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Martinelli has a primary today, with the PRD voting a week from today

building materials
Dump truck loads of dirt and rocks. Were these gathered from the local river during the drought? It’s one of the things that the representante has been giving away, along with sand, cinderblocks and sheets of zinc roofing. Not to everybody, but figure that some others will get paying work from the property owners to incorporate these materials into new or expanded houses. Photo by Eric Jackson.

Primaries in which few talk about real issues

by Eric Jackson

I suppose it’s the most real of issues to Ricky Martinelli, and to his most fervent admirers. The trial is over but for the verdict, and he stands to be sent to prison, stripped of his right to run for office or even vote, and lose his EPASA newspaper chain. Recent stuff in his always sensationalist anyway tabloid La Critica have the former president’s camp screeching like wounded birds. So, yesterday morning did his usual friends at El Machetazo sell out of that rag? Or was it so embarrassing that they put it away to protect their fellow if competing supermarket baron? Or did someone figure that it appeared during the “period of reflection” with no campaigning allowed before the vote and cautiously avoid an argument with the Electoral Tribunal by taking it off sale?

Figure that Martinelli wins his RM party’s presidential primary today, but when the verdict in the New Business money laundering and graft trial comes down, or if he dodges that bullet but later this year faces judgment in the Odebrecht money laundering and graft trial, he will be out of the race. Then would come the judge shopping and the appeals, so that any conviction might be stayed at the end of the year when the Electoral Tribunal declares who will be on the May 2024 ballot.

So, given that Martinelli has been leading in most polls, and that some of his supporters have been calling for furious reactions to his legal problems and to official US characterizations of him as a miserable crook, would the faithful be energized into action? Could be, but this reporter — who has his own history with Martinelli and some of the people around him and would never be so dishonest with the readers as to deny having a negative opinion about the guy — thinks not. He can always import a busload or two of rent-a-protesters, but many signs indicate that supporters are drawing back, hedging bets, not nearly so militant as his lawyers and most rabid fans suggest. The defense witnesses who didn’t show up to testify at his recently concluded trial are but one hint. Then, look at his party’s Twitter feed, although one might say that his personal account or one of the other party feeds is more indicative:

Not exactly the following of a seething, angry political movement that’s about to take to the streets and overthrow a government if it throws their leader in jail. Martinelli’s showing in the polls, less than one-third in a fragmented political environment, represents a broad but shallow appeal to those who buy the line about how he stole but he got things done. From the Realizando Metas Twitter feed.

On the PRD side…

Saturday’s observations included a two-car Anabel sound caravana that went through El Bajito. No stopping to talk. Anabel Ojo Ibarra is running the PRD primary — “torrijista, no oportunista” — to be our next representante. She faces an entrenched incumbent, Carlos Fernández, who has been lavished by a national government that can’t pay its bills with resources to spread around in his primary re-election bid. His signs are all over the main road coming from the Pan-American Highway to my neighborhood, then beyond eventually to Altos de la Estancia and El Valle. The north end of the corregimiento, beyond the El Bajito turnoff, may be Anabel turf. Plus, I just saw a little Anabel sign on the main road.

This primary is PRD members only, and even if we are sort of a PRD stronghold, most of the voters don’t belong to that party or any other party. It’s a small electorate for next Sunday.

And all the Carlos signs? Multiple at each supporter’s house seems to be the norm. And what about the PRD flags, or signs for the mayoral or legislative candidates, where there are no signs for Carlos? Then there are the crude displays — households with building materials stacked out front and new Carlos signs. As in an outwardly impressive display, but a lot more signs than supporters.

We shall see. I expect that Carlos will win the primary, but he may have offended some folks for the general election. Maybe I am entirely wrong.

And will other campaigns for other things confuse the Anabel vote? RM just votes for president today, but Cecibel is running to be the Martinelista candidate for representante, with a primary to come later. Her signs have been popping up here and there in the area. And the other day a huge, lumbering cistern truck distributing water to those few who needed or wanted came down the street, emblazoned with the colors and name of Yanibel, who is running for president in the Cambio Democratico primary. Were it not a party members only primary, perhaps you would get some numbskulls who would vote for Anabel, thinking it was Cecibel or Yanibel. But if Anibel turns out to be the giant-killer, it would not be history’s first big upset. Read the Bible — sometimes the little guy without body armor and just a sling and a stone beats the big guy with the armor, a sword and a spear. But also recall all the times that Tammany Hall candidates crushed their challengers.

Carlos people
The closest campaign sign to me, around the corner from my house. Photo by Eric Jackson.

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Beluche: Sueños, mentalidades, mitos e ilusiones en la historia

St Terry
Santa Teresa de Jesús, retratada en la iglesia de El Carmen de Ciudad de Panamá. Qué santos se representan, cómo se cuentan sus historias, sus razas y otros atributos físicos: este simbolismo también tiende a reflejar cómo se imaginan a sí mismas las élites. Foto de Wikimedia por Abraham Menahemm.

Pensar la historia a partir de un ensayo de Alfredo Castillero C.

por Olmedo Beluche

Personalmente confieso que no solo lo leí con el interés con el que sigo todo lo que escribe Castillero, sino que este ensayo me ha hecho reflexionar. De esa reflexión puedo afirmar que suscribiría la mayor parte de lo dicho en “Pensar la historia: Propuestas epistemológicas”, por Castillero. Pero no todo. Ahí está justamente el debate académico del que seguramente se podrá sacar más jugo del aporte que nos ha regalado el maestro Castillero.

¿Qué dice Alfredo Castillero?

De salida afirma: “Los hechos históricos no se comportan linealmente, ni son el resultado de procesos que tienen un solo origen”. Los hechos históricos son de “causalidad múltiple”. Define la historia como “un proceso de cambios”, en los que algunos tardan siglos en madurar y otros irrumpen de manera no prevista, de allí lo “imponderable” de la historia. “Ni un principio anticipa el fin, ni siempre es fácil reconocer el origen de lo que vino después”.

Luego desliza una crítica al marxismo (o a cierto marxismo mecanicista). “No se puede reducir el estudio del pasado solo a conflictos de clase, ni a todo fenómeno subyace una razón económica, porque la historia no es tan simple, ni está hecha de categorías abstractas, sino de individuos concretos…”.

Castillero rescata el peso en los hechos de la historia de factores subjetivos como el poder, la codicia o las mentalidades. “… no siempre lo que decide es lo económico. Muchas veces el gran motor de cambio son los sueños, las mentalidades, los mitos e ilusiones de los pueblos”.

Respecto a la relación entre lo económico y la cultura (o ideología), Castillero dice: “El materialismo histórico nos ha acostumbrado a pensar que el estudio del primero debe explicar el segundo…”. Al respecto, más adelante pone el ejemplo del período colonial, en el que las motivaciones de las personas estaban más en lo espiritual que en lo económico.

Si bien esto puede ser aplicable a algunos autores, no es el caso de la mayoría de los historiadores (as) marxistas de muy alta calidad y que, con seguridad él conoce. Para mencionar algunos, citemos a los reputados marxistas británicos: Maurice Dobb, Rodney Hilton, Christopher Hill, Eric J. Hobsbawm y Edward P. Thompson.

En realidad lo que el marxismo señala es que existe una relación entre la organización social, no solo económica, con las formas de pensar de una época, con la cultura “inmaterial”. No un “determinismo económico”.

Respecto a la relación economía y cultura (superestructura) saca una conclusión importante: “Pero también esos dos polos -el de lo material y el del espíritu- pueden incitarse mutuamente en una inagotable relación dialéctica en la que a veces no se sabe dónde encontrar el origen de sus ritmos, discernir el predominio de una fuerza sobre otra”. Pues esto justamente es lo que plantea el método marxista, la relación “dialéctica” entre organización social (no solo economía) y cultura.

Advierte que, para hacer historia científica, hay que evitar hacerlo en base a criterios ideológicos, partidistas, familiares o provincianos. Estos vicios conducen a una historia sin base documental la cual termina en mito. “La materia prima de la historia es el pasado, y al pasado nos asomamos con evidencias documentales, no mediante abstracciones… basadas en elucubraciones teóricas…”.

Respecto a los enfoques cuantitativos vs cualitativos, Castillero advierte, hablando del primer método contra el “falso rigor” de la cita documental y del análisis estadístico, porque a veces el documento o el “dato” (agregamos) no lo dice todo, porque “… la labor del historiador es hacer hablar los textos donde estos callan, no someterse servilmente a su estricta literalidad”. Y sobre los enfoques cualitativos hay que cuidarse de la especulación sin evidencias.

Destaca la importancia de los objetos para comprender la cultura de cada época porque permite convertir la “anécdota en historia densa”, y cita al norteamericano Clifford Geertz, padre de la antropología simbólica, como referente en este tema.

Posteriormente, Castillero analiza la importancia de las crisis históricas porque en ellas la sociedad expresa claramente sus angustias, miedos y odios. En las crisis sobreviene un “aluvión de testimonios” de diverso tipo, que hace que los hechos resplandezcan “como relámpago en la noche oscura y muestran, de golpe, un horizonte que ni siquiera sospechábamos”. Volviendo a las cuestiones de método señala que el historiador debe partir por un conjunto de preguntas, y cita a Lucien Febvre: “Formular un problema es el comienzo y el fin de toda la historia. Sin problemas no hay historia”.

También aborda el problema de la historia tradicional afirmando: “La mayoría de los panameños comparte una visión del pasado dominada por lugares comunes, falsificaciones, ambigüedades, omisiones y mitos. A esa visión subyace una concepción epistemológica de la historia profundamente tradicionalista y conservadora. Tradicionalista porque prefiere la anécdota al análisis y confunde la historia con meras cronologías… Conservadora, porque le incomoda la posibilidad de enfoques revisionistas que pudieran cuestionar los hitos sobre los que descansan los valores de una alegada identidad nacional en la que no hay sombras ni manchas de dudas”. Coincido plenamente.

Criticando esos enfoques tradicionalistas opina Castillero, que creen que hacer historia consiste solo en narrar hechos, cuando en realidad “cada dato debe ser interpretado y toda historia debe ser explicada” (tomar nota). “Sin embargo, no debemos olvidar que no hay historia sin hechos… sin pruebas”.

Aunque señala que se puede hacer historia de múltiples maneras, dependiendo de los criterios de cada historiador (a), todas legítimas, siempre que se atengan a los hechos, y que incluso la microhistoria aporta luces, Castillero termina abogando por la “historia total”: “… debemos intentar en la medida de las posibilidades documentales, reconstruir la mayor cantidad de espacios de pasado para observarlos como conjunto armónico y coherente…”.

El último subtítulo lo denomina “Memoria, historia e identidad”, y empieza citando a Fernand Braudel cuando dice que: “El tiempo pasado no es nunca totalmente pasado, y algunas veces el presente está más cerca del pasado que del porvenir”.

Para culminar en la parte más controversial de este ensayo, a mi modo de ver, cuando afirma que a veces la realidad histórica nos empuja a un destino que no podemos controlar. Hablando de Panamá: “Después de todo, nuestra posición geográfica jalonó nuestra historia desde el comienzo y la sigue jalonando”. “La identidad de los pueblos se sustenta sobre la conciencia de su pasado. Mientras más fuerte es esa identidad más sólida es su sentido de historicidad, de pertenencia a un pasado común”.

“Nuestro nacionalismo, al igual que le nacimiento del liberalismo, …, se originó en el siglo XIX… Pero si el nacionalismo y el trasfondo ideológico que le sirve de base, han constituido los soportes fundamentales de nuestra legitimación como pueblo y como unidad nacional, es necesario que esa legitimación tenga apoyo en la conciencia histórica” (ojo).

Esto último me recuerda un mandato de Carlos Gasteazoro para los historiadores panameños en el sentido de que debían buscar en el pasado colonial y del siglo XIX las particularidades que nos diferenciaran de Colombia, ya que los historiadores panameños de aquella época no lo hicieron (Gasteazoro, 1970). Poner lo que no estaba, pero que sirva a la legitimación del estado nación nacido el 3 de noviembre de 1903.

Reflexiones críticas a los aportes epistemológicos de Castillero

A. No discuto aquello con lo que estoy plenamente de acuerdo: la historia es un libro abierto y, en buena medida imponderable, porque los factores que intervienen en ella son tantos que es muy difícil predecirla; factores objetivos y subjetivos; y no puede ser reducida a un solo factor, así sea el económico como hace cierto marxismo mecanicista. Por eso, ni el tirano más poderoso puede controlar por completo una sociedad, ni el historiador más sagaz es capaz de predecir el futuro con certeza.

B. La historia es un libro abierto, pero es posible encontrar en ella tendencias, regularidades y, de hecho, se pueden hacer, y se hacen, pronósticos de tipo probabilísticos o hipotético-deductivos. Si no fuera así, la “historia científica” de la que habla Castillero no sería posible porque tendríamos un caos en el que solo quedaría aplicar un “individualismo metodológico”, es decir, meras descripciones anecdóticas de las que no se podrían sacar conclusiones.

C. La historia, para que sea ciencia, como desea Castillero, busca en el mar de hechos que parecen caóticos, establecer algún orden lógico, racional. Y con qué instrumentos vamos a los hechos (documentos, registros o datos) a encontrar el orden racional de las cosas: vamos armados con un instrumental teórico, con categorías (como diría Kant), con conceptos teóricos con los que cotejamos los hechos y los ordenamos.

D. Es ahí donde hay que recatar, entre tantos aportes teóricos en historia y ciencias sociales el materialismo histórico, que Castillero parece rechazar en bloque, porque ha aportado un aparato conceptual que permite poner luz, o ayudar a comprender muchos hechos históricos y sociales.

E. Castillero cita a Fernand Braudel, de cuya corriente abrevó en sus ensayos de juventud, por lo que sabe muy bien que la “escuela de los anales” en general, y la historia económica debe muchísimo a la teoría marxista o materialismo histórico. Porque, después de todo, el concepto “larga duración” tiene una deuda con la categoría marxista de “modo de producción”.

F. Otro ejemplo, entre muchísimo, en los que el marxismo ha puesto luz: ¿A qué se debió la Segunda Guerra Mundial? ¿A la “locura” de Hitler como pretende cierta perspectiva ideológica norteamericana? ¿O fue un conflicto entre intereses capitalistas por el control de los mercados mundiales? ¿A qué se debe la guerra ruso-ucraniana, a la ambición desquiciada de Putin, como dicen algunos medios de comunicación, o hay algo más profundo respecto al control planetario por parte de potencias imperialistas? El método marxista ayuda a responder estas preguntas con mucho rigor científico y factual, superando las interpretaciones sicológicas y caricaturescas de claro corte ideológico.

G. Por otro lado, Castillero no puede dejar de reconocer que, en la relación entre potencias imperialistas y sociedades coloniales y semicoloniales, la variante marxista latinoamericana denominada Teoría de la Dependencia ha aportado considerablemente.

H. El método marxista también ayuda a comprender la historia de Panamá: ¿En la separación de Colombia jugaron algún factor intereses capitalistas materializados en la Compañía Nueva del Canal, la Panamá RailRoad Co., J. P. Morgan y el abogado William N. Cromwell? ¿O todo se reduce al “fervor patriótico” de J. A. Arango y Manuel Amador Guerrero? ¿Por cierto, estos últimos personajes guardaban alguna relación con los primeros? De nuevo, solo un método que diseccione los profundos nexos entre intereses económicos foráneos y locales puede ayudarnos a conocer las motivaciones reales de los actores de la separación de Colombia, superando el cúmulo de falsedades y medias verdades que rodean el acontecimiento en la historia oficial panameña.

I. Si bien, como dice Castillero, no todos los hechos históricos son reducibles a razones económicas o clasistas, buena parte de esos hechos sociales e históricos sólo se entienden gracias al instrumental teórico aportado por la teoría marxista. Podríamos seguir ejemplificando el enorme poder del materialismo histórico para entender las sociedades, por ejemplo: ¿Las próximas elecciones de 2024 en Panamá son una competencia democrática entre proyectos, como dicen algunos políticos, o hay inconfesables intereses crematísticos detrás de la mayoría de los partidos y sus candidatos?

J. Por supuesto, lo material o económico no lo explica todo, pero muchas veces, sobre todo en los trazos gruesos de la historia, es posible establecer una relación entre el “mundo material” y el “mundo espiritual”. Por eso coincido plenamente por lo dicho por Alfredo Castillero Calvo cuando afirma: “Pero también esos dos polos -el de lo material y el del espíritu- pueden incitarse mutuamente en una inagotable relación dialéctica en la que a veces no se sabe dónde encontrar el origen de sus ritmos, discernir el predominio de una fuerza sobre otra”. Exactamente ese es el criterio del marxismo no mecanicista.

K. Nos ilustró en ese sentido una clase con el profesor Guillermo Castro en la Maestría de Estudios Políticos de la Universidad de Panamá, señalando la relación entre las corrientes pictóricas mexicanas y la historia política del país. Mientras en el período colonial prevalecían pinturas con temas religiosos y personajes notables del Virreinato de la Nueva España; durante el “Porfiriato” destacaban los retratos de burgueses y de paisajes en que aparecían las nuevas tecnologías, como el ferrocarril; la pintura muralista nació con la Revolución de 1910, llenándose sus temas de los actores centrales de aquella gesta: campesinos, indígenas, pueblo. Podríamos aportar muchísimos otros ejemplos como éste, en el que el enfoque marxista aporta enormemente a la comprensión de los hechos históricos.

L. Fue el filósofo Hegel el que se preguntó si la historia humana obedecía a alguna lógica, si se movía en algún sentido, o si era solo repetición infinita, como creían algunas culturas, o su objetivo era la segunda venida de Jesucristo, como creía el cristianismo. De esa reflexión nació la “filosofía de la historia”, pero, como Hegel era idealista y metafísico, dijo que la historia era el desarrollo de la Idea Absoluta que se había alienado de sí misma, y que debía reencontrarse como conciencia humana en la sociedad moderna europea. Hizo falta que llegara Carlos Marx para aportar una mejor interpretación, señalando que la historia humana encuentra su sentido en la búsqueda de la sobrevivencia como especie, lo que implica satisfacer las necesidades humanas, empezando con las fisiológicas y continuando con las “espirituales”, mediante el trabajo. Y que el tono de cada sociedad en concreto se obtiene de la forma específica en que organiza el trabajo socialmente y de las variantes tecnológicas (fuerzas productivas) que el ingenio humano va creando.

M. Los historiadores postmodernos, más pesimistas e individualistas, prefieren la Tesis IX de Walter Benjamin en la que, a partir de un cuadro de Klee, “Angelus Novus”, éste define el ángel de la historia como el de ese cuadro que, empujado por el viento avanza con el rostro vuelto hacia el pasado. “Donde ante nosotros aparece una cadena de datos, él ve una única catástrofe que amontona incansablemente ruina tras ruina y se las va arrojando a los pies”.

N. En mis clases de teoría sociológica siempre digo a los estudiantes que todos los enfoques teóricos de las ciencias sociales recogen un elemento de verdad y tienen un ámbito de validez o utilidad, dependiendo de a qué asunto se apliquen. Que el problema está cuando se eleva al absoluto un solo método para todos los problemas. De manera que, cuando se analizan los grandes conflictos sociales e históricos, el materialismo histórico nos ayuda profundamente, pero no es muy útil si hacemos microsociología o microhistoria.

O. La parte más discutible del extraordinario ensayo aportado por Alfredo Castillero es la que se refiere a lo concreto, a Panamá. Porque me da la impresión de que hay una contradicción con lo expuesto al inicio, ya que parece apelar a cierto “determinismo” geográfico o histórico respecto a los habitantes del istmo de Panamá, muy característico de la historia oficial panameña.

P. Cuando afirma: “Después de todo, nuestra posición geográfica jalonó nuestra historia desde el comienzo y la sigue jalonando”, “empujándonos irreversiblemente hacia un destino que difícilmente podemos dirigir o controlar…”. Todavía se vuelve más controversial cuando en los siguientes párrafos asocia ese determinismo geográfico al “nacionalismo” e “identidad” panameña, que se originó en el siglo XIX y “maduró” en el siglo XX.

Q. Castillero fue mi profesor en uno de mis cursos de maestría y fue una buena parte de su obra histórica, combinada y cotejada con la de Ricaurte Soler, la que utilicé en mi tesis de grado (Beluche, 1997). La lectura de la historia panameña aportada por Castillero me llevó a la conclusión central de mi tesis: no existía en nuestro siglo XIX en el imaginario popular un proyecto separatista o de construcción de un estado nacional independiente de Colombia. Inclusive tampoco en la clase dominante panameña, la comercial, hubo una convicción mayoritaria en favor de ese proyecto, aunque coyunturalmente fue planteado por algunas personas. Más aún, toda esa historia de “intentos separatistas” fue una creación posterior a los hechos de 1903, en los que conflictos políticos, fueron reducidos a proclamas separatistas.

R. No existe una “nación panameña” nacida hace 500 años marcados por la geografía y el “amor” entre Balboa y Anayansi. Eso es un invento de la “nación romántica”, como dice Luis Pulido (Pulido, 2008). Por ello, tampoco es cierta la afirmación de que “los panameños nos independizamos de España solos y nos unimos voluntariamente a la Gran Colombia de Bolívar”. Las “provincias del Istmo” no eran una “nación” en 1821, por ende, nadie habló por “los panameños”, hablaron los municipios de acuerdo a la tradición española. Y hubo contradicciones sociales, económicas y culturales muy claras entre La Villa y Panamá (clases campesinas y clase comerciante). Además, las provincias del Istmo eran parte del Virreinato de la Nueva Granada desde 1839, por ende, al proclamarse las actas del 10 y del 28 de noviembre se dice con naturalidad que eran parte del estado recién creado, Colombia.

S. Asociar la identidad nacional del pueblo panameño al determinismo geográfico durante el siglo XIX conduce a otro error histórico, porque lo que caracterizó la historia social del Istmo en esa centuria fue un creciente conflicto social y político entre el pueblo del arrabal y el campesinado de Azuero contra los comerciantes y latifundistas. Liberales contra conservadores. Ese conflicto fue la tónica, desde la crisis de 1826 entre Bolívar y Santander, hasta la Guerra de los Mil Días.

T. La trampa más engañosa en la que caen historiadores y sociólogos es la del concepto “nación”, con el que se pretende borrar los conflictos sociales y de clases. En el caso panameño, un ejemplo de este error lo cometió Ricaurte Soler, quien pese a ser reputado como marxista, cuando analiza el conflicto de 1860-61, otorga supuestas virtudes nacionalistas al gobernador de Panamá, Santiago de la Guardia, y critica al arrabal de Santa Ana porque se posicionó junto a su líder, Buenaventura Correoso, del bando liberal del gobierno presidido por Mosquera (Soler, 1971) (Soler, 1963).

U. En todo caso, a lo largo del siglo XIX, durante el “Panamá colombiano”, el arrabal, el campesinado y una parte de los indígenas (con Victoriano Lorenzo) fue persistentemente opositor al proyecto transitista de los comerciantes, incluso con las armas en la mano.

V. El problema de la relación entre historia y nación, ya lo estableció Eric Hobsbawm: “naciones sin pasado son contradicciones en términos. Lo que hace una nación es el pasado, lo que justifica una nación contra otros es el pasado, y los historiadores son las personas que lo producen” (Hobsbawm, 1998). Por eso, la historia al servicio del nacionalismo es simplemente “ideología” como critica Castillero. Al igual que él, opino que en el siglo XXI los y las historiadores (as) de Panamá deben ser más revisionistas que tradicionalistas.


Beluche, O. (1997). Estado, nación y clases sociales en Panamá. Panamá: Portobelo.

Castillero, A. (28 de Mayo de 2023). Pensar la historia: Propuestas epistemológicas. La Prensa.

Gasteazoro, C. (1970). “Estudio preliminar al Compendio de Historia de Panamá”. En J. B. Arce, Compendio de Historia de Panamá (págs. XX-XXI). Panamá: EUPAN.

Hobsbawm, E. (1998). Naciones y nacionalismo desde 1780. Barcelona: Crítica.

Pulido, L. (2008). Filosofía de la nación romántica (Seis ensayos críticos sobre el pensamiento intelectual y filosófico en Panamá, 1930-1960). Panamá: Editorial Mariano Arosemena.

Soler, R. (1963). Formas ideológicas de la nación panameña. Panamá: Ediciones de la revista Tareas.

Soler, R. (1971). Pensamiento panameño y concepción de la nacionalidad durante el siglo XIX. Panamá: Librería Cultural Panameña.


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¿Wappin? Viernes Cultural / Cultural Friday

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Tiny Desk Concert

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Para defendernos de los piratas informáticos, los trolls organizados y otros actos de vandalismo en línea, la función de comentarios de nuestro sitio web está desactivada. En cambio, ven a nuestra página de Facebook para unirte a la discusión.  

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Biden kept Social Security out of the deal, but McCarthy’s still coming for it

“MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits,” responded one advocacy group. Kevin McCarthy addresses supporters. GetArchive photo.

‘This isn’t the end’: McCarthy takes aim at Social Security after debt ceiling deal

by Jake Johnson — Common Dreams

After securing a debt ceiling agreement that caps federal spending and threatens food aid for hundreds of thousands of poor adults, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Wednesday that Republicans are not finished targeting the nation’s safety net programs—and signaled a coming effort by the GOP to slash Social Security and Medicare.

In a Fox News appearance ahead of the House’s passage of the debt limit legislation, McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the measure is just “the first step” of the GOP’s broader agenda, which includes further cuts to federal programs and massive tax breaks for the wealthy.

“This isn’t the end. This doesn’t solve all the problems,” the Republican leader said of the House-passed bill, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 2025—setting up another potential standoff shortly after the 2024 elections.

McCarthy lamented that President Joe Biden “walled off” major components of the federal budget, including Social Security and Medicare, from cuts as part of the debt ceiling agreement—though McCarthy himself agreed to “take those off the table” in late January.

“The majority driver of the budget is mandatory spending. It’s Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt,” the Republican speaker said Wednesday, adding that he intends to announce a bipartisan “commission” to examine ways to cut such spending.

The progressive group Our Revolution responded that “it’s never enough for the right wing.”

“They want it all,” the group wrote on Twitter. “We have to tell them NO.”

Watch McCarthy’s comments:

The idea of forming a bipartisan commission to study and propose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other non-discretionary spending is hardly new.

In 2021, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) led a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers—including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.)—in unveiling legislation that would establish bipartisan panels to study and recommend changes to the nation’s trust funds, a scheme modeled after the Obama-era Simpson-Bowles commission that recommended Social Security cuts.

The changes proposed by the so-called “rescue committees” would then receive expedited votes in the House and Senate.

Advocacy groups have described the Romney legislation, known as the TRUST Act, as an insidious ploy to cut Medicare and Social Security behind closed doors. Republicans have also proposed raising the Social Security retirement age, a move that would slash benefits across the board.

Social Security Works, which has been speaking out against the TRUST Act for years, said Wednesday that “MAGA Republicans want to reach into our pockets and steal our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

Jon Bauman, president of the Social Security Works PAC, urged the public to “beware the ‘Problem Solvers’ and ‘No Labels’-style Democrats who would be willing to ‘serve’ on McCarthy’s commission to cut your earned benefits.”

“They are problem MAKERS,” he wrote.

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Vote pride







Drone warfare is a game that many can play

drone hit on Kyiv
Remains of one of Geran-2 kamikaze drones (registration M294), with which Russia attacked Kyiv on the morning of 17 October 2022. It turns out that the Russians are not the only ones who can launch drone strikes on another country’s capital. Kyiv State Administration photo.

Drone strikes hit Moscow and Kyiv – in the growing world of drone warfare, anything goes when it comes to international law

by Tara Sonenshine, Tufts University

At least eight drone strikes hit Moscow in the early morning of May 30, 2023, damaging several buildings and injuring civilians.

This follows Russia’s targeting residential buildings in Ukraine with a wave of drone attacks in late May, killing civilians.

While Ukraine has said it is not “directly” responsible for the strikes on Moscow, Russia’s government has called the strikes a “terrorist attack.”

For more than a year, daily life in Ukraine has been marked by aerial vehicles known as drones littering the sky, creating unease and inflicting real damage in the war with Russia.

Both Russia and Ukraine are using drones in this war to remotely locate targets and drop bombs, among other purposes.

Today, drones are used in various other conflicts but are also used to deliver packages, track weather and entertain drone hobbyists.

Military drones range from small consumer quadcopters to remotely piloted warplanes – and all types are being used by militaries around the world.

As a scholar of public diplomacy and foreign policy – and a former United States undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs – I know how important it is for people to understand drones and their proliferation, given the risks of war, terrorism and accidental drone clashes in the world today.

A man wearing camouflage clothing and a green hat extends his hand and a small drone flys away from him.A Ukrainian soldier launches a drone from his hand in November 2022 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
Photo by
Elena Tita/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

A buying spree The United States is among more than 100 countries using drones in times of conflict.

Terrorists have also been known to deploy drones because they are relatively low-cost weapons with high degrees of civilian damage.

Consumer drone shipments, globally, topped 5 million units in 2020 and are expected to surpass 7 million by 2025.

Sales of drones globally were up 57% from 2021 to 2022.

With the exponential rise in drone purchases over the last few years, there are few constraints for buyers, creating a wild, wild west of uncontrolled access and usage.

Each country is free to decide when and where drones fly, without answering to any other country or international authority governing drones. There is little on-the-ground guidance on the rules of the sky.

Different purposes

Each country has a unique interest in getting and using drones.

China is increasingly using sophisticated drones for covert surveillance, especially in international waters to patrol the disputed islands in the South China Sea. Its expanding drone program has influenced other countries like the United States to also invest more in the technology.

Turkey’s military has a highly sophisticated drone, the Bayraktar TB2, which is capable of carrying laser-guided bombs and small enough to fit in a flatbed truck.

The United Arab Emirates imports drones from China and Turkey to deploy in Yemen and Libya to monitor warlords in case conflict breaks out.

And South Korea is considering starting a special drone unit after it failed to respond to a recent North Korean drone incursion. When North Korea deployed five drones toward its southern neighbor in December 2022, South Korea had to scramble its fighter jets to issue warning shots.

No rules in the air

The countries with armed drones are individually navigating their own rules instead of an international agreed-upon set of regulations.

International law prohibits the use of armed force unless the United Nations Security Council authorizes an attack, or in the case of self-defense.

But short of launching a full war, drones can legally be deployed for counterterrorism operations, surveillance and other non-self-defense needs, creating a slippery slope to military conflict.

Figuring out the national and international rules of the sky for drone usage is hard.

For 20 years, experts have tried to create international agreements on arms – and some countries supported an informal 2016 UN agreement that recommends countries document the import and export of unmanned aerial vehicles.

But these efforts never evolved into serious, comprehensive standards and laws that kept pace with technology. There are several reasons for that. In order protect their national sovereignty, governments do not want to release drone data. They also want to avoid duplication of their technology and to maintain their market share of the drone trade.

A large gray drone is stationary in front of a large American flag.


A MQ-9 Reaper drone awaits its next mission over the US-Mexico border in November 2022. John Moore/Getty Images

US drones

The United States has wrestled with how to balance drone warfare as it became involved in overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other conflict zones.

US forces killed a top al-Qaida leader with a drone strike in Afghanistan in 2022.

But there have been other instances of drone strikes that resulted in unintended casualties and damage.

In 2021, The New York Times reported that a US drone strike on a vehicle thought to contain an Islamic State bomb resulted in the deaths of 10 children – not three civilians, as the US said might have happened.

There is scant public opinion research on how American feel about the use of drones overseas, which makes building public support for their military use difficult.

Drone dangers

Drone dangers are real.

Many drone experts, including myself, believe it is unsafe for each country’s military to make its own decisions on drones with no rules guiding drone transfers, exports, imports and usage – and no major forum to discuss drones, as the technology continues to evolve.

Multiple drones can communicate with each other remotely, creating shared objectives rather than an individual drone path or pattern. Like a swarm of bees, these drones form a deadly and autonomous aerial army ripe for accidents.

With the advent of artificial intelligence and more sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles, drones can change speed, altitude and targeting in seconds, making them even more difficult to track and investigate. Attacks can happen seemingly out of the blue.

Drone detection is another complication, especially on the battlefield.

Ukrainian and Russian forces each want to know exactly where a drone originated. That can be difficult to determine, especially at night, as drones are fast-moving vehicles. Traditional radar detection has grown more sophisticated with new drone detection platforms to more accurately decipher the exact location of the drone operator.

In my view, the world needs new and consistent rules on drone usage for the decade ahead – better international monitoring of drone incursions and more transparency in the outcome of drone attacks.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 19, 2023.The Conversation

Tara Sonenshine, Edward R. Murrow Professor of Practice in Public Diplomacy, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Consejo del Gabinete: estado de emergencia por sequía



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To fend off hackers, organized trolls and other online vandalism, our website comments feature is switched off. Instead, come to our Facebook page to join in the discussion.

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Porter, THOSE sorts of emails…

Graphic from US Representative Katie Porter’s Twitter feed.

BS fundraising tactics

by Katie Porter, adapted from one of her US Senate campaign’s emails

As a consumer protection attorney, there’s a lot I’ve always disliked about political emails. Emails that try to shame or terrify you into donating aren’t my style.

Let me break down a few of the tactics you’ve probably seen:

  • “We need 5,238 donors from YOUR zip code.” This is fake. We have goals and deadlines, and donations from different parts of the state or country can signal support, but there’s no crazy math like this happening.
  • “Donate $5 today and it will be triple matched.” I promise nobody is really doing this.
  • “Warning: Payment incomplete.” I despise these misleading emails that make you think you’ve missed a bill. Invoking this type of fear in people is unacceptable.

I’ve introduced legislation to crackdown on scam PACs, who can often be the worst offenders of this.

Scam PACs are political organizations that exist to steal money rather than to support a cause or candidate. Their expenditures go solely to “consultants” rather than real causes, and it’s a shameful way to make a quick buck.

Here’s what is real: our fundraising deadlines and the facts we give you about this race. There is urgency, yes, because we’re just nine months out from Election Day, and that means we have to start building our campaign right now. We’ve been outraised by another candidate in this race, so we need to strategically plan how to catch up and stretch our dollars further.

Our end of quarter deadlines are some of the most important, as we have to publicly report how much we raise every three months. But our monthly internal goals help us hit those quarterly goals, and we base our internal budget on our monthly revenue.

Today is the 30th, so tomorrow at midnight we’ll be checking the numbers and seeing where we’re at and how much we can scale up our campaign.

So truly, whatever zip code you’re in, I’d be so appreciative of your support!

Editor’s note: Katie Porter sent this out to the editor as an individual Democrat who is voluntarily on her mailing list, looking to raise some money that at this point the editor can’t spare. The point of republishing it here and in this form is not to hit you up for money for the Porter campaign, nor to particularly endorse Porter in her California “jungle primary” in which there are also some other worthy candidates on the ballot. Yet independent of such considerations, what Ms. Porter has to say about these fundraising tactics is proper and newsworthy. If you want to communicate with or support the Porter campaign, that’s another matter. To do THOSE things, send an email to info@katieporter.com.


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A late morning photo stroll around Anton

da boid
What IS that bird? A female, I take it. A tyrant flycatcher? Kind of big for a swallow or a tanager. I was trying to be unobtrusive in getting closer to take her picture while she was on the lamp in the park between the church and city hall when she suddenly jumped to an adjacent tree.

A Tuesday morning with my camera in Anton

by Eric Jackson
Ah! One of the hazards of being a small town bird was following me.

Late on a Tuesday morning with time to kill. School kids on half days — the textbooks that were to be distributed in mid-March are still not done at the printers, it’s the penultimate day of Black Ethnicity Month so some of the kids are in Afro garb but most are in their regular uniforms. Hot and humid again today? Will rain bring us some afternoon relief?

A poinciana tree in bloom, shading both private property and the public right-of-way. Anton is a bit better than some other places around Panama when it comes to urban forestry. These trees are native to Madagascar, but part of Panamanian culture by now.

I’m feeling up to a long walk, as I was not in weeks previous. Part of my stroll is taking mental notes on things that are available, particularly the little private medical clinics. ONE says that it does ultrasound for kidneys — does that mean if I get a kidney stone attack they have a lithotryptor to crush the stone, or just a scanner to confirm or rule out the presence of such an annoyance?

Taking a turn toward the main business street, when I get to the Esquina de Los Aburridos there is a usual assembly of half a dozen or so graying men, but they’re not yet playing dominos or cards. It’s a matter of getting some shade and some quiet socializing.

At the town square, such as it is, there is a lone kid in school uniform pecking at his cell phone in the gazebo, then this bird and cat scene as shown above.

But the representante’s pickup, and the PRD campaign pickup, parked in the church’s lot? Hmmmmm.

On the far side of the town square, the post office. Still a source of government jobs, but the operation needs to be technologically modernized to be very relevant in these modern times. You can still wire and receive money through Correos, though.

Panama still has a weak economy, and did even before COVID hit. I walk by a lot of vacant places, some buildings in ruins, but some empty places that have been more or less preserved and are begging for buyers to come along, renovate and move in. 

Does some hustler tell you about the opportunities to put your money into income properties and become a zillionaire? That person lies. But if provincial town living is your thing, for that there are good prospects in Anton.

THIS fixer-upper bears artwork of the local popular culture, Anton’s odd Toro Guapo tradition.

I take the turn back toward the highway and the place where I get the bus back to the village. No street vendors at the usual spot on this lazy Tuesday morning. I almost bump into a cop — he was texting on his cell phone while walking down the sidewalk, while I was looking about for interesting photos.

The loyal one, standing guard at the bus terminal. However, it’s a slow day and I have no treat to spare.

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Tedros: Significant opportunities but mis- and disinformation

Geneva Assembly
The 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva. WHO photo.

A generational opportunity that we must seize

remarks to close the 2023 World Health Assembly by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Your Excellency Christopher Fearne,

Excellencies Ministers, Heads of Delegation, dear colleagues and friends,

We have come to the end of another long but fruitful World Health Assembly.

I’m sure many of you are tired and are looking forward to going home.

But as you do, spare a thought for delegates at the first World Health Assembly in 1948, which lasted for four weeks. Be grateful.

At the beginning of this Assembly, we took a photo in exactly the same spot that the photo was taken of the first World Health Assembly in 1948. Thank you all for being part of it.

You can be satisfied that you return home having made many significant resolutions, decisions and strategies, on the vast array of issues on which WHO works.

This includes behavioral sciences; best buys for NCDs; diagnostics; disabilities; drowning prevention; emergency, critical and operative care; food micronutrients; indigenous health; infection prevention and control; maternal and child health; medical oxygen; primary health care; refugee and migrant health; rehabilitation; traditional medicine and more.

The approval of the budget for 2024-25, including the 20% increase in assessed contributions, is very encouraging, and the next step in the direction of a stronger and more effective WHO.

We also appreciate your support for the idea of an investment round, and we look forward to working with Member States further to bring that idea to fruition.

Both the increase in assessed contributions and the investment round are historic and a huge milestone. Thank you so much.

Last week’s strategic round tables offered an opportunity to highlight some of the most pressing public health challenges: pandemic preparedness and response; climate change and health; tuberculosis; immunization; the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; and health workforce, which is central to addressing every threat we face.

This week also saw the launch of the final report of the Council on the Economics of Health for All, with several strong recommendations for how we value human and planetary well-being, rather than a crude focus on GDP. I commend the report to you.

The year ahead offers several significant opportunities to make substantial progress on all the issues you have discussed over the past nine days.

In particular, the high-level meetings on universal health coverage, tuberculosis and pandemic preparedness and response at this year’s UN General Assembly are major opportunities to catalyze much-needed political commitment.

Likewise, the continuing negotiations on the pandemic accord and amendments to the International Health Regulations are an unprecedented opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure they are not repeated.

Your challenge as Member States is to negotiate a strong accord for approval just 12 months from now.

This is a generational opportunity that we must seize. We are the generation that lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, so we must be the generation that learns the lessons it taught us, and makes the changes to keep future generations safer.

In particular, we must work hard to counter the mis- and disinformation about the accord that is circulating in many Member States.

We cannot mince words: the idea that this accord will cede authority to WHO is simply fake news. This is an accord by Member States, for Member States, and will be implemented in Member States in accordance with their own laws.


As I said in my remarks at the opening of this Health Assembly nine days ago, the challenges we face are daunting and complex.

They are made harder by the geopolitical context in which we live.

We live in a world of deep divisions, and at times those divisions have been evident at this Health Assembly.

We cannot pretend they don’t exist, but nor can we be paralysed by them.

Where we agree, we must work with full determination and cooperation; and where we disagree, we must continue to work to find common ground.

As we do, we will often find that our disagreements can be overcome and our divisions can be narrowed.

In other words, we will find that health can be a bridge to peace.

I thank Switzerland and Oman for their efforts to put peace on the agenda of this Health Assembly.

The vital connection between health and peace is not a new idea, and nor is it something that lies outside the mandate of WHO.

It has been there since the very beginning, in our Constitution, which says that the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security, and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.

This is what COVID-19 has taught us: that pathogens have no regard for the lines humans draw on maps, nor for our politics, religions or anything else that we use to divide ourselves from each other.

To pathogens, we are all one, and that’s how we must see ourselves: one people, sharing one planet, working together with one purpose – the highest attainable standard of health for all people.



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Editorials: Democracy, and freedom — perhaps messy but to be defended

on the campaign trail in Curundu
Over the weekend most of the public commentary about Panamanian poliltics centered upon the New Business trial of Ricardo Martinelli. Meanwhile, the Panameñistas were on the campaign trail in Curundu. Photo from Yamy Blandón’s Twitter feed.

Less than a year out, and…

Several of Panama’s parties are engaged in furious primary campaigns, with an eye toward the May 2024 general elections. It’s a political eternity until then, but not so for most of the primary hopefuls.

The vote buyers? They’re urging people to sell out their country, the futures of young people, Panama’s good standing as a sovereign republic in the community of nations.

‘He stole but he got things done?’ Forget the second part. Throw him in jail if he stole.

That still leaves us with some serious questions, discussions, negotiations and balancing acts. Rejecting kleptocracy is a no-brainer but charting a course for a prosperous, dignified and democratic Panama is a more difficult problem.


The show should go on. Photo of Roger Waters by Rodrigo Barquera.

Disgusting Israeli-inspired attack on Roger Waters

The other day in Frankfurt, a gang of racists waving Israeli flags rushed the stage where musician Roger Waters, who rose to fame as a bass player, singer and composer with Pink Floyd, was giving a concert. They did this to support the murder by Israeli soldiers of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the subsequent Israeli police attack on her funeral.

Later, pro-Israel activists filed a bogus criminal complaint against Waters, whose father was killed by the Germans during World War II, accusing him of being a Nazi. It’s part of a concerted campaign, directed at shutting down Waters’s international concert tour. Israeli media threaten to take their ethnic cleanse and cultural silencing to the USA when the tour goes there. In London, one of the more vicious supporters of Labour leader Keir Starmer rose in Parliament to echo claims that Waters is a Nazi, offering zero proof.

Where are the journalists? Where are the musicians and composers? Where are the truly progessive labor and political activists? Roger Waters ought to be defended by both those who agree with his political statements and those who don’t, but especially ought to be defended against racists who advocate the killing of Arabs with impunity.


Dorothy Rothschild Parker, when she was 18.

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.

Dorothy Parker

Bear in mind…

We can allow satellites, planets, suns, universe, nay whole systems of universes, to be governed by laws, but the smallest insect, we wish to be created at once by special act.

Charles Darwin

Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life.

Germaine Greer

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.

Franklin D. Roosevelt


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