The Perks of Pemex

I’ve written before on some of the problems of Pemex (see, for instance, “Not everything is perfect, perfect, perfect“).  A recent WSJ article about the company’s attempts to renegotiate terms with the union help to explain some of these issues.

Under the current contract, union workers:

1. Retire at age 55 with “at least 80% of the average salary during the past year worked.”  Pretty sweet deal.

2.  Get 30 vacation days annually and those days aren’t merely a paid holiday; they receive three times their pay for those vacation days! (if they have worked at Pemex for at least 10 years)

3. Receive low interest rate mortgages if they want to purchase a house

4.  Enjoy extensive health insurance benefits, including “cosmetic surgery for employees and their relatives.”  Their relatives too?  Wow, was there any actual contract negotiation going on by Pemex management before now? Did they even try?

The Culture that is Japan: #Ikemen Edition

So the latest Japanese heartthrob is 18 years old, which makes sense, but he’s also around 300 pounds!

Did I mention he’s a gorilla?


Apparently he’s got quite the “come hither” look that is getting his mojo working with Japanese women.

In case you were wondering WWWZS:

“I wish the ape a lot of success
I’m sorry my apartment’s a mess
Most of all I’m sorry if I made you blue
I’m betting the gorilla will, too”

Liars Poker: Mexican Education Reform Edition

Wow. This is a weird story. EPN and the PRI have actually outfoxed the great majority of the unionized teachers in Mexico.  One of his major initiatives for education reform was teacher evaluations (by way of written tests) that would form a basis for getting rid of “bad” teachers. The teachers union CNTE was dead set against this and vowing to fight/protest/disrupt the recent national elections.

So the PRI suspended the testing process in the lead up to the elections, only to reinstate it the week after the elections occurred without significant disruptions.

OK, well played, EPN, right? The CNTE shoulda known better, they’d spent decades in the PRI camp and had to know what EPN’s word was worth.

Not so fast.

This week, the government announced that teacher testing was re-suspended in Oaxaca and MIchoacan, two states with fairly radicalized branches of CNTE. Here’s Robin on the state of the Oaxacan teacher’s union.

I wonder what happens now? Will the Government just write off Oaxaca and use the test to bludgeon teachers in the other 30 states? Will the “radicals” end up bringing down the whole process?

However it turns out, I still marvel that the Mexican people have put the PRI back in power and kept them there in the recent mid-terms.

What could go wrong?

Kevin and I used to marvel at the myriad methods of human transportation in Latin America.  Some of our favorites came from Guatemala, where we saw a man riding a giant milk tanker like a horse down a highway, men standing on hitches between a trailer and a cab of a semi (also on the highway), and buses that would take off with a full load of luggage on top, leading some poor guy to try to arrange and secure the luggage while the vehicle was already full speed ahead.

From one of my favorite tweeters (@_youhadonejob) though, we found a new one which really boggles the mind.  Here is a new (but presumably not better) way of transporting a ladder:


Like the title of this post asks, what could possibly go wrong with this method?

Non-verbal communication: Mexico Edition

Here’s a cool piece about body language in Mexico. My favorite is the symbol for big money (mucho billete)



One that the article misses is the symbol for “no f’n way”. Robin and I called this one the “Mexican dedo”

Lift up your index finger and wave it slowly back and forth. Amazingly effective.

LOL, Mexico edition

The Catholic Church performs a nation-wide exorcism on the country of Mexico. Seriously, I’m not making this up.  The Pope offended the Mexican government in February when he expressed his hope that “his homeland Argentina could avoid “Mexicanization.”  The Pope apologized, saying that no offense was intended (ha!).  And now this.  I wonder how offended the government is now that the Church thinks the whole country needs to be exorcised from its demons.  Here are a couple of my favorite parts of the report:

“This isn’t the first time the Catholic Church has tried to mitigate violence in Central America.”  Um, the writer does know that Mexico isn’t in Central America, right?

“The church, however, knew the ritual wouldn’t change the country in a single day. ‘It would be a big mistake to think that by performing a full scale exorcism of the country everything would automatically change right away,’ Father Fortea said.”  Got to cover your bases, that’s for sure.  No use promising miracles or anything.

In other LOL news:

(1) The Mexican President assures the people that the country has never had a dictatorship.  I wonder how hard it was to say that with a straight face.  And I wonder how dumb they think the public is. Maybe the Church should give EPN an exorcism while they’re at it.


(2) the state of Oaxaca has gone back on their promise to not pay striking teachers for the weeks that they were on strike.  EPN’s Education reforms seem to be fully on track.

The (Mis) Allocation of Talent?


Hat tip to@PankajPachauri for this interesting table.  I had a couple of thoughts on it:

1. Very disconcerting that the DOD is the #1 employer in the world.  Great stagnation anyone?

2.  The UK only has a population of 63 million people.  How can 1.7 million of those work for the National Health?  That’s over 2.5% of the total population!  And that doesn’t account for children and old people.

3. For a still poor country, China’s Defense Department employs a lot of people, making me wonder what the implications of this are for the country’s future productivity.

Replicants Incorporated

Longtime CG friend W. Robert Reed is firing up the replication train in economics!

Here is a scary table from his paper in Econ Journal Watch:


Scary because it says 2/3 of published replications fail. Sure there’s probably selection bias but that’s eye popping nonetheless.  As Bob points out, the JAE routinely publishes simple confirmations and even there almost half of the pieces fail to replicate.

You can join Bob and learn more about the state of replication in economics here at The Replication Network.

Join us and you too can see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

The evolution of human development in Latin America

Leandro Prados de la Escosura has a thought provoking new working paper “Human Development as Positive Freedom: Latin America in Historical Perspective.”

The paper studies the evolution of human development (that is, a measure of development that tries to go beyond just per-capita income) in Latin America from the late 19th century until now.  de la Escosura reports a couple of interesting findings, namely, that

1. “Human development improved in Latin America during the last century and a half, especially between 1900 and 1980, when gains were significant and across the board. Remarkable progress in life expectancy and education occurred between 1938 and 1950, precisely at the time of an economic globalization backlash.”

2. “The last three decades have witnessed a widening in the absolute gap between developed countries and Latin America. Differences in the behaviour of human development dimensions help to explain it. In Latin America, life expectancy played a major role in human development gains and catching up, but only until the mid twentieth century. With completion of the first health transition, its dynamic role faded. A second wave of life expectancy gains comparable with those of developed countries has yet to take place. Instead, education was mainly responsible for long run.”

He goes on to explain the important questions that these findings raise:

“Why did life expectancy stop being the driving force of world human development as the first health transition was concluded? Why Latin America has been left aside from the second health transition? Is there a lack of public policies, or a polarizing effect of new medical technologies? Is it that health and education are highly income-elastic? To what extent did restricted access to health and education, as a result of income inequality, play a role?”

de la Escosura also has an interesting discussion of the anomaly that is Cuba, a country that ranks high on some human development indices because of high life expectancy rates and education levels, but clearly doesn’t have a high level of human development if we mean freedom of expression and opportunity.  de la Escosura agrees, offering the following caveat to his results :

“The case of Cuba presents an extreme contrast between the success in achieving ‘basic needs’ and the failure to enlarging people’s choices –the core of human development- as agency and freedom are curtailed by the political regime. Restrictions of individual choice in Cuba -as collectivization, forced industrialization, and political repression exemplify-, suggest that achievements in health and education could be, strictly speaking, depicted as ‘basic needs’ rather than as human development.”