The Plaid Avenger

Plaidcast  |  The Americas

White House loses cable TV; Administration Unaware of World Opinion.

Dude! Did someone forget to pay the cable bill at the White House? Because I don’t think that they are getting CNN anymore, much less any other news network that deals with issues outside the US!

Salutations my sexy and sultry friends! The Plaid Avenger is back is rare form, to the great consternation of the Cheney administration in the US.  While I typically try not to dabble in doltish domestic drivel, I’ve heard enough irreverent and irrational interpretations of international intrigue from this administration to last an infinity. Ha! That’s a lot of ‘I’s my friends! And since the US is definitely the 800 pound gorilla of international politics, it is worthy enough to talk about the current comments of the Cheney corporation…and more importantly why their statements are strange…and sketch.  Check it:

Bush warns world of WWIII over Iran

George Bush warns Putin over ‘World War III’

Cheney – No nuclear arms for Iran

Cheney, Like President, Has a Warning for Iran

Cheney raises anti-Iran rhetoric

So what am I ranting about here? Let’s get the sentiment of this blog straight from the start: the Avenger is only concerned with the ridiculous rhetoric coming from the Bush Administration about their ‘world support’ against the Iranian regime.  I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not the Iranians are trying to build a nuclear bomb (they are not…yet). I’m not getting into the particulars about whether or not they support terrorism in the Middle East (they do). I’m not even going to get into whether or not Iran has evil intentions or should be sanctioned or even should be bombed.  What I do want to chat about is who exactly would be supporting any of these movements against Iran—which is the focus of this forum….

Now, apparently the US administration is employing some good old boy, old-school, pre-WWII tactics of full-on propaganda in order to scare the living shit out of folks enough to get them riled up to demand that action be taken against the Iranians.  I mean, if the whole world is against the Iranians, shouldn’t we do something about it?  Um….that’s just the problem…the whole world is Talk about a sweet party! What fun!definitely not on board with US foreign policy on this matter, and to announce that the US is going to lead a willing world to destroy Iran is not just misleading…its simply wrong.  But I want you folks to be smarter than the average bear…and in this case, ‘bear’ is an appropriate animal description, as the Russian Bear has everything to do with this equation.

But I am getting ahead of myself as usual.  Let’s get to the facts…I don’t think I need to elaborate much on the Iranian/US situation happening on the planet right now.  In a nutshell: Iran is developing a nuclear power industry; no one is disputing that fact. The US and some Western European states are utterly convinced that Iran is developing this knowledge in order to ultimately build nuclear weapons.  Iran claims that it only wants the nuclear power, and has a right to do this based on the NPT treaty (which is true). 

The US in particular refutes this claim, and there are widespread accusations in the US which allude to ‘flagrant’ misdeeds of Iran developing a secret nuke bomb—although to my knowledge, no proof of Iranian wrong-doing has ever been presented to the IAEA.  In other words, the US and its allies insist that everybody in the world knows Iran is doing all this bad stuff…even though no one has actually got any proof of any of this bad stuff.  You starting to get the picture here?

Well the picture got fuzzier after Vlad ‘the Man’ Putin visited Iran last week and declared that Russia does not believe threat Iran is doing anything illegal.  As you know from a previous blog (World Pissing Match: Russia Pisses Off US;), Russia also went as far as to set up a ‘no-attack-Iran’ zone with all the countries which surround the Caspian Sea.  ‘The Bear’ is making no bones about its position with Iran—a position which runs exactly opposite to the US one.

And that brings us back to point: Last Friday US President Bush made a speech in which he said that Iran‘s obtaining of a nuclear weapon would start ‘World War Three.”  Wow! That is some serious shit to be spouting! Not to be outdone, US Vice-President Dick Cheney went on the attack just yesterday by saying that under no circumstances would the US and the world at large allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb…which in this case also means developing nuclear power. He hinted that ‘the world’ would not allow this, and that there would be serious repercussions on Iran if they continued down this path.

Just a couple of quotes:

President Bush: “My intent is to continue(?) to rally the world, to send a focused signal to the Iranian government that we will continue to work to isolate you…” (my italics…and ‘continue to rally the world’? ‘Continue’? When did it start?)

Vice President Cheney: “The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences,” Mr. Cheney said, without specifying what those might be. “The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” (my italics)

The international community is prepared to impose serious consequences? The US is rallying the world?  Hmmmm….. I do have to wonder…..Where are these guys getting their information from? I mean, they are the damn White House for pete’s sake! They have the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, foreign ambassadors, think tanks, chiefs of staff and a shitload of other folks whose jobs are to keep the Executive Branch well informed.  So how are these guys making such clueless comments?  I’m just a dude reading the newspapers and can point out a few holes in their thinking about international support against Iran. Here we go:

Vlad: 1) Russia: Hey guys! Check the papers from last week! Russia just announced that they don’t think Iran is doing anything illegal.  AND they said that they would not be supporting any more tougher UN-imposed sanctions on Iran.  How can Russian make such a bold assertion? Duh? Russia has a permanent seat on the UN Permanent Security Council.  As such, it has veto power over any UN sanctions against Iran.

Hello? McFly? McCheney? Do you know how the UN works? Check out a previous blog if you are still confused (Permanent Possessors of Power: the Fabulous 5!)  The deal: Russia will stop cold any UN move against Iran.  So you can count Russia out of your ‘international community’ plans…and while we are it at…

2) China: China almost always stays out of internal affairs of other countries unless those Hu loves you baby?countries happen to be directly threatening China itself.  And that is not the case here either.  Remember, China is the #1 fan of sovereignty on the planet, and as such will say that Iran has a right as a sovereign state to develop nuclear energy until it is proven that they are doing something else.  On top of that, China is always wimpy to stand alone at the UN…but since Russia has already ponied up and said it will block any UN measures against Iran, China will now do it too.  So count China out of the ‘world standing against Iran’….but wait! There’s more!

3) Latin America: Venezuela? Forget about it! Hugo Chavez loves Iran, as does Bolivia‘s leader.  And since most of Latin America now swings to the left side of the socialist spectrum (and because US-Latin American relations have sucked for a decade), the US should not be looking south of its borders for too much support of an Iranian intervention. In fact, almost all countries south of Mexico will probably openly oppose any such move…since most already did oppose the US invasion of Iraq. Oh! And speaking of Iraq

4) Iraq: That place is still in bad shape with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite…does anybody in Iraq really want an invasion of Shia Iran next door? Talk about dumping gas on the fire! Holy shit! That whole place will explode! Don’t look for Iran‘s immediate neighbors to support an invasion or bombing…what a minute…did you say neighbors?

5) Iran‘s ‘hood: As suggested above, Iraq cannot be very supportive of a new war next door. But as This is now the also referenced earlier, what I refer to as ‘The Caspian Coalition’ has already declared it opposition to any move against Iran. See map for countries who have already agreed to NOT allow any attack on Iran from their territories.  And you can extend a bit beyond the Caspian as well…Central Asian countries have been much more keen to party with Russia lately, and have also been having talks with Iran about letting them into their SCO club.  (You Gotsta’ Know the SCO!!! )  So count those –stan countries out as well, ‘cause they will side up with the Ruskies on this matter.

Shit. Who does that leave for the “international stand against Iran”? Let’s end the blog on who the US can count on to get their panties in a bunch over Iran: for sure the US can count on their old lapdog the UK for support.  Even though Gordon Brown isn’t quite the parlor pooch that Tony Blair was, he will still give his go ahead for actions against Iran.

And France? Hell, France is the new UK when it comes to supporting US foreign policy!  Nick Sarkozy is all about kicking some Iranian ass…or at least supporting the US to do it! Germany may be in on this action as well, as they are getting very leery of Iranian power…combined with the quaint fact that they may be within reach of an Iranian missile.  Most other European nations, Japan, and even Australia would be on board right this second. But watch out! Australia is holding an election soon, and if John Howard loses, then you can count the Australians out too! Hell, the Labour Party is threatening to pull Aussie troops out of Iraq if they win–no way they are going to support a war with Iran. That is, if they win…which seems probable right now.

Other than that, the US will have a handful of Arab states which may actually support a move against Iran too. Look for Saudi Arabia and Egypt to possibly side up with the US, although in doing so may cause catastrophic public dissent in their countries. Turkey will also probably side up with the US, although if that Armenian genocide bill goes through the US Congress, its anybody’s bet how the Turks will roll.

Needless to say, this idea of an international community rallying around the US to deny Iran nuclear power/nuclear weaponry is a bit of fancy.  And the Avenger can’t stand such fluff.  Know your world my friends. Know how it works. And know when politicians are blowing smoke up your ass.

Speaking of smoke…time to head to the local hookah bar for some much needed respite from these radical ramblings…

World Pissing Match: Russia Pisses Off US; US Pisses Off China & Turkey; Turkey Pisses Off Iraq,

Always better to be pissed off than pissed on!Hello hello hello again plaid party people! Too many good stories to choose from today…so let’s talk about them all! In a first for the Avenger, we will tie together a trifecta of titillating tidbits with the tantalizing tie between then being irritation. Pissed to be exact! It seems today is the day that most major powers on the planet decided to simultaneously piss in each other’s corn flakes! How hilarious! All in a day’s work I suppose, so let’s get to this summary…shall we? 

Russia, Iran harden against West

Bush warns Putin over ‘World War Three’

For starters, one of the planet’s bad asses of all time Vlad ‘the man’ Putin of Russia decided to pay a visit to his homies down in Iran.  Ha! Russia has homies? Not likely! Nonetheless, Putin was visiting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…and he even met with the grand poo-bah of Shia Iran: Ayatollah Khamenei! Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall during that fascinating conversation? Yeah, me neither.  Let’s recreate the dialogue:


Talk about a sweet party! What fun!Putin: Great to meet you, Supreme Leader of Iran…got any vodka to drink?
Ayatollah: Allah be praised, you Russian infidel. We don’t drink alcohol in my country.
Putin: Oh. Well, that’s okay. In my country most Muslims and foreigners in general are discriminated against. Hell, we’ve been blowing up Chechen Muslims for years.
Ayatollah: Hmmm… I see.  Well, we don’t really have anything in common, do we?
Putin: Um…nope. Not really. Oh wait! Would you like me to show you some Judo?
No. That would be gay. And we don’t have any gay people in my country either.
:Oh. Um. Then I guess we don’t have much to talk about…
—Long, uncomfortable silence—
Ayatollah: Well, there is always pissing off the Americans….
Putin: Oh yeah! We are good at that! Let’s work together on that point …what did you have in mind?

Which brings us back to the topic at hand.  Let’s get to the pissed part…After talking with President Ahmadinejad, Putin declared that Russia does not support the American assertion that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. And in fact Russia believes that Iran only wants nuclear technology to produce energy, and Russia is going to help them do it.  In addition, Russia has hinted that they are not going to allow any more stricter UN sanctions on Iran (remember, Russia is a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council—they can stop any further sanctions on the spot), and have outright suggested that the US needs to stop its ‘saber-rattling’ tactics by threatening war. Damn! This is seriously pissing off the US!
On top of that, Russia and Iran just wrapped up a summit of ‘Caspian Sea nations’ in which they all signed a declaration which prohibits any other country on the planet from using their states for This is now the attacks on one another “under any circumstances”.  Caspian summit a triumph for Iran You get that? Read between the lines: In other words, all those countries agree that they will not help the US, the EU, or even the UN launch an attack on Iran. These countries include Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan (see map). Damn! They are outright telling the US and the world to piss off when it comes to any war on Iran! More rage for the US!

So President Bush is so pissed that he is suggesting that this may be a lead up to WW3! Ha! Dude! Chill out! There are a couple of things that someone should suggest to the Americans to calm them down:

1)Under the NPT (the UN Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), developing nuclear technology for power creation is totally acceptable. Iran is a signatory to this treaty, so as long as they are playing by the rules, so should you. I know you don’t like it, but you are going to have to live with it

2)Let’s go ahead and run with the US assumption that Iran really only wants nuke technology to make a bomb. Let’s assume they make a bomb.  Hell, let’s even assume they launch that bomb at Israel, since the Americans are fully convinced that this will happen.  Why would the Iranians do this, since it totally assures that their country will become a smoldering, radioactive wasteland after the US and France and the UK retaliate with overwhelming force? Doesn’t make much sense. Does it?

To be fair to the US, that is an oversimplified analysis, and there other issues to be considered…namely the fear that an Iranian nuke bomb would spark a Middle Eastern arms race.  Fair enough. That is a valid point. If Iran gets a nuke, then Saudi Arabia is going to want a nuke, and Syria will then want a nuke, etc.  So if that is what you US guys truly believe, then why don’t you actually come out and say it? Enough with the ‘Iran is going to kill us all’ bullshit.

Apparently the US is even more pissed because they can’t do much about these Russia-Iranian developments right now.  So the US decided to piss off someone else instead….

U.S. honor for Dalai Lama angers China

Bush dismisses Chinese criticism over Dalai Lama

In honoring the Dalai Lama, the US is seriously pissing off China.  Don’t know why that is? Check out an earlier Plaid Avenger insight into China‘s fear of the Lama at Dalai Lama at Oktoberfest? Let’s Get Enlit!  Now China is pissed at the US because anytime anybody even so much as meets with the Lama (much less give him a damn medal!), the Chinese interpret that as giving the Dalai too much ‘street cred’…and China’s ultimate fear is that if everyone in the world thinks the Dalai Lama is legit, then he will have the power to demand an independent Tibet. All I can say to the Chinese is: bullshit! That is never going to happen dudes, so lighten up on the monk! But China remains pissed for today either way….but they are not alone…

Turkey is also pissed at the US because of that proposed ‘recognition of the Armenian Genocide’ Turkish troops feeling left out of all the fun….and are now ready to invade Iraq with the other kids!bill that made its way through a House committee last week.  See Turkey is Steamed and Ready; but this ain’t no Thanksgiving for US  I reported on that shit a few days back from the Turk-Iraq border, and the shit is heating up even more! While I was there, about 50,000-60,000 Turkish troops with a butt load of tanks and guns were amassing.  They are about ready to get the party started. What party? The invasion of Iraq to track down some Kurdish terrorists. 

Turks’ vote backs right to use force inside Iraq

Turkey votes to send troops into northen Iraq

And Turkey is still so pissed about that US committee vote, that they Turkish parliament went ahead and voted 507 to 19 to allow the armed forces to launch a cross-border assault against Kurdish insurgents based in northern Iraq. The 19 that voted ‘no’ were probably taken out back for a ass-whoopin’ shortly after the proceedings. Ordinarily, the US and Turkey are such strong allies that the US probably would have been able to talk them out of any aggressive actions in Iraq.  But the Turks are simply pissed! Too pissed to listen to the Americans now…

And it goes without saying that the Iraqis are pissed about these Turkish developments…

Angry Iraqi Kurds say Turkish move would destabilise region

Iraq Kurds warn Turkey against ‘illegal’ incursion vote

Kurds ‘will fight Turkish raids’

Although Iraq is pretty much a basket case, and barely a functioning government, they have voiced their serious pissed-off-ness about the idea that Turkey may invade their ‘sovereign’ state.  Sovereign? Ha! How hilarious is that? Isn’t there like troops from 20 different countries in Iraq? And the whole place is on the brink of civil war…if not fully already in one?

Despite the current Iraqi predicament, the idea of yet another country sending in troops is seriously Kurdish areas in multiple states…northern Iraq in particularpissing them off…particularly since the northern part of Iraq (where the Turks plan to invade to route out the PKK terrorists) is one of the only stable parts of the country right now! And northern Iraq is composed mostly of ethnic Kurds, and the Turks are coming in to hunt down a group of radical Kurds.  If the Turks do come in, and accidentally kill a bunch of innocent Kurds while trying to kill the ‘bad’ PKK Kurds….OMG there will be hell to pay! That would spark a shit storm of open warfare in the region! The place may quickly get as nasty as the Bagdad region!

The party is already raging across southern Iraq…why not get it hot up north?And the prospect of that seriously pisses off the US!  The US has its hands full already trying to calm down the rest of the Iraq, where most of the conflict centers on sectarian strife between the Sunni and Shia Muslims…fueled by local Sunni extremist, outside terrorist forces like Al-Qaeda, and even next-door-neighbor Iran which funnels in ammo and aid to the Shias. Damn! The US would be pissed about the Turks getting the northern region as hot as the south already is!

Simply pissed!

And now we have come full circle in our pissing match for the day.  Those world leaders certainly have been busy boys today, infuriating each other like its going out of style!

And they are pissed!

Costa Rican Close Call Turns the CAFTA Tide: Free Trade Surf’s Up Dudes!

Costa Rican Hottie ready to surf the free trade…and I have a board she can borrow!What the hell is up party plaid people? I heard you kicked ass on your mid-term exam….Congratulations! Your success was probably largely thanks to my colorful and creative cacophony of clarifying current event concoctions, of course!  And sticking with the alliteration of C, I just had to come down to Costa Rica to check out the crazy conclusion of this CAFTA circumstance here in Costa Rica. Ha! Top that you whack-ass wanna-be CNN analysts!   But I’m sure you have not a crack-addict clue what the hell CAFTA is, so let’s get to work….

Central American Leaders Applaud Costa Ricans Approving CAFTA

Costa Rica votes in referendum on US free trade deal

U.S. warns Costa Rica against rejecting CAFTA

CAFTA will open doors for Costa Rica’s workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs point

DR-CAFTA: A Bad Deal for Poor Countries counter-point

So Costa   Rica barely approved the acceptance of the CAFTA deal this week…like by only 52% yes to 48% nay. So what the crap is this CAFTA covenant? And why the hell was the US so concerned about it? Because I’m serious dudes: people in DC were sweating bullets about this Costa Rican vote. What? Why would rich ass bureaucrats in the Beltway give a shit about some rum-swilling, eco-touring, po’ folks south of our border? Here’s why:

The CAFTA crew…

DR-CAFTA stands for the ‘Dominican Republic/Central America Free Trade Agreement’ and is an international treaty to increase free trade. It was ratified by the Senate of the United States in 2005. So far its members include the US, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic….and now Costa Rica.  Like NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement between US/Canada/Mexico), its goal is to privatize public services, eliminate barriers to investment, protect intellectual property rights, and eliminate tariffs between the participating nations. Many people see DR-CAFTA as a stepping stone to the larger, more ambitious, FTAA—which stands for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas…dudes! The whole freakin’ Western Hemisphere man! In one single big ass trade block! How insane would that be?

So why isn’t the US just pushing for the FTAA right this second? Why aren’t they just trying to get every single country to sign up for that gargantuan free-trade block?  Oh…that’s right…I just remembered! Because a bunch of Latin American countries totally fucking hate the idea, and have told the US to kiss their ass in no uncertain terms. 

Hmmmm….let’s test your Latin American learning my plaid amigos: what leaders south of the border would be opposed to some trade block action with the US? If you answered Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Lula de Silva of Brazil, then you win a shot of tequila! For each one of your right answers too! But don’t drink them yet, or you won’t be able to finish this blog. Seriously.

US wet dream: FTAA free trade orgasmoSince the rise of the letftist/socialist in Latin America (don’t know what I’m sayin’? Check: Incensed Iranian links up with Lively Latin Leftists…and America Annoyed) the US has been fighting a losing battle trying to get countries fired up to have a Americas-wide free trade block.  When George Bush entered office seven years ago, he had high hopes of the FTAA going forward. But then the Latins turned left, and at this juncture virtually no South American country supports the endeavor—except for Colombia, which is just an Latin American lap dog .  Which is precisely why the US revamped its approach, and started targeting Central America first.  The plan is now to basically bite off a small piece at a time, getting groups of more pliable countries on board for the free trade gig…with hopes that eventually the whole deal will go down, from Canada all the way to the chilly tip of Chile! You dig?

But why so tough a fight to begin with? Wouldn’t poor ass countries be thrilled to get a trade deal with the US?  The controversy regarding DR-CAFTA is very much like the controversy regarding NAFTA…and eventually the controversy with the proposed FTAA too. Many people are concerned about the US losing jobs to poorer countries where the minimum wage is lower and environmental laws are more lax. Also, some people are concerned that regional trade blocs like DR-CAFTA undermine the project of creating a worldwide free trade zone using organizations like the WTO. On top of that, lots of poor folks in those poor countries are worried that the local businesses face unfair competition if they open their doors to the US giant. 

And think about it. Could any Costa Rican company really compete with Wal-Mart? Or Ford Motor I'm ready to kick the shit out of some Costa Ricans!Company? Or Exxon? You gotta face the facts: these trade blocks create a level economic playing field between countries…and even medium-sized US companies can beat the shit out of anybody in a fair fight.  And they can beat the shit out of them even worse in an unfair fight…which many think CAFTA is. However, many economists would argue the counter-point: that opening trade will increase international investment and bring companies in to set up shop to take advantage of cheaper labor.  And free trade allows those Central Americans to buy US goods for even cheaper too—because you know how huge the Guatemalans demand for US-made Hummers is….ummmm…yeah…right….But as capitalist theory goes, free trade will increase all trade in the long run, which means more money and more jobs for everyone in the long run.  The question is: how long is that run?

So the fight for free trade is a much debated debacle of our age….and the Americans are extremely anxious to continue the free trade ball rolling south of the border, so as to keep the dream of the FTAA alive as well.  That’s why the Costa Rican CAFTA vote was such a nail-biter for the US administration.

Ah….but the Plaid Avenger will let you in on another little secret that the headline news sources are too shallow to figure out! The US has another strategic interest in keeping Latin American Uncle Chen sez: countries tied to them economically….and that reason is China! In what cannot be a coincidence, the Costa Ricans just dropped their ties with Taiwan, in order to officially establish ties with China (Check: Taiwan loses Costa Rica’s support).

What’s that got to do with anything? Just this: In officially recognizing China, Costa Rica is opening the door to all kinds of spectacular trade deals with the Asian giant.  And do you think the US wants that?  Oh hell no my friends!  The US is fighting desperately to not be displaced out of Latin America altogether! So I’m here to tell you, the US had its nuts in a vice over this CAFTA vote! They were begging, pleading, threatening, cajoling, coercing, and outright demanding that Costa Rica side up with them on this CAFTA thing….with the primary motivation to keep China‘s influence at bay! You heard it here first my friends!  Costa Rican Prez Arias: Hello China and US! Please get in line to suck up to me!

And I have to say, my plaid hat is off to President Oscar Arias and his whole Costa Rican funky bunch…they just played a masterful hand of pitting the two world powers against each other, completely benefiting themselves.  Nice job guys! You got China and the US kissing your asses!

Damn I’m good! I bet no one has linked these two stories but me.  But then again, no one but me has had so many sultry relationships with so many Costa Rican hotties either…

How else do you think I have such good insider information….Watch out all you world leaders! Protect your wives from …the Plaid Avenger!

The State Can Take It or Leave It: Nationalization v. Privatization

Putin holds cards on Russian oil…but he's not aloneWhat is happening my plaid party people?  The Avenger decided to stay on here in Russia for another day to work off my wicked Putin-induced vodka martini hangover…and to investigate the nationalization of Russian oil; a process that has also been going down in Kazakhstan, in Bolivia, and in Venezuela too.  And man, the US and other western countries get pissed about nationalization—they only want to hear about privatization!  What’s that? You don’t recognize these terms? Well, you’ve got to know about this shit to understand the world my affable and affluent amigos! Start learning the ins and outs of economic control with these stories:

How Russia is Nationalized: The Oil Sector

Zimbabwe Votes to Take Control of Foreign-Owned Mines

Exxon pursues arbitration against Venezuela over seizure of oil assets

Chavez threatens to nationalize Venezuelan private schools

Bolivian President Seizes Gas Industry

…and the opposite side of the coin:

Japan begins privatization of its mammoth postal system

Activists Oppose Egyptian Healthcare Privatization

Iran to Privatize Airline, Banks

India’s Privatization Plan Is On Track

So what’s the deal with these two terms? They are polar opposites my friends, and folks around the planet have passionate views about the good or evil effects that nationalization or privatization can produce. People get downright hot and bothered about these terms!  And in some circumstances, initiating these actions has caused political dissent, diplomatic friction, or outright violent hostilities between peoples, companies, and even countries! Damn! Why so much heat? First…what are they?

Nationalization is a process whereby a government takes control of an economic activity that was owned by and/or run by private individuals/companies hands. It could be transportation, corn, water, uranium, or even bananas…but usually it happens to high-dollar commodities.  For example: Exxon acquires rights thru a government contract to pump shit tons of oil out of selected oil fields in Venezuela.  Exxon Hugo takin' over the bubblin' crude…and Exxon is pissed!goes there and sets up shop, building infrastructure like the oil wells and pipelines, and starts pumping and exporting oil. But then Hugo Chavez gets elected President of Venezuela and decides that Exxon is making too much money on that oil, and since the oil is actually in his country, he decides to take it back. All of it. So Hugo would nationalize the field, along with all the infrastructure that’s now on it, and send Exxon packing. Can you dig that?

But it never really works that simply.  Even in this Venezuela/Exxon example (which actually happened) Hugo didn’t simply just kick Exxon out and take their shit; he offered to buy back their shares and their investments at a fair market value.  Sometimes the parties have to go to court to negotiate these settlements (see Exxon story above). Nationalization of an industry often involves the government simply re-writing all prior contracts with the companies in such a way that the state owns more than 50% of the action.  But make no bones about it: if the companies refuse to co-operate or sell back their shares, then the state will just take the shit from them!

And OMG nationalization so completely pisses off ‘the West’…especially the US!  Why? Well, where do you think all the big multinational corporations are from? That’s right! Most of those companies doing business abroad (and that get their shit nationalized) are from the US/Europe. So those countries feel obliged to stick up for the rich dudes who lost their shit. Sometimes they fell so obliged that they might invade the country, or even assassinate the leader who oversaw the nationalization. Or in the case of Chavez…threaten to.  Sound crazy? Yeah, it is.

So why would a state do this nationalization gig? Sometimes its done to protect a critical industry in times of war or emergency (some countries have nationalized steel during wartimes); sometimes its done because the industry is a matter of national security (Israel runs its airline industry); sometimes its done to an industry that is floundering and about to crash on its own (perhaps the US/health care issue).  But more often than not, a state will reclaim rights on an industry that it feels it’s getting ripped off in.  Stick with the oil example: when Exxon or Shell or anybody else is pumping oil out of Venezuela or Nigeria, the corporation is making the lion’s share of the profits. The Avenger will just make up some numbers to help you get the point:

Let’s say a barrel of crude sells for $50 on the international market; Exxon may pay $5 toWhat's a few billion barrels between friends? Venezuela for every barrel pumped out, thus leaving $45 for their own pockets.  But people in Venezuela may say: “WTF?” “It’s oil from out country….but we only get 1/10 of the sale?  That is a shitty deal!” And if enough folks in the government think that way, then they may make moves to nationalize the oil industry and rework the system to get more of the cash. Does that make sense? Venezuela did it. Russia did it. Bolivia did it.  Kazakhstan is thinking about it. 

Oh, by the way, did you see President Evo Morales of Bolivia on the Daily Show with John Stewart last Evo sez: week? Totally hilarious! And Evo referenced why he decided to nationalize his countries oil and natural gas: “On the issue of nationalization of oil and gas,” Morales said, “in 2005, before I came president, the Bolivian state received only 300 million dollars from its oil and gas exports. And now since they’ve been nationalized, the Bolivian state receives more than two billion dollars. Therefore, we followed through on what we promised.”

Are you starting to realize why this is happening at this particular juncture in history, particularly in the energy sectors?  If you answered: ‘because the price of oil is freakin’ high, and expected to get even higher’ than you win the prize! Oil producing states see the future sales going nowhere but up, and want to have a bigger slice of the pie for themselves.  Oil is one of those special commodities that kind of defies free market capitalism–in that lots of states control their industry as opposed to letting private individuals run the show. See map below for a few countries of note… And while die-hard capitalist countries claim that governments cannot run industries as well as private corporations, those states that are controlling their oil do seem to be making a holy shit load of cash right now…despite the fact that the private industry isn’t in charge.  And speaking of private….

nationalized countries of note…

Privatization is precisely the opposite of nationalization: it’s when a state sells off an industry or I'm not even sure what the hell this means…but I like it!!!business that it controls to a private entity, most often a company/corporation.  Look to the above story from Japan for your best example of that right now: Japan sold its postal system to a private company. Wow!  The whole damn post office! Why would countries sell an asset like the post office or the telecom industry? Because most free-market capitalist societies believe that private individuals and businesses simply run things better. That’s the bottom line.

The theory goes like this: because private entities are motivated to maximize profits, they will do a better job making an industry like a post office more efficient, or they will work harder to find more oil, and are more flexible to invent new technologies and try new approaches which make the business run the best. Remember: one of the golden rules of capitalism is that competition will weed out the least efficient, and the better mousetrap will win every time. Folks of this opinion believe that governments are clunky, inefficient—and because they don’t have to compete with anybody—are uncompetitive! No shit? Lack of competition makes you become uncompetitive? Yeah, I can dig that!

Places like India and China have just figured this stuff out in the last couple of decades, and are Ha! I wonder why India wanted to privatize the train system? …And who would be dumb enough to buy it???privatizing like mad right now. India has recently privatized its transportation system, its telecommunications system, and anything else it can get its hands on to sell! China too has increasingly let out the reigns on its prior control of everything economic (during its botched attempt at communism) and that place is a venerable wild west of capitalism! Even Iran is in the privatization game…and they usually despise all ideas that are western in origin. There must be something to it!

And its not like the governments simply privatize the industry and then just walk away poorer for the experience. Capitalist theory would suggest that not only does the state make money on the initial sale of the industry, but in the long run will make way more in profits by simply taking a cut of the profits and/or taxing the service/product. Since private business will do it better, there will be more oil or more uranium or more corn or more stamped letters to tax…therefore the state makes more money! And without having to actually spend money running the damn show! You dig?

Does it sound like I’m picking sides on this nationalize/privatize debate? Don’t be fooled. The Plaid Avenger is here to tell you this: this is complicated shit, and there is no wrong or right side here.  It really goes on a case by case basis in my book. Does private industry typically do shit better than government-run shit? Absolutely! Are some countries getting totally reamed by some private corporations? Absolutely! Are some states unfairly grabbing shit from corporations whose time and investments made the industry profitable in the first place? Absolutely! Are some multinational corporations total scumbags who use their money and power to corrupt and control industries within a state? Ab-so-fucking-lutely!

So pay attention to which states are selling, and which states are buying, their industries.  And also pay attention to which industries are up for grabs.  You will hear a lot in the US about the possible nationalization of health care; in India about the privatization of telecoms; in Russia about the Godzilla Hotties? What will the Japanese think of next?nationalization of the oil industry; and in Japan the privatization of the post…and now you know what that shit means, but more importantly, why it is happening…

I just hope I can still get my damn collectable Godzilla stamps in Toyko…even if it is from a private vendor… 

Incensed Iranian links up with Lively Latin Leftists…and America Annoyed

Uuugghhh!!! Get a room! Chavez and Ahmadinejad in a US-hate love embrace!Greetings World Watchers! The Plaid Avenger is reporting to you live from a latina lovefest here down in Latin America—a lovefest like no other I’ve ever reported on.  Usually in my adventures, a lovefest south of the border involves a lot of salsa music, a lot more tequila, and a whole lotta lovely Latin ladies! But this is a collaboration of a different flavor altogether: one that involves one eccentric Iranian and a whole bunch of Latin lefties….how un-hot can you get?  What am I talking about? Dig this:

Latin leftists use New York stage to polish image

Latin America welcomes Ahmadinejad

South America embraces Bush’s arch enemy

Iran Strengthens South America Ties


Ortega Lauds Iran’s Aids to Nicaragua

Is Ecuador’s Correa Following Chavez? (an anti-leftist, pro-US perspective)

Ecuador’s Correa celebrates ‘win’

So what’s the deal? Well, That whack-job Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been on a Premier Latin Lefty,and US-Basher, Hugo ChavezSouth America tour ever since he left the UN meeting last week.  But he hasn’t been visiting countries at random…he went straight to Bolivia and then over to Venezuela. These countries now form a kind of ‘deep-leftist’ socialist core of the continent.  But make no mistakes about it: they are not the only lefties south of the border.  Most of the governments in Latin America as a whole are now left-leaning, with some like Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez so far to the left that the damn boat is about to tip over.  Chavez is also a devout America-basher too, so Ahmadinejad felt right at home; in fact, he was probably downright cozy in Venezuela given the total smack-down he received while he was in the US.

And that’s what this blog is all about: the newly flowering relationship between Iran and the Latin leftists.  You know, socialist….some might say communists….and we all know how much the US hates those damn commies! Hates! Hates, my friends! Enough hate to fill the Pacific Ocean basin! If hate were people, the US‘s hate for commies would be China! And Hugo and his hard-core leftist buddies are getting very, very close to be labeled as commies by the US.  But the US hates Iran too! So much hate! So it is perhaps it is not a surprise to see those on the US ‘hate list’ teaming up to become buddies—a team whose outright stated mission is to counter US supremacy in the world…

You probably already know that there is lots of bad blood between the US and Chavez, but as I Did someone say Communist Party? Where is the party at dude?have suggested, he is not alone down south.  He has some allies.  What buddies am I talking about that you should be aware of? Well, there’s Fidel Castro of Cuba of course, an avowedly outright and open Commie.  I think he’s really the only one left who hasn’t gotten the memo that the commie thing didn’t work out anywhere on the planet. The US has made a forty year soap opera based on their blind hate of Castro.  Look up the ‘Bay of Pigs’ episode…it’s just hilarious!  

But Hugo’s other main squeeze right now is the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales…who was also jStewart and coca farmer….a match made in heaven.ust on the Daily Show with John Stewart! Did you see that shit? It was hilarious! YouTube it! Evo said something to the effect of: “please don’t put me on your Axis of Evil list.” Ha! What a character! And a deep leftist too! Morales is the first indigenous dude to be elected president, and he used to be a coca farmer…yeah, that’s right…the stuff you make into cocaine! Damn! The US don’t like him much either.

But Hugo also has Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua as an ally. You probably think of cheap homemade tacos when you hear the word Ortega.  But the US government just sees red when they hear that Ortega: pissed off Reagan…then Bush Sr… Bush—and I’m not talking about picante sauce my friends!  Ortega was a commie rebel fighter that the US tried to wipe out many decades ago…but he became President of his country instead! And he has become president again after a two decade hiatus, much to the chagrin of the US…again! Damn! The US even spent a shitload of money trying to get someone else—anyone else—elected to the post, but they failed.  The US really hates Ortega!

And there are others on the lefty Latin list too: Lula of Brazil is a moderate leftist that the US likes; Nestor Kirchner of Argentina and Michelle Bachelet of Chile are center-left folks that the US can deal with; and the newest of the bunch is Raphael Correa of Ecuador, a leftist that may be following more closely to the Chavez playbook when it comes to lefty-socialist stuff.

But wait, wait is this leftist shit anyway? In politics, left-wing or the left, on the left-right political spectrum, is associated with the interests of the working class. Center-left, left of center, and left liberal refer to the left side of mainstream politics in liberal democracies. They support liberal democracy, some degree of private property rights and free markets…but are mostly known for their 1)high spending on social welfare, 2)extensive regulation of the economy, and 3)some public ownership—you know, the state owns the shit. Like in Venezuela; the state owns and controls the oil industry.  Damn, state ownership is the opposite of private ownership…hmmmm….and starts to sound a lot like communism! Which the US hates! Hates! Hates! Hates the commies!

So perhaps now you are starting to see why the US has not been very happy with the huge Pinko-commie countries in…um…pink!leftward swing that has been occurring just south of its border. And this swing is very recent my friends.  All of these elected leaders have come into office in the last decade…and most of them just in the last year! That means they are going to be around for a while longer. Which means the US has a lot of being pissed off in its future.  And now back to our story…

These Latin leftist leaders have mostly worried the US not so much because of their internal socialist agendas, but more so because of their foreign policies.  Know this: in an attempt to wean themselves off of reliance on the US economy, many of these Latin lefties have been forging relationships with other countries…IN A BIG WAY! What do I mean? Well, most countries in South America have been (for the first time) cutting all kinds of big trade deals with China in the last several years, but they will do business with anybody! And that’s where our main man Ahmadinejad comes in: he has come across the pond to forge economic and cultural ties with these lefties too! And he gets to piss off the US as the same time! Double bonus points for the irate Iranian! Chavez and Ahmadinejad just love getting together and spouting off all kinds of anti-US shit just for kicks. They love to piss off the big boy.

And pissing off the big boy is just what is happening.  The US is extremely unhappy with these developments. Why? Well, Latin America has always been considered by the US as its strategic ‘backyard’—an area they don’t want anyone else messing around in.  For over a hundred years, the US has been the sole and unchallenged overseer of Latin American affairs…either indirectly, or sometimes way too directly. 

But that was then and this is now.  Since 9/11, the US has been utterly preoccupied with the Middle East and its War on Terrorism, and has completely ignored what has been happening south of the border.  Hell, President Bush has only made one visit down south his whole Presidency…and that was just a couple of months ago!  So Latin America has gone looking elsewhere for friends and allies who will pay them more attention, and hopefully make them richer with sweet-ass trade deals.  And those leftist leaders get to rally around a theme of nationalism by stressing that they are breaking their reliance on the US economically, but also by becoming full-fledged independent states that don’t bow down to the US diplomatically or culturally. 

Its an interesting scenario to be sure. Latin America seems to be becoming a new experiment in 21st century socialism…and no one is quite sure how this lefty soup is going to turn out.

By the way, do you understand why more fervent socialism/left-leaning systems are becoming so dominant in South America/Latin America? Can you guess? Answer: Because they’ve got shitloads of poor people down there! Absolute shitloads! This region has some of the greatest wealth disparity on the planet…and it really shouldn’t given its natural resources and proximity to the US.  That’s why many leaders get elected on platforms of social change, helping the poor, helping the working class, and even having the state own/operate industries (like the oil and natural gas industry) in order to generate revenue to have money to spend on social programs. Many like Chavez and Morales and Correa argue that US-style capitalism simply isn’t working for them.

If you were shit poor, in a shit poor country, would you vote for someone who promised more social programs? Hmmmm….. I know that’s a tough one.  Think it over for a bit. I’m not saying the leftists are right, I just want you to understand why they are so popular right now.

Get it? Good. Now you know why the Iranian dude chilled with Chavez. Now you know why that pissed off the US. And now you know why the US has lost its position of dominance in the region, which pisses them off even more.

You now know a lot. Congrats. You should have a drink.

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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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