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¿Wappin? A multicultural lament for Berta Cáceres

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Hillary Clinton: “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras….”

¿Wappin? A multicultural lament for Berta Cáceres

Inti Illimani, Chinoy & Gepe – El Derecho Vivir En Paz
https://youtu.be/udR0KBCbs6U

Paul Robeson – Joe Hill
https://youtu.be/n8Kxq9uFDes

Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert – Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida
https://youtu.be/ESSbVYHHS0o

Robbie Robertson – Broken Arrow
https://youtu.be/RXFUr0sEgMI

Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free
https://youtu.be/HDqmJEWOJRI

Atahualpa Yupanqui – Preguntitas Sobre Dios
https://youtu.be/hAlPysjCFHg

Peter Tosh – Downpressor Man
https://youtu.be/KBa4DvSkjJs

Víctor Jara – Manifiesto
https://youtu.be/udR0KBCbs6U

Roger Waters & Eric Clapton – The Gunner’s Dream
https://youtu.be/meKhfr_CjQ0

Rubén Blades – El Padre Antonio y su Monaguillo Andrés
https://youtu.be/Dq-MPmXeXvs

Carlos Santana, Chester Thompson et al – Blues for Salvador
https://youtu.be/rqZGmTJLiRw

Mercedes Sosa – Solo le Pido a Dios
https://youtu.be/u5Szqz5XUo0

The Golden Gospel Singers – Oh Freedom!
https://youtu.be/veiJLhXdwn8

Berta Cáceres is not alone. The brutal death squad regime that was installed in 2009 — with US backing — has killed 58 journalists and at least 111 environmental activists. Its highly praised within the Washington Beltway economic program is to grant mining concessions over nearly one-third of the land, and hydroelectric dam concessions on most of the rivers, directly and indirectly displacing much of the rural population, particularly indigenous people, for the most irrisory compensation when there is any at all. Might Americans be alarmed about all of the Honduran children coming across the border? This is why.

 

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The Democrats Abroad primary — Sunday in Ancon, now through Tuesday online

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demsDA voteEasy links for online voting:

To join Democrats Abroad — essentially to be registered to vote — click here
If you are a DA member, click here to download your ballot to vote by email
Once you are registered send your email ballot, completed as instructed, to PrimaryVoting@democratsabroad.org

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In-person voting will be at the Theatre Guild
on Sunday, March 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Democrats Abroad has same-day voter registration

DA at TGA~ ~ ~

Click to see what Hillary and Bernie say about
issues that affect Americans living abroad

 

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Harrington, Punta Coco y la voluntad política

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Punta Coco. Foto por la Presidencia.
Punta Coco. Foto por la Presidencia.

Punta Coco y la voluntad política

por Kevin Harrington-Shelton

La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos no tendría que visitarla, para constatar irregularidades en Punta Coco —algunas de las cuales le habrán hecho llegar organizaciones no-gubernamentales especializadas.

Y además en el dominio público local obran suficientes hechos:

1. Sobre su cara es falso que su mera ubicación serviría para interrumpir la comunicación con personas no-encarceladas. No hay prueba alguna que el contrabando de celulares a través del perímetro externo de cualquier centro de reclusión panameño –que en todos los casos está a cargo de la Fuerza Pública– no se daría igualmente en Punta Coco. Pero no existe la voluntad política, de ponerle el cascabel a ese lince.

2. Como en México, la corrupción policial es la causa del problema: “No hay general capaz de resistir un cañonazo de un millón de pesos”. Entrar en negación de esa realidad y hacerse de la vista gorda no favorece al bien común.

3. Siguiendo la tesis hasta su conclusión lógica, la (ilegal) comunicación extra-muros se daría por igual en Pacora, que en Las Perlas.

Por ende Panamá debiera solicitar la asistencia de las diversas entidades civiles y militares norteamericanas que vienen logrando impresionantes avances tecnológicos en ese campo, para proceder a INTERCEPTAR comunicaciones, ya no sólo en Punta Coco, sino en todo penal panameño. Si acaso no lo hacen ya… El adquirir inteligencia sobre coordinación entre bandas resultaría más provechoso para controlar (y prevenir) su actividad criminal –y la de nuestras autoridades corruptas.

4. Es falso que no hubiera otro sitio para aislar a reclusos peligrosos. En la Gran Joya invertimos una fortuna en un pabellón de extrema-seguridad –que hoy permanece vacío.

5. Es patente que el añadir instalaciones a una aislada base aero-naval representa un retroceso en nuestra política penitenciaria oficial, que ya ha sido divulgada a la comunidad internacional. Esta postula eliminar la presencia de cárceles dentro de instalaciones policiales –que hasta el Pentágono tiene por “militares en todo concepto, salvo en nombre”– para paulatinamente ir colocándolos bajo control exclusivamente civil. No es sano para Panamá, re-editar una concepción que mantiene a la población penal (y sus familiares) como mercado-cautivo para una corrupción atávica.

6. Almacenar seres humanos formalmente condenados en tales celdas (que son seis, por ahora…) hace mentís del anuncio oficial que serían instalaciones “transitorias”. O sea, sitios donde pernoctarían sospechosos capturados, rumbo hacia el Órgano Judicial al término de la distancia.

7. El señor Presidente, al menos titularmente Jefe de la Fuerza Pública, aún no ha reglamentado la frecuencia de inspecciones que efectuarían las autoridades civiles del Sistema Penitenciario en el ejercicio de sus funciones regulares, dentro de un sitio de defensa militar designado para operaciones internacionales conjuntas. Como se demuestra en Guantánamo, en el esquema legal norteamericano no cabría tal posibilidad. En el panameño –al menos teóricamente– sí.

8. El almacenar bajo el control (ilegal) de la Fuerza Pública a seres humanos no-procesados judicialmente, no solo lesiona la imagen democrática de un país donde las leyes las modificaría sólo el Órgano Legislativo –sino que deja en el mundo que nos mira el sinsabor que Punta Coco sería una re-edición de la infame Isla del Diablo francesa.

9. El haber consignado a cumplir su condena formal de 6 años al jefe de la banda “Calor-Calor” en la misma  Punta Coco a la que también se transfirió a quien encabeza su rival banda “Bagdad” propicia una plausible “solución”, como la que dio muerte hace varios años en La Joya al “Decapitador de Coiba”. Quien también fue evasor-frecuente de las cárceles panameñas. En su caso, a varios años aún no se ha determinado cómo ingresó a La Joya, el arma que lo ultimó en su propia celda.

“Dead men tell no tales”.

Como re-incidente en varias evasiones de la justicia panameña, al condenado José Cossio le corresponde en derecho –conforme al Protocolo oficial– ser recluido en una instalación de alta-seguridad. Punta Coco no lo es.

Particularmente a la luz de lo manifestado al arribar a Panamá tras su deportación de Costa Rica: “En una breve declaración José Cossio expresó lo siguiente: “Hay muchas cosas que decir”. El 15 de agosto de 2005, se le asoció al hurto de $2.5 millones del banco Internacional (sic) Comercial Bank of China, en la Zona Libre de Colón, por este delito fue condenado en ausencia a seis años de prisión”. “Hay que destacar que nunca se encontró el dinero.”

10. Por la razón que fuere, en cuatro meses el presidente Juan Carlos Varela no ha encontrado un campito en su agenda para recibir a la señora Defensora del Pueblo. A la luz de ello, el concurso en ciernes para escoger a su sucesor(a) constituirá un ridículo internacional.

“El que quiere celeste, que le cueste”.

“Ya que una sociedad, una familia, que no sabe sufrir los dolores de sus hijos, que no los toma con seriedad, que los naturaliza y los asume como normales y esperables, es una sociedad que está «condenada» a quedar presa de sí misma, presa de todo lo que la hace sufrir.” —Papa Francisco (cárcel de Filadelfia –27 Sept 2015).

Panamá subió al puesto NUMERO UNO –del país con más gente presa (sin juicio) en TODO el mundo.

Pero, todo cuesta y aunque estamos obligados a una justicia “pronta y cumplida”, carecemos de la voluntad política de pagar costos que en la práctica implica esa “garantía constitucional”. El (tan-vilipendiado) presidente de la Corte Suprema fue claro: el ciudadano promedio espera que se aplique todo el rigor del debido proceso a sí –pero no necesariamente a su prójimo.

El horror actual de nuestras cárceles sólo puede empeorar en términos de detenciones preventivas, con el ingreso de 100 nuevos reclusos cada semana. Si ponderamos todos los costos anuales de mantener humanamente a cada reo, nos saldría más barato becarlo al colegio más caro de Costa del Este.

Pero dicho lastre económico es tan sólo es la punta (visible) del iceberg, que representa un sistema judicial fallido. No podría esperarse que políticos parásitos interesados sólo en el abordaje de la planilla estatal y cuya idea del largo-plazo es a finales de quincena se ocupen de éste (o tantos otros) problemas nacionales. Y, lamentablemente, en vez de informar y forjar opinión sobre sus causas-ultimas, los medios prefieren difundir periódicamente el sensacionalismo, y acaban aupando el encarcelamiento que el panameño intuye como “solución” a la inseguridad. En vez de poner a la población a pensar qué pasaría tras el encarcelamiento: el abuso a una libertad otorgada por Dios que inculcaría en el preso un resentimiento contra la sociedad que le infligió tal ordalía. Sobre todo si resultarara inocente en un eventual juicio.

No podemos seguir construyendo más y más cárceles –sin dotarlas del presupuesto para que funcionen. Nuestras cárceles son hoy un crimen que clama al Cielo por venganza.

Verbigracia, el Centro Femenino de Rehabilitación “Cecilia Orillac de Chiari” en el suburbano San Miguelito. Cuando en 1964 se construyó era considerada de avanzada, en cuanto a la rehabilitación. Su capacidad para 400 reclusas ¡alberga a más de 900! En cuanto se accede a ella le impacta el hedor de vetustas tuberías de aguas-negras que (finalmente) están siendo reemplazadas. Y, aunque gracias al apoyo de Naciones Unidas en torno a infraestructura que no ha recibido el mantenimiento apropiado desde hace décadas, y pese a que se nota el esfuerzo en equipo de funcionarias que trabajan con las uñas para transmitir cariño y comprensión a sus acudidas, hoy constituye una verguenza nacional.

Pero es un paraíso, comparado con el más distante complejo carcelario de La Joya, ubicado más allá del aeropuerto Tocumen. Ambos el Centro Femenino y el de La Joya ilustran el principal problema del Sistema Carcelario: la enorme dificultad de reclutar y retener funcionarios debidamente adiestrados en suficiente cantidad para trabajar en condiciones tan difíciles, al nivel de emolumentos disponibles. Ejemplo: la Gran Joya, costosa mega-cárcel de 5,500 plazas ubicada a hora y media de la capital, requiere 900 funcionarios para operarla. Hoy tiene 200.

Quienes comemos tres veces al día tenemos una obligación a quienes no comen. Y la mejor forma de cumplirla es perseverando en la vocación profética de promover un Estado de derecho que funcione como debe –con una justicia pronta y cumplida, para que nuestra sociedad no quede “presa de si misma”.

 

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Will most Panamanians forget? The victims won’t.

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Ngabe
Some came into the city from the comarca to protest. Photo by Ricardo A. Miranda G.

A small protest against corruption and impunity gathers Martinelli’s victims

photos by Eric Jackson except as noted

The March 1 demonstration called by Miguel Antonio Bernal and others didn’t attract a lot of people and at first glance the mix might have seemed surprising. As expected, communist factions that don’t participate in anything that they don’t control were not there. And what do La Prensa founder Bobby Eisenmann, PRD legislator Zulay Rodríguez, struggling little labor unions, the people who have led the defense of the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca against strip mining and hydroelectric dam land and water grabs and those who organized the protests against Ricardo Martinelli’s attempt to force the sale of the Colon Free Zone’s land all have in common? Ricardo Martinelli had their phones and computers tapped and turned into bugging devices, or sent tax auditors after them over bogus claims, or sent police to arrest them or beat them up or shoot them, or recorded their most intimate conversations and made crass YouTube attack videos out of them. A high percentage of the 150 people known to have had their electronic conversations monitored by Ricardo Martinelli showed up at the protest.

Th small crowd was easily 10 times the size of those that Martinelli supporters have mustered to object to his multiple prosecutions. But if the truth is to be told, most Panamanians are annoyed by the impunity enjoyed by the political caste but don’t think that they can do much about it and are far more concerned about whether there will be clean water coming out of their tap on any given day. According to the Dichter & Neira polling firm, the backdrop for this protest was a decline in President Varela’s support that for the first time shows more Panamanians disapproving than approving of the job that he’s doing. Nobody is in a mood to riot in the streets about it, but on a number of fronts the public’s patience is starting to wear thin.

 

Bernal
The main instigator, law professor Miguel Antonio Bernal.

 

The Panama Canal Authority, for some odd reason, still gets high approval ratings. Some folks, however, are starting to call them out about the canal expansion debacle and the plans to expand the authority into the ports business.
The Panama Canal Authority still gets high approval ratings. Some folks, however, are calling them out about the canal expansion debacle and the plans to expand the authority into the ports business.

 

Ayú Prado
They want Supreme Court president José Ayú Prado — and all of the other magistrates — kicked out of office now.

 

speaker at the rally
Panama can be a very cruel and dismissive society to anyone with any sort of disability, which is a terribly expensive waste of part of the nation’s talent. But the protests of people in wheelchairs are among the voices for social justice that are being heard.

 

panagringos
Panagringos — they’re EVERYWHERE! Some of them were in Martinelli’s cabinet, and some of them are in the movement to bring the Martinelli gang to justice.

 

Z & B
Zulay and Bobby, the PRD legislator and the independent businessman who was exiled by Noriega.

 

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Kiriakou, What’s at stake in Apple’s privacy fight

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IPhone
The feds dropped the ball on a key terrorism case, so now they’re going after privacy itself.

What’s at stake in Apple’s privacy fight

by John Kiriakou

Civil liberties fans in the United States recently got an unlikely champion: the CEO of Apple.

In a high-profile spat with the White House, Tim Cook has emerged as a leading spokesperson against the Obama administration’s efforts to weaken Americans’ constitutional protections and civil liberties.

In particular, Cook is fighting a federal order that would force Apple to create software to bypass the iPhone’s security features — and give the FBI access to the phone and everything on it. He sent a letter to all Apple users explaining the company’s position and promising to keep up the fight.

Here’s what’s at stake.

The FBI is investigating last December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. It wants access to the iPhone used by suspected terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who carried out the shooting together with his wife Tashfeen Malik.

But here’s the controversial part: The feds basically want Apple to create a software “backdoor” that would allow the FBI to access the phone’s information remotely.

The FBI insists this is a one-off request. But that’s ridiculous: Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. Indeed, the FBI is already seeking access to iPhones in nine other cases.

The constitutional implications are chilling. If the government gets its way, nothing would be private. With a secret order from a judge, your phone company or manufacturer could have to provide all the information on your phone to the FBI, including call logs, text messages, emails, chat transcripts, and even photos.

They won’t just find out if you’re talking with “terrorists,” of course. Are you calling a secret girlfriend or boyfriend? Are you talking with an abortion provider — or a psychiatrist? What kind of porn do you look at?

If it’s on your phone, the government would get to know about it. Nothing would be private. Nothing would be sacred.

And worse yet, those same tools the FBI wants could easily fall into the hands of hackers, criminals, or even foreign intelligence services. Once Pandora’s box opens, there’s no closing it.

There’s another issue at play here, too: The FBI dropped the ball on Syed Rizwan Farook months ago, so now it’s trying to cover its mistakes.

Federal law enforcement officials told CNN in December, for example, that Farook had been in touch with “more than one terrorism suspect” the FBI was already investigating. That was well before he carried out the shootings.

Why wasn’t the FBI intercepting his communications then, when they could’ve gotten a warrant? Why was there no authorized surveillance? It’s because the FBI botched the case, and now they’re trying to make up for it by turning Apple — and privacy — into the bad guys.

We should support Apple and its efforts to protect our privacy. We’ve already lost many of our civil liberties since the September 11 attacks. It’s time to turn the tide.

 

Our privacy is worth fighting for.

OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the winner of the 2015 PEN Center USA First Amendment award.

 

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The Panama News blog links, March 1, 2016

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This time we feature Chilean alternative musician Javiera Mena at this year’s Viña del Mar Festival.

The Panama News blog links, March 1, 2016

Hellenic Shipping News, Panama Canal anticipates El Niño draft restrictions

PortStrategy, Price wars

Maritime News, Shipping crisis and fuel prices affect Panama and Suez canals

CNBC, Cargo ships could save thousands by skipping the Suez Canal

Fortune, Why China and Nicaragua’s canal project is floundering

AP, Training exercise off West Africa becomes real-life navy drama

La Razón, UNASUR apoya proyecto boliviano del ferrocarril bioceánico central

Reuters, Panama settles with Finmeccanica

AFP: Venezuela, Colombia woes drag down Panama’s free trade zone

Xinhua, La evaluación de Fitch sobre el grado de inversión de Panamá

Folha de S.Paulo, Wife of João Santana admits Odebrecht payments

Times of Malta, Mizzi to close down Panama company after tax audit

InsightCrime, Panama withdrawn from money laundering “gray list”

E&N, Francia busca oportunidades de inversión en el Istmo

Fang, CBS CEO says Trump campaign is good for the company’s business

CBS, Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz will play for Panama in WBC qualifier

Marin IJ, Earthquakes hope offense improves with Panama’s Alberto Quintero

Daily Commercial, Clermont Olympian wins triathlon in Panama

STRI, El Niño update: Central Panama’s driest three-year span

Al Jazeera, New weapons for Panama tribes in old fight to save forests

The Independent, Panama jungles are full of sand flies

Butler, Frog photos for Leap Day

E&N, Vacunación contra el dengue

STRI, Spanish conquest left its imprint on men’s genes in Panama

AFP, EX-finance minister gets out of Panama jail on bail

CBS, California man pleads guilty to killing girlfriend in Panama

Out, Gay couple propose to each other in Panama treetops

China Post, Mola tradition from Panama has fans worldwide

BBC, Colombia ex-president’s brother arrested

BBC, ELN said to be taking over Farc areas ahead of peace deal

EFE, El Congreso de Colombia aprueba zonas de concentración para las FARC

DeLong, Pragmatism or Perdition

Eyes on Trade, The TPP = 18,000 tax cuts on US exports talking point

Wise, WTO takes a wrong turn for development

Carlsen, The Drug War and Mexico

EFE, Pedro Almodóvar: “Hollywood ahora trabaja para China”

Variety, “Hands of Stone” set for August release

Editor’s note: Most of these links are to media outside of Panama, in many cases “outside looking in,” but on our Facebook page we link to the day’s main stories from the Panamanian media, plust post lots of things from community groups, notices of cultural events here and other more purely local content — along with a lot of other stuff as well.

 

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Editorial: Panama’s cry for justice; and Bernie for president

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march
Citizens’ March, starting at Parque Porras at 4 p.m. on March 1.

Panama’s cry for justice needs to be renewed and amplified

Oh. Several Martinelista legislators committed flagrant election crimes but the Electoral Tribunal says that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the case and the Supreme Court says that the Electoral Tribunal has jurisdiction, and meanwhile these people are practicing their usual sleazy maneuvers in the National Assembly.

Oh. The Supreme Court voted to order Ricardo Martinelli’s arrest this past December, but more than two months later the papers haven’t been processed.

Oh. The Supreme Court’s presiding magistrate, José Ayú Prado, has at least 10 criminal cases pending against him, including a rather straightforward one about how he allegedly ordered the destruction of evidence when he was attorney general — but the legislature’s Credentials Committee has decided to argue about procedure instead of taking up any of these cases on their merits.

Gather in Parque Porras at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and march down to the Legislative Palace not with the expectation of instant justice but to renew and emphasize the demands for accountability in a plethora of specific cases and for a new constitutional order that doesn’t encourage corruption like the present one. The offenders are counting on Panamanians from all walks of life to forget, or to give up their hopes in despair. Don’t give them that satisfaction.

 

BernardoBernie Sanders for president

What’s with all the political turmoil in the United States? The country has been looted and de-industrialized, bled dry by foolish and evil wars, left with the economic bargaining position of most of its population undermined to the point that it hardly matters and had its government turned into the crudest form of institutionalized bribery. People on both the left and the right may point at different sets of villains, but the emerging consensus is that people are sick of it.

The television networks, the large national “newspapers of record,” the big cable TV and Internet Service Provider companies and the wannabe news aggregation monopoly that is Google have a huge stake in the system as it now is. The politics of bribery and the unlimited campaign spending that has destroyed all sense of probity add up to billions of dollars in advertising revenue for the corporate mainstream media, and for their Siamese twin online service companies the possibility of overthrowing net neutrality and establishing lucrative Internet monopolies. For a while they found the Donald Trump “reality” show profitable, but now they know that he really is a fascist and really does intend to appropriate control over their customary bailiwicks. All along they have been terrified of Bernie Sanders. When a total news blackout of his campaign didn’t seem to be working then a stream of scurrilous attacks ensued.

The dominant part of the Republican Party lives in an alternative universe of fiction and hate, such that exposure of Donald Trump’s long standing mob ties or the testimonies of the many people whom he has cheated don’t seem to matter in the GOP contest. On that side of the aisle they have gone way past pitting a primitive religious faith against science — the party line is to hate refugees, so now they also oppose that passage in the Bible which tells of how Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt for fear of an infanticidal king. Trump is comfortable with the support of the cross burning heretics of the Ku Klux Klan, and if Marco Rubio, the more Catholic than thou “establishment candidate” objects to The Donald’s David Duke endorsement he bashes the head of his own church enough to make his pitch to that part of the religious right that considers Pope Francis to be the Anti-Christ. All of the Republican candidates agree that black lives don’t matter but they argue among themselves about who hates Mexicans and Muslims more. Ordinarily their only prospect would be for a shattering defeat in November.

On the Democratic side a sophisticated influence peddling enterprise now controls most of the party levers, but half of the rank and file were always opposed to this. So how to deal with that? The Clintons, their party apparatchik Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the moneyed interests that support them and their acolytes in the corporate mainstream media are first and foremost moving — with some success — to suppress debate within the Democratic Party, knowledge of the primary process by ordinary Democrats and the turnout in the primaries and caucuses. They heap insults on anyone who objects to this but come November they expect money, unpaid campaign labor and votes from those whom they insult now.

If Hillary is the inevitable Democratic nominee, why do so many polls show Bernie running better against the Republicans? Yes, there is this vast right-wing gaggle of noise makers, whom Hillary tries to trump up to a conspiracy with imprecision that cannot be excused in a Yale-educated lawyer. But the truth of the matter is that she notoriously takes bribes, with the most attention going to the six-figure speaking fees from Wall Street hustlers but most dangerously when the Clinton Foundation has taken millions of dollars from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other foreign powers. Is it any coincidence that the bigoted Saudi regime is waging a Sunni jihad against Shiites in general and Iran in particular and Hillary is promising a more belligerent US attitude toward Iran?

Are we going to get lawyerly parsing and distinctions to demonstrate that nobody can show how any undue favors or promises were forthcoming from donations of a certain size that bought access to one of the Clintons? Are we going to hear outraged protests about how some mysterious market force works so that a particular former and would-be public official can get more than $200,000 an hour in exchange for just uplifting talk to powerful bankers? Of course — but inferences are properly drawn from concealment. Hillary Clinton’s refusal to publish the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs are akin to Richard Nixon’s stonewalling on the White House tapes and if the Democratic Party chooses her as a standard bearer it is likely to lead to a disaster of similar proportions. The Clinton Foundation may well fund some good works, but it is also an influence peddling machine and a parking spot where Clinton political operatives get six-figure salaries between political posts. Fortune magazine may attribute the millions that the Clintons have made on the speaking circuit to their labor, but by that standard all of the proceeds of the LIBOR fraud were the product of the labor of that scheme’s perpetrators — all of whom have been seen hanging out with the Clinton entourage. Let’s not be the naive children that we are expected to be. Let’s call things for what they are.

And will the response be that everybody does it? Bernie Sanders does not operate in such disgraceful fashion and never has. His has not been the only progressive voice in American politics that has been raised in defense of working people and in opposition to ruinous wars and corruption. But he’s the one with such a voice who is running for president. In his long years as a mayor and as a member of Congress Bernie Sanders has demonstrated his qualifications to be a good president.

We are not yet in a general election campaign in which we are confronted with a choice between fascism and an imperfect alternative. This is the primary season, when people should vote based on their hopes and their interests. If you run a hedge fund, then maybe Hillary Clinton is your rational choice. But for most Americans — including a few who run hedge funds — Bernie Sanders is the only one offering a reasonable plan for peace and prosperity. Promises to “get things done” by those who have done favors for an ultra-wealthy few at the expense of everyone else and have overseen costly foreign policy disasters are not a proper substitute. Americans should rightly demand and vote for someone who will do things that are positive for most Americans. That’s Bernie Sanders.

 

Bear in mind…

That which fascists hate, above all else, is intelligence.
Miguel de Unamuno

 

I am not anti-gun. I’m pro-knife. Consider the merits of the knife. In the first place, you have to catch up with someone in order to stab him. A general substitution of knives for guns would promote physical fitness. We’d turn into a whole nation of great runners. Plus, knives don’t ricochet. And people are seldom killed when cleaning their knives.
Molly Ivins

 

Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one.
François Voltaire

 

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Gucci the Wonder Dog and his loyal friend

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Gucci
Zulema Sucre and Gucci the Yorkshire terrier on the 2014 campaign trail. Photo from Zulema Sucre’s Facebook page.

The bittersweet lot of upper end dogs in Panamanian culture

by Eric Jackson

Until recently Zulema Sucre, doctor’s wife and daughter of prominent Panamanian families, was vice minister of social development. She’s a Panameñista — a member of Panama’s oldest presently existing political movement — and a devotee of a far more ancient alliance, that symbiosis by which people and dogs bond with one another. The almost inseparable bond between Sucre and a Yorkshire terrier named Gucci might have been a bit happier experience had they been just a bit less separable, as in going to her job together and the vice minister taking Gucci out for a walk now and then, with Ministry of Social Development bodyguards in tow. But instead she ordered the bodyguards assigned to her to walk Gucci in the park, they rebelled and lost their jobs because of it, they complained through official channels and the tabloid dailies and in short order President Varela asked for and received Sucre’s resignation.

Is it a matter of Panamanian political culture? Partly. Throughout his public life Juan Carlos Varela has put up with a lot, but one of them has not been people under his supervision making him, his ministry when he was a minister or his presidency now look ridiculous. This little flap surely did. Then consider that Sucre was and the bodyguards probably were political patronage employees. Were the bodyguards holdovers from a prior administration? Could be. They have not been identified so that it might be ascertained, but the Ministry of Social Development was the first of Ricardo Martinelli’s ministries to get caught in tawdry little financial scandals, starting with overpriced purchases from Martinelli companies for a groceries for gangsters program and then it degenerated into the minister’s drunken reckless driving in the course of which far more reckless gunshots were fired. You don’t get to be a ministry bodyguard without political or family ties — those folks are not like the more professional SPI presidential guards. Did the Varela administration keep any hacks when it took over the Ministry of Social Development? There were survivors, but there was much of the turnover than happens in government every five years.

This was not Zulema Sucre’s first political job. She worked for Panama City’s municipal government during Bosco Vallarino’s sordid and shortened shift. The Ministry of Social Development, like the National Institute of Culture and a number of other government offices, has in Panamanian political culture been considered a proper place for a politically loyal socialite from the right family background. That sort of notion about qualifications is a terrible insult to social services recipients, artists and the taxpayers but to put it that way is to be considered a guttersnipe ingrate rustling one of the sacred cattle of rabiblanco philanthropy.

But consider the matter from the point of view of canine culture.

Go to Paitilla or La Cresta or Punta Pacifica early in the morning and you will run across all these maids walking the dogs of those areas’ upscale residents. The preference is for small dogs, often dogs with papers, animals that have been bought rather than rescued. (Dogs with bogus papers to inflate the prices, or despite papers with genetic maladies could have been predicted? There is a lot of that juega vivo too.) With dogs, and going upscale to horses, having a fine animal is quite the status symbol but taking care of the beast is a set of tasks to be delegated. At least, that’s a big trend among wealthier Panamanians. The notion that entrusting a dog’s care to a child is a part of the kid’s education in work habits, responsibility and humane values is not as big in upper class Panamanian culture as it is with either campesinos or gringos.

One of the complaints about Sucre was that she allowed Gucci to ride in a government car, which is supposed to be reserved for the transportation of public officials and Very Important People. The former vice minister maintained that Gucci is a VIP and that was taken by Panama’s corporate mainstream press as something akin to Caligula appointing his horse to the Roman Senate.

But so many of us of the gringo persuasion, or who know about Americans and the dogs with whom they cohabit, will understand. The dog is not just a loyal friend, but a member of the family. Of course the dog with whom one is bonded is very important. In her labor relations habits and in her expectations about the perks of public office, Zulema Sucre may have been typical of her caste of Panamanians. But her attitude about Gucci makes her an honorary gringa. Let this little Yorkie soothe her through her mortification, which really ought to be ephemeral given the gravity of the offense, and let Ms. Sucre and Gucci walk proudly together through the park, with their heads held high. There are higher forms of loyalty than the partisan ones.

 

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