

I’ve “met” him twice, if you count memorabilia shows in San Diego when I was a young teenager as “meeting.” He was a really nice guy, who kept smiling, chatting and shaking the hands of every teenager who handed him a baseball card to sign and told him how much they liked watching him play.

And he was. His numbers (and what if the 1994 strike hadn’t happened? He was hitting .394) are awesome. During his career, he had 3,141 hits, a .338 average (the highest for any player who started his career after WWII), eight batting titles and even five gold gloves on top of that, for a guy never heralded for fielding. A USA Today article says he “singled his way into Cooperstown.” That’s unfair and ignores his other numbers. In 1997, he batted .372 with 49 doubles, 17 homers, and a .547 slugging percentage. His lifetime slugging is .459. In contrast, Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who was much more a singles hitter, had a slugging percentage of .429. So yes, Gwynn slapped a lot of hits into what he called the “5.5 hole” (the space between 3B and SS) but he shouldn’t be viewed as a one-dimensional hitter.

But I don’t need to defend him too much, as there is no doubt that Tony Gwynn is one of the best players in major league history.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

General on the lam

Retired Chilean army general Raúl Iturriaga is still on the lam. In response, the army is now cutting off the services it provided for other officers currently serving sentences. This ranges from cable TV to medication. I had also not known that the army took 0.23% of the salaries of active duty officers to pay for the defense of human rights cases, but now that is going to be made voluntary.

This is a new and entirely welcome attitude of the army leadership, which is making the whole affair backfire for Iturriaga.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Electoral College and NC

This has nothing to do with Latin America, but I can’t resist since I’ve been talking so much about electoral systems in my summer school Intro to Comparative Politics. North Carolina is getting closer and closer to changing the way the state doles out electoral votes. The Senate has passed, and the House soon (maybe even today) will vote on a reform that would grant one electoral vote to the candidate who wins each congressional district (a total of 13) and then the final two votes would be given to the candidate who wins statewide.

In presidential elections, NC goes Republican (the last election was 56%-44%) but there are strong Democratic pockets (with all sorts of gerrymandering disputes) including Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is. Therefore, the reform could grant the Democratic candidate three votes (Kerry won three districts in 2004) and perhaps more, though I haven’t had a chance to look at the outcomes of each district. Since it would go into effect in 2008, the reform would have an immediate impact. As I've mentioned before, NC might even gain an electoral vote after the 2010 Census because of immigration.

Obviously, then, Republicans don’t like it, as it guarantees their candidate will lose a few electoral votes. Democrats say it would bring more presidential candidates to the state because the outcome would no longer be a foregone conclusion. However, I would hope that this generates more discussion about a) the Electoral College; and b) the desirability of winner-take-all within the context of the Electoral College.

So far, though, the debate is entirely partisan, and the larger question—what is the best way to elect a president in this country?—is barely being addressed. In general, the debate is receiving remarkably little media attention.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Hazleton case is decided

The federal judge in the Hazleton case has ruled against the city. I will have to check out the ruling once it is online (though it's really long). A quote:

Whatever frustrations ... the city of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system in the United States prohibits the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme," Munley wrote in a 206-page opinion. "Even if federal law did not conflict with Hazleton's measures, the city could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not."
Since Congress refused to act, the judicial branch will be taking charge. I wouldn't be surprised if an appeal has been filed before I finish writing this.


Hard for me to say I'm sorry

The Honduran Congress voted to demand that President Manuel Zelaya request an apology from Hugo Chávez for calling a Honduran cardinal an “imperialist clown” after the cardinal had been quoted as saying that Chávez "thinks he's God and can trample upon other people." Of course, this comes on the heels of Chávez saying he’ll boot foreigners out of the country if they criticize him or the country after being insulted by the head of Mexico’s PAN.

I am starting to lose track of the legislatures demanding apologies after Chávez comments. Is it me, or does he seem a bit touchier in the past few months?


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The South Carolina debate and Latin America

Boz has the excerpt from the Democrats’ debate about whether they would be willing to meet with foreign leaders like Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il. He concludes that the candidates’ answers really weren’t very different, and I agree.

There is some effort, though, to give this non-story some traction, most likely because these debates have been so dull that the media is looking for any morsel that might divide the favorites. So, for example, this quote from the Miami Herald:

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said, ``Obama looked inexperienced and naive...It was a very big win for (Clinton) on that question.''

The Clinton camp jumped on that:

While the differences in the two answers were not revisited during the remainder of the debate, Clinton’s campaign distributed a memo to members of the press Tuesday morning, asserting, “There is a clear difference between the two approaches these candidates are taking: Senator Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world’s worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office.”

There are multiple problems with these arguments. First, it is ridiculous hair splitting because their answers were very, very similar—Obama just didn’t make clear whether he meant a “presidential” meeting or a meeting of envoys.

Second, we can debate about Hugo Chávez’s policies and their effects, but he won a free and fair election by a very wide margin, so should not be lumped together with the “world’s worst dictators.” Why in the world shouldn’t a president talk to him?

Third, even if Obama did mean a presidential-level meeting, I don’t see it as naïve, and certainly not some sort of “very big win” for Clinton. One could come up with perfectly good arguments for why meeting personally with a perceived enemy could be positive for the U.S.

I also wonder how many voters even care.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Farmer's Branch

Farmer’s Branch, TX is one of the cities where local immigration laws have generated controversy and lawsuits. The city council approved an ordinance (like in Hazleton) forcing apartment managers to check the immigration status of renters, though a federal judge has ruled that it cannot be enforced until it goes to trial or is otherwise resolved.

The city councilman who spearheaded the legislation had a quote that perfectly sums up the problem with the debate over immigration.

Still, the ordinance has made it clear illegal immigrants are not welcome in Farmers Branch, O'Hare said. He believes that has led to a decline in crime, even though Farmers Branch police do not track the legal status of those arrested.

"It's OK to put two and two together," said O'Hare. "You
don't always have to have proof."

You don’t need proof. And, really, who cares about evidence? If you have no data to support your views, then just assume they are true.


Monday, July 23, 2007

It's no fun being an ex-dictator

It’s interesting (well, for me at least) to see what happens to former dictators, and it might also be interesting to do an analysis to understand different outcomes—freedom, exile, arrest, assassination, etc. Manuel Noriega is about to get out of prison and his lawyer says he wants to live a “quiet retirement” in Panama. However, both the French and Panamanian governments want him to do some more jail time so he will stay in the “arrest” category for the foreseeable future.

Or maybe I should make a pitch for a “Where Are They Now?” VH1 type of show.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fidel and badminton

The Cuban baseball team beat the U.S. 3-1 to win gold at the Pan American Games.

In honor of the game, Fidel became a sports writer and published an article in Granma. In the middle, he actually does a sort of “live blogging,” writing and commenting as he watches a volleyball game.

Some of it is really stream of consciousness. He takes a dig at major leaguers who won’t play for their country, gets into an odd analogy about “Aryan” thoroughbreds, and then makes fun of badminton.

In many countries, athletes do not even compete for their own nation. Some of them earn up to 102 million dollars a year, more than the owner of a large sugar mill. Cuba only has her own athletes, and they are not professionals. It is an unfair contest.

Sometimes I have fun as I watch the strong well-nourished thorough-bred horses --let's call them Aryan-- just like their riders. But despite all that, it is a peaceful competition and an amusing colonial heritage. Tell me what’s your competition, and I will tell you who your colonizers were.

Nowadays as we have some relative sovereignty, everyone, as the case may be, tries to introduce new sports into the regional and world competitions. One example: badminton.

Had he just taken his pain medication?


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mayoral race and immigration

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (a Republican) will have to face an opponent in a primary, something he doesn’t always have to do, or wins easily. The difference now is that many Republicans are angry about a transit tax to fund light rail, and his opponent—school board member Ken Gjertsen—is against the tax. In an off year election, turnout will be really low, so anything can happen. (Here is another story with a link to a quick TV interview I did yesterday).

However, Gjertsen has also said that illegal immigration will be part of his campaign. He just filed yesterday, so has not defined that position, or what city he considers a model for immigration law. Although County Commissioners have periodically (and unsuccessfully) tried to pass laws in that regard, the city has not.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Children of immigrants and politics

The NYT has an interesting article about the political activism of the children of Mexican immigrants in NYC. However, the content of the article reflects more hope than fact. Activists are trying to get young people—especially of voting age—to become more engaged politically. Yet research on the children of immigrants generally points the opposite direction, since they are caught between two worlds, and feel intense (and conflicting) pressures from both, which does not lend itself to political activism.

The basic question remains. We witnessed huge rallies during the immigration debate over the past several years, but how much will that translate into political power? At least in the short term, I am skeptical, but the longer term could be very different. I’m not sure about the 2008 election.

h/t ImmigrationProf Blog


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Term limits

Seeing the news about a possible effort in Bolivia to remove presidential term limits made me think about the recent politics of presidential terms in Latin America. At the moment I see four trends.

First, change the constitution to allow unlimited re-election. Hugo Chávez is going for it and now apparently so might Evo Morales.

Second, change the constitution to allow for limited re-election (whether consecutive or not) as in Colombia and Costa Rica and, not so long ago, Peru (under Fujimori), Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Third, don’t change the constitution but keep family members running, a la Argentina (and even the United States).

Fourth, go the opposite direction and reduce the presidential term, a much rarer bird. Chile recently went from six to four years.

John Carey* has argued that an important factor for democracy is how the changes were made. Were they the result of negotiations between the president and political opponents, or were they done through plebiscite or other measure that required no negotiation or concession?

This makes sense to me, but we should also think about how much the type of change affects democracy. Each of the four will have different impacts on the relationship with the opposition, control over state resources, consolidation of personal political power, etc.

*John Carey, “The Reelection Debate in Latin America.” Latin American Politics and Society 45, 1 (Spring 2003): 119-133.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Visas for Cubans

The Cuban government is complaining that the U.S. is not approving enough visas. The 1994 agreement was for 20,000, and for the first nine months only 53.6% have been approved (the counting starts in October). Here is a quote from the original article in Granma:

Could this be related in any way to recent statements by President Bush, when — along with wishing for our president’s death — he expressed his preference for forcing the “changes” he wishes to impose on Cuba, even if that were to lead to an unstable situation that would surely also affect the United Sates?

The answer is almost certainly yes. At the same time, however, the Cuban government should give a more full explanation of why people staying in the country represent a destabilizing factor. There is no doubt that a lack of visas lead people to use dangerous or even criminal (e.g. hijacking) means of getting away, but Granma also refers vaguely to “social indiscipline” stemming from U.S. policy.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Guest workers

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a new study entitled “Close to Slavery,” which criticizes guest worker programs. It is well worth reading because, despite the title, it is not intended just to bash the programs in the U.S., but to offer policy recommendations that could address many of their problems.

As for the current H2A program, the report is very sobering reading, with exploitation, lack of medical access (workers are afraid to seek medical attention and be seen as problems), lack of government oversight, and various kinds of intimidation.

The recommendations, however, are also worth reading, as they offer a framework to protect the rights of workers while also working to ensure that the wages of U.S. citizens are not pushed downward.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Chilean exiles

I had mentioned taking a look at academic papers—my second choice also happens to be on Chile (but no, I won’t always focus on Chile). Unfortunately, for journal articles I am not sure how to get around the problem of linking to the full text. It might just be impossible unless the authors have posted a version, which does not seem to be the case here.

Chilean Political Exile
Thomas C. Wright & Rody Oñate Zúñiga
Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 34, No. 4, 31-49 (2007)

Abstract: Forced exile was important to Chilean politics both during the military regime and after the dictatorship's end in 1990. Exile was central to Pinochet's strategy for eliminating the left in Chile and consolidating and retaining absolute political power. At the same time, exile kept the opposition alive when the left was decimated in Chile, as exiles reconstituted their parties abroad and fought the dictatorship from the "external front." Exiles' return in the mid-1980s contributed to the success of the opposition effort to defeat Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite. Finally, the exile experience was central to the reconfiguration of Chilean politics, particularly the "renovation" of the Socialists, which led to the breakup of the long-standing Socialist-Communist alliance and the formation of the Socialist—Christian Democrat alliance, the core of the Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia, which has elected presidents and majorities in the Chamber of Deputies in each election since 1989.

I was struck by this article because I think the issue of exile is understudied (it is part of a special issue on the topic). The authors’ analysis—especially with regard to the “renovation” of Socialists--goes along with what I’ve heard over the years as I’ve interviewed Chilean politicians. Many Socialists fled or were forced out, then went to live in places like East Germany. That experience then convinced them that such a system was not really what they wanted. An important addition to this fact is that the experience—much more so than for the Christian Democrats—prompted Socialists to seek better ties with the military after 1990.

One issue the article does not mention is the current debate over whether to allow Chileans abroad to vote in presidential elections. There is a perception (which may or may not be accurate) that Chileans abroad are more likely to be exiles or family members of exiles, so they would be more likely to vote for the left. As a result, the right does not want the voting law to change.

It would be interesting to generate some hypotheses—to what degree can we generalize about the political effects of exile? Empirically, it would difficult because I’m not sure any numbers are available, since no one “registers” as an exile.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

4 miler

We ran the Run For Your Life 4 Miler this morning, which is a nice race because the course is relatively easy and they give out Coolmax t-shirts.

During the run, it occurred to me that human beings have a very uneasy relationship with spandex.


Friday, July 13, 2007

The Fujimori saga

As if she needed more problems, La Tercera has a good analysis of how the judge’s decision not to order Fujimori’s extradition creates two complications for President Bachelet. First, it has the potential to sour Chilean-Peruvian relations even further, at a time when there are delicate maritime border issues being discussed. Second, since the charges against Fujimori center mostly on human rights, it makes the Chilean government look bad if it just lets him hang out in the country.

Meanwhile, in Japan the head of the People’s New Party has called Fujimori the “last samurai” who can “keep the other members of the party on their toes” if he wins a seat in the Japanese upper house. The election is July 29.

I found the following quote from the party’s secretary-general quite remarkable:

"There may be some truth to the accusations filed against him in Peru, but Mr. Fujimori has not committed any wrongdoing in Japan," he said.

In other words, if you order the torture and/or deaths of Peruvians but stay away from the Japanese, then you’re fine.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Second half begins

I had hoped just to forget the All-Star game, though Matthew Shugart gleefully (I think it's fair to say) thanked the Padres for being the source of the losing pitcher from this year’s (Chris Young) and last year’s (Trevor Hoffman) games, which in turn means the AL keeps dominating. He also thanked me for advocating Chris Young for the last roster spot.

Thanks very much for rubbing it in.

Life, however, is good. As we begin the second half, the Padres have the best record in the NL (though we would only rank 6th in the AL), everyone is healthy (knock on wood) and our pitching staff is really good, 1st in team ERA by a wide margin. Our hitting stinks to high heaven, which worries me, but maybe the Bradley and Barrett trades will help more as the season continues. We are 24th in runs, 29th in batting average, and dead last in OBP.

In other baseball news, thanks to my friend Mike for pointing this story in the NYT about the effort to promote baseball in Brazil—it’s a great article. It includes a fact I didn’t know—baseball was introduced to Brazil by the Japanese, not by the U.S., and is most popular in areas with larger Japanese populations.

As a result, 16 of the 20 players on the team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro are of Japanese ancestry. But even those with no Japanese blood have learned the game with the names used in Japanese for positions and plays, and whenever Manager Mitsuyoshi Sato talks to the team, his players address him as sensei and bow respectfully when he finishes his remarks.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Political Science papers

Political Science Weblog has abstracts and links to political science papers with general appeal. I like this idea, and I plan to do the same periodically with articles/papers related to the types of Latin American issues I blog about.


Temp work at the border

Some Republicans in Congress are calling for private firms to help patrol the border.

DynCorp International, a Virginia-based military security firm, said it could train and deploy 1,000 private agents to the U.S.-Mexico border within 13 months, offering a quick surge of law enforcement officers to a region struggling to clamp down on illegal immigration.

Currently, the company manages an army of private security agents deployed across the world in support of U.S. missions, including several former Border Patrol agents hired to help secure the Iraqi border.

“We could provide highly qualified people to the Border Patrol quickly,” company spokesman Greg Lagana said. “It’s kind of like a temp service in that there are no obligations for long-time work.”

This is just yet another potential outcome of Congress’ inability to act. Rent-a-cops at the border. At the moment, though, the Border Patrol is not biting.

“That’s not even something the Border Patrol would consider,” said Ramon Rivera, a Washington-based spokesman for the agency. “We are on track (for hiring) and should be meeting our numbers for 2008.”

But the proposal has gained early support from some Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., who introduced a bill last summer that would mandate the addition of 5,000 to 8,000 contract agents.

The bill died in committee, but Rogers may reintroduce it if the Border Patrol fails to meet its hiring goals, his staffers said.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

President Bush and Latin America

President Bush hosted a big reception, inviting “150 Latin American community groups and 70 U.S.-based organizations.” Following the same line he used when he visited Latin America, he made a point of saying that the U.S. did a lot of positive things in the region but did not get credit:

''It's important for us -- for me to explain to our fellow citizens some of the work we're doing in the neighborhood,'' the president told his audience.

It’s fine for the president to emphasize various aid programs, and at least show that he is willing to spend some of his time focusing on Latin America. If the U.S. government is doing positive things, then by all means highlight them. Those aid programs, however, are not a substitute for a coherent policy that takes Latin American views into account.

See, for example, the editorial by Dan Burton (yes, of Helms-Burton fame) in the Washington Times, which mentions the reception, but makes only one conclusion: the way to engage Latin America and to foster “social justice” is through free trade. I just don’t think the U.S. can gain any credibility until it backs off the free trade cure-all mantra, acknowledges that many people suffer severely as a result, and agrees that any economic policy must take that into consideration. Trade and investment between the U.S. and Latin America can be mutually beneficial, but a simplistic free trade message is not leadership.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Running and politics

Via FP Passport: As someone who runs a lot, I could not resist this story. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is being criticized for jogging.

Sarkozy seems to be confirming a French belief that jogging is an activity for self-absorbed individualists such as Americans, the Times of London reports. The editor of V02, a sports magazine, told the left-wing French newspaper Libération, "Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the right." The Times writes that sports sociologist Patrick Mignon thinks that "French intellectuals have always held sports in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness."

So I might be a self-absorbed near-totalitarian. I’ll let my students decide.


Hazleton update

The mayor of Hazleton had used a shooting death blamed on illegal immigrants as the main reason for his now infamous effort to rid his town of them. However, prosecutors have now dropped the homicide charges due to unreliability of witnesses. In fact, showing how well our immigration system works, ICE deported a witness by mistake.

We are also still waiting for the judge to make a decision on the Hazleton laws, though the case will likely make its way to the Supreme Court.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Play baseball and avoid whiteboards

You may well have seen the news from Rio and the Pan American Games, where some unidentified USOC worker wrote “Welcome to the Congo!” on a whiteboard in the media center for all to see, which was apparently “a joke.” Trying to explain it, a USOC media person said it was written because “it’s really hot in Rio.” Ultimately, the USOC apologized and the person was disciplined and is no longer part of the delegation. The effects, however, will linger.

This incident was so insensitive and idiotic on so many levels. For example, O Globo immediately pointed out that not only was the office air conditioned, but that the average July temperature is 78. So not only is it stupid, but it’s not even accurate.

In addition, it’s supposed to be a “joke” but isn’t even remotely funny. Comparing Rio to the Congo—that really will leave people rolling in the aisles.

Didn’t they ever have some sort of meeting, perhaps with a Power Point slide that said, “It’s not a good idea to make fun of people when you go to their country”?


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Congressional impact of immigration

h/t Tim Boyum at News 14 Carolina: Minnesota’s state demographer says they would lose a congressional seat if the 2010 census were taken today. The three states in contention are Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

In other words, the areas with the greatest growth in Latino immigration.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Coalition unity in Chile

There was a discussion here a few weeks ago about whether there were disillusioned voters in Chile that the coalition of the right (the Alianza) could potentially pick up. Along similar lines, there is an article in the April 2007 issue of Comparative Politics (sorry, the full text needs library subscription, and I don't even think CP has new articles online).

Eduardo Alemán and Sebastián M. Saiegh, Legislative Preferences, Political Parties, and Coalition Unity in Chile

Competition between two stable multiparty coalitions has dominated electoral and legislative politics in post-Pinochet Chile. However, several scholars dispute the argument that a fundamental change has realigned the party system. The point of contention is whether a bipolar pattern has replaced the traditional three-way split (tres tercios) in political competition. These alternative hypotheses about the cohesion of parties and coalitions in the legislative arena can be tested through an analysis of the voting records of Chilean deputies. Coalition membership rather than partisan positions dictate legislative behavior. Therefore, the Chilean electoral coalitions are not merely electoral pacts. Rather, they constitute two distinct policy-based coalitions.

In terms of legislative voting, therefore, there is no distinct “center” that could move either way. One question I have is whether the deputies (i.e. members of the lower house) of the Concertación continue to reflect the preferences of their constituents, or whether there are people who consider themselves “centrist” and therefore would be willing to move toward the right. In short, is Chile now bipolar?


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Chávez threatens to take all his marbles and go home

...would be a better headline for this story. Chávez says he will withdraw Venezuela’s bid to join Mercosur unless the Brazilian and Paraguayan legislatures approve it by September. Lula says he will meet with Chávez (though did not specify when) and I would imagine in that meeting he will ask him to keep his lips zipped. Lula said he tried to meet with him recently in Paraguay, but Chávez had “other appointments.”

At this point, either Chávez and Lula smooth things over behind the scenes with the Brazilian legislature, or he pulls out entirely. Considering he blew off Lula, he may already have decided on the latter, but we'll have to wait and see.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Team USA

Last night I saw Team USA beat Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) 5-1 at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium (home of the Kannapolis Intimidators). Even had a San Diego State player get the save by pitching the last three innings. The team moves on to play Japan in Durham, and then the Pan American Games in Brazil (yes, there is even a Latin America connection).

But if it’s a warm evening and you’re five years old, most of your attention is on ice cream. In small minor league parks, though, somebody needs to pay attention because foul balls do come your way.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pat Neshek

The vote is on for the final spot on the AL and NL All Star rosters. The NL is a no brainer with the Padres' Chris Young. For the AL, I'm going with Pat Neshek, the Twins reliever who has his own website/blog. How can you not love the following rationale for voting for him?

I really don't know how to describe this but I'm the fan/collector/guy that somehow managed to get to the big leagues. I seriously wake up each day and can't believe how I got here and am thankful to even touch the uniform! Basically if I wasn't playing baseball right now I would probably be the guy who was coming home from work and planning a night around baseball, planning what games to go to, which minor league teams to get autographs at, which guy to take on my fantasy team and which guy to trade in MLB The Show…heck this is what I do in the off-season, no lie! Basically I'm a fan of baseball, if your team wasn't represented in this final 5 Vote I would love to represent you and all the fans of the game. I can tell you right now that nobody in the world, no other player would appreciate this more than me. So if you want somebody that is a fan of the game, a guy just like you, a guy that would probably pass out if elected to the ALL STAR game then you can help me out by voting here!


New immigration law

Arizona became the first state to pass an immigration law after the collapse of the Senate bill. It penalizes businesses that hire undocumented immigrants, and has so many problems that the governor requested a special session to fix it before the law goes into effect January 1. For example, as currently written, the law would shut down hospitals.

Other parts, however, are not so easily addressed. In particular, the bill does not have enough money for enforcement. Instead, the governor is requesting that Congress put more funding into “Basic Pilot,” the database for employers to check the status of potential employees, currently being used by 5,000-10,000 employers nationwide. Arizona alone would have 130,000-150,000 business that would need to access it very soon.

Arizona is therefore arguing that it has the right to make immigration policy, but does not have the obligation to pay for it. I guarantee that a lawsuit is being drafted right now. Since Congress decided to pass on immigration, the judicial system will have to step in. We could end up with a situation where Congress chooses to do nothing and state/local governments are told they can do nothing. And nobody really wants to pay for it.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Paco Ignacio Taibo II's An Easy Thing

I read Paco Ignacio Tabio II’s An Easy Thing, and have put it on the side bar. I am becoming a big fan of his fiction. This particular book is the most conventional of the three I’ve read, a straightforward detective story with three separate threads (including one about whether Emiliano Zapata was still alive) plus one about his family.

His characters are compelling, and the most likable are always seamier—Hector Belascoarán Shayne himself wanders Mexico City at all hours, encountering an eclectic collection of people, constantly smoking cigarettes and drinking soda. Government officials—and the police in particular—are uniformly crooked. As always, the city itself is portrayed as a living, breathing thing, beautiful in its own way but also tragic. Belascoarán Shayne also periodically thinks about Mexican politics and society (in this case, reflecting the 1970s, when the book was originally published).

It was part of what it meant to him to be Mexican, sharing in the general bitching over the rise in prices, the cost of tortillas, increases in bus fares, pulling his hair out over the TV news, cursing the police and government corruption. Cursing the whole sad state of affairs, the great national garbage dump that Mexico had become. For Hector it was a matter of solidarity, of brotherhood, the shared complaints, the shared disgust, the shared pride. Earning the right to call himself un mexicano, guarding himself against the curse of starlets like Marisa Ferrer. It kept him in touch with his people (pp. 18-19).

Like with a lot of detective fiction, the attitudes and atmosphere are as fun as the stories. Even if you don’t know anything about Mexico, it is a worthwhile read and even has a twist at the end.


Sunday, July 01, 2007


Last month, I asked what happened to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and linked to some news about his speaking tour. Now he’s organizing a rally in Mexico City marking the anniversary of last year’s presidential election. His own aides openly admit that his ability to get similar numbers and intensity constitutes an important test of his political viability.

He has an uphill battle, as Calderón continues to be popular, and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has taken the PRD limelight in the past year. Are people still as angry as last year? If so, will they stick with AMLO?


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