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Hightower, Big business won’t save us from itself

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freedom
Nearly 200 CEOs have signed a pledge to “do better” than serving their own greed. How? They won’t say. Pro-democracy rally at the US Capitol. WikiMedia archive photo by Becker1999.

Big business won’t save us from itself

by Jim Hightower — OtherWords

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote of being leery of a fast-talking huckster who visited his home: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons,” Emerson exclaimed.

Likewise, today’s workaday families should do a mass inventory of their silverware, for the fast-talking CEOs of 181 union-busting, tax-cheating, environment-contaminating, consumer-gouging corporations are asking us to believe that they stand with us in the fight against… well, against them.

From Wall Street banksters to Big Oil polluters, these profiteers are suddenly trumpeting their future intentions to serve not just their own greed, but every “stakeholder” (which is what they call employees, customers, suppliers, et al).

But vague proclamations are cheap, and it’s worth noting that these new champions of the common good propose no specifics — no actual sacrifices by them or benefits for us.

A few media observers have mildly objected, saying it’s “an open question” whether any of the corporate proclaimers will change how they do business. But it’s not an open question at all. They won’t.

They won’t support full collective bargaining power for workers, won’t join the public’s push to get Medicare for All, won’t stop using monopoly power to squeeze out small competitors and gouge consumers, won’t support measures to stop climate change, and won’t back reforms to get their corrupt corporate money out of our politics.

All told, they won’t embrace any of the big structural changes necessary to reverse the raw economic and political inequality that has enthroned their plutocratic rule.

In fact, their empty proclamation is what West Texas cowboys might call “bovine excrement,” meant to fend off the actual changes that real reformers are advancing. Corporate elites won’t fix inequality for us — they’re the ones doing it to us.

 

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What Democrats are saying

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Dem voices



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What Republicans are saying

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GOP voices

 



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Kermit’s birds / Las aves de Kermit

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da boid
Black-crowned antshrike / Batará pizarroso occidental / Thamnophilus atrinucha
© Kermit Nourse. Larger / Más grande –
click here / toque aquí

Black-crowned antshrike

Scientific name: Thamnophilus atrinucha
Photographed by Kermit Nourse in Parque Nacional Metropolitano
Panama City, Panama

This small bird has a loud and surprising call for its small size. You can hear it on Neotropical Birds – https://download.ams.birds.cornell.edu/api/v1/asset/525018

These birds range from Belize down to northern South America, with several subspecies that may not look all that similar at a glance. In South America there are populations in western Venezuela, western Colombia and along the coast of Ecuador. There are different common names for the bird in different parts of Latin America.

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Batará pizarroso occidental

Nombre científico: Thamnophilus atrinucha
Fotografiado por Kermit Nourse en el Parque Nacional Metropolitano
Ciudad de Panamá, República de Panamá

Este pequeño pájaro tiene un llamado ruidoso y sorprendente por su pequeño tamaño. Puedes escucharlo en Neotropical Birds – https://download.ams.birds.cornell.edu/api/v1/asset/525018

Estas aves van desde Belice hasta el norte de América del Sur, con varias subespecies que pueden no parecer tan similares de un vistazo. En América del Sur hay poblaciones en el oeste de Venezuela, el oeste de Colombia y a lo largo de la costa de Ecuador. Hay diferentes nombres comunes para el ave en diferentes partes de América Latina

 
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Editorials: No imported state religion; and Let Saudi Arabia fend for itself

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the rector
“There is no scientific need to create a law that seeks to give an identity to the babies that die in their mothers’ wombs. The statistics of these cases are already kept. Behind this proposal are ideological and religious concepts, to say the least.” Eduardo Flores, rector of the University of Panama, on his Twitter feed.

A move to reverse the verdict
of more than a century ago

In the period when Panama was a part of Colombia, the country was wracked by a succession of civil wars between Liberals and Conservatives. There were various other issues – Liberal merchants and industrialists against Conservative landowners and such – a persistent reason for the wars was that Conservatives intended to make Catholicism the state religion and Liberals were against having an official faith.

But for a few pockets where big Conservative landowners held sway, Panama was mostly Liberal turf. But at the outset of the 1899-1902 Thousand Day War, a Liberal battlefield blunder – foolish men trying to prove their bravery by charging into machine gun fire at the Calidonia Bridge – left Panama City in Conservative hands. There, over the course of the war and afterwards, the Conservatives presided over mass starvation.

Yes, ultimately is was a Panama Railroad Company and Conservative Party coup, backed by the US Marine Corps, that separated Panama from Colombia. Why did Liberals accept this? It would be a good subject for a doctoral dissertation, but surely at the top of the list was that Panamanians of all stripes were sick of Colombia’s never-ending wars.

When it got around to writing a constitution, some compromises were made. It was acknowledged that most Panamanians were Catholic and that catechism would be taught in the schools. It was stipulated that there would be freedom of religion. Priests were forbidden to hold public office. There was a tacit agreement not to teach or discuss a long history of religious persecution and warfare that dated from the time of the Spanish Conquest.

And the party of an official religion? Within a decade of Panamanian independence the Conservative Party was moribund and soon died out entirely.

Now we have a religious fanatic movement imported from abroad – from the neofascist-connected CitizenGO network based in Spain and from the end times Evangelicals of the United States – seeking to impose its religious dogmas through a law that would create an inquisition aimed at women and girls who have miscarriages or whose babies come out stillborn, and in a constitutional amendment that they want which would require a referendum that would override any legislation or court decision or treaty provision on any subject that fits the international religious right-wing network as a “family issue.”

In our own way, imperfectly as it may have been done, Panama decided long ago that we didn’t want government-imposed religion. And it’s worth mobilizing and putting up with a lot of defamation and grief to uphold that early 20th century verdict. The European goose step and North American end times fantasies have no place in Panamanian public affairs.

  

Yemeni school
The Saudis, using US-supplied weapons, bomb schools in Yemen in the course of a war that the Saudis started four years ago. The Saudis also indiscriminately bomb hospitals and residential neighborhoods. So the world is supposed to be shocked and outraged when Yemen hits back at the Saudi oil complex? And the people of the USA, the forces of which is losing in Afghanistan and Iran-Syria, are supposed to clamor for a new war with Iran because of this payback? Photo from the Right Word Yemen’s Twitter feed.

Don’t send guns or troops – let the oil economy go!

Saudi Arabia and a few allies, backed by the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, have carried out an atrocious Sunni jihad against Yemen, which they want to spread to Iran.

Has five percent of the world’s oil reserve gone up in smoke from the Yemeni counter-attack? The Saudis deserved it. Moreover, with the ongoing calamities of climate change the rest of the world should have long since taken the hint to end the petroleum economy.

Are there financial, industrial and human resources just lying around to be used in a US war over Middle Eastern oil? They should be dedicated to the USA getting by without oil instead.

  

There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.
James Thurber

 

Bear in mind…

  

I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.

Marie Curie

 

Men are more often bribed by their loyalties and ambitions than by money.

Robert Jackson

 

Civilization is a method of living, an attitude of equal respect for all men.

Jane Addams

 

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#RespetoAlDolorDeMadre

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La oposición se reúne en contra
de la extrema derecha religiosa

  

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Prosecutors move for a Blue Apple trial

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poisot fruit
Fruit of the toxic tree.

Attorney general moves to try 59 in the Blue Apple public works contracts kickbacks and money laundering case

by Eric Jackson

This past Wednesday, September 11, the Sixth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s office filed a court motion to bring 59 defendants to trial on various charges in the Blue Apple case. A Friday night notice by the Public Ministry (the attorney general’s office) acknowledged the filing and said that there would be a Monday, September 16 press conference to provide further details and perhaps answer questions from selected media.

Blue Apple was a purported factoring company that was an intermediary in systematic pubic works contract kickbacks during the Martinelli administration. While the Brazilian company Odebrecht and the Spanish company FCC are perhaps more notorious for this racket, the Blue Apple clientele read as a virtual Who’s Who of Panamanian building contractors who bid on government business, or who subcontract for those who do.

Late last year it was known that 62 persons had been named. However, some of the individuals and companies have made plea bargains and would not be involved in the trial, if the courts allow it to proceed. How many potential defendants have been dropped for lack of evidence or diverted to other files due to plea bargains is not know, nor the number and identities of any new defendants added. A dozen people are and have been imprisoned on preventive detention in this case so far.

The two most prominent fugitives in this case are Ricardo Martinelli’s two sons, who are being harbored by the Trump administration in the United States. That might change if extraditions papers are filed in the USA, but the two were arrested for being in the United States illegally, then released on bail rather than given the bum’s rush out of the country as happens to many another undocumented immigrant. A politically exposed person need not even enjoy an opportunity to clog up the courts, but might be summarily expelled from the United States for matters of state.

Might Ricardo Martinelli himself be charged? He and his lawyers say that there can be no criminal proceedings against him, now that he has been “exonerated” on illegal wiretapping and theft charges in a decision seen by nearly everyone except his supporters and those political figures who have a stake in upholding impunity as corrupt. That, supposedly, because of the international legal concept of “exceptionality,” which means that ordinarily a person extradited for one matter may not be tried for another charge. But the concept is not absolute, is not uniformly interpreted around the world, and is not included in one of the two treaties invoked for Martinelli’s extradition. One common interpretation of the rule is that upon acquittal a defendant has the right to return to from whence she or he was extradited. But would the Trump administration let Ricardo Martinelli back into Miami? And if Martinelli doesn’t leave Panama for wherever he may be taken in, does he lose whatever protection he may have had? It is known that as early as this past January the Public Ministry was studying that concept and whether it might apply here. The norm might just be that it says whatever the magistrates are bribed to say it means to say.

Those named as probable defendants also include former first lady Marta Linares de Martinelli, former public works minister Federico José Suárez, former Ministry of Public Works contracting chief Jorge Churro Ruiz and former Global Bank vice president for factoring Joaquín Rodríguez Salcedo. There has been a tight lid on information about which construction companies and their officers or employees are involved.

And why the delay on pursuing this case, which appears to be linked to a number of other cases in which charges have been dropped mostly on procedural grounds? This was a Martinelli administration arrangement, but former president Varela hinted that he was not too interested in pursuing the matter as to his government’s contracting procedures because it might disqualify almost all of the larger construction firms here.

The case moved just as President Cortizo receives a bill passed by the National Assembly  to legalize corporate criminals who have made plea arrangements and paid their fines to bid on government contracts.

This would be a long and complicated trial, involving at least six forms of deception for the laundering of bribes and kickbacks. So what if it extends until after December 31? That’s when Attorney General Porcell’s term ends and the heavily compromised legislature seems agreed on replacing her with somebody who will end all criminal prosecutions for corruption. Under Panama’s constitution the appointment of the attorney general is entirely a legislative matter, although a president can use budget strings to manipulate deputies about these sorts of things.

 







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Privatization bill passes with provision to let criminals participate

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APP
On September 12 the bill passed third reading in the National Assembly and was sent to President Cortizo to sign.

Now Odebrecht can get public contracts as if nothing happened

by Eric Jackson

All across Latin America notorious bribe paying companies, the Brazilian Odebrecht combine the most notorious among them, are being barred from bidding on public works projects. But it has not been so in Panama. 

First, while the Panamanian court system was jammed up by Ricky Martinelli, his hoods and their phalanxes of lawyers, Odebrecht had been convicted in multiple countries with judgments based on confessions that mentioned Panamanian connections — but the Varela administration took the position that since these judgments did not come out of Panamanian courts, none of these things ever happened.

Finally prosecutors here closed in and got Odebrecht to plead guilty to bribes and kickbacks in exchange for testimony under the plea bargaining provisions of the Adversarial Penal System. But then the courts, and the Varela administration insisted that the criminal penalties imposed in those plea bargains were the only permissible consequences, such that the company still had a RIGHT to bid for public works contracts.

Now that the government is nearly broke — only half a billion in the budget for public works contracts, an old privatization scheme that was rejected in 2011, Public-Private Associations — APPs, by their Spanish initials — has been revived and passed. Now private companies can get concessions to build and operate public infrastructures, or public services, as profit-making private businesses. Under the new law there are possibilities of behind-the-scenes profit guarantees. Generally the government will hold a stake in any APP venture.

The first version of the proposal had barred the participation of companies convicted of crimes — by Panamanian courts only — such as laundering money for drugs or terrorism or paying bribes to public officials. But in the legislative process the PRD raised the banner of social justice for thug companies. As finally passed, the provision is that so long as a company like Odebrecht — or, theoretically, one owned by al Qaeda — pays off all fines and restitution ordered by Panamanian courts, it can bid for APP concessions.

Lowbrow melodrama was provided by PRD deputy and assembly vice president Zulay Rodríguez, who voted to allow Odebrecht to bid on public works contracts and blamed it on independent legislator Juan Diego Vásquez who, along with the other independents, Cambio Democratico and Panameñista deputies. See, when he was not a legislator and she was, Vásquez supported the idea of plea bargaining to clear court dockets and provide a break to persons and entities that turn state’s evidence. Zulay made no great fuss about that when it passed the legislature. But now the law that Zulay just supported is all Juan Diego’s fault — because she’s Zulay, the post-truth politician.

What’s the legislature’s youngest deputy, who got more votes out of the multi-member San Miguelito circuit than Zulay did, to say about that? “I come here to the Assembly having been a private citizen, to speak with arguments and with evidence. I would never dare to say something if I could not support it. Meanwhile others, and some colleagues, are experts in telling lies,” Vásquez told the Martinelista tabloid La Crítica.

Whereupon PRD deputy from Bocas del Toro Benicio Robinson declared that the National Assembly has a bad image because of Juan Diego Vásquez.

The president is expected to sign the bill into law, but he has a line item veto and might nix the free pass for convicted companies. He also could sign it into law as is and on his shift play the bid rigging games that the convicted companies and corrupt officials did, except this time to steer business away from those parties.

 

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¿Wappin? Crossroads of The World Mix / Mezcla de Las Cruces del Mundo

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up on the stage...
Encarnita “Kany” García de Jesús, who took time from the duties of career and family earlier this year to lend her voice to the movement for a sense of decency in Puerto Rican government.
Encarnita “Kany” García de Jesús, quien tomó tiempo de los deberes de su profesión y familia este año para prestar su voz al movimiento por un sentido de decencia en el gobierno puertorriqueño.

Musical wanderings between two blue seas
Paseos musicales entre dos mares azules

Otis Taylor – Resurrection Blues
https://youtu.be/8OG8Fjv42nM

Nadja Kossinskaja – Oblivion
https://youtu.be/Ez62cQPYyI8

Prince Royce – Morir Solo
https://youtu.be/8E4Y37YSedk

Kany García – Aunque Sea Un Momento
https://youtu.be/_I3Yikq997A

Beny Romero – Deambulando
https://youtu.be/lKYYEhtpKfc

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burnin’ and Lootin’
https://youtu.be/za01QWLXisQ

Manchester Orchestra – The Silence
https://youtu.be/8ui9umU0C2g

Romeo Santos, Monchy & Alexandra – Años Luz
https://youtu.be/ZlXPuY9uHL4

Fausto & Los Rakas – Oye Oye
https://youtu.be/2Zr113F1f5w

Carlos Martínez & Los Mozambiques – El Presidiario
https://youtu.be/x8fccWljLHk

Playing for Change & Nattali Rize – Rasta Children
https://youtu.be/68calsldQ38

Yuri & Natalia Jiménez – Una Mentira Más
https://youtu.be/_LqTN2400zY

Samantha Fish – Either Way I Lose
https://youtu.be/6FP7cusXcU8

Café Tacvba – Volver a Comenzar
https://youtu.be/6EnxQzb5lRY

Lizzo – NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
https://youtu.be/DFiLdByWIDY

 
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Gandásegui, Debt chains

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tr
Teddy Roosevelt and his big stick. 1904 cartoon by William Allen Rogers.

Latin America and the USA: chains of debt

by Marco A. Gandásegui hijo

Like a wounded beast, the US government is hitting out in all directions. Simultaneously, it launches its attacks against China and Iran. The fury is also directed at their allies. The Latin American countries are those that have suffered the most from the bravado of the wounded beast. Cuba has been blockaded by the United State for 60 years. Venezuela has just become the object of an ’embargo’ (blockade) that aims to suffocate the Bolivarians. But the other Latin American countries are also under attack.

The most-used US weapon is the economic one. The first country to fall under the clutches of US banks was Haiti, more than 200 years ago. When the Caribbean country became independent from France, it sought help in Washington but the slave-owning governments turned their backs on it. The ex-colony that exported sugar was blocked and subjected to an embargo by France and the United States. From being the richest country in the Americas at the dawn of the industrial revolution, Haiti became, to this day, one of the poorest countries in the world.

The same thing happened to Argentina. From the most prosperous country at the beginning of the 20th century, today it has become the most indebted. The stores are empty and Argentine families go hungry in a country that recently fed the world. Loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are sinking it deeper and deeper every day.

The Andean countries are in a crisis that seems to have no solution. Chile only exports copper and is dependent on international prices. Its health, education and social security systems have gone bankrupt, farmers see no future and the indigenous (Mapuche) population is repressed in order to dispossess them of their lands.

Peru is the richest country in minerals in the region, but corruption has put its latest presidents in jail. The current president wants to move the elections forward to get out quickly of what he feels is a trap. Moreover, he has to deal with the Lima Group created by the United States to conspire against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela.

Ecuador became lost in the US-generated labyrinth that is also turning the Galapagos Islands into a military base. Colombia is the saddest case in Latin America. Invaded by the United States, forced into debt to buy billions of dollars in combat weapons and organized to produce cocaine for the US market.

The largest country – Brazil – is going through a moment of uncertainty with a corrupt government that depends on the support of the exporting land-owing oligarchy, the US Embassy and a nationalist military caste. It is an explosive combination that represses the urban poor, peasants and indigenous peoples.

The exceptions in this gloomy picture of South America are Bolivia and Uruguay. Bolivia has a national development plan that exploits its natural resources and invests in the education and health of its population. Uruguay has a democracy that the United States wants to destroy – without success – in order to submit it to its policies of indebtedness.

Mexico and Central America have been the object of experiments of all kinds by US corporations. The US-Mexico Trade Agreement (NAFTA) destroyed the Aztec country’s agriculture and forced the most impoverished sectors to migrate to the northern country where they are exploited by large agricultural estates for wretched wages. Having exhausted the Mexican labor force (mostly of indigenous extraction), it is now uprooting Central Americans from their countries of the so-called Northern Triangle. Meanwhile, it has destroyed the political and social institutions of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The United States accuses Mexico and Nicaragua, which are resisting the White House offensive, of being potentially dangerous countries for US national security.

Puerto Rico, a US colonial aberration, subject to a Management Board, should take advantage of this political juncture to negotiate its independence. Panama has been trying to negotiate a trade agreement with China since 2017, but Washington positioned itself in front of the Canal with a gunboat. Panama’s negotiating capacity is being tested.

Relations between the United States and Latin America are explosive. Everything indicates that the crisis of hegemony that the United States is going through does not allow it to maneuver to change course. It will be up to the countries of the region to break the chains that subject them to the policies of indebtedness.

 

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