Uh huh. That’s what they often say.
It’s not like FBI shoes, or crook clothes…
an explanatory note on the 25th birthday of The Panama News
I’m this weird single guy, who editorially takes the stand that not only is it cruel and unjust, but it’s also a drain on the national talent pool to make the lives of gay people miserable. OBVIOUSLY a queer, so there are pitches about how I can trust people on that basis, or passes made online or in person. Or else OBVIOUSLY an impostor, about whom everyone coming from an LGB or T or Q orientation needs to beware. My record in life on such issues isn’t perfect, but I try to do the right thing.
One of the right things I usually do is avoid letting any claimed or perceived identity clouding the way I see the structure of a proposed transaction. My instincts about trust were shattered by a childhood trauma, so I just look at things in pretty mechanistic way. Sometimes I get hoodwinked but rarely do I get conned, because the ability to trust that con artists play upon is largely missing in my life. As a voter, candidates’ charisma or identity politics rarely move me, but their records in office do.
It’s a survival adaptation. Like when I was sitting in a restaurant in the Hotel El Panama, opposite attorney Barry Miller, representing a guy who went on to try an extortion routine on me, and then went on to be extradited, tried and convicted in the Atlanta area for the stuff I published about him. Miller said he was gay. Of that I would not know.
A few tables over there were these fit, clean-cut guys who didn’t look like tourists. They were all bigger than me and they kept glancing my way. Why didn’t they look like tourists? They didn’t look like they were negotiating or socializing among themselves. They were not dressed for play. They didn’t order a meal.
Miller kept trying to hand me this big manila envelope. I wouldn’t touch it. At one point I put my hands behind my back. After several minutes of that, the guys at the other table got up and left. That also concluded my business with Mr. Miller. No, I was not going to retract some stories about his client, and no, I was not going to touch that envelope and be taken away by those undercover cops for accepting a payoff from someone about whom The Panama News was writing.
“WHY haven’t you shut down The Panama News,” the anti-corruption prosecutor wanted to know. None of her business. She and her boss were infamous for looking the other way about the real thing, and he had stirred up rare anger from ordinarily understanding nuns for the appearance of being lax about a prostitution ring that was recruiting some of their students. My animalistic crime? Not paying Seguro Social for myself, The Panama News having been ripped off by an employee and more or less collapsed as a regular business. Half of the Panamanian work force is in that informal condition — and very pointedly excluded from Nito Cortizo’s constitutional “consultations.” The arrears said owing were paid and I made no attempt to recover formality. The lady did not get her conviction.
Three times slapped with papers accusing me of criminal defamation — although they could never say specifically was was untrue. Not even with Noriega’s press closing guy and later disgraced criminal on the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada Luna, acting as private prosecutor marshalling a bogus translation of my story as “evidence.” No convictions out of any of those charges.
Facebook has been a savior and an enemy. Google and Internet service providers have been the worse enemies. Panama never had net neutrality and the offenses have ranged from at one point Cable & Wireless blocking access to the website and telling people in Panama that it had gone out of business to the more common practice of putting the website in a slow lane. The slowdown is less severe if you publish on the website and then post those things on Twitter or Facebook, so it seems. A constitutional process in which net neutrality is not discussed? #VoteNo. When you realize what Internet slow lanes in the USA do to Panamanian culture, then you should understand that the international drive for equal access to the Internet is a matter of Panama’s national defense.
These days, the old pitch gets outnumbered by the ones from people who want to be Facebook friends and after scripted small talk ask if I have heard of the XYZ government free money giveaway program. I immediately block those folks. Just like I do neonazi tag team trolls, guys who send me pictures of their dicks and those who say they want to kill some specific individual or group in society.
Hackers did, however, break into my old website and destroy most of the archives. There were apparently several intrusions, but the most destructive was a brute force denial of service attack, with bundles of sometimes hundreds of spam emails at a time, often in the Cyrillic alphabet. These days you have to rummage through the Wayback Machine Internet Archive to get what remains of a lot of that stuff. I have my suspicions but I can’t prove a thing.
“I can monetize The Panama News for you.” What that means is that some hustler — several times it has been a self-professed “sovereign citizen” — wants me to hand over the fruit of all these years of labor. People have a right to believe what they want. Some good friends are varieties of anarchists or hold religious views that just don’t believe in politics or government. When it’s sincere I think it’s pretty silly but mostly harmless. When it’s insincere AND coming from a foreigner, most likely it’s a duplicitous challenge to Panamanian sovereignty that La Migra should look into. But this country has a bad record when it comes to keeping wannabe colonialists and short-eye pervs from coming in from the north.
Heroic, error-free, conquering genius? Don’t get me sounding like some of the fraud guys about whom I have written. Businessman of the year? I’m still in the informal economy, The Panama News is still a long-running business failure. Nevertheless, it’s still here and there is no intention to call it quits after 25 years.
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