The Plaid Avenger

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Forget the Frosted Flakes: G-8 Riots, They’re Grrrrrrrrrr…..eight!!!

Ha! Smashing comedy! How capital! And speaking of capital, today’s topical topic involves those eight countries containing copious quantities of capital—the G-8. The Great-8 as I like to refer to them as.  And the G could also stand for G-money my brotha’s and sista’s cause the 8 has got that too!  I was just taking a weekend holiday in Amsterdam, when sure enough anywhere I show up shit hits the fan…and by shit I mean beer bottles, rocks, tear gas…you know, usual mob stuff.

That’s right friends, it’s almost time for the annual G8 summit and the Germans decided to start celebrating a couple of days early! Check this out:

G-8 Protesters Clash With German Police

Violent clashes at G8 demo in Germany

You remember the G8, right? If not, the G8 is basically just a group of eight richest “democratic” countries (Germany, US, UK, France, Italy, Canada, Japan, and Russia). Once a year, the leaders of the G8 states like to get together and chat—mostly about staying rich and keeping everyone else poor. This is actually how the G8 got started—leaders from the six richest, most awesome democratic countries (this is before Canada and Russia joined the club) met for cocktails in 1975 and after the party, they decided to do it again next year. This yearly party slowly evolved into a formal organization with a rotating presidency, blah, blah, blah…

Anyway, there is one sucky aspect about being president of the G8: you gotta host the party! Let me tell you, I have hosted some Animal House style parties in my day, but even the Plaid Avenger would NEVER choose to host a G8 summit! Nothing incites the poor, the disenfranchised, and the radical-left like a bunch of empowered white dudes getting together to bullshit about being rich. And NOBODY likes to riot more than the before mentioned groups (except, perhaps, residents of DetroitMichigan).

G8 2007 Hostess with the Most-ess: Fräulein Merkel

As you can tell by the articles, this year’s summit is being held at a beach front resort in Heiligendamm, Germany. Ahhh… summer in Germany… and there is nothing as exclusive as a beach front resort surrounded by a giant-ass barb wire fence. And with an “underwater barrier” erected to keep out all the damn boats. (Plaid Party Tip: The secret to throwing a great summit—Fortify the SHIT out of the place!) The party will surely be wild inside the fence. It will be the last G8 summit meeting for several 'Honest' Abe Shinzo will be there: better stock up on the Sake and Sapporo!important heads of state: Vlad “The Man” Putin, Tony “Poodle-Boy” Blair, and Jacques “The Rock” Chirac (Plaid Prediction: the Kempinski Grand Hotel will be several bathrobes short at the end of the summit). It will also be the first G8 summit for Gordon ‘Brown Sugar’ Brown, Nick ‘the Knife’ Sarkozy, and Shinzo “Sake-to-me” Abe—who, according to several sources, is capable of drinking over 30 Sapparo Black Label beers in one sitting! Sweet!

But, the real excitement will be outside of the fence. The pre-party started at a peaceful protest” in nearby Rostock. Don’t be surprised if people get more pissed and more violent after the summit actually begins! While G8 summits are typically filled with protest, this year may be worse than normal. Here are a few reasons why:

1.Energy costs are sky high.

2.Global Warming scares the shit out of people living in the Northern European lowlands.

3.GW Bush is remarkably even LESS popular than he was last year. Jesus! How is that possible?

What will the summit accomplish? Probably nothing as usual. This international group does not have any binding contractual agreement to actually do or enforce anything.  It’s more just a ‘fireside chat’ among these top world leaders about what to focus on in the coming year, with no real intent to actually put any policy in place. 

However, you should be aware about this ‘focus’ stuff.  It was absolutely no coincidence that US President George Bush suddenly came out with a policy just last week which states that his administration wants to start dealing with global warming—after essentially ignoring the issue for six years! Its going to be up for debate at the G-8, and George doesn’t want to be odd man out anymore. 

You want my energy? Let's talk about your missiles…Also, look for everyone to be kissing Putin’s ass as much as possible since Russia is flexing its muscles here lately since establishing itself as an energy-producing giant.  Since Russia provides shit-tons of energy to Europe, I’ll also bet that Putin is going to be putting the squeeze on those European leaders to convince the US to stop building its missile defense shield sites in Eastern Europe—in fact I’d put a lot of money on that bet.

OK, enough on this, I’m headed back to the “coffee shop”. I’ll catch you plaid cats later. Party in plaid.

Eurasian Persuasion: Ejected by EU? Slide into Central Asia!

Greetings again from Ankara my Plaid Friends!  On my way back from Pakistan, I felt the overwhelming urge for some raki and Turkish Delight (the confection has taken such a bad rap since that little lying bastard Edmund wanted it in ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’)…aslan sütü and lokum.  What a delightful pair to have while in Turkey! I do love the lion’s milk!  Yeah baby!    And Turkey is back on my radar screen again already due to some current events.  Dig it:

Turkey stakes a Central Asian claim
US to push Sarkozy on Turkey’s EU processBetween Turkey and the EU, two plus two does not necessarily equal four
EU excited and worried by Sarkozy

Now I’ve chatted about the EU’s apprehension for Turkish ascension before on this blog, so I need not go back into those details (see EU turkeys talk turkey with Turkey ). But what I want to blather about today is what I’ve been telling my classes for years: Turkey is on a pivot point in modern history, and it looks as if a direction is soon to be chosen…if not downright forced on it!  What pivot do I speak of?  I’m referring to one of two directions Turkey will take to team up with in terms of economies, cultures, and politics.  Those two team choices are the EU or Central Asia/Middle East. West or East. Could the choices be made more geographically distinct? 

Turkey is a population powerhouse, Turkey is a growing economic power, and Turkey is increasingly a vital hub for the international flow of oil and natural gas.  Turkey will be a leader in the 21st century.  The question is: of what?  Will they be accepted into the EU and embrace the West even more, or will they be snubbed by the EU and turn around and become a power broker of a Central Asian/Middle Eastern coalition?

Ottoman Designs on Central Asian Squad?

An Ottoman Empire Part Deux? Seems increasingly likely. Why?

As a very savvy commenter pointed out in a previous blog (see Fuck ‘Freedom Fries’: France is Freakin’ Back, Fools!), the election of anti-EU-enlargement Nicolas Sarkozy in France is very likely to put a huge damper on Turkish movement forward with EU entry.  But that French fairy is only the latest nail in the coffin of Turkey‘s EU talks: Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel is also vehemently opposed to the Turks, and the likely-next-Prime Minister of the UK, Gordon ‘Brown Sugar’ Brown, may be no proponent of Ankara either. And this ‘EU Dream Team’ of leaders are all youngish and recently-elected, so they are going to be around for while—which may mean Turkey won’t be!

As pointed out numerous times by the Avenger, the US is HUGELY in favor of Turkey staying staunchly in the western sphere of influence, and they are pushing hard for the EU to embrace their Turkish ally. Why would this be? Turkey is a NATO member, and one that has been of central and downright critical importance for the War on Terrorism: Afghan Chapter.  The US also sees Turkey as the only successful Islamic democracy in the region to be emulated by its Middle Eastern neighbors, so Uncle Sam is keen on keeping Turkey in their corner of the ring.  Simply put, without Turkish help, the war on terrorism in the Middle East and Central Asia becomes seriously hampered, if not outright hamstrung. 

The other consideration here is that Turkey is increasingly becoming a pivotal power player in the energy game too.  Long story short:

And therefore shutting out Turkey will further shut out strategic ties to their energy sources. Don’t sound too smart to me, but whatever. Perhaps the EU will go totally green in the next ten years and never use oil again. Yeah…..right.  As of this writing, it appears that the EU fears negative repercussions of Turkish entry in the EU much much much more than it fears losing an ally on the anti-terrorism campaign and an ally in their energy strategy.  Tricky business. Tricky business indeed.  I wonder if the ‘EU Dream Team’ will still be glad they excluded the Turks if Turkey turns around and starts to put the energy crunch on them…like the Russians have been.

But watch out!  This is what I really want you to see!  The Turks are not going to roll over and die if they don’t get in the EU, and Central Asia may be where they will re-focus their foreign policy and diplomacy.  Why there? Several reasons:

Turk Talk Time: Places where the Language is Turkic

1)Cultural and historic ties—the ethnic group called ‘the Turks’ are from Central Asia originally, and they share linguistic and religious commonalities with their Asian buddies. Ever wonder how Turkmenistan got its name?
2)As pointed out above, Central Asia is producing a shitload of energy…and a serious percentage of that shitload flows thru Turkey to get to the rest of the world. Turkey would like to see even more flow thru their territory, thus increasing their geopolitical hand while decreasing Russia‘s—‘cause whoever has or controls the oil of the future controls a lot!
3)While Turkey may be looked upon as a poor and backwards stepchild within the EU framework, it would be a true leader of states to their east—being richer, more technologically advanced and more politically stable than virtually any country east of them to China! And speaking of China, Turkey‘s involvement as a power player in Central Asia would also cut into China‘s influence as well. The ‘Great Game’ is back on!

So Europe has got some thinking to do, and Turkey does as well.  Many in Turkey are becoming totally disenfranchised with the whole bullshit EU entry process, and many have given up on it already.  But that don’t mean that they’ve given up aspirations to be a regional power! Let’s watch the Turks carefully this year to see where new relationships may be blossoming…I personally bet that the next President or Prime Minister of Turkey will soon go on a whirlwind tour of Central Asia states trying to sign as many trade deals as he can…but we shall see.

I won’t lie to you Turkey: you’ve got your work cut out for you trying to establish ties in Central Asia, cause the SCO has beat you to the punch. SCO? What the hell is an SCO? The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not to be messed with!  Back the fuck up off the SCO!  Maybe I better fly from here to China and tell you a little bit more about these guys in my next blog….


British Bombshell: Bye-Bye Blair, Bring on the Brown Sugar!

Blair: bailing out while the bailing is good!Just woke up from partying in Paris, and popped over to London to start on a pub crawl when I heard this news.  Blair bailing out! Yet another bedrock political leader in Europe bites the dust!  Man, ‘tis the season for change all over the Old World apparently.  Check it:

Blair will stand down on 27 June

Gordon Brown, the Next Man in Number 10 — Most Likely

Smirking Gordon says: bye, bye Tony

Blair: Ten years is enough

The US’ greatest lapdog is bowing out, as in bow-wow-wowing out—pun intended my plaid friends!  Where or where will the US ever find such a loyal pooch to blindly follow them into armed adventures across the globe.  Hmmm…maybe the Japanese after they scrap their pacifist constitution…or maybe the Australians after they triple their population!  Who knows?  One thing is for sure: the Brits won’t be quite as bold supporters of US bombings from here on out.  But I digress, let’s back up the cart…

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been leading Great Britain for a decade straight, and helped his political party win three successive elections—that would be the Labour Party to the unfamiliar.  The Labour Party can be likened to the Democratic  Party here in the US.  And we can go one step further in the analogy: Tony Blair was/is the British version of Bill Clinton.  Both dudes are center-left, socially liberal, youngish, handsome, slick speaking, eye-candy politicians who ushered in a new younger, hipper, liberal age into both countries roughly at the same time.  While the US turned back to the conservative Republicans in 2000, the UK has remained staunchly in the hands of the liberal Labour crew.  Bill and Blair were bosom buddies back in the day…and in the days since, Blair has continued his cozy relationship with the US even under the Bush administration…and perhaps that is why he is bailing out right now.

Blair bailing because of Bush? Many would interpret events that way.  Blair’s unwavering support for the Bush-led US war in Iraq has been extremely unpopular in the pubs and soccer fields of the Kingdom.  Lots of folks now believe that even though Blair may has done very well overall for Britain over the years, he is going to be remembered solely for the Iraq debacle. Specifically, many in the Labour Party have wanted Tony to step down for a while now, so as to distance the Party from the Middle Eastern mess—especially since Labour has been losing support, and seats, for the last year.  And that’s too bad, because under Tony’s tutelage the UK has done quite well economically, socially, and internationally. Blair, and Brown, have helped more often than hindered in places like Africa, China, India, et al.  But who is this Brown fellow?

Gordon Brown: the dumpy smart guy.Gordon Brown aka ‘Brown Sugar’ is the long-serving Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK—the guy who holds the purse strings of the government.  He has served in this role under Tony Blair for the last decade—in fact these guys were buddies even before they achieved the top spots of UK leadership.  And Brown has another distinction: he has dominated the domestic political agenda like no one before him.  Brown is the one largely responsible for the economic success of the country today—and he is the shoe-in to become the next Prime Minister!

Kind of dumpy, plainly dressed, goofy hair, toothy grin: he is the exact opposite of the glibly slick and TV-ready Blair.  But old Gordon is much more of a thinker than Tony, as evidenced by the financial state and competitiveness of the UK, and as such may be much more elusive when it comes to staunchly supporting the US.  The Plaid Avenger predicts that the British lapdog is soon to be jumping off the trousers of Uncle Sam—the puppy is not going to leave the house, mind you, it’s just not going to be on the lap.  Brown is reserved and plays his cards close to the chest, and while is has publicly supported the US, the Bushies, and the War on Terror, I believe he is now going to be trying to associate the ‘Iraq-capades’ distinctly with Blair.  He is not going to abandon the US, but will draw a distinct line with the Iraq War deal making it very clear what his government will and will not do in the future—and increasing troops is NOT going to be on the table for discussion. Ever.

So know this:  Brown knows that his buddy Blair and his Labour Party have taken a rap for their lapdog role, and he is getting ready to reign in the leash.  Just at a time when the Frenchies may be more accommodating to the US-led role in the war (remember, they just elected a conservative president—Sarkozy).  How bizarre is that?

Maybe Tony can now join me for that pub crawl since he’s got nothing better to do.  British Real Ale—can you get anything real-er than that? Look it up my Plaid friends!  It’s the good shit!

Real Ale and kidney pie!



Ruskie Bites the Dust-kie

I'm not really dead! Just really, really hungover!Back in Plaid!  Let’s get back into it with a bit of bantering about Boris…Boris Yeltsin that is: a huge figure, literally and figuratively, of the 20th century that you should at least have a working knowledge of. He is the guy who oversaw the transformation of the USSR into what we call Russia today. And what a transition it was!  It’s nothing short of a miracle that this guy survived his time in office, much less all the vodka he drank while doing it! But I digress…

Yeltsin is laid to rest in Moscow

Lost on the Road to Yeltsin’s New Era

Memories of Yeltsin

Ah…..a man after my own heart! Revolutionary leader, statesman, reformer…and a total drunk to boot.  What a combo!  This rant won’t be long, but let me at least point out several things this guy did to make the history books.

First off, who was this dude?  Boris Yeltsin was originally a building engineer by training, but entered politics at an early age and never looked back.  Of course, if you are a politician in the USSR, then you are by default a communist party member too—after all it was the only political party to be in, and all the cool kids were commies since the Stalin era.  So Boris was a commie working his way up the ranks of leadership up until the late 1980’s…you know, when things really turn to shit for the USSR. The Cold War was winding down, while Ronald Reagan was ratcheting up the heat on the ‘Evil Empire’ by building more bombs than ever.  Ron Rocks!

So Yeltsin becomes somewhat of a visionary by figuring out that the soviet system was going to collapse, and he actually started speaking out for reform and accountability, which of course got him fired.  But his cult of personality had already started in Moscow, and people liked the dude, and they simultaneously hated the commies, so his popularity grew. He was elected to the Russian Congress, and in 1991 he was elected as the President of Russia. (Remember, at this time Russia is simply one of the Republics in the greater USSR political organization, a sub-state if you will.)

Gorbachev: Maybe Boris spilled wine on his head?

What happened next is out of a storybook. The leader of the entire USSR at the time was Mikhail Gorbachev—you know, guy with the wine stain on his forehead—was trying himself to reform the crap-ass soviet system, while desperately trying to hold the impending shit-storm of a strained socialism together.  In August of 1991, some hard-line commie hold-outs staged a coup to depose Gorbachev, and guess who comes to the rescue?  You know this! Our main booze-hound Boris!  He rallied the population, made a speech from atop a tank, re-captured the ‘White House’, and restored Gorbachev to power.  All while brown-bagging a handle of Smirnoff! Wow! That is a historical figure I can rally behind!

Gorbachev was back in power, but the back of the soviet system was now totally broke. Yeltsin was now the man! In a matter of months, the Russian government assumed all powers of the Soviet government (you follow me here?), and in November of 1991, Yeltsin outlawed the Commie Party outright.  In December, he set up the dissolution of the USSR into the independent states that you see on the map today.  On Christmas Eve, Boris assumed the USSR seat at the UN in Russia‘s name, and officially declared the end of the Soviet Union. Game over dude.  Cold War done.

And now I can more succinctly summarize what he did while in office as Russia‘s first President (ever!) from 1991-1999. Yeltsin can be credited/blamed for several things of particular note:

  1. Shift to market economy: He oversaw the transition from socialism to capitalism in what can only be called a ‘wild west show’ of privatization. During this orgy of capitalism, massive government rip-offs occurred which brought tremendous wealth to a small class of businessmen—now called the ‘oligarchs’, remember that from class?  This transition initially caused widespread turmoil and near economic collapse, but it seems to have leveled off after a decade. It just happened so damn fast! People were in shock, and in fact Boris called his plan “Shock Therapy”.
  2. When this shock took full force, the Russian “congress” basically revolted in 1993 and was going to toss old Boris out, but he sent in the army tanks to shell the senators back into place. Seriously!  He fired rounds at the damn building in order to maintain the fledgling democracy!  This guy was nuts!  The other use of military force that Yeltsin will be remembered for is the start of the war in Chechnya in 1994: a conflict which has mired Russia in death and destruction right on up to the present.  He did this on the grounds of maintaining the integrity of the Russian state…but at a terrible cost so far.
  3. Entrenched democracy: Oversaw first full ‘real’ elections in 1996, which he won, but by all accounts was pretty darn fairly run.  Also, his stepping down in 1999 is a momentous event in that it’s always the first real test of a true democracy when the first transition of power happens willingly, and peacefully.  And that’s exactly how Boris did it.  And who did he hand power to?  Why our main man in Russia, Vlad ‘The Man’ Putin of course! Party like Putin!

Boris paved the way for Putin!!!

Of course I need to finish this rant with the booze. Boris loved the booze man!  He was widely considered a drunk by his opponents, and a hard partier by his allies…hey, that’s kind of like me!  He was often tipsy at meetings, late for appointments, or just overslept his duties outright trying to beat down hangovers. One famous story concerned Yeltsin flying to Ireland for a meeting with the President, and being so drunk he could not even get off the plane! Ha! That’s usually how people leave Ireland, not arrive in it!

He was a loose cannon, a partier and possibly a drunk….and that’s why people were drawn to him. His easy-going friendly nature made him extremely popular in Russian eyes (they aren’t the friendliest folks, those Russians) and abroad.  His was a big figure who oversaw big changes in the biggest country in the world.  And through one of its most turbulent periods ever too! Perhaps it took a drunk like Boris to be able to survive thru such events and still maintain a sense of humor, and still get things done.  Either way, he was a unique individual who made a big mark in history.  And probably left a big unpaid tab at the local pub too.

It may take years for the Russian vodka industry to recover from the economic shock of his passing…

Trust in Ataturk: 200,000 Turks Talk Tough

Don't mess with the #1 Turk!Let’s hit it again Plaid Friends!  Today’s titillating talk tilts towards the Turks and the two to three hundred thousand of them that are talking tough on maintaining their Ataturk traditions.  And the legacy of Ataturk, the stalwart role of the Turkish military, and the tensions between secular and religious ideologies are all important components of today’s Turkey—affecting things like their political allies worldwide and more importantly their possible ascension into the EU.  Ataturk? Military? Secular? EU? What?  Well, read these, and let’s discuss:

Pro-secular Turks stage ‘Solidarity with Republic’ rally

200,000 protest against Turkey PM

Secular rally targets Turkish PM

Turkey academics oppose PM’s run

Turkish army keeps eye on politicians

As mentioned previously in the blog on Turkey‘s stymied ascension into the EU, Turkey is quite a unique country on today’s Plaid Planet.  Turkey is an overwhelmingly Muslim country (99% of the population), but is simultaneously a 100% secular state.  This makes it one-of-a-kind as far as states go, especially ones so close to the Middle East.  What does secular mean? It means that there is a strict separation between church and state—you know, just like the USA. 

Except you should know this: the Turks are even more extreme and protective over this separation than the US, or really any other secular democracy on the planet.  The state is the state, Islam is Islam, and in Turkey, the two shall never meet.  This can be seen in its most dramatic form by laws in Turkey which completely ban all forms of religious dress, symbols or ornaments inside government buildings.  Total ban.  So, if you want to visit the Turkish parliament building, you can not wear the traditional Muslim headscarf, a funny Pope-style hat, or even a pair of Star-of-David earrings. Not that I’ve tried…okay you got me—I actually was busted wearing all three at one time.  It did not go well.  Luckily, I was undercover in Brooklyn, so I didn’t have to tangle with any pissed off Turks…

But I digress.  Turkey has been this extreme on religious separation since the inception of the modern republic back in 1923.  Under General Mustafa Kemal aka Ataturk, Turkey embraced western-style democracy and social systems, tried to modernize and industrialize, and looked to emulate the Western European states as much as possible—which included adopting a staunchly secular outlook.  Just so you know, Ataturk is short for ‘Father of the Turks’ and he is largely seen as ‘the George Washington’ of today’s Turkey.  He is revered and respected still; perhaps even more than good old George is here.  He was a strong leader, with a strong military background, who genuinely believed that Turkey‘s best chance for the future was to look West rather than embracing religious/political systems from the East…Middle East that is.

He felt so firmly in this that he made sure that the Turkish military was very strong…specifically strong enough to always be able to thwart any organized attempt to introduce religion onto the political system. And thwart they have.  The Turkish military has cleaned house several times in the last few decades: essentially by conducting military coups, firing all the lawmakers/heads of state, and then re-establishing the democracy with fresh elections.  Hardly the most democratic way to do things, by western standards, but it still has seemed to work for Turkey.

Erdogan: Walking the Turkish tightrope

And thus, this: today’s Turkey is becoming tumultuous because there is a perceived threat that political Islam is making headway into the system.  As cited in the stories above, the current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is himself from an Islamist party, and many fear he may pursue a pro-Islamic agenda if elected to become the next President…a post which will be vacant soon.  The Turkish ‘Congress’ is controlled by the same Islamic party and thus Erdogan would be a shoe-in for the nomination, and the subsequent victory if he so desires. (The ‘Congress’ elects the President, not the people—they vote for the Prime Minister position) 

And that is why secular fans are protesting across the country right now—to show at least through demonstrations that they are not keen on such a venture. Look at the pictures too—posters of Ataturk are everywhere.  After reading this short blog, you are probably now aware of another group that would not be keen on Erdogan as President.  Can you guess? Yep, that’s right: the military.  Look again at the story above about the general giving Erdogan a polite ‘warning’ concerning his possible candidacy.  Interesting stuff.

Is Erdogan actually going to push for an Islamic state?  In the Plaid view: not hardly.  No one in Turkey is dumb enough to do that, at least not openly.  Why?  The military coup option of course!  But beyond any threat of military action, Prime Minister Erdogan is a fairly ‘westward-leaning’ guy himself: he is one of the biggest forces behind EU entry.  And he has already been smacked down by the EU before for trying to pass laws to criminalized adultery (among other things), which where interpreted by the EU as being too religious-based.  So Erdogan may be from an Islamic party, but his EU-minded sensibities would argue against any radical ‘Islam-itization’ of the government. Well, that and the fact the army would probably come kick his ass.  Hmmmm…possible ass-kicking always seems to weigh heavily on the minds’ of world leaders…

Speaking of ass-kicking and world leaders, have you seen what Vladimir Putin has been up to?  Damn, that is one world-leader-cat that I would never want to piss off.

Anyway, be sure to watch Turkish developments in their next presidential election to see how things turn out.  The Ataturk secularists will be watching close, as will the Turkish military, as will the EU, as will the US—because the US wants Turkey to stay staunchly in that secular/western-leaning column since they are a NATO ally, and perhaps our ony damn friend left anywhere in/near the Middle East.  But that’s another story….

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Issue 2: Battle For Burma

Well, the battle for the heart and soul of this country is on, but no one outside Burma seems to be able to do a damn thing about it! Why not?

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