Tuesday, July 31, 2007


4 hours writing, 0.5 hours emailing / administrivia

I finished revising the LASA paper and sent it to the professor who had offered to take a look. Hooray! I think ultimately it was a helpful exercise, in that I had to pull together the data I have and look at how it does or does not speak to each other, in a way that was useful for building the chapter on Colombia in comparative perspective.

Well, it's now been two months since I embarked on this blog, and it's time to take stock. I'm up to 90 pages, which means I added another 35 this month, after adding 35 last month. I drafted a chapter on the police in Latin America this month; gathered data for the chapter on the police in comparative perspective; identified three states for a subnational comparison (although I'm still just a little bit on the fence about carrying it out); and completed a conference paper.

Areas that still need significant work include the literature review on institutional design, and the chapter on the 19th century in Colombia that sets up the critical-juncture argument in the chapter on institutional design. I'm not sure now if I really need a whole chapter on the period between the critical juncture and La Violencia. I do need to characterize that period, but it may not require a whole chapter to do so.

This coming month, I'll be on vacation or traveling (to APSA) a lot, so I'll want to make the most of my days in the office. I'll be in Berkeley in two weeks, meeting with my advisor and plundering the library, so that'll definitely be productive. Here's to two fun and enjoyable months!

And now, the honor roll: thanks to all the Villagers who have been blog monitors these first two months!

Steve Boland
Kristin Donnelly
Diana Kapiszewski
Marco Mojica
Dan Faltz
Laura Ascenzi-Moreno
Rafael Mazer
Geordan Drummond
Jay Seawright

Mil gracias a todos!

Monday, July 30, 2007


4 hours writing, 1.5 hours researching, 0.5 hours emailing/administrivia

This week's blog monitor is Jay Seawright, in the suburbs of Chicago. Jay teaches quantitative methods and comparative political behavior courses at Northwestern University. Meanwhile, he continually reminisces about the good old days when he and I were trapped, with a select few others, in a room for six or more hours in a row trying to make a survey project work. Welcome, Jay!

Well, after taking another look at my draft of the LASA paper on the police, I realized it needed a lot more work than I had anticipated. So I took out the pruning shears and went to work on that. At the end of the day, I can see the overall shape of the topiary animal (to extend the metaphor), but I can't tell yet the exact species. Tomorrow.

I'm a little ambivalent about the value of this particular exercise, namely, taking significant parts of two chapters, adding in smaller pieces from a couple of others, and turning the whole thing into a self-contained paper. I guess it's helpful to see how it all fits together at this point, but I can't help but feel like it's lateral motion. Having said that, I'm looking forward to getting feedback, and that'll definitely be useful.

Cathy and I celebrated our seventh anniversary yesterday. Hooray! We rented a car and drove up into the Hudson Valley. We visited a couple of the historic estates, Boscobel and the Vanderbilt Mansion, and went to the Dia: Beacon museum, where there's a really cool set of Sol LeWitt pieces. I never appreciated his stuff before, but this was whimsical, charming, and lovely. For dinner, we ate at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a temple of the eat-local movement. Since the restaurant is on a high-end farm, they literally grow most of if not all their own food. Now, I'm generally a fan of this trend, but the customs in the temple can be a little rococo: I had tea - excuse me, a tisane - with dessert, and the server literally clipped leaves off a plant before steeping them in the water. Uh, OK. It tasted like tea. Having said that, the rest of the meal was fabulous, and I think I have a new favorite cocktail: the Wild Ramp Martini, which instead of using a cocktail onion, uses a pickled ramp, which is a springtime form of green onion that's very trendy. It was delicious, like a dirty martini but without the brackish tang of olive water, much more subtle and in tune with the botanicals in the gin. Worth a trip to Tarrytown! That's next to Sleepy Hollow, and Cathy was convinced on the extremely foggy drive back last night that the Headless Horseman was coming for us around the bend. I may have hit the gas pedal just a little harder....

Friday, July 27, 2007

Livin' large at the Havana Officers' Club, 1942

1 hour writing, 5 hours reading / researching

OK! I have a draft of my LASA paper to send to the professor who offered to take a look at it. I'm going to review it one more time over the weekend before sending it along. It raises a lot of questions, but at this stage, that's still a good thing. I'm looking forward to the feedback.

One of the comparative sources I was consulting today was fascinating and worth a study of its own. In 1941, Batista, the military ruler whom Castro would eventually overthrow, was the de facto head of the armed forces in Cuba, and the power behind the throne. He militarized the police (is what I'm gathering, not 100% clear yet). As part of this process, the police developed a magazine. Now, I'm used to this sort of thing being like an academic journal: dry, technical, and spartanly designed. This was like Life magazine! Lots of pictures, many in color, lifestyle features, detective fiction, social pages, poetry (well, martial poetry anyway), a kids' section (!). Just gorgeous to look at, too: large, almost tabloid format, nice paper, lots of photographs, and wonderfully sleek and modern graphic design and color palette. Plus lots of stories about the ongoing World War II, including a handy-dandy, illustrated guide on how to tell apart the Chinese and Japanese based on facial features. With Tojo as the Japanese exemplar. I'm not kidding! Best part: reprinted from Life magazine. I'm trying to picture the cosseted, romantic world of military police officers for whom this publication was ostensibly intended. Very evocative of an era. Meanwhile, in Colombia, the police, under the thumb of local politicians, were being prepped for service in death squads just a few years later. Quite a contrast....

Thanks to Geordan Drummond for serving as this week's monitor. Next up is Jason Seawright, in Chicago. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

4 hours researching

Per yesterday's entry, I focused today on gathering comparative data on Latin American police for the police chapter. I created a database that, when filled in, will allow me to identify the over-time patterns that are most relevent for my analysis; and then began using source I'd culled at the library to begin filling it out. There's something for every country available, although the timing and nature of the sources vary wildly. Still, it was useful progress.

Tomorrow I'll make a big push to finish a draft of the conference paper on the police, so I can share it with the professor who offered to read it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2 hours writing, 2 hours researching

Continued working on the police chapter, focusing today on the comparative component. I'm analyzing the patterns in the timing and composition of security forces across countries. I need more accurate data to be able to do so, so I identified sources at the library that I can check tomorrow to verify the dates that I've been able to cull from Wikipedia and web searches.

Also worked on distinguishing what I mean by "police system," how it connects to "security forces," and why I choose to use those terms the way I do. Reminds me yet again that there's so much to be done in this area, theorizing the police and how they impact politics. If I stick to making contributions in that area, and position myself as testing new concepts, I'll be in good shape.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Amidst the virtual stacks

1 hour writing, 5 hours reading/researching

This week is all about focus: I continued working on the police chapter. Today, I wrote about why I focus on the police within the security forces (which also include the army and other federal law-enforcement agencies), and began figuring out how the chapter will turn into a conference paper for September. In the proposal, I said I would trace the development of police systems in Latin America and categorize them in terms of their impact on regime stability. What that means in practical terms is that I need to combine parts of the chapter on police systems and the chapter on Colombia in comparative perspective. This is a good thing, as those are two chapters that need the most work right now, and that my recent research is helping to build.

Along those lines, I scoured the library catalogs for historical information on Latin American police forces. As I was compiling a country-by-country list of sources, I realized that I had more information already than I anticipated. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and is an important part of the writing process: makigng connections between information you've gathered at very different times and in very different contexts. This is especially the case when it's been so many years that you've been working on a project off and on.

In particular, I know that I can identify three types of patterns in security forces: those in which there is a national police and an army (most of them, including Colombia), those in which there is no national police (only state police) and an army (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela), and those in which there is a national police but no army (Costa Rica and Panama). That's already enough to talk about in a paper. What I'd like to fill in for this paper - and will need to do eventually for the dissertation - is the history of control over these institutions, so I can categorize each police system as politicized or militarized over time. We'll see how that goes the rest of this week.

Restaurant Week was, I have to say, quite a disappointment. The three places I went for lunch - Nobu, Megu, and Morimoto - really didn't try very hard at all. The menus of the first and last were almost identical, although Morimoto didn't even bother with a dessert. I mean, the ingredients were all fresh, the execution competent, and the service friendly, but there was no spark or imagination in the offerings. You'd think the point of Restaurant Week would be to entice folks like me who eat in high-end places every once in a while to come back and pay full price. I guess someone didn't get the memo. Instead, I have three on a list of places I'm not eager to go back to. I think it's also an issue of the most interesting places - Del Posto, Chanterelle, Gramercy Tavern - being already sold out. Lesson: act faster next year!

Monday, July 23, 2007


0.5 hours writing, 5 hours researching/reading

This week's blog monitor is Geordan Drummond, in Philadelphia. Geordan and I went to high school together, and were each other's best men. When we talk on the phone, it's usually in Italian, so it takes about twice as long to say the same things. Cathy and I are going to visit Geordan and his wife Pattie this weekend, so it's good timing for him to be monitoring. Check out Geordan's original music on his MySpace page. It sounds like robots in love, underwater. Welcome, Geordan!

Wow, it was really rainy in New York today. I went to Grand Central with Cathy to drop off her asbestos-coated clothes from Thursday's pipe explosion at the Con Edison collection point - and got soaked. I went out to lunch - and got soaked. I went to the library - and got soaked.

While drying off (for the moment), I continued to work on the police chapter. I'm using the examples of Gaza and Iraq to illustrate the contemporary relevance of the historical case I examine, and it's tricky. You don't want to focus too much on something happening right now - because the situation will be different in six months when I'm finished with the dissertation, and you don't want to make predictions or recommendations - because they'll soon.

I'm starting to look at state-level data during La Violencia. At the library, I began going through reports from Santander state that the governor submitted to Congress each year, like a technical state-of-the-state. Geez, they sure had a lot of hassle building a railroad in the '20s. Not much about the police during that peaceful decade, but after the Liberals win a presidential election in 1930 for the first time in nearly 50 years, things start to heat up. A lot of the fuss is around the emerging labor movement, and the tone of condescension and fear is thick in these otherwise dry bureaucratic documents.

Elite reaction to the incipient labor movement is a key theme in Daniel Pecaut's Orden y violencia, a study of Colombian politics from 1930 to 1953. This is an interesting choice of time period, because it basically treats the time between the Liberals' electoral victory in 1930 and the military coup in 1953 as a unit - whereas the periodization I've been using is more about La Violencia starting in 1946 and extending through the early 1960s. I'll be interested to see what's distinctive about Pecaut's alternative timeframe.

My goal this week is to complete a draft of the chapter on the police and send it to a professor who's offered to read it. Onward!

Friday, July 20, 2007

It burns!

1 hour writing, 3 hours reading/researching

Ooh, that's no fun. I spent a couple of hours this morning going through several hundred listings from the Library of Congress catalog, culling relevant sources about the municipal and departmental police in Colombia, and then emailed them to myself; but it turns out their email system erases any line with an accent in it. Which is like every line containing a title, when you're consulting Spanish-language sources. D'oh! At least I have the call numbers that I can use to reconstruct the listings, but still, it's a hassle. Good news is there's a LOT of stuff there, including a good bit at the state level. A trip to DC may be in order...

First, I need to go figure out what data I need, what's highest priority, and then figure out if LOC, NYPL, or Berkeley are my best bets. I'm considering a research trip to Colombia in September, but I want to get as much as I can stateside before committing to that. There's a surprising range of Spanish-language sources, and historical ones too, in the three libraries I'm consulting. Certainly makes life easier.

Continued writing the police chapter. A professor who's written on irregular armed forces, of whose work I think highly, has offered to take a look at it, so I'll be getting that to him next week in advance of the August 1 LASA deadline.

Thanks to Rafael Mazer for being a great, engaged monitor this week, in the midst of what I take to be his last week at Hispanics in Philanthropy. Muito obrigado, Rafa! Up next is Geordan Drummond, in Philadelphia. More on him - and on Williamstown and Restaurant Week - next Monday. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


1.5 hours writing, 2.5 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hours emailing

Continued working this morning on the chapter about police systems. I have about 20 pages of raw material, which I'll keep shaping and expanding in anticipation of having a draft for LASA by August 1st. In terms of reading, I did some math and read more in the 2003 collection on irregular armed forces. That revealed a vein of writing in Europe about political policing that I'll want to tap into.

I was preoccupied today, as Cathy was just arriving at Grand Central last night when the water main exploded. It was very scary; people running and screaming, nobody knew what was going on. The column of steam was so high at first that "it looked like a skyscraper was on fire," she says. She'll have to drop the clothes she was wearing and the bag she was carrying off at a Con Edison pickup point in Midtown on Monday so they can dispose of them properly. No real danger, just a good precaution. Hoo-boy.

A good time to get out of the city! We're going up to Williamstown, MA, for the theater festival this weekend. It's the town where we went to college, which during the summers hosts a well-regarded theater festival. There's a great museum of contemporary art nearby, MassMoCA, so it's a fun weekend; this'll be the third year we're doing it. Looking forward to getting away!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Regimes and constitutions

1 hour writing, 3.5 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hours emailing

Genius: Upload a photo of yourself and get "Simpsonized." Mine (see right) is eerily accurate.

Took a good suggestion from Cathy and started the day writing, rather than writing at the end of the day. It was a good way to start. Yesterday I made a big leap forward on the police chapter, and today was about filling in some of the details and rearranging the ideas into a better flow. The whole issue of irregular armed forces is a really rich vein, so I'm going through a collection of articles on just that topic from a few years ago. It's interesting that the articles take police as one of several non-army forces that the authors say need more attention. My take is slighty different, putting the army and police together under the category of "security forces," sanctioned by the state, and considering militas, bandits, guerrillas, mercenaries, etc., as originating in society. Anyway, should be some good ideas in there.

I was re-reading an article about graded vs. dichotomous conceptions of democracy, and came across one of the authors' current projects, a vast initiative to develop a comparative database of constitutions worldwide. Impressive. We could use one of those for police forces. There are a couple of global police encyclopedias, but it's the historical information that's lacking.

An issue I continue to struggle with is exactly how to define the specific regime dynamics that interest me. Is it regime stability, democratic stability, stability of constitutional governance? The terms matter, because they imply measuring different things. The point I'm trying to get at is that democracy vs. authoritarianism, the usual dichotomy, is not really what's going on at the period I'm looking at (first half of the 20th century), because suffrage is pretty limited for much of the time. I'm looking for a term that is more general than democracy, that can include both democracies with universal suffrage and regimes that enshrine, in a constitution, elections as the sole means of accessing power. Maybe "republic?" "Constitutional governance?" Worked on that today, without reaching any conclusions. To be continued....

Went to Nobu for lunch for Restaurant Week, where shmancy restaurants have relatively affordable prix-fixe menus. I had sashimi salad (two pieces of tuna! albeit scrumptious) and their famous black cod with miso, which came with a vinegary pickled green onion that contrasted with the unctuousness of the cod perfectly. Dessert was basically a parfait, but with fresh berries and a sake-spiked mousse...an interesting addition. I sat at the sushi bar, and tried to discern the hierarchy/division of labor among the sushi chefs, but it remained opaque. The monolingual sushi chefs gave a funny look when acknowledging my order, as announced by the waiter, of sashimi salad...well, excuuuuse me. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pinkertons now and then

1 hour writing, 4.5 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hours emailing/administrivia

Interesting article in the Times today about the U.S. Army's negotiations with Iraqi militias to support pacification efforts in Iraq, and the connection of these to the new Iraqi army. The issue of how militias, and other irregular armed forces, connect to the state security forces, while not absolutely central to my dissertation, are nonetheless an important part of the story. Today I'm wondering whether the connections aren't deeper than I'm thinking. Perhaps the connection between security forces and regime stability happens via irregular forces; that is, Type of Security Force --> Type of Irregular Armed Forces --> Type of Armed Challenge to Regime. Worth pursuing further.

The ironic thing about the Times article, which is about the connection between public and private security forces, is that the U.S. colonel featured is named Pinkerton, which is the name of a private police force that emerged in the U.S. at the end of the 19th century. The Pinkertons were involved in hunting down Jesse James, breaking strikes, and survive to this day, though under the aegis of a Swedish global private-security firm. The Pinkerton logo featured an eye above the slogan, "We Never Sleep," and that image is where the term "private eye" comes from. Now you know.

Finished going through the Bailey/Dammert collection on police reform in the Americas. Lots of good ideas and sources, but I remain convinced the story of the emergence and evolution of these forces has yet to be told, particularly at the state and regional level.

In terms of writing, I focused on the chapter on police systems. I'm presenting that chapter as a paper at the Latin American Studies Association conference right after Labor Day, and the paper is due on August 1st, so I'll be working toward that deadline. Also made an appointment to meet with one of my advisors in a month when I'm out in the Bay Area for Matt and Laura's wedding. Deadlines are good!

It's Restaurant Week in NYC, with a bunch of fancy places offering reasonable lunch prix-fixes. I made a couple of reservations, much to Cathy's chagrin/envy, as she's too far uptown to meet me. Well, I'm scouting for the future; yeah, that's the ticket....

P.S. Happy birthday, Mom! And happy belated birthday, Allison!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Them good ol' boys...

0.5 hours writing, 5.5 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hours emailing/administrivia

This week's blog monitor is Rafael Mazer in San Francisco. Rafael is a former colleague of mine at Hispanics in Philanthropy, and an unapologetic blog-o-phile, loving all types of internet ramblings, from intelligent political discourse to celebrity gossip and arguments over old rap records. He has an academic background in Latin American politics, and has lived abroad in Chile, Argentina and Guatemala. He's headed to graduate school at Duke in the fall. Welcome, Rafael!

I've been thinking about The Dukes of Hazzard and Veronica Mars today, as I picked up a book at the Strand over the weekend about rural and small-town police in the U.S. Thought it would be a useful point of comparison with the Colombian rural police who are central actors in the story I'm telling in my dissertation. One of the most interesting points to emerge from it was the contrast between a sheriff and a local police chief. I can't believe I hadn't thought of this before, given that one of my favorite TV shows, Veronica Mars, features a main character who runs for the elected office of sheriff. An elected police officer. Given my interest in politicized police, my head just about exploded when I finally made the connection. However, it's not something that's directly relevant for Latin America (far as I can tell), because I believe the sheriff is a distinctly Anglo-American institution. As in so many areas, the difference between common-law (British) and Napoleonic legal systems inherited from colonial times makes a big difference in how U.S. vs. Latin American law enforcement evolved. So you don't have sheriffs in Latin America. It may be an interesting thought experiment to wonder what difference it would have made if there were sheriffs.... In a similar pop-culture vein, reading about small-town sheriffs, the image of Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard kept popping into my head, the all-white-clad political boss who controlled the local sheriff. And that's because on his new CD, which I got last week, the stand-up Patton Oswalt (who's the voice of the lead character in Ratatouille) has a great riff about Bush and Cheney being like the Duke brothers, somehow managing to get themselves out of impossible situations. It's all connected....

Also finished going through Kirk Bowman's great book on militarization and development in Latin America. One key notion from there is that the military never acts alone in staging a coup, it's always allied with other actors. Given that a key distinction I make is between two types of armed challenge - a coup, led by actors within the state, i.e., the army, and an insurrection, led by actors in society (and therefore not the state) - I'll need to give this some thought. The idea of who leads the challenge is probably enough to make the distinction valid, but I'll have to work on whether it makes a difference whether the army is trying to get power for itself or whether it's just knocking aside one civilian government in favor of another, with no intent to rule itself.

Friday, July 13, 2007

0.5 hours writing, 3.5 hours reading/researching

The math textbook I ordered arrived, so I did some of that; I like this one much better than the other one I'd been using. I think they'll complement each other well. I find it useful to train my brain to think in a different way than I'm accustomed, and to focus carefully on the assumptions I make and what they imply. Also, I'm working with a lot of data right now, so it's helpful to have an orientation toward what may or may not be possible with it.

Read more of Kirk Bowman's excellent book on militarization and its negative effect on development in Latin America. It's really a model of multi-method (statistics and case studies) research, and he's very thoughtful every step of the way while generating new insights and overturning false "truisms" in the literature.

Based on some of the data in his book on the level of military participation (how many soldiers per thousand people in the population, a standard measure of militarization, MPR), I compared this to my database of years of military government to see if there's any correlation. Interestingly, while countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica have both relatively few years of military government and relatively low MPRs, El Salvador, one of the countries most frequently governed by the military, had a lower than average MPR, and the two highest-MPR countries, Chile and Uruguay, are in the middle of the pack as far as number of years of military government. Since both countries have reputations for democratic stability prior to their coups in the 1970s, there may be something interesting going on, as all three of Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica also have reputations for stability in their own way (even if it's authoritarian stability in Mexico's case). Something interesting to follow up on next week.

Many thanks to this week's monitor, Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, and happy birthday once again! Next up is Rafael Mazer in San Francisco. More about him on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

0.5 hours writing, 3.5 hours reading/researching, 0.5 hours emailing

Worked on two of the three regions I'm looking at in the subnational comparison: finished analyzing 1938 census data for Tolima, and went through cites for Santander history to cull the most interesting pieces. On the latter front, the NYPL has an annual state statistical abstract for most of the 1940s, which is just the time period I need. They seemed to have kept pretty decent records; it'll be interesting to see how these compare with what's available for Tolima and Atlantico/Bolivar/Magdalena (whichever of those three I end up picking).

Continued reading in the two books I worked on earlier this week, on militarization in Latin America, and on police reform in the Americas. The whole idea of decentralized and community-based police keeps coming up in the latter, and I'm hoping that as part of this work, I can find a way to comment on those contemporary issues from the historical perspective I'm adapting in looking at early and mid-20th century trends. I'm just leery about putting police control in the hands of politicians.... My argument is that 100 years ago, the choice was between Scylla and Charybdis: militarize the security forces and be susceptible to coup, or politicize them and be susceptible to insurrection - soldiers or politicians in charge. The third option, not really available at the time, is to have citizens in control of the security forces. At some point, I'll need to be able to connect my story to that unexplored/unavailable third option of citizen control of the security forces. That's clearly the hope behind decentralizing police reforms, but my spidey sense continues to tingle about those. We'll see....

Had lunch with a former co-worker who's moving to New York for graduate school next month. She's also been blogging lately, and as you can see here, I'd much rather have her material to work with! It was great to catch up and see someone in a different context after having known them through work.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

1 hour writing, 3 hours reading/researching

Wow, there is a lot of material at the NY Public Library on the state of Santander in Colombia. I'll need some time to cull through the 62 records I saved and figure out what will most help me get oriented to the region's history for the subnational comparison part of my analysis. I'm lucky that there's already an excellent regional history of La Violencia in Tolima, one of the other comparison states, to guide me in telling that part of the story. I'm unsure about the third state - whether I need it, first of all, and whether to do Atlantico or Bolivar if I do. Turns out Atlantico, where Barranquilla is, was significantly better off than most of the rest of the country in the late 1930s, for when I have census information. If I want to hold socioeconomic level constant, I should probably go with Bolivar (or Magdalena). We'll see. I'll go back to the NYPL tomorrow to dig around more in the census figures.

Continued writing about the trends in the military-government database, which I've started to expand to incorporate number and type of armed challenges. It's difficult to document and code failed challenges, especially failed armed uprisings, so part of today's writing was about planting a flag in the sand and defining terms. Now I have to go get the information, we'll see how that goes.

Read more in an anthology of police reform in the Americas, focusing on the chapters in Colombia. The more I read, the more I'm convinced that the state and local level is where the story really needs to be told; the National Police isn't as central as I may have originally thought. We'll see.

The movie last night was great. It's set in Washington DC from the late 60s to the early 80s, and there are several great moments that really capture the emotional feel of a particular time, rather than just the clothes or the hairstyles. Talk to Me opens on Friday and is definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

1 hour writing, 3 hours researching

Finished with my database of military governments since 1910. I was surprised to see that Argentina and Chile, which I've been thinking of as contrast cases to Colombia, are actually closer to average in the number of years of military government they've experienced in the last century. It's three countries that stand out as having suffered the longest under military rule: Paraguay, El Salvador, and Honduras. Those three contrast with the three at the other end of the spectrum: Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. The beginnings of some interesting comparisons....

However, first I need to balance out this measure with another one: number and type of armed challenges. This is in truth closer to what I'm trying to measure, but also harder to conceptualize and measure. I'll need to think about how to weigh duration of a military government against frequency and type of armed challenge. This will speak to the whole issue of "stability": am I interested in the stability of a regime - in which case long-lasting military dictatorships like Paraguay's look awfully stable - or in the stability of constitutional governance, that is, the degree to which the constitution - and not guns - decides who holds office. I'm definitely inclined more toward the latter; the types of threats that interest me are those to the principle that the constitution governs who has power, whether those threats be armed challenge from society (insurrection) or from the state (coup).

Cathy and I are going this evening to see a preview of a new movie, Talk to Me, starring one of our favorite actors, Don Cheadle. He was in the Ocean's Eleven movies and was Oscar-nominated for Hotel Rwanda, but it's as Buck Swope in Boogie Nights that he forever captured our hearts. Another character shows him a card trick, and he asks, "Does it scare you dealing with all the evil forces? "Evil? No, it's an illusion." "Yeah, it's confusing!" He'll be there for Q&A, and I hope he gets a question about that role....

Monday, July 9, 2007

When is a Minister not just a Minister?

6 hours researching/reading

This week's blog monitor is Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, in New York. Laura is a Queens chick who is devoted to understanding and strengthening early literacy experiences of bilingual students. She's starting her 9th (!!) year as a teacher and curriculum coach at the Cypress Hills Community School, the only school in NYC to have a shared directorship between a principal and a parent. Welcome Laura, thanks, and happy birthday! Laura will start monitoring tomorrow.

Worked on expanding my database of military governments in Latin America from 1945 back to 1910. Got about halfway through, and will aim to finish tomorrow. Also picked up math again after a couple of weeks of not doing it while at the library. Turns out my department is now teaching a math for political science course, so I downloaded the syllabus, which will help tremendously in guiding my self-directed efforts.

I also did some reading about the Chilean Carabineros, one of two national police agencies in that country. Chile is in many ways my "opposite case" of Colombia, with highly militarized security forces and susceptible to coups. So I was interested to learn that the Carabineros were actually under the Ministry of the Interior, as opposed to the Ministry of Defense, between 1925 and 1973. It was only under Pinochet that they moved to Defense. I'll want to look more into who had effective control over them at the local level. This confirms my suspicion that Ministry affiliation, while part of the story, is not where the action is. There's not a lot of variation in this regard; most countries appear to have put the police under the Interior pretty early on (which in Latin America means not the environment portfolio, like in the U.S., but a sort of catch-all political portfolio; in Chile, for example, there's no formal Vice President, but when the President is out of the country, the Interior Minister becomes Vice President and exercises a kind of minding-the-store authority). The real question is who controls them at the state and local level, which I continue to investigate.

Tomorrow I'll aim to wrap up the military-government database, analyze trends, and start writing up what I find and its implications for my case study of Colombia.

Friday, July 6, 2007

4 hours researching/reading

Bit of a ho-hum day. Went back to micro-level data, continuing to gather information at the town level from the 1938 census. It's slow going, and there's not a lot of variation - they're small, rural, poor towns. One or two are standing out, but I'm not seeing the pattern yet.

Read parts of an excellent study on the very negative impact of militarization on development called Militarization, Democracy, and Development. It's quite inspirational as a role model, combining cross-national statistical analysis with detailed case studies. One of the case studies, and there are some mentions I'll need to follow up on about a Honduran military dictator in the 1960s making changes to the police upon assuming power - which is exactly what Rojas Pinilla did in Colombia in the 1950s. The other case study, Costa Rica, remains one I need to get more into, as a country where the army was abolished in 1948, with very positive outcomes over the following six decades. I need to figure out how this case fits into my framework; I think it's very hard to essentially cut through the Gordian knot of having either to create a strong army and militarized police that can maintain order - but then may want to take over the government - or to create a less strong army and a politicized police that aren't a threat to take over, but aren't very good at quelling armed rebellion from below. It's worth my thinking more about how Costa Rica got out of this problem....

Thanks to Dan Faltz for monitoring this week. Next up is Laura Ascenzi-Moreno, in New York. Laura's mother is Colombian, and she was a Fulbright in Bogota at the same time as me, so I'll really need to be on my game next week as far as Colombian history.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

From micro to macro

7 hours researching/reading

Having been immersed in micro-level data on electoral patterns at the town level in the state of Tolima, I must have been looking for a change of perspective, because I gravitated today toward a very different type of data: patterns of military government in Latin America since World War II. (Thank you Wikipedia, y gracias Wikipedia en espaniol.) Quite illuminating. My argument hinges on the exception to the rule: Colombia bucks the trend of Latin American countries being chronically susceptible to military dictatorships. I want to say that this is part of its own trend rather than being an outlier to another trend. So I need to situate Colombia in the context of other Latin American republics in the same time period. This is helpful in identifying potentially similar cases. The obvious ones were always Mexico and Costa Rica, but I was interested to see that Ecuador has less experience with military government than I'd expected.

Tomorrow, I'm going to extend the timeline back to 1910 to see if the postwar trends hold. All this will help frame the chapter on "Colombia in comparative perspective."

Also went through some recent reading, extracting the most relevant points that I'd highlighted. One potentially important idea that emerged from an edited collection on the Latin American military called Rank and Privilege was the role of the frontier in nation-building, and its impact on/connection to security forces. Money quote:

"[In countries] such as Argentina and Chile, campaigns against indigenous groups stimulated the modernization of the army and enhanced the stature of the institution" (p. xiv).

Is that what happened in the U.S., too? A big part of the story in Colombia during La Violencia is about life on the frontier; it's the areas that are most sparsely settled, where peasants have recently established themselves on land long in the nominal possession of large landowners and are fighting for the right to stay, that you see the violence evolve from politically motivated to economically based. That shift is a key part of the story that Mary Roldan tells in Blood and Fire. What Rodriguez suggests here is that the frontier story goes back to the 19th century, and that it had a critical role in the growth and development of the security forces.

I guess I need to watch some Westerns about cattle rustling....

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Diplomatic intrigue

4.5 hours reading/researching

Luckily, the dilation that they do at the eye doctor's only lasts a few hours, so I'm back up to speed today. Didn't get to writing today, but I went through some municipal-level electoral data to shore up my subnational comparison. I took a look today at the state of Tolima, and studied the population distribution of partisan voting patterns using the wonderful atlas of Colombian electoral geography that I began working with last month. For the period immediately leading up to La Violencia, the state was pretty solidly Liberal, which is important for my comparison. About 58% of the population lived in towns where the Liberals were electorally dominant, another 14% lived in Conservative-dominated towns, and the remaining 28% lived in towns that were competitive, with about half of those skewing Liberal. Overall, 74% of the population lived in towns that were pretty comfortably in the hands of Liberals. It's important to establish this profile so I can compare it to another state (I'm thinking Santander) where the electoral landscape was more competitive. This will allow me to see how the level of electoral competition affects the impact of security forces on the types of armed challenges the regime to which the regime is susceptible.

The other thread I followed today was to read one of the few studies of the military regime of Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1953-57), the only military dictatorship of the 20th century in Colombia. Compared to most of the rest of Latin America, that's pretty distinctive, and part of what led me on this path of research in the first place. Rojas Pinilla also made some significant reforms to the police, so his government is an important episode for me to consider.

One of the really interesting things in this book was to see the use the authors made of diplomatic correspondence. There's a fascinating appendix to the book in which the Colombian ambassador to the U.S. describes in literally day-by-day detail his negotiations to have the U.S. government give Colombia free military equipment as recognition for Colombia having sent troops - the only Latin American country to do so, by the way - to help the American side in the Korean War. I don't know if he ultimately succeeded, but the way he describes a series of increasingly confrontational meetings over the course of 18 months, and the window his account provides into the nuts and bolts of diplomacy in the '50s, was fascinating. Lots of informal conversations with U.S. officials at cocktail parties, after dinners, and even at a pool party. There's a comical visual for you. It reminds me to look at diplomatic sources, including on the U.S. side, to get more insight, particularly into periods that are politically sensitive in Colombia.

I'm taking off tomorrow for the Fourth. Enjoy the fireworks, and I'll be back on Thursday!

Monday, July 2, 2007

My eyes!

4 hours reading

Happy July! Please welcome new blog monitor Dan Faltz, in Los Angeles. Dan is a friend from my San Francisco days who's in film school at USC. His excellent short Lucky Man has been featured in festivals across the country, including one in New York last month, at which Cathy and I were lucky enough (ha, ha) to catch it. Definitely a name to watch! Welcome, Dan.

I had an eye appointment this afternoon, and they dilated my eyes, so I've been out of commission pretty much since then. Today, I read two interesting analyses of Colombian regional history by young American historians, Nancy Appelbaum and James Sanders. I audited a course on race, region, and nation that Nancy taught at Berkeley, at a time when there was a real critical mass of top-flight historical work coming out about Colombia's regions between 1850 and 1950. Blood and Fire, about Antioquia, which I've written about glowingly in this space, is of that group, and came out in 2002, followed the next year by Nancy's Muddied Waters, about a town in the coffee-growing region that subverts usual understandings of regional identity and brings to the fore the racially coded ways in which regions have been defined in Colombia. (I love that the name of the town, Riosucio, literally means "dirty river," allowing for the great and thematically appropriate title.)

Finally, in 2004, James Sanders's Contentious Republicans documented a rich popular-democratic tradition in the southern Cauca region during the second half of the nineteenth century, as elite Liberals made alliances with lower-class (or "popular") blacks and mulattos to contend for regional and national power. Sanders complicates our picture of nineteenth-century electoral contention and civil warmaking in Colombia, adding race and class perspectives that help us see in new ways and understand that complicated time more clearly. For my purposes, there's some good stuff in there about the connection between the state-level army and the incipient political parties. That'll be useful for my chapter on the time leading up to the institutional design of the army and police that are central for my analysis.

Tomorrow I'll be back up to speed and ready to write more.