Democrats Abroad rallies thousands around
the world in wake of white racist terror in the USA
by Democrats Abroad
Thousands of Americans have joined a worldwide “virtual vigil,” showing solidarity with peaceful demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, and outrage at the President’s unwillingness to offer immediate, unequivocal condemnation of the biggest rally of the extreme right the US as seen in decades.
The activity was led by Democrats Abroad, the largest organization of Americans overseas. Members posted photos and messages against hate, supporting those wounded or killed by domestic terrorists and those made to feel unsafe by the horrific events that unfolded.
“Americans around the world are outraged by the Charlottesville rally and infuriated that the President refused to condemn white supremacy immediately and unequivocally,” said Julia Bryan, International Chair of Democrats Abroad. “We, like Americans at home, needed to make our voices heard.”
Alex Montgomery, Democrats Abroad International Vice-Chair, noted that “the challenge for Americans abroad is dispersion — we live all over the globe, from major cities to rural towns — and in the height of summer it can be difficult to organize events on the ground. An online vigil unites all of us in a common virtual space.”
In Panama Democrats conducted lively online debates, on the two Democrats Abroad Panama Facebook sites, people’s personal pages and in The Panama News. This attracted a few racist trolls, who tended to be used as foils and as examples in a debate that Democrats should have about propaganda techniques, about the use of bots to make messages seem more popular than they are, about mob violence and about mob hysteria. Senator Kamala Harris pointed out the ease with which one can determine that those bearing swastikas and torches are the bad guys. The vile sexism of the nazi justification for killing protester Heather Heyer was duly noted. But while the nature of what Democrats oppose was held up for all to see, the less spectacular job of developing alternatives of principle and behavior is always a work in progress. For example, on the global level Democrats Abroad is debating an initiative to put voting rights front and center in US political discourse. Democrats are united against vote suppression, which is usually racially motivated, but within the party at its various levels there are many ideas about how best to resist it.
Americans in over 45 countries were represented — including Germany, Israel, Canada, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, China and Indonesia. Most held signs like “This American in Seoul stands against hate,” with the organization’s #DAResists hashtag. Many added further commentary. One read “My grandfather didn’t die fighting Nazis in WWII so that Nazis could have a foothold in the United States in 2017.” Another simply stated, “If anyone still doubts who Trump’s base is, #Charlottesville is your answer.”
The urgent action coincided with Resistance Summer, a sustained movement which has already mobilized thousands through Democrats Abroad to activate volunteers and contact members of congress in defense of health care and opposing legislation that eliminates protections for the environment and for women and minorities.
Panama Democrats were present and counted!
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Jesus, who certainly was a Doer, not a Diva, had this simple rule for church-building: follow the Gospel:
The Wise and Foolish Builders
“Cualquiera pues que me oye estas palabras, y las hace, le compararé á un hombre prudente, que edificó su casa sobre la peña:
Y descendió lluvia, y vinieron rios, y soplaron vientos, y combatieron aquella casa: y no cayó; porque estaba fundada sobre la peña.
Y cualquiera que me oye estas palabras, y no las hace, le compararé á un hombre insensato, que edificó su casa sobre la arena;
Y descendió lluvia, y vinieron rios, y soplaron vientos, é hicieron ímpetu en aquella casa; y cayó, y fué grande su ruina. (Mateo 7: 24).
Jesus taught us that a church is more than bricks and mortar.
It’s people who are faith-inspired Doers: Humble souls who work for free, give, rather than take, and think of others first.
Divas are quite the opposite. Jesus calls them self-absorbed, hypocrites:
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7: 4).
Divas seek prestige, without earning it, want power, but won’t share it with others. They promise results, but only produce excuses, and worst of all, they only see the church as a cow to be milked for money or other benefits.
Balboa Union Church is 103 years old. Created by an Act of Congress thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt, the church is built on a rock that is solid enough to have withstood revolution, invasion, several recessions, Ricardo Martinelli, and its share of Divas.
Fortunately, Divas don’t stay around long. After creating disunity, they usually run out when their benefits run out. Then, the faithful Doers, the Lord’s true servants, return to pick up the pieces and rebuild the congregation. Call it: “Evangelical Evolution.”
Our church’s congregation has had a rocky conservative past.
When I walked through these doors in 1961, I was a young Army Medic from the streets of Washington DC. That Sunday, I saw a beautiful building filled with hundreds of white faces and in a large part of the back section were Panamanian, Afro-Antilleans, and African-American worshipers. They had been told where to sit. Not out of love, but out of what the ante-bellum South called our “unique institution.” Remember, the Canal Zone was filled with American soldiers and engineers, many who were brought up in the South and embraced that military legacy and social values.
I walked out.
In the late ’60s the church, through Reverend Payne and others, ditched the ‘reserved’ seating for minorities and withstood tons of criticism for it. More black-and brown-skinned members came on board. But, soon after the Canal Zone reverted back to Panama, the church became a ghost.
Yet, black and brown and some white Zonians remained. One Zonian woman bequeathed over $120,000 to the church, which purchased a decade ago, the land we are praying on. By the way, our church rarely mentions her name. Sad.
Times changed, people of any race sat where they wanted, elected to Council whomever they wanted and softened the Protestant doxology to be more ecumenical. It was money from this new multi-racial Baptist, Methodist, and Protestant minority that also saved the church.
It was a time of optimism. Panama’s new American ambassador, Jack Vaughn arrived three months after the January 9th 1961 protests for Panama sovereignty. Vaughn was an ambassador’s ambassador. An ex-boxer, Peace Corps director, and president of Planned Parenthood, Vaughn and the BUC congregation were inspired by President Kennedy’s 1961 injunction:
“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
BUC’s ecumenical destiny was recast.
With only a couple of hundred members, BUC became a church of Doers. They organized weekly English language classes, periodic visits to local prisons, and assistance to medical missions in visits (giras) to the Interior. The church founded five outreach missions serving seniors, children and the hungry, from Panama City, to Chilibri, to Santiago.
Most of the Divas disappeared, either by going back to the States, staying away from church, or joining evangelical groups.
The Doers have returned and I promise to, again, work hard with them. Here: are some changes we should consider:
Abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature and length of sermons (Source: Thom Rainier).
No one receiving pecuniary benefits from the church can hold an elected church position. The church must never be an ATM machine from which a charismatic pastor, or unaccountable administration can siphon members’ offerings.
Stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
Stop focusing on incidentals. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
Stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we go after the pastor, the staff member or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
Are all the above changes an “Impossible Dream?” No, we have taken this voyage before, we will do it again, and we shall win again. It’s a trip that sharpens our skills and enhances our Christianity.
“Soñar lo imposible soñar. Vencer al invicto rival, Sufrir el dolor insufrible, Morir por un noble ideal. Saber enmendar el error, Amar con pureza y bondad. Querer, en un sueño imposible, Con fe, una estrella alcanzar. Ése es mi afán Y lo he de lograr, No importa el esfuerzo, No importa el lugar. Saldré a combatir y mi lema será Defender la virtud aunque deba El infierno pisar. Porque sé que si logro ser fiel A tan noble ideal, Dormirá mi alma en paz al llegar El instante final. Y será este, mundo mejor, Porque yo, sin rendirme jamás, Busqué, en mi sueño imposible, Poder una estrella alcanzar.”
“Soñar lo imposible significa llevar la contraria al mundo, mantener un idealismo en su estado más extremo, pero puro a su vez. Don Quijote decide luchar por su ideal. Don Quijote tiene fe en lo que hace, cree en ello con fuerza, por eso no nos cabe duda en ningún momento de que vaya a ser capaz de alcanzar cualquier estrella que se le antoje.”
Former United States President Barack Obama summarized Quijote’s soliloquy with two simple words: “Si, podemos.”
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Panama’s informal economy — some of it expensive services by highly paid professionals, but mostly small-time vendors and creative people making meager livings on the margins — is huge. As in, with the numbers necessarily imprecise, about 40 percent of the national work force engaged in it. When they get a good thing going and someone richer figures out a way to take it over, then allegations that it’s criminal will sometimes emerge. It might be a downtown merchant claiming dibs on a public sidewalk in front of his or her store, where a street vendor is selling his or her wares. It might be a restaurateur tired of the competition from street food and claiming health issues with or without good reason. It might be a corporation looking to steal some informal creative person’s intellectual property.
In any case, the informal economy is partly formal, partly regulated, generally tolerated and an economic necessity for the nation. The law firms have made it so that micro-businesspeople can’t for a small fee file a certificate of doing business under an assumed name. That means no credit or government business or utilities or post office boxes in the names of informal businesses. The tax laws are such that people whose businesses don’t bring in $1000 a month don’t have to pay income taxes or keep records. Making it impossible for a foreigner to make a living in our informal economy, or moving street vendors from one place to another in the city, that can be practically done and frequently is done. But to tell more than a million Panamanians that they are no longer allowed to make a living would cause immediate social conflicts — and it wouldn’t just be rich versus poor, but an attempt to change a culture that many who are not in the informal economy appreciate, even revere.
And then there are niches that the larger folks find it difficult or inconvenient to serve anyway. Take perishable fruit with short shelf-lives. The supermarkets can’t be bothered. Some of the larger stores with many customers will sell the more expensive seafood, but if those of us who would fry up a skillet of pampanitas to share with our dogs and cats have to get it from a vendor on a bicycle or a truck, or from the fishermen on the beach. Supermarkets may or may not deal in plantains or bananas, but finger bananas ripen all at once so any marketing of those gets left to the street vendors. And so it is with rose apples as well.
It’s part of Panama’s culture, and part of how a country without any significant welfare dole that would otherwise have a huge and restless army of the unemployed gets by.
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Odebrecht: another deception here, firestorms elsewhere, silence in the USA
by Eric Jackson
Attorney General Kenia Porcell’s August 1 announcement that the scandalous Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht would be providing the Panamanian people with the names of those whom they bribed here and paying fines and restitution was initially greeted with enthusiasm by some anti-corruption activists. Now, nearly two weeks later, we don’t have the list of those who took bribes, we don’t have the full details of the agreement, and those details that have been released indicate that major parts of Odebrecht’s criminal activity in Panama are being left out of the case.
While Libertad Ciudadana, the Panamanian chapter of Transparency International, immediately hailed the agreement, Miguel Antonio Bernal — now an independent candidate in the 2019 presidential race — said at a demonstration the day after Porcell’s announcement that “I realized that the attorney general’s story is a sea of falsehoods, and it had done mortal damage to society.” There immediately began a chorus from figures overt and pseudonymous in President Juan Carlos Varela’s Panameñista Party deriding Bernal, the law professor, radio show host and activist, as “Dr. No.” It’s an old refrain from that quarter, recycled from the days when they were supporting the clumsy criminal Bosco Vallarino against Bernal in the 2009 Panama City mayoral race. But in La Prensa people were also attacking Bernal, and especially questioning the statements of Spanish-Brazilian attorney Rodrigo Tacla Durán that concurred with previous allegations that Varela had taken money from Odebrecht and added that Varela used his influence to hinder Panamanian cooperation with Brazil’s investigation of the company.
We can get into political rivalries, the partisan orientations of Panama’s various news media and fears that a way of life might end. But the structure of the announced settlement and its justification tend to support the professor’s complaint. It’s a $100 million fine to be paid by Odebrecht for bribes paid, plus $120 million in restitution. The problem with the restitution is that the full extent of Odebrecht bribery in Panama has yet to be investigated, and Porcell herself admits it when she promises that the investigation is continuing and will get into everything. An overview of the Odebrecht corruption that has been revealed in other countries, typically it’s an overcharge with about 10 percent kicked back directly or indirectly to politicians. If that rate prevailed in Panama with all of the Odebrecht public contracts since they began in the Torrijos administration, the $120 million restitution figure would be very low.
Also, excluded from the settlement and anything that Porcell is talking about is the matter of Panama being used as a money laundering mill and for the concealment of evidence with respect to public corruption in other countries. Early in the Brazilian investigation of the scandal there were claims that computer hard drives and key records were sent to Panama to keep them away from authorities there. Requests were made for Panamanian help, but it seems that not only were none of those materials recovered, but if there were police or proseutor raids looking for those things they have never been publicized. Those money laundering and concealment of evidence matters don’t appear to be in the attorney general’s settlement with Odebrecht.
Might the money laundering and concealment or destruction of evidence figure in the criminal cases against some 43 individuals, most of whom have not been named? Well, we don’t know and as of the most recent notice Porcell intends to conduct secret investigations and secret trials, after which only the names of those convicted would be made public. Secret trials could be a great new weapon for an authoritarian government, but at their inception under Porcell they stand to be a great new shield from the democratic consequences of public corruption.
The money laundering has not been entirely submerged, however.
The general rule has been that legislators are not allowed to engage in any private business while serving in the National Assembly. However, the deputies have carved out an exception for those who are practicing law. It might be reasonably argued that a deputy could be all the more effective in guarding the public interest if she or he could also file the public interest lawsuit when such is called for. But that’s pretty unheard-of.
However, one legislator moonlighting as a lawyer is Jorge Alberto Rosas, of the Rosas & Rosas law firm, and until recently the president of the National Assembly’s Credentials Committee, which hears complaints of corruption against Supreme Courts magistrates and several other classes of public officials. His creativity at coming up with reasons not to investigate complaints is something of a legend.
It turns out that Rosas & Rosas incorporated the money laundering shell companies for Odebrecht, and that the company’s seized records indicated millions of dollars going into that law firm. So lawyers at the firm were called in for questioning and it turned out that the legislator handled that account and was paid at least $1.3 million for doing so. Not long after than came to light he stepped down as head of the Credentials Committee. But so far as is known Rosas is neither charged with any crime nor under investigation.
Panama stands in contrast to most other Latin American places where Odebrecht did business, where politicians are being prosecuted.
In Peru it may lead to the elimination of most of the political class. Former President Alberto Fujimori is in prison for other things, his daughter and political heiress Keiko Fujimori is accused of taking payoffs, former President Alejandro Toledano is an international fugitive on Odebrecht-related charges, and most recently his successor Ollanta Humala and ex-first lady Nadine Heredia have been jailed for taking from the Brazilian company.
In Colombia the right is in turmoil, as both the political parties of former President Álvaro Uribe and current President Juan Manuel Santos apparently took money from Odebrecht. Neither of these two men have yet to be personally charged, but one of Uribe’s former ministers has been and the high court has called in Santos to testify.
In Ecuador there has been a spectacular falling out on the left, with current President Lenín Moreno having turned on his Vice President, Jorge Glas, whom he has stripped of official tasks that include earthquake reconstruction due to allegations that Glas was on the take from the Brazilians. That has caused a falling out between former President Rafael Correa and Moreno. Factions of the left have chosen sides that pit human rights and anti-corruption activists from whose ranks Moreno comes against harder left supporters of Correa, some of whom accuse Moreno of selling out to the CIA over the Odebrecht affair.
Where, actually, are the CIA, and more importantly, the NSA at, about Odebrecht? The NSA would have records of any electronic money transfers or incriminating emails or telephone calls, and lots of time to figure out any that may have been heavily encrypted. For a long time there have been suspicions of the US government starting the whole Petrobras / Odebrecht scandal by feeding information to police and prosecutors.
Odebrecht does business in several US states, including in its American subsidiary’s base of Miami. The company gave to Jeb Bush’s foundation and former Miami Democrat boss Xavier Suarez’s political action committee, then received huge state and local contracts for things like Florida highways and the expansion of Miami International Airport. But by the US way of reckoning, the statutes of limitation would have run on those things. (Perhaps not on laundering any proceeds, though.) Still, if Americans are in a big argument about foreign influence in US elections one might think that somebody in the mainstream of politics or mass media would have pointed out that the Russians are far from the only suspects over the years, citing Odebrecht as well as several Middle Eastern governments as examples to look into en route to reform legislation.
Panama’s legal response to the Odebrecht affair mostly derives from a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case that Washington brought against the Brazilian company, wherein it alleged some $59 million paid to foreign politicians or their entourages in 12 countries, including $6 million to Ricardo Martinelli’s two sons. But a Swiss money laundering investigation put the two Martinelli sons’ take at more than $20 million. There is a perception that authorities here are taking the lower US figures and such evidence as the United States feeds Panama because Washington still wants things out of Varela and is not prepared to turn on him at this point.
Bernal warns of a possible violent explosion, but the anti-corruption protests, while growing again, still remain divided and relatively small. The larger ones are led by the hard left FRENADESO. As the 2019 elections draw inexorably closer the mainly middle class and professional coalition of which Bernal is a part would seem vulnerable to splintering over rival presidential campaigns. Figure from the polls that President Varela may not be on the verge of ouster by popular demand, but that his Panameñista Party will not retain the presidency in the next elections. But so far there is no groundswell of support for any particular alternative.
So figure that if the attorney general says that nothing much happened and if it did she’ll tell us after the court cases are over, nobody will believe her. But nobody seems ready to die to call her bluff, either.
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The vultures are circling. They can see the wounded man on the ground, and are waiting for his end.
So are the human carnivores — the politicians.
They sing his praises, swear to defend him with all their heart — but in their heads they are already calculating who might be his successor. Each of them mutters to themself: Why not me?
Binyamin Netanyahu is facing the greatest crisis in his long career. The police are about to conclude their investigations. The Attorney General is under huge pressure to issue official indictments. The large demonstrations near the Attorney General’s home are growing from week to week.
The Attorney General, the Inspector General of the Police and the Minister for Internal Security were all personally picked by Netanyahu (and his wife). Now even this does not help. The pressure is too strong.
The investigations may drag on for another few months, but the end seems certain: State of Israel v. Binyamin Netanyahu will go to court.
When a member of the government is indicted for a felony, they usually resign, or at least take leave of absence. Not Netanyahu. No sir!
If he resigned, who would guard Israel and save it from the numerous dreadful dangers threatening the state from all sides? The Iranians are promising our extinction, the evil Arabs all around want to kill us, the leftists and other traitors threaten the state from within. How can we survive without Bibi? The danger is too awful to contemplate!
Netanyahu seems to believe this himself. He, his wife and his eldest son behave like a royal family. They buy without paying, travel as guests of others, receive expensive gifts as a matter of course.
Popular humor accompanies all these transgressions. The police has entered this spirit and decorated his files with many zeros.
File 1000 concerns the gifts. The Netanyahus are surrounded by a crowd of billionaires, who compete with each other in presenting gifts. Many jokes were made about the expensive cigars and pink champagne given to the family — until it transpired that their value amounts to tens of thousands of dollars. And the donors expect something in return from the donees.
File 2000 concerns a peculiar matter. Yedioth Ahronoth (“Latest News”) was Israel’s largest daily newspaper, until Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”) appeared — a paper distributed for nothing. It was founded by Sheldon Adelson, an admirer of Netanyahu and the owner of huge casinos in Las Vegas and Macao. It is devoted to the single task of glorifying King Bibi.
In a recorded private conversation, Netanyahu offered Noni Moses, the owner of Yedioth, a deal: Israel Today would reduce its size and circulation if Yedioth started to glorify Bibi. Legally, this may amount to bribery.
And then there is File 3000, deep beneath the sea. The German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp (two names well remembered as Hitler’s weapons suppliers) builds our submarines. Three, six, nine. The sky — or the sea — is the limit.
What do we need submarines for? Not to sink enemy fleets. Our enemies, such as they are, have no powerful fleets. But they may obtain nuclear missiles. Israel is a very small territory, and a nuclear bomb or two could destroy it. But no one will dream of doing so if they know that out there lurk submarines, which will respond with nuclear missiles within minutes.
The German shipyard, with the support of the German government, sells the submarines to the Israeli navy. No middlemen needed. But there are middlemen who put millions in their pockets. How many pockets? Ah, there we are. Quite a number of pockets, and all these pockets belong to people very close to the Prime Minister.
Perverted minds may imagine that tens of millions have reached the PM himself, perish the thought.
This week, a prestigious TV program aired an investigation, and the picture was shocking. The entire military and civilian environment seems to be infected by corruption, as in a failed African state.
One of the few lessons I have learned in my life is that nobody reaches the top of any profession if they are not devoted to it absolutely, totally.
To get stinking rich, you must love stinking money. Not the things money can buy, but money itself. Like the miser of Moliere, who sits all day and counts his riches. If you also want something else, love or glory, you will not get to be a multi-multi-billionaire.
Don Juan did not care for anything but women. Not love. Just women, more and more of them.
David Ben-Gurion wanted power. Not the pleasures of power. Not cigars. Not champagne. Not several villas. Just power. Everything else, like his Bible club and his reading Don Quixote in Spanish, was just pretense. He wanted power and held on to it as long as he could. (In the end, when he surrounded himself with a praetorian guard of youngsters like Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, his colleagues ganged up on him and kicked him out, with some help from me.)
A person who wants political power, but also the amenities of life, several villas and a lot of money will not really reach the very top. Netanyahu is a good example.
He is no exception. His predecessor is in prison, and so are several former ministers. A former President of the State was just released from prison (for sexual offenses).
Netanyahu grew up in the a family which was not affluent. So did Ehud Olmert. So did Ehud Barak. So did Moshe Dayan. They all loved money too much.
Sarah Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s wife, is also about to be indicted. She is accused of paying for her extensive private needs with government funds. She is not widely appreciated. Everybody calls her Sarah’le (“Little Sarah”), but not from love. She also grew up in straitened circumstances and was a low-grade air stewardess when she met Bibi in a duty-free shop.
I was lucky. Until my tenth birthday, my family was quite rich. When we fled to Palestine, we soon became as poor as synagogue-mice, but much happier.)
Another lesson: no one in power should stay there for more than eight years.
People in power attract flatterers. Every day, year after year, they are told that they are just wonderful. So wise, so clever, so handsome. Slowly they become convinced themselves. After all, so many good people can’t be wrong.
Their critical senses become blunted. They get used to being obeyed even by people who know better. They become immune to criticism, and even get angry when criticized.
After the 12-year tenure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a wise and successful president, the American people changed their constitution and limited the terms of the president to two, altogether eight consecutive years. Very sensible.
I speak from experience. I was elected to the Knesset three times. I very much enjoyed the first two terms — eight consecutive years — because I felt that I was doing the right things in the right way. During my third term I felt that I was less keen, less innovative, less original. So I resigned.
Netanyahu is now in his fourth term. High time for him to be thrown out.
The Bible enjoins us: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Proverbs 24, 17). I do not rejoice, but I shall be very glad if he goes.
I do not hate him. Neither do I like him. I don’t think that I have spoken with him on more than two or three occasions in my whole life. Once when he introduced me to his second — not last — wife, a nice young American woman, and once when he saw my picture in a photo exhibition, wearing a pilot’s cap. He told me that I looked like Errol Flynn.
My attitude towards him is not based on emotion. It is purely political. He is a talented politician, a clever demagogue. But I believe that he is leading Israel slowly but surely towards a historic disaster.
People believe that he is devoid of principles, that he will do anything — just anything — to stay in power. That is true. But underneath everything there hide some ironclad convictions — the weltanschauung of his late father, the history professor, whose special field was the Spanish Inquisition. Father Benzion Netanyahu was an embittered man, convinced that his colleagues despised him and blocked his career because of his extreme right-wing views. He was a fanatic, for whom even Vladimir Jabotinsky was far too moderate.
The father admired his elder son, Yoni, an army officer who was killed in the famous Entebbe raid, and did not respect Bibi very much. He once said that Bibi was not fit to be prime minister, but could make a good foreign minister — a very shrewd observation.
If Binyamin Netanyahu falls, which seems possible, who will replace him?
Like every clever (and unsure) leader, Bibi has destroyed every likely rival along the way. Now there is no obvious heir around.
But many people are now repeating a slogan: “Anyone, Just Not Bibi!”
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Heart and soul
Senator Elizabeth Warren at the Netroots Nation convention
Before I begin, I would like to say a word about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — DACA — that was just discussed.
The fights that we fight for — they matter. In 2012 — because of persistence of many of you in this room — 800,000 young men and women were protected from deportation.
Because of DACA, DREAMers, who are as American as you and me, were promised a chance. The chance to work. The chance to live without the fear of being ripped away from the only home most of them have ever known. The chance to build a future.
Now, President Trump will make a decision on DACA. DREAMers’ future hangs in the balance. This Tuesday, August 15, people are mobilizing to protect DREAMers. Let’s not sit back. Let’s stand together to say: President Trump, let DREAMers stay. They are our friends, our family, our future. Give DREAMers the chance to build their dreams.
These fights matter. These fights matter, and that’s why it’s good to be back at Netroots Nation!
Thank you Mary, thank you Eric, thank you Arshad, and thank you to the entire Netroots Nation team for bringing us together again. And what a treat it is to be here in Atlanta — the hometown of a man who has taught us the importance of necessary trouble, my friend and hero John Lewis.
I look out here and see 3000 progressives, people of every race, gender, religion, and color, all committed to building a better future. I look out here and I see Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.
Yes, Trump’s worst nightmare, but also a big threat to everyone who kind of likes things the way they work now. A few weeks ago, I saw an op-ed in the New York Times from a so-called Democratic strategist titled, “Back to the Center, Democrats.”
It was all about how we have to stop caring about, quote, “identity politics” and stop waging, quote, “class warfare.” Apparently, the path forward is to go back to locking up non-violent drug offenders and ripping more holes in our economic safety net.
I even got a shoutout! Apparently, I’m the face of the problem. So is Bernie. But let’s be really clear here — the real power, the real threat, is not me — it’s you, all of you. It’s your energy, your passion, and your commitment to our values that threaten the bland, business-as-usual establishment.
We’ve been warned off before. Give up, keep your heads down, be realistic, act like a grown-up, keep doing the same old same old.
But here’s what’s interesting: instead of lots of lots of ferocious back-and-forth and piling on, this time, no one cared. Big yawn. Why? Because the Democratic Party isn’t going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill. It is NOT going to happen.
We’re not going back to the days of being lukewarm on choice.
We’re not going back to the days when universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected.
And we’re not going back to the days when a Democrat who wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street.
Democrats are heading forward. We are looking ahead — and we will not, we shall not, we must not allow anyone to turn back the clock.
A lot of you have been coming since the very first YearlyKos in 2006. That feels like a long, long time ago. Way back in 2006 and still when I first started coming in 2010, a big part of what we were trying to do was to “crash the gate” and get the Democratic Party to listen to us.
We wanted a party led by people who weren’t afraid to call themselves progressives.
We wanted a party that would defend progressive values.
We wanted a chance to fight for progressive solutions to our nation’s challenges.
We wanted a movement. And now, look around. We got the progressive movement, and we gather here every year to organize, to energize, and to sing karaoke.
We are not the gate crashers of today’s Democratic Party.
We are not a wing of today’s Democratic Party.
We are the heart and soul of today’s Democratic Party.
But, boy, we’ve inherited a hell of a challenge, haven’t we?
We’re gathering here in Atlanta in a moment of crisis for our country. And I’m not just talking about Donald Trump and his Twitter account. More and more working families today are hanging on by their fingernails in a country with an economy and a government that works only for those at the very top.
This crisis didn’t start when Donald Trump walked into the Oval Office. And it won’t just magically disappear the day he walks out of it.
Me, I’ve been shouting about this crisis from every rooftop I could find for years — talking about how our middle class was squeezed to the breaking point, how chances to move up in this economy were disappearing, and warning that, if we weren’t careful, the very promise of this nation — the commitment to expand opportunities — would be lost.
That’s the fight that got me into politics. That’s the fight that brought me to my very first Netroots all those years ago.
How about you? By applause: Who got into the fight because they were passionate about economic justice? Who came to fight for reproductive rights? How about clean air and clean water? How about immigration? Civil rights? Human rights? Anti-war? Campaign finance reform? Net neutrality? Any other bankruptcy nerds in the house?
That’s one of the things I love about coming to Netroots. We all came to this fight from different experiences. We all get fired up about different issues.
But if we’re going to be the people who lead the Democratic Party back from the wilderness and lead our country out of this dark time, then we can’t waste energy arguing about whose issue matters most or who in our alliance should be voted off the island.
We need to see each other’s fights as our own. And I believe we can.
In the wake of the last election, I’ve heard people say we need to decide whether we’re the party of the white working class or the party of Black Lives Matter.
I say we can care about a dad who’s worried that his kid will have to move away from their factory town to find good work — and we can care about a mom who’s worried that her kid will get shot during a traffic stop.
The way I see it, those two parents have something deep down in common — the system is rigged against both of them — and against their kids.
Over the last generation, the most powerful people in this country have gotten way more powerful. Corporate profits and CEO pay are near record highs. But workers’ wages haven’t budged, and, one after another, workers’ rights are getting wiped away. Unions are under attack. Millions of people are struggling to piece together two, three, or four jobs just to pay the rent.
The balance of power is shifting in other parts of our economy, too. In industry after industry — airlines, banking, health care, agriculture, tech — a handful of corporate giants control more and more and more. The big guys are locking out smaller, newer competitors. They are crushing innovation. Even if you don’t see the gears turning, this massive consolidation means prices go up and quality goes down for everything from air travel to broadband service. Rural America is left behind, dismissed by corporate giants as fly-over country.
This concentration of power strikes at the heart of our democracy. Our government is supposed to be the one place where everybody gets the same fair shot, no matter how powerful or powerless they might be. But thanks to the revolving door between Capitol Hill, K Street and Wall Street, powerful people have more and more influence in Congress. Thanks to Citizens United, corporate money slithers through Washington like a snake. Washington works great for the rich and powerful, but for everyone else, not so much.
Yes, the system is rigged — and if you don’t feel like anyone in politics is doing anything to un-rig it, well, that’s how a lot of folks who should have been with us last November wound up voting for Donald Trump.
For many Americans, it isn’t news that the balance of power in our country has seriously tilted away from them. African Americans. LGBTQ Americans. Immigrants. Muslims. Women. Poor people.
No, I have not personally experienced the fear, the oppression, and the pain that many of my fellow Americans endure every day. But I do know this: For a lot of our fellow citizens, the system is rigged now and it has been rigged for a long, long time.
Don’t take my word for it. Just look around.
When women aren’t invited to the debate over our own health care and health insurance must cover Viagra but not birth control.
When we’re almost two decades into the 21st century and we still don’t have equal pay for equal work.
When a man running for President of the United States can get caught on tape bragging about sexual assault and Republican party leaders turn a blind eye.
Yeah, the system is rigged.
When the black-white wealth gap triples over the past three decades.
When racist voter ID laws and voter suppression tactics sprout like weeds all across the country.
When a man too racist to become a judge in the 1980s now runs the Department of Justice
When communities like Flint are living with poisoned water and polluted air.
When there’s still no justice for, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile and so many more.
Yeah, the system is rigged.
When you can still be fired from your job because of who you love.
When you can’t use a public restroom or serve in the military because of your gender identity.
When you’re afraid to report a rape because ICE could split up your family.
When you’re treated like a suspect every minute of your life.
Yeah, the system is rigged.
And if you don’t feel like anyone in politics is doing anything to un-rig it, or it’s too broken to un-rig at all — well, that’s what a lot of folks felt last November, a lot of folks who should have been with us on election day but who stayed home.
So spare me the argument about whether we ought to be trying to bring back folks who voted for Donald Trump or trying to turn out folks who just didn’t vote.
Because we can’t do either of those things until we can show that things CAN change — and that WE will fight to change them.
It’s easy to make the case that Donald Trump and the Republicans aren’t the answer to any of these problems. Heck, they aren’t even trying. Look at the Republican priorities:
Cut health care coverage for 25 million Americans and drive up insurance costs for millions more.
Cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations.
Roll back Wall Street regulations, gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and let the big banks wreck our economy again.
Turn polluters loose and let them spew, dump and destroy whenever and wherever they want.
Zero out the programs that help people keep a roof over their heads.
Double down against Planned Parenthood, against an undocumented immigrant’s right to due process, against a black American’s right to vote in an election.
And this week, play a stupid, reckless game of chicken with a dangerous foreign power and threaten nuclear war.
The Republican agenda will make the powerful more powerful — and leave everyone else further behind. The Republican leadership is willing to threaten our health, our economy, and our basic safety.
All true, and we should say so clearly. But that’s not the end of our job. We have to show people that, when we get a chance to lead, things WILL start getting better.
And that starts with showing some backbone. Not just backbone when we stand up to Donald Trump, but backbone when we put forward an agenda.
For so many Americans, every day is a battle against powerful interests. It’s time for us to pick sides and get in the fight.
So let’s talk about picking sides:
It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of working people, on the side of Moms and Dads who dream of a better life for their kids, on the side of people in every part of this country and people of every race, gender, and religion who just want a level playing field and a chance to build a future.
And we know how to show them that their fight is our fight.
Let’s start with jobs.
It’s time to re-think the basic social contract on labor. We’re going to fight for fully portable benefits for everyone. And we’re going to fight to make sure that all work — full-time, part-time, gig — carries basic, pro-rata benefits.
We’re going to fight to make it easier for workers to come together to form a union so they can take power into their own hands.
And we’re going to turn the minimum wage into a living wage. Fight for $15!
It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of hard working families who are getting pounded every day.
We’re going to fight for universal pre-K, and to make it easier for every family to get child care.
We’re going to fight like hell to stop Republicans from jacking up the cost of health insurance and taking coverage away from millions. Trumpcare will not get one Democratic vote — not now, not ever. But it’s not enough just to defend the Affordable Care Act, we’re going to improve it, starting with bringing down the costs of prescription drugs — and leading the fight for Medicare for all.
We’re going to make it possible for young people to go to college or get a technical degree debt-free.
We’re going to fight for affordable housing and good schools across our country, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns and most remote rural homesteads.
And we will fight our hearts out to defend — and expand — Social Security and Medicare.
It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of consumers.
So we’re going to fight to break up the monopolies that are killing competition.
We’re going to put a cop on the beat so that no one can steal your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street.
And whether you’re shopping for broadband or a student loan, an airline ticket or health insurance, we’re going to go to bat for you to help make damn sure you don’t get cheated.
It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of science.
We’re done arguing about whether climate change is real — and we’re going to fight it with everything we have.
We’re done arguing about whether trickle-down economics works — and we’re going to fight to build this economy so it works for working families.
We’re done arguing about gun safety — and we’re going to fight for the common-sense reforms the overwhelming majority of Americans want.
It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of fairness and equality.
So we’re going to fight for equal pay for equal work.
We’re going to keep Planned Parenthood open, and we’re going to make sure women have access to safe, legal abortions.
And we’re going to fight to put more women in positions of power, from committee rooms to boardrooms to that really nice Oval-shaped room at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
And we’re going to reform our criminal justice system so that getting caught with a baggie of pot doesn’t mean your life is ruined, and getting pulled over by the cops doesn’t mean your life is at risk.
It’s time for us to say: Democrats are on the side of American values.
So we’re going to fight for comprehensive immigration reform. And we’re going to say to every DREAMer in this country: You are an American. This country is your home. And we have your back.
We’re going to fight to wipe the stain of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban off the books once and for all. And, by the way, Mr. President: We’re never, ever going to build your stupid wall.
We’re also going to fight for our democracy. That means we’ll fight to reverse Citizens United so big corporations can’t BUY our elections, and we’ll fight to stop voter ID laws so Republicans can’t STEAL our elections either.
And, by the way: it’s time for us to up front about whose side we’re not on.
We’re not on the side of big Wall Street banks that break the law — we think everyone needs to be accountable. When bank CEOs break the law, they ought to go to jail just like everyone else.
We’re not on the side of the giant companies that want to twist government rules for themselves. We’re going to slam shut that revolving door, and we say enough is enough with corporate money that is drowning our democracy.
We’re not on the side of the bigots and the misogynists — and unlike the so-called Republican “leadership” in Washington, we’re not afraid to say it to their faces.
And we’re not on the side of foreign governments that hack our elections or politicians whose fragile egos put our national security at risk.
Folks, we don’t have to tip-toe. We don’t have to hedge our bets. We don’t have to ask permission from the pundits or the corporate CEOs — and we sure don’t have to ask permission from Mitch McConnell.
Actually, that’s a good thing because I think he would probably tell me to sit down and shut up. Nevertheless, I would persist.
We don’t have to fear the wrath of the powerful, because when we’re bold enough to stand up for our values, when we’re bold enough to stand up for our fellow Americans, that’s when we ARE powerful.
Isn’t that the spirit that brought us all to this movement?
Isn’t that the reason we’re proud to call ourselves progressives?
Isn’t that the Democratic Party we want to call our own?
This fight is our fight.
This fight is the fight Americans have been waiting for someone to take on.
This fight is the fight Americans are ready to rally behind.
This fight is the fight Americans are counting on us to win.
This fight is my fight. This fight is your fight.
So let’s go win it!
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It’s the latest media purchase by the billionaire class, a group that includes Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (the Washington Post), Boston Red Sox owner John Henry (the Boston Globe), billionaire Glen Taylor (the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (the Las Vegas Review-Journal).
Some have praised this growing trend, arguing that wealthy individuals are journalism’s last, best hope. And there are notable cases of rich philanthropists, like Pierre Omidyar and Gerry Lenfest, making significant donations toward public service journalism.
Nonetheless, potential hazards arise when news outlets increasingly rely on private capital and billionaires’ largess.
The upside of privatizing the news
Private ownership of news organizations is, of course, nothing new.
Since at least the late 19th century, most major US magazines and newspapers have been owned or controlled by wealthy individuals or families. Often these owners distinguished themselves by their commitment to journalistic excellence: at The New York Times, the Ochs-Sulzberger family; at the Los Angeles Times, the Chandlers; and at the Washington Post, the Grahams. In the magazine world, Condé Nast, privately owned by the Newhouse family’s Advance Communications, continues to produce magazines highly regarded for their journalistic rigor, from the New Yorker to Wired.
Between the 1970s and early 2000s, however, media companies increasingly became publicly traded stock corporations that often expanded into large chains. Gannett, owner of USA Today and over 100 other daily newspapers, and Sinclair, proprietor of 173 television stations, are currently two of the largest publicly traded media companies.
In contrast to a private company — which can forgo profits if it chooses — a publicly traded company has obligations to maximize shareholder value. Emphasizing profitability often comes at the cost of professional excellence or civic commitment, even at media companies like the Washington Post, where the founders retained control of voting stock after going public in 1971.
As Kathryn Weymouth, the last Graham family publisher of the Washington Post, remarked when she passed the baton to Bezos: “If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for the Post.”
So compared to Wall Street control, private ownership has many potential advantages. As Bezos has demonstrated, a private owner can absorb short-term losses in service of long-term gain. While most news organizations are still in austerity mode, the “new” Washington Post is increasing staff and budgets. Many believe it’s also dramatically improving its quality and impact.
How benevolent is the billionaire model?
But private ownership is no guarantee of either commercial or professional success. And not all private owners are the same. Today, one of the fastest-growing forms of private media ownership is the investment company, linked to hedge funds or other forms of private equity.
These companies are just as focused on profits as a publicly traded firm — and perhaps even more willing to close down a media outlet when its economic performance is sub-par. The largest investment groups include New Media/Gatehouse (125 daily newspapers, now larger than Gannett), Digital First Media (62 daily papers), and Tronc/Tribune (owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and 17 other dailies).
Exhibit A is Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul and conservative activist who bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015. He kept the purchase secret at first, and his representatives reportedly pressured the newspaper’s staff to cover Adelson and his allies in a positive light.
In more subtle ways, private ownership also raises concerns about partisan bias, self-dealing and lack of transparency. Donald Trump has exploited these vulnerabilities by posting tweets attacking the “AmazonWashingtonPost” and has threatened government anti-trust investigations of Amazon to try to intimidate Bezos.
Though Trump’s motives are suspect, the concern is valid: As Amazon gains market share in industry after industry, the potential for the Washington Post to have serious conflicts of interest increases exponentially.
Laurene Powell Jobs’ purchase of The Atlantic via her Emerson Collective (a nonprofit limited liability company) is comparable, in some ways, to the Poynter Institute’s ownership of the Tampa Bay Times. In both cases, nonprofit organizations are overseeing entirely commercial news outlets.
This model may be a formula for economic success, but is it an unalloyed boon for democracy? The Atlantic’s digital rise has been fueled by sponsored content (now 60 to 75 percent of its total revenues) — a type of advertising that tries to be persuasive by looking like news — while the magazine’s profitable off-the-record salons can, as one media columnist has argued, have a corrupting effect by driving “a measurable quantity of political discourse out of the public sphere and into the private.”
What about the public interest?
In fact, The Atlantic and the Washington Post are the bright and shiny faces of an increasingly oligarchic media system in the USA. The oligarchs’ values and priorities, however, may not align with democratic objectives. Their business model — and definition of journalistic success — tends to exclude audiences or issues that cannot be monetized. High-end advertisers favor content that appeals to high-earning demographics, which can skew coverage away from concerns of the working class and poor.
Under Bezos’s stewardship, the Washington Post was conspicuous for its harshly critical coverage of Bernie Sanders’s inequality-focused candidacy. Powell Jobs is no doubt sincere in her reformist zeal, yet her single-minded push for educational “innovation” conveniently shifts attention from the massive imbalance in resources available to low-income versus high-income school districts. While the new media oligarchs might value profits less than their Wall Street compatriots, they may be more determined as “thought leaders” to shape — and limit — public policy debate.
Instead of being in thrall to these benefactors, it’s important to redouble efforts to truly democratize the ownership and funding of our media system. One way is to increase government support for US public media, the worst-funded in the Western world.
Numerous sources can help fund public options and foster structural diversity in our media system, ranging from spectrum auctions generating revenue to support local journalism to having Facebook and Google pay into an investigative journalism trust. Tax incentives and policy protections can ensure a commitment to public service and bottom-up governance by citizens and journalists instead of absentee owners. Indeed, one possible silver lining to commercial journalism’s struggles is a renewed search for structural alternatives, especially public and nonprofit models.
These are obviously long-term solutions. In the meantime, a truly diverse media ecology could have public-spirited oligarchs playing a positive role. But when they become the dominant players — as is increasingly the case today — they may threaten, more than strengthen, our democracy.
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El nuevo Distrito Norte que aprobó la Asamblea Nacional de Diputados, y que espera la sanción del Ejecutivo, tiene más de mil kilómetros cuadrados y una población que supera los 200 mil habitantes. Aún más importante, contiene dentro de lo que serían sus fronteras las fuentes de agua que alimentan a la ciudad de Panamá (un millón de habitantes) y al Canal de Panamá (principal exportador de servicios del país: B/2,500 millones). Además, el distrito Norte se ha convertido en los últimos 40 años en ‘ciudad dormitorio’ para trabajadores que viajan todos los días a la ciudad de Panamá. El 90 por ciento de los trabajadores son migrantes de otras regiones del país que vienen en busca de nuevas oportunidades para ellos y sus familias. Todos estos antecedentes – agua potable para la ciudad capital, agua para el Canal, espacio para los trabajadores que llegan en busca de nueva oportunidades – constituyen problemas que no son contemplados por la ley que pretende crear el Distrito Norte.
Más aún, hay una fuerte presión por parte de inversionistas urbanistas en construir nuevas barriadas de lujo en el área. En la actualidad, hay regulaciones muy estrictas sobre este tipo de construcciones por los efectos negativos que tendrían sobre la cuenca del río Chagres (que provee de agua potable a la ciudad y del líquido precioso al Canal de Panamá). Por lo menos uno de los diputados que presentó la ley para crear el Distrito Norte a la Asamblea es promotor de estas nuevas urbanizaciones.
La propuesta de los legisladores de la Republica es incompleta y desordenada. (No tiene una justificación y tampoco presenta una consulta realizada en las comunidades). Es importante participar en el debate en torno a la pertinencia de crear un nuevo distrito en el norte del actual distrito de Panamá.
Hay que contestar algunas preguntas sencillas. ¿Cómo beneficiará el nuevo distrito al país? ¿Qué beneficios recibimos todos los panameños? Además, ¿cómo se beneficiará el nuevo distrito Norte? ¿Cómo se beneficiarán sus habitantes y otros residentes del nuevo distrito? Los beneficios para el país se pueden medir tanto por los aportes que haga el nuevo distrito a la economía, así como a la cultura. Asimismo, por el ordenamiento territorial y las conexiones que pueda establecer con los demás distritos de la Republica (77 en total). No existe un plan en la ley, tampoco una estrategia, ni propuesta alguna para determinar como beneficiará el nuevo distrito al país. Tampoco existe una idea de cómo el distrito Norte podría beneficiar a todos los panameños. La Asamblea Nacional (de Diputados) al debatir una ley tiene que recordar que legisla para todos los panameños.
También hay que ver como se beneficia el área norte del Distrito de Panamá con este cambio político-administrativo. Según los proponentes, el nuevo Municipio ‘Norte’ tendría acceso directo a todos los impuestos locales, sin necesidad de pedirle al Municipio de Panamá un centavo. En la actualidad, el Municipio de Panamá le transfiere a los 4 corregimientos del Norte más fondos de los que generan esas divisiones administrativas. No es casual que el alcalde del Distrito de Panamá se siente algo contento con la idea de deshacerse de esa carga financiera que representaría el posible futuro distrito Norte.
La población no se siente parte de la propuesta de los diputados que quieren crear el distrito Norte. Opinan que hay más corrupción envuelto en la ley que ya aprobó la Asamblea, pero que el Presidente todavía no sanciona. La propuesta no habla de centros de salud, escuelas o de seguridad en las comunidades. Todo indica que tiene otras prioridades.
Hay indicios que el proyecto del nuevo distrito fue concebido en las oficinas de abogados que trabajan con inversionistas que quieren construir barrios de lujo en esos corregimientos. La iniciativa puede beneficiar a unos pocos pero no a la población que supera los 200 mil habitantes y crece a una tasa muy alta.
¿Necesitamos más distritos en la región metropolitana? No tengo los elementos necesarios para opinar con autoridad. En todo caso, requieren estudios más serios. El área ‘Norte’ tiene 1,028 kilómetros cuadrados. Comparado con San Miguelito (50 km2) o la ciudad de Panamá (150 km2) es un territorio monstruoso. Sin planificación y sólo para negociar la construcción de barriadas exclusivas, no se justifica la creación de un Distrito Norte. Hay que regresar a las comunidades y coordinar con su gente para saber qué quieren.
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