Slug’s new album: 3 thumbs up.

A few weeks ago Abogado was here in San Diego for a “real job” interview. He came into the cafe where I work for a visit when a sweet, innocent, old lady walked up to the counter and asked me what a “steamer” is. This is a question I’m used to: a steamer is steamed milk with a shot of Torani syrup. But somehow it never occurred to me that “steamer” has another meaning. That is, until Abo had a huge smirk all over his face and mumbled under his breath, “I’ll show you what a steamer is.”

oranginaMy dear friend Nat used to be king of San Diego cafes. Until that title was bequeathed to me. He especially had an impressive tenure at the Leucadia Pannikin where they sell a drink of carbonated orange juice called Orangina. Clearly it’s pronounced “orange-eena.” Unless your Nat. “You mean an orangina?” (vagina) he would ask every god damned time with a straight face. No one dared argue with him.

Yesterday afternoon took the cake though. Again it was a sweet, innocent, old lady. But even better, she was from the South. Where I work now we sell a toasted, Italian sandwich called “Panini.” I was sipping on my soy iced mocha when this sweet little thing comes up and asks me, “sweetart, would ya tell me what a puhnaynay is.”

I almost spit out my iced mocha all over her. If her weight weren’t less than her age, I would’ve been sure she was fucking with me. But really: she thought panini was pronounced “puh-nay-nay.” Now, I don’t know about your regional dialect, but here in Cali, puhnaynay has one and only one meaning, and ain’t “toasted sandwich.”

Poor lady had no idea why I started laughing so hard. Nor why I couldn’t stop. But what’s worse is I couldn’t get it out of my head for the rest of my shift. Someone would be giving me their order and I’d think of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma asking me what a puhnaynay is and I’d just start busting up. People were definitely thinking I was trippin’ last night.

I will admit, the Miers nomination has my interest piqued on the domestic front, but what’s really raising my eyebrows is the successive string of elections coming up in Latin America. You never know with these things, but it really looks like LA is set up for a continent-wide shift to the left. The foundation was laid a few years ago when Lulu took over in Brazil, Chavez regained power after an attempted coup, and Kirchner steered Argentina to an intelligent, moderate leftist path after its IMF default. But this new round of elections could really change things like never before.

Mexico’s conservative PAN party made gains after the country finally found democracy, but now the leftist PRD, led by massively popular Lopez Obredor, is making inroads. AMLO was scheduled to speak here in Dego next week, but it got cancelled after the electoral body, IFE ruled that candidates can’t campaign outside the country even though Mexicans living outside of Mexico are now allowed to vote in national elections.

Yesterday U.S. deputy secretary of state, Robert B. Zoellick went to Nicaragua to try and rally support for current conservative leader Enrique Bolaños because a strange coalition (called “el pacto”) of former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega and former conservative (and convicted) president, Arnolodo Alemán. Zoellick says the US will withold $175 million dollars in aid if “el pacto” succeeds in taking over the government. “Respecting national sovereignty” certainly has its gray areas.

Chavez continues to make more noise than actual change from Venezuela, but two new projects that really could play a big influence throughout Latin America is TeleSur – a hemisphere-wide cable news network that is meant to cover Latin America from Latin America instead of relying on CNN in Spanish, which is what most cable news junkies currently do. A combined project of Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, I think very few could argue that it doesn’t have a leftist slant. Then yesterday it was announced that a new state company, The Technological Industries of Venezuela, will work with a Chinese company to produce at least 80,000 affordable computers for every interested Venezuelan.

Speaking of such programs, Chile’s moderate-leftist government (after having recently awarded victims of the Pinochet regime with reparations) announced “Mi Primer PC” – a public-private joint venture to get more affordable PC’s in the hands of Chileans. Though the project was obviously well-intentioned, Chilean bloggers went one step further and announced their own project – “Our PC” – a more affordable and open-source alternative which will offer tech support by volunteer bloggers. Chile also has upcoming elections in which a female Socialist is set to take power, hopefully offsetting years of increased class division during the Pinochet-regime while maintaining the economic growth that the dictatorship brought and the country has since been able to hold onto.

It’s probably the Bolivian election – just two months away – that probably has most people holding their breath though. Especially US diplomats. Just a couple weeks ago, leftist front-runner, Evo Morales (a dedicated agrarian reformer) said he would break with the U.S. drug policy and let coca grow freely is elected. Donald Rumsfeld, last month, making a trip to Paraguay (“our other ally” besides Colombia) warned that Venezuela was meddling in Bolivia’s affairs (always such a classic statement coming from any American) and that Bolivia was in risk of spiraling into despair. A conspiracy theory is even circling the net that the US is building up troop reserves in Paraguay and Ecuador to get ready to secure Bolivian oil-fields if Morales wins the election and does something radical like making a nationalized oil company.

It’s interesting to see all this happening in Latin America where most countries are just starting to catapult into rapid development. In fact, it doesn’t really make sense to me at all. Europe and North America – already well into the innovation and design economies – have been creeping ever more conservative over the past decade while rapidly developing nations like much of Latin America, India, and Malaysia are turning to the left. There’s an argument to explain it: those developing areas are mostly subjugated to US interests and are only “developing” in terms of manufacturing, call centers, and natural resource exploitation. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Europe turn more conservative as a nativist reaction to increased immigration and job outsourcing.

But it still doesn’t really make sense to me. I’d expect Latin America and South Asia – finally with easy access to starting up companies – to be consumed by entrepreneurial fever. And prosperous, fully-developed nations like the U.S. and much of Europe should be turning more leftist as we stop worrying so much about economic problems and start focusing on solving social and environmental issues.

Shows you what I know.