Friday, January 31, 2014

House Republicans on Immigration

House Republicans released a one-page statement on immigration reform, which outlines what their version would look like. As you would expect, its importance is more symbolic than substantive. Most prominently, its existence serves as open acknowledgment that it is quite impossible to deport or detain the millions of people living in the country illegally, and therefore a humane solution is required. It is akin to admitting the sky is blue after insisting for years that it was green. It is also equivalent to holding up a sign that says, "Dear Latinos, we don't hate you as much as it seems."

So that part is at least a small step forward, but you have wonder how this mouthful will be translated into concrete policy:

Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation's immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits). Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.

What does it mean to prove the ability to support yourself? Sadly, these days a minimum wage does not allow a family to live without food stamps or other support. How will people come up with the cash for "significant" fines if they're also going to support themselves? Further, I've written before about enforcement triggers--Obama has cracked down harder on undocumented immigrants than any president in the history of the United States, so it's unclear how measurement will work.

The "no special path to citizenship" doesn't mean no citizenship, but rather just following the same cumbersome and inefficient system everyone else suffers through. My hunch is that this will not be a major stumbling block given other concessions, but I could be wrong. I'd need to see more about whether it's accurate to estimate that half of current undocumented immigrants wouldn't ever be eligible for citizenship.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tabling ISA Proposal

So the International Studies Association has tabled the ridiculous proposal to censor journal editor blogging. Something about this whole episode has been bouncing around my mind and I am trying to sort it out. Basically, there seems a disconnect between "ISA" as a big organization and actual people who write policy. As far as I know, no one has ever said anything about who wrote it, and what prompted them to do so. I don't mean this in terms of calling them out or shaming them, but rather getting at the root of why this happened in the first place.

This prompted a very quick Twitter exchange with Steve Saideman, where I asked if bureaucracy was part of the problem, and he thought no.

Perhaps "bureaucracy" isn't exactly the right word, but I feel like instead of responsibility, or open discussion, the issue takes on Robert's Rules of Order-speak: it is "tabled" and "sent to committee." It may just go die in committee. Of course that has nothing to do with Steve, who made an admirable and successful effort to draw public attention to the proposal.

I'm glad he was successful and it is going away, but a bigger question persists: what are the characteristics of academics who believe blogging is unprofessional? Why do they believe that? What type of discussion would be optimal to bridge the obvious gap? I hope those sorts of questions are addressed rather than just having it tabled and sent to committee to die.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Censoring Journal Editor Blogs

This is unbelievably stupid. And I mean unbelievably. The International Studies Association has proposed that journal editors should not be allowed to maintain their own blogs because it is unprofessional.

Proposal from the Executive Committee to the Governing Council on Changes to ISA’s code of conduct policy


The Preface to the ISA Code of Conduct states: “The purpose of this document is to provide an authoritative statement regarding the expectations for professional conduct for all who participate in ISA meetings and conventions, and it will be especially useful for those who are new to the profession and/or the ISA. It is borne out of the ISA’s commitment to maintaining and promoting a professional environment at its meetings and other organized activities, and it is guided by the conviction that the advancement of knowledge flourishes most readily in an atmosphere of constructive debate in which all members treat one another with dignity and respect.”
The issue of “maintaining and promoting a professional environment” is particularly pertinent to the material that is made public through the use of blogs. It is the sense of the ISA executive committee that ISA’s Code of Conduct applies not only to individual members but also to ISA publications. The committee believes that any connection between blogs and ISA journals should be severed or separated. There should be no connection between independent/personal blogs and ISA journals.  


The Executive Committee requests that the Governing Council of the ISA add language to ISA’s code of conduct policy that will state the following:  “No editor of any ISA journal or member of any editorial team of an ISA journal can create or actively manage a blog unless it is an official blog of the editor’s journal or the editorial team’s journal. This policy requires that all editors and members of editorial teams to apply this aspect of the Code of Conduct to their ISA journal commitments. All editorial members, both the Editor in Chief(s) and the board of editors/editorial teams, should maintain a complete separation of their journal responsibilities and their blog associations. Adoption of this policy requires either stepping down from any such editorial responsibilities, or removal of affiliation with, and any participation in, external blogs for the duration of ISA editorial duties.”

Holy crap, who wrote this nonsense?? The idea of censoring people for no good reason should not ever make it this far anywhere, but certainly not academia. This attitude toward blogging is archaic and uninformed.

Here is Steve Saideman, then again, Will Moore, and Dan Drezner.


Cuba: No MOOCs for You!

The U.S. government is quite good at finding new and innovative ways to shoot itself in the foot with Cuba. If you offer a MOOC, then enterprising Cubans (and in Cuba this would not be easy) who want to connect to the U.S. are told they cannot:

Federal regulations prohibit U.S. businesses from offering services to countries subject to economic sanctions -- a list that includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan -- but as recently as this month, students in those countries were still able to access Coursera’s MOOCs. When a student last week attempted to log in from a Syrian IP address, the website produced an error message.

At least it seems possible to get a waiver:

The only option for students in the sanctioned countries may be edX, the MOOC provider founded in partnership between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tena Herlihy, edX’s general counsel, said the company has since last May worked with the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and has so far applied for and received company-specific licenses for its MOOCs to enroll students in Cuba and Iran (a third license, for Sudan, is still in the works).

But of course we also make it as hard as possible for Cuban academics to attend the Latin American Studies Association meeting, because by virtue of being Cuban they are probably terrorists.

These regulations are ridiculous. The U.S. government should be in the business of showing Cubans how it is different from the Castro regime. They're accustomed to being blocked from information, so the U.S. should be doing the opposite.


Monday, January 27, 2014

The Latin American Right in Decline?

An article in the Washington Post suggests that the Latin American right is "in retreat." There is, though, a more nuanced view within the article itself:

Latin America’s right could once identify itself as pro-business and supportive of law and order and as closely aligned with the United States. But many of the region’s leftists and centrists have co-opted some of those issues as they have become more moderate, regional observers say, leaving conservatives with less to run on.

What this really suggests is that the supposed leftward tilt masks a pretty significant rightward one, leading to moderation in most countries. For all the talk of populism and hyped Venezuelan case, there is not much argument about what economic measures are required to keep inflation down and foreign investment up, and these are high priorities. This is true even in countries we love to label leftist, such as Bolivia and Ecuador.

In other words, unlike the Cold War-era, the pro-business right does not feel terribly threatened by leftist candidates. As long as it is making money, then not winning elections isn't automatically a problem.

Update: some comments on Twitter that I am missing Argentina on the one hand as a case where economic measures are not agreed upon; and Honduras and Paraguay as examples of a still coup-prone right. Fair enough. I guess the broader point should be that generalization is tough, though I still think that in general the right is far less coup prone than in the past, and that the left has incorporated some of the right's economic ideas more than in the past. Yet there are exceptions.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Anticipating the ICJ Ruling for Chile and Peru

It's not easy to sum up the feeling as Chile and Peru wait for tomorrow's ruling from the International Court of Justice in The Hague--there is a lot of anticipation but not excessive, and there is nationalism but muted. As a reminder, the stake is a chunk of Pacific Ocean, which dates back to the War of the Pacific (with updates in 1952 and 1954) and is currently valuable for fishing, mostly anchovies:

Source: Defense-Update

Both presidents have made a show of meeting with their respective predecessors (well, not Fujimori!) and to that Sebastián Piñera even added a very public meeting of his National Security Council. I see this is as good for public consumption, as it makes a show of national unity even while the presidents make moderate statements.

So this is the sort of thing that Ollanta Humala has been saying:

“We have a shared commitment to abide by and enforce the judgment to be rendered by the International Court of Justice that will turn, I am sure, the paradigm of our relationship toward a profitable and enduring one for the future of our peoples,” President Ollanta Humala of Peru said from the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.

And this is the sort of thing that Piñera has been saying:

He added “we have also tried to maintain an atmosphere of harmony and peace with our Peruvian neighbors, because Peru will be our neighbor before, during and after the ruling by The Hague.”

Another positive sign is that Michelle Bachelet announced that Heraldo Muñoz, a very well-known and moderate diplomat, will be the new foreign minister. The Peruvian government immediately signalled its approval of the choice.

This matters much more in Peru than it does in Chile, since Peru has felt aggrieved for well over a century, while Chile has generally felt a sense of superiority, so at least on the surface can better afford to appear magnanimous. So probably the biggest question is what the Peruvian response will be if the decision goes against them. A secondary question might be what Peru's response is if Chile loses, but then drags its feet, since the government has indicated any change would have to be "gradual."

At any rate, we will see starting tomorrow.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Refining Oil in Latin America

Really interesting Bloomberg article on how Latin America is importing more refined oil products from the United States, which has been a trend for some time. And why? The problem I've mentioned too many times to count, namely lack of infrastructure. Latin America, after all, has plenty of oil:

In the past decade, oil companies in Latin America chose to invest in exploration instead of more capital intensive refining capacity, Hart’s Favela said. It’s cheaper to import from the U.S. than to produce domestically, he said.

Building refineries is an expensive, long-term project that produces no short-term political gain. Making announcements about oil discoveries, meanwhile, provides plenty of great political sound bites. It's sexy. You just have to hope that nobody pays much attention when it doesn't pan out, as in Brazil.

This brings us back to the core of dependency. Latin America has oil, but cannot refine it, so ultimately finds it cheaper to rely on the United States to do so, thereby crippling its capacity to do so on its own. The last Latin American refinery was built in 1992.

A last, unrelated, point. There are lots of stories about how ridiculously cheap Venezuelan gas is. But gasoline in the United States is the 11th cheapest in the world. We complain mightily when the price of gas goes up, but as in Venezuela it's all relative. We're not as exceptional as we like to believe.


Friday, January 24, 2014

U.S. and Latin American Relations writing (Part 2)

My last post was two weeks ago and I have made far too little progress. Unfortunately, with three meetings and an invited guest speaker today I don't expect to get much, if any, writing done on this particular project at all.

Progress (Deadline: August 1, 2014)

Chapter 1 - Revised but not polished
Chapter 2 - edited with red pen but not revised
Chapter 3 - editing (on page 25)
Chapter 4 - old version printed but not touched
Chapter 5 - n/a 
Chapter 6 - n/a
Chapter 7 - writing (3 pages)
Chapter 8 - n/a
Chapter 9 - n/a
Chapter 10 - n/a


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Survey on Ideology

I got a request from a political science student asking if I would post a link to a national survey she and her faculty advisor are doing on ideology. I already took it, and if any of my readers are interested, you can click here for the survey, which is not long. The initial page explains more.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Migration and Proxies in Central America

Jonathan Hiskey, Mary Malone, and Diana Orcés, "Violence and Migration in Central America." AmericasBarometer Insights n. 101 (2014).


Over the past decade, much of Central America has been devastated by alarming increases in crime and violence. For most of this timeframe, migration from many of these same countries to the United States increased as well, at least until the 2008 financial crisis deflated migration numbers. In the following Insights report, we examine the possible relationship between high levels of violence and Central Americans’ migration intentions. Though conventional views of the motivations behind migration tend to highlight economic and familial factors as the principal causes of migration, we find that crime victimization and perceptions of insecurity among Central Americans also play a significant role in determining the extent to which an individual considers migration as a viable strategy. Nonetheless, in the face of consistently high levels of crime and violence, perceptions of insecurity among Central Americans over the past ten years have been declining, suggesting perhaps a populace that has become accustomed to a high crime context and thus one less inclined to let crime influence future migration patterns.

These findings are consistent both with the previous literature and with anecdotal evidence (and, really, common sense). However, there is an interesting measurement question.

The powerful effect that receiving remittances has on the probability of planning to migrate, along with the age and gender profile of the likely migrant, all suggest that our dependent variable, migration intentions, serves as an adequate proxy for migration itself, despite not measuring actual behavior.

The AmericasBarometer data is survey data, so does not measure migration, only a question about intent to migrate. Why, I wonder, not include migration data? The simple answer may just be that this type of short research note isn't intended to do so; rather, it is intended to highlight ways to use AmericasBarometer data. Nonetheless, I need a bit more convincing about how intent to migrate is a good proxy for migrating.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Foreign Policy Means Foreign Solutions

Via Robin Grier: a great interview with Rory Stewart. He has a lot of interesting things to say, but this paragraph jumped out at me the most:

Stewart came home when he realised that even the least-educated Afghan housewife in a mountain village knew more about the country than he did. Fluent in Dari, along with nine other languages, he'd thrown himself into the coalition mission with great conviction, but had to conclude that: "In the end, the basic problem is very, very simple. Why don't these interventions work? Because we are foreigners. If things are going wrong in a country, it's not usually that we don't have enough foreigners. It's usually that we have too many."

That encapsulates many of the criticisms I've leveled at the countless calls for U.S. policy makers to "do more" in Latin America, usually ticking off points. You don't know what you're doing and we have the answer, so just do THIS.

Ten years ago he would have listed 10 things Afghanistan needed to build a new state: rule of law, financial administration, civil administration and so on. "And, then you would say, well, how do you do that? Well, I'd say, by a mapping of internal and external stakeholders, definition of critical tasks – all this jargon talk. And I've only now just begun to realise these words are nonsense words. I mean, they have no content at all. We should be ashamed to even use them."

And then we see the U.S. government doing exactly that. There is one example I always use in class because it simply glows the paternalism that he describes, which is the Bush administration's Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba from 2004. It is so detailed with specific points that it practically gets to "assisting" Cubans about how to tie their own shoes. Yet this is the model we tend to follow, even while critics call for more because we aren't doing enough.


Velasco on Latin American Economies

Andrés Velasco, who was Michelle Bachelet's very popular finance minister, has an article worth reading about Latin American economies. The bottom line--Latin American policy makers need to address long-standing structural problems as commodity prices fall. In large part this means investment.

The composition of government spending is also a problem. According to the same IADB report, investment accounts for only 16% of fiscal outlays, less than half the share in emerging Asia. So Latin America suffers from a longstanding infrastructure deficit, which acts as a drag on growth. 
Even abundant domestic savings in the future would not guarantee higher investment. Firms’ eagerness to invest depends on how much additional output they can get out of that investment, and recent productivity growth in Latin America – as in the US – has been disappointing.

Of course, this is an old, old, old story. Far too many Latin American countries are exporting basically the exact same things as a generation or even several generations ago. And all too often these are centered on commodities.

So, can Latin American economies keep growing once commodity prices and world interest rates edge back toward normality? We in the region hope they can. But a return to stagnation is also a possibility – one that can be minimized only if policymakers acknowledge it and begin taking preventive action right away.

It is an age old problem. The types of investments he's thinking of don't generate too many votes.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Doing What You Love in Academia

Justin Esarey has a blog post at The Political Methodologist with suggestions about what prospective Ph.D. students should be thinking about. It has very good, practical advice, though you have to sort through a lot of bold, italics, and CAPS. However, one bit puzzled me, when he got to a list of things NOT to think about:

Your personal love for or “calling” to the field in question. As many people have pointed out recently, “do what you love” isn’t a sound plan for graduate school. In short, not everything that you love will love you back.

I understand the sentiment. Many subjects that people love are not well connected to employment. Got it. But. Your love for the topic should actually be the very first point about why you are getting into this lengthy, difficult, and time consuming enterprise in the first place. If you do not love this topic, then why are you even starting? If you start backwards and look first only at completion rates, etc. and you don't pay enough attention to whether you love it, you may be dooming yourself to many years of unhappiness because this is going to consume all your time.

So my advice is to start with what you love, then do a lot of legwork to make sure what you love has a reasonable future. And if you don't love it, then please don't start.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

U.S. Policy and Paternalism

The Heritage Foundation has some policy prescriptions for U.S. policy toward Latin America. They're actually pretty innocuous for a very conservative think tank (make Costa Rica a priority??).

What jumps out immediately, though, is the tone, which is openly paternalistic. The U.S. has superior values, Latin America is in need of these values (the word "need" is in fact used because Venezuelans will need reforms and we should plan what they could look like) and so the U.S. needs to teach them. Much of that they are doing now is inferior and not working as well as it could if they would just listen to us. We also need to use our intelligence agencies to clean up your messes. You Latin Americans are so messy.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Juxtaposition: Egypt & Pinochet's Chile

From Egypt's 2014 constitutional referendum:

Unofficial results Thursday indicated that Egypt’s new constitution was approved by about 98% of voters, a lopsided margin reminiscent of elections that were held prior to the uprising against Hosni Mubarak three years ago.


From Chiles 1980 constitutional referendum:

Even adjusting for population growth, the reported 1980 vote total implies a completely unprecedented 91% participation rate by all registered voters (p. 23).

Egypt, welcome to Chile's authoritarian past.


Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Restrictionists

If there was one thing immigration restrictionists like the Center for Immigration Studies couldn't discuss, it was the huge number of people the Obama administration is deporting. Normally they refuse to mention it because it clearly shows that enforcement has already become much stronger. This is the first time I've seen an attack on that point.

It's like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup approach: two great hates that go great together. If you dislike Obama's prosecutorial discretion and you dislike Obama himself, then put them together and you get "prosecutorial discretion means that Obama is lying about deportation numbers." That these two are unrelated seems not to matter because they taste so good together.

If you think these acts of prosecutorial discretion are being handled foolishly, as I do, you will recognize that they put the lie to the government’s overblown claims of the past few years about the record numbers of aliens removed. Those records have been achieved by numerical manipulation, and shifty redefinitions that pretty much amount to cooking the books.

Now, ask yourself, is this an administration that you should trust to handle, with any sense of wisdom or integrity, a broad-based amnesty involving millions of aliens?

This is sort of thing is sickening, really, but of course not uncommon. Visceral hatred of Barack Obama seeps into any number of policy areas and poisons them.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Logic of Executive Discretion in Immigration

Because of the ACA, immigration reform has not been news since it officially died for 2013. However, this McClatchy piece looks more specifically at executive discretion, which has been on the rise. This part caught my eye:

Kevin Johnson, an immigration policy expert who serves as the dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Law, said the president could halt all deportations much the same way a governor could ban executions but that it would be a mistake because angry Republicans would refuse to consider an immigration overhaul. 
“Could he put a moratorium on removals? Yes,” Johnson said. “But politically it would be a disaster. It would end the possibilities for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Read more here:

I respect Kevin Johnson's opinion, but I'm not so sure about this. I take that back--yes, if President Obama stopped all deportations, there would be an outcry. But this is the extreme position, and I assume he is really talking about cutting back, which is the preferred policy position of immigration reform supporters.

Basically, I don't think deportations matter for immigration reform. Obama has been deporting people in record numbers, more than any president in the history of the United States, to the point that many of his supporters are really angry. And Republicans rejected immigration reform anyway. Reform is already unlikely in the foreseeable future, and Republicans are already talking about how it won't happen in 2014, so it is not possible for there to be less chance of reform.

Only electoral considerations will make immigration reform possible. The security aspect (i.e. beefed up enforcement) hasn't done it, more deportations haven't done it, humanitarian appeals haven't done it, and calls for common sense haven't done it. The possibility of losing elections is what will ultimately do it. That can't happen now because midterm elections are about the base, and the Republican base is opposed. We will have to see how candidates shake out in the presidential primaries. It may well be that Republicans will have to get trounced in a presidential election to change anything.

How Obama goes about deporting people, though, won't be much of a factor.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Graduate Programs and Academia

The MLA kerfuffle is hot on Twitter (by which I do not mean it is not hot in real life, but rather you can get lots more context if you go onto Twitter) and is centered on a bigger debate about academia in general. This Inside Higher Ed story highlights a lot of what's wrong and right about the debate. The main question in the story is whether graduate schools should shrink because there are fewer permanent jobs.

First, what's right:

He noted that the demand for instruction in English and related fields has gone up over time, and said that the real reason for a shortage of good jobs was that states have not provided enough money for higher education, and that colleges have come to rely on non-tenure-track labor to teach. While he said that graduate programs should reduce time to degree, he said that the emphasis of professors must be on "the broad struggle" to fund higher education at appropriate levels, and to create jobs on the tenure track.

Yes, and the point about state budgets is too rarely examined despite the fact that they are central to the number of tenure track positions. Their allotments determine that number in a very real way. It's not a simple question, but it has to be front and center in reference to public schools.

Second, what's wrong:

Purdy said that there are ethical issues with graduate program size that play out in different ways. There are ethical questions in "preparing people for jobs that don't exist," he said. But so too there is "an ethical obligation not to let a program disappear." He said that in discussions of fellowship awards, for example, he has reviewed applications from people who study topics that are only studied "by one old man in Heidelberg," and that this suggests that humanities scholars need to be sure fields don't die out.
Oh man, this is all kinds of wrong, not to mention contradictory. If you encourage graduate students to study things few people are interested in, how in the world do you think they're going to get a job? Preserving such things should be sole domain of people with job security, not vulnerable graduate students. People looking for employment cannot afford to live in a bubble--they need to produce scholarship that ultimately will employ them. If they are asking to study in a bubble, then they need to be advised about how it will affect their ability to get a job.

That reminds me of the Inside Higher Ed report about History Ph.Ds. The headline was that the number of jobs had shrunk, but that obscured a much more important development, namely that interest in particular areas of History had shrunk relative to the number of graduate students.

Entry-Level History Positions vs. Specialties of New Ph.D.s
FieldNumber of OpeningsNumber of New Ph.D.s
North America199441
Latin America5164
Middle East4160

This means the job market is pretty darned good, even awesome, if you study a topic other than North America or Europe. That is something Ph.D. programs need to keep in mind constantly. What this tells me is that broad discussions about "History" or "Humanities" or "Academia" are going to suffer from severe lack of precision. Some areas of the Humanities--or other areas of academia--appear to be doing quite well, but no one seems to be making a case for exactly what they are.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

How the U.S. Isn't Drifting from Cuba

At various times I get various bugs in my ear and for a while I keep blogging about them. My current thing is that, in my opinion, conventional wisdom seems to be coalescing around the idea that there a dangerous drift in U.S.-Latin American relations. My own take is that they ignore policy on the ground and privilege airy pronouncement.

Case in point, Cuba. The U.S. disagrees with Latin America on this issue, which leads to the assumption that there is drift. In fact, the U.S. and Cuban governments have gradually moved closer on issues that are critically important but not headline-grabbing. Like immigration.

From the State Department:

On Thursday, January 9, U.S. and Cuban officials met in Havana to discuss the implementation of the 1994 and 1995 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accords. This marks the second time since January 2011 that these talks have been held. Under the Accords, both governments pledge to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between Cuba and the United States. The agenda for the talks reflected longstanding U.S. priorities on Cuba-U.S. migration issues, as well as cooperation on aviation security, search and rescue, and consular document fraud. The U.S. delegation highlighted areas of successful cooperation in migration, exchanging information on the interdiction of undocumented migrants, and clarifying aspects of Cuba’s recent changes in migration policy.

This is engagement, which is the opposite of drift. Yes, the embargo laws are in still in place. And yes, they are counter-pruductive and ridiculous. But there are meaningful discussions going on that will lead to policy. Latin American leaders are aware of that as well. Not everything is viewed through a prism of grand strategy.


Friday, January 10, 2014

U.S. and Latin American Relations writing (Part 1)

Especially now that my Latin American politics textbook is very close to production, I've begun work in earnest on the 2nd edition of my U.S. and Latin American Relations textbook, which I greatly enjoy working on. My contractual deadline from Wiley is August 2014, which is a reasonable one. I really want to reach it, which would not only be on time but would take it off my plate as the Fall 2014 semester begins. As a public way of measuring my progress, I've been thinking about periodically blogging about the work as it goes. In part I hope this will keep me moving--if it is somehow useful/interesting to anyone else then all the better. Otherwise feel free to ignore it.

There are 12 chapters, one of which will be written from scratch (on challenges to U.S. hegemony, something I've been covering in great detail in this blog).

My strategy has been to print out the chapters one by one, then go over them in an old fashioned manner, namely with a red pen. I've done that for the first two, but I know they're easiest because the theoretical and historical stuff needs to be updated and tweaked, but is not "dated" per se the same way later chapters are. The last draft of these chapters was completed in March 2007! Once I'm done with the red pen, then it's time to get back into the Word file itself to make the changes, mess with formatting, etc. I haven't started any of that yet.

I've written two pages of the new chapter, which will be in the 45-50 page range. I need to choose two primary documents for the chapter (which is the same for all the rest). This could be speeches, or I've thought about seeing whether the founding documents of ALBA, UNASUR, et al might be interesting as a way to highlight the ways in which governments were trying to forge something that did not include the United States.

In sum:


Chapter 1 - edited but not revised
Chapter 2 - edited but not revised
Chapter 3 - editing
Chapter 7 - writing (2 pages)


Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jay Sexton's The Monroe Doctrine

Jay Sexton's The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth Century America (2011) is a good synthesis of the history of the most famous doctrine in U.S.-Latin American relations. It's not exactly new, though I can't think how you would manage to say something genuinely new about it (I wonder, have any hitherto unknown archives yielded any new insights in years?). It's more about what angle to take.

One thing he does that I found interesting was to discuss how policy makers in the U.S. changed their views of the doctrine over time. The nineteenth century version was different from the twentieth because of shifting circumstances. At the time of its formulation, there was fear not only of geopolitical threat but also of the country breaking apart. By Roosevelt's time imperialism was in full force and the United States was well past the civil war.

He emphasizes the contradictory nature of the doctrine, since it was both anti-colonial and fundamentally imperialist. This didn't bother anyone in the United States, because based on our exceptionalism our tutelage was a positive force while the Old World offered outdated and unwanted models.

Reading the book might help understand why it's hard to believe John Kerry when in November 2013 he said the Monroe Doctrine was over.

I'll be including it as a recommended reading for the historical chapter of my U.S.-Latin America textbook.


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Scenarios for U.S.-Latin American Relations

Peter Hakim has a short article on U.S.-Latin American relations that is reprinted at the Inter-American Dialogue. Increasingly, my own views seem to be diverging from conventional wisdom. The main point of the article is that there are four scenarios for the immediate future of U.S.-Latin American relations, but all of them are based on the premise that there is a dangerous drift in those relations. I think that premise is wrong. So he has:

1. The Drift Continues

2. A Return to the Pan-American Vision

3. Latin American Solidarity

4. A Hostile Relationship

I see the current state of affairs as mostly positive and so none of those four really makes sense to me. I believe that the core issue here is that many people believe a lack of grand strategy should be equated with a "drift." I reject that view. There is a lot, and I mean a lot, going on under the radar, unexciting building and maintenance of relationships between the U.S. government and Latin American governments.

The fact that there is no hemispheric trade bloc, for example, is irrelevant, as is the fact that Latin American countries look globally for trade. We should want them to do that. It makes them better off. We don't need a headline-friendly FTAA to achieve progress on trade and investment.

Hakim argues that "today, there is a lack of anything near a consensus on hemispheric relations." Maybe, but there never has been, and in many ways that's a good thing. When you're in lockstep, bad things can happen (the Cold War probably best approximated that).

What I would like to do sometime is write a policy article making the case for how avoiding grand strategy and grand rhetoric is a sign of successful relations rather than the opposite.


Understanding Latin American Politics

After many delays of various sorts, my textbook Understanding Latin American Politics is finally nearing publication and now shows up on Amazon (in sort of skeletal form). If you are teaching, then I encourage you to get in touch Pearson as soon as it's published to get an exam copy. It is ground-breaking, earth-shattering, and mind-blowing.

I've been working on this sucker for a long time so it's nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


More on Snowden and Brazil

Edward Snowden's desire to obtain asylum in Latin America remains news. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has a story on NPR surveying the landscape in Brazil on the matter. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and in general agree with Julia Sweig's conclusion.

Julia Sweig, director of Latin America studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, says while Snowden is a popular figure in Brazil, his fate is not at the top of the agenda. 
"I don't think the Brazilian public is, by and large, looking to pick a big public fight with the United States," she says, adding that asylum for Snowden would be a "bridge too far" for Brazil.

I am still skeptical with the generalization that he is a "popular "figure" but maybe he is. Either way, a very relevant point the story makes is that Dilma Rousseff has already responded by not coming to the United States for a state visit and making critical remarks. It is entirely possible that she feels there is nothing more to say or do. Snowden, meanwhile, still has not actually requested asylum, choosing instead to do a little dancing to see if he can prompt Brazil to state its willingness before receiving a request, though it has already indicated it won't do so.

Sorting this out requires one basic question--what does Rousseff have to gain by giving Snowden asylum? We know it will create a problem with the United States, but what political boost does she get? Mostly it would mean confirming anti-U.S. and independent-minded bona fides, but I can't see how that gets her much more than what she already has.

In all this, we should also keep in mind that Snowden already had an offer from Venezuela. I can't say for certain it is still on the table, but it doesn't take a genius to see that it's not a stable place to be. He also had offers from Bolivia and Nicaragua, and as far as I know never even acknowledged them. Ecuador and Cuba have already made clear they're not eager to have him, but I guess he wouldn't want either country anyway.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Saga of Electoral Reform in Chile

Daniel Hojman has a very nice post on the Chilean binomial system. He shows how it over-represents the right and also under-represents groups outside the Left/Right blocs even though they have significant electoral bases. These groups are mostly on the left. The problem, then, is the (correct) perception that the system is essentially locked up.

This made me think of the Communist Party, though. It viewed the political system as closed but finally actually decided to join them rather than beat them. That is precisely the type of incentive that the binomial system was designed to create. Ironically, then, the Communists joined the system not long before it would be dismantled.

It is worth adding, moreover, that Renovación Nacional seems to believe that it over-represents the UDI so has moved more in favor of reform over the past several years. RN has therefore been working with the Christian Democrats to get a proposal together.

I've been blogging for years with cautious optimism about the prospects reforming the electoral system. It's the sort of thing that appears both glacial and inevitable.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Jerry Coleman, Voice Of My Childhood

Jerry Coleman died yesterday. Since he was 89, it was no surprise but for me a very sentimental moment because he was the voice of my childhood. When I was about two years old he became the announcer of the San Diego Padres, and as a Padres big lifelong fan his voice is imprinted very deeply in my brain.

What's so remarkable, though, is what a tremendous person he was. He won Rookie of the Year for the Yankees but also was a hero for the Marines during World War II and the Korean War. In every single interview with or reference to him, he was humble and self-effacing despite the fact that he was extraordinarily successful.

As a teenager, in 1985 I think, my birthday gift from my parents was a trip to Yuma, Arizona (only a few short hours from San Diego) to see the Padres in spring training. In preparation, I had managed to find a 1952 Topps Jerry Coleman card. Before a game, I walked up to the booth, which was open in the small stadium, said hello, and he signed my card.

At the time I knew a bit about his baseball background, but that was it. What I really knew was that this guy was the voice of my team, and he couldn't have been nicer.

Appropriately, on Twitter people have been linking to his calls, the one that clinched the 1984 pennant being the most memorable (it's impossible to forget that it was a one hopper to Nettles, to Wiggins, and the Padres have the national pennant). His signature was "Oh, doctor!" and "You can hang a star on that, baby!" often together in that order. When the Padres played at San Diego Stadium/Qualcomm they got in the habit of hanging a star out of the broadcasting booth on a sort of fishing pole.

So he was not only old, but had lived a pretty amazing life. Nonetheless, for all Padres fans it's just a sad moment.

Andy Masur has a nice post here.


Sunday, January 05, 2014

John Foster Dulles and Latin America

One of the interesting tidbits from Stephen Kinzer's book about John Foster Dulles was that for a brief period before becoming Secretary of State he advocated non-intervention. Check out what he wrote about Latin America in his 1950 book War or Peace:

Also, in many Latin-American countries political control is more than ever in the hands of military groups. These groups have more power than ever because our Defense Department has built up military strength in some of the countries on the theory that the Americas should be treated as military allies under the Act of Chapultepec and its successor, the Rio Pact. These trends away from representative government increase the opportunities of Communism (p. 151).

Yes and yes! When in a position of authority, however, he ignored his own advice and would likely have called himself a soft-headed pinko (and that change happened quickly, since he was dead only nine years after the book was published).

What this shows, though, is that Dulles understood and to some degree internalized the concept of blowback. He was exactly right--the U.S. supported military dictatorships, which fostered much more support for the radical left than otherwise would've existed. But when he became Secretary of State, he pushed wholeheartedly for them anyway. He died a few months after the Cuban revolution, so I wonder whether he thought at all about how he had helped create it.


Maduro Loves Spying

The Venezuelan government obtained and then publicized the holiday travel plans of opposition leaders in order to embarrass them. That's bad enough, a very clear violation of civil liberties and a sign of pretty much complete hypocrisy given how much the government had complained about U.S. spying.

But it goes further. The government is actually making fun of the opposition for being concerned about it! VP Jorge Arreaza argued that it was the government's job to tell the truth, and that's all it was doing:

"La ministra Delcy Rodríguez lo que ha hecho es cumplir su función, que no es otra que informar y comunicar. Sigamos diciendo la verdad", escribió el jefe de Estado a través de su cuenta en Twitter, @NicolasMaduro.

That logic is so messed up it's hard to know where to start. When a bank records my transactions, that is "truth." It is also private. Same goes for many other things, including my purchases of airline tickets. Obviously, in the United States there is a major debate going about what private information the government can and cannot obtain, or indeed what is "private."

What's funny is that the Venezuelan and U.S. governments are in perfect, full agreement. Both believe that their jobs require spying with accompanying erosion of civil liberties, and both are unrepentant.


Saturday, January 04, 2014

Stephen Kinzer's The Brothers

Stephen Kinzer is no fan of Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles. We already knew that from his previous books, which examine overthrow of one kind or another. His new book The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and the Their Secret Cold War looks at the men more specifically to show how they were architects of a style of foreign policy that, though in many ways unsuccessful, became a model for the Cold War and even the post Cold War.

It's a very good read, though I must say I enjoyed the first half much more than the second. The first explores the Duller brothers in depth, whereas the second goes into more detail in specific operations, such as Iran, Cuba, Guatemala, Indonesia, and the Congo. In those the brothers fade a bit from the narrative, though of course they are hovering around. Kinzer relies on secondary sources but the stories themselves are already very well known. The second half also touches quickly on psychological assessment, JFK assassination conspiracies, and other sorts of speculation that detract from the book.

The sad thing is that, though Kinzer explain clearly how so many of the Dulles brothers' interventions were in long run detrimental to the United States, there is little recognition of that now. I wish very much that there was public discussion of how overthrowing Mossadegh, for example, led us to where we are today, and how they thought only in the very short term. But there isn't. Instead, we talk about intervening in Iran again!

The point, then, is that consciously or not, U.S. policy makers have drunk deeply of the Dulles Kool Aid. The U.S. is exceptional (and Christian) and therefore needs to act as policeman; there is no need to understand the country you're attacking/undermining; short-term victory over your "enemy" (however defined) is all that matters. The Dulles brothers have never really gone away.


Friday, January 03, 2014

AHA Panel on Publishing in Journals Part 2

So yesterday I participated in the panel on journal publishing, which I hope the audience (which was pretty good sized) found useful. I had two themes, the first I had planned and the second was more spontaneous given comments before my turn to speak.

First, think strategically. This is the answer to at least half of all questions about submitting article manuscripts. Most importantly, you need to decide what journal works for your specific topic and what your institution wants for tenure. The process takes months and months--in fact, editors mentioned backlog, which can delay even more. Therefore you need to be as strategic as possible to do what works for you (though, unfortunately, it's very hard to know about backlog).

Second, I decided to harangue about reviewers. I hope I didn't come off sounding too annoying, but it suddenly occurred to me that we don't just want graduate students and assistant professors to learn how to publish. We want to teach them how to collaborate in the publishing process by reviewing. Don't send a four sentence review; don't say you will review and then don't; do your review in a timely manner; do give a review of a quality you would want to receive (positive or negative).

BTW, you likely don't need three months to review an article. But if you think you do, and I understand some people receive tons, then say no (or ask for an extension to see if the editor minds) but be sure to suggest someone else. That speeds up the process.


Getting Published in Journals

I'm actually at the American Historical Association conference in Washington, DC (where the temperature is a balmy 18 degrees) briefly to participate in a panel session of journal editors:


ting Published: A CLAH Journal Editors’ Workshop

Conference on Latin American History 33
Friday, January 3, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Congressional Room B (Omni Shoreham)

Jurgen Buchenau, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Peter M. Beattie, Michigan State University
John D. French, Duke University
Kris E. Lane, Tulane University
Jaime E. Rodríguez, University of California, Irvine
Ben Vinson III, George Washington University
Gregory B. Weeks, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Here is the description:

The Conference on Latin American History (CLAH) is sponsored a journal
editors workshop at the upcoming AHA convention in Washington DC from
2-5 January 2014. With representation from a range of key journals,
brief presentations by editors will offer guidance to
scholars—especially younger ones--as to the expectations and processes
of getting an article published in a top journal in the Latin American
field. This brief opening will be followed by a Question and Answer
session driven by audience concerns.

These sorts of panels are always good to have, especially for graduate students. In political science anyway, and I assume this is becoming more true in other fields, publishing is required earlier and earlier, and so it's good to understand as much you can about the process. Plus, it seems that more colleges and universities that previously might not have required much publishing for tenure/promotion/raises now do.


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