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¿Wappin? Music for a July day / Música para un día de julio

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home on the farm
Putting up a lime crop / Preservando una cosecha de limones. Foto por Eric Jackson.

Música para un día lluvioso
Rainy day music

Margarita Henríquez – Y Cuando Suba La Marea
https://youtu.be/474TkM78hic?si=oYpee_KUhFtAdYsk

Silvia Pérez Cruz – Tiny Desk Concert (2024)
https://youtu.be/zoAs0-nXPQM?si=7lT37XBhnKCtgMHq

Gladys Knight – The Way We Were
https://youtu.be/xo9txNRlUHo?si=pAg8w8s4kfK0bYi5

Astrud Gilberto – Show Completo (1987)
https://youtu.be/5O6-RjAGvrI?si=BBzfMebVcsLKH1H0

Patti Smith – After The Gold Rush
https://youtu.be/yrhtGXwl4Bo?si=MKLp6cfz1RcOq-Xu

Melissa Aldana – Concert with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band (2021)
https://youtu.be/sOY5yr4k6mM?si=dXtgxN9XPMtBndB_

Celtic Lands, Mairead Nesbitt & Harp Twins – Kid on The Mountain
https://youtu.be/jdtzqYqcaE0?si=ABsAxJrs_ovuqmJD

Haydee Milanés – Concierto Estoy Contigo (2022)
https://youtu.be/_cB0GBCPWP4?si=RV3CdHAFclm_2IAA

Eva Cassidy – People Get Ready
https://youtu.be/bzLd2MDAHK8?si=ZeoOSP-bkbvixRzN

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The mega-projects on Panama’s list

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Monorail
From Arraijan to La Chorrera, you can’t travel the Pan-American Highway without noticing the Metro monorail construction. Notwithstanding many questions – for starters why a monorail instead of extending the existing Metro system’s light rail lines – this project is happening. Photo by Eric Jackson, taken from a bus.

Mega-projects – which are or may not be happening, who might gain and which should be put out of their misery

by Eric Jackson

Why was former president Ricardo Martinelli sentenced to prison? Why did the former presiding magistrate of the Supreme Court, Alejandro Moncada Luna, get sent to prison? They may allege criminal defamation because the convictions were formally for subsequent or consequential financial crimes, but the underlying offenses were graft, as in arranging for overpriced construction contracts going to selected organizations and taking a skim out of these overcharges.

So, with Martinelistas back in power and Moncada Luna showing up at Mulino events, shouldn’t we be suspicious? Moreover, with a notoriously corrupt PRD crowd mostly leaving office, and looking past them to all the governments since the 1989 US invasion, should WHO is now in be much more suspect than WHAT is proposed or underway? And then THIS reporter first learned about urban policy mostly on the job, in elected and appointed posts in a small city near Detroit, reading widely and looking around.

I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em” is an attitude not invented by the guy who said that. Wherever and whenever, those who think and act that way are characters of whom people should be wary.

With such caveats and others in mind, and looking at the lay of the land and the needs and wishes of various Panamanian social sectors, let’s look at some of the major construction projects underway or proposed.

Line 3
A big part of the Metro Line 3 plan is for park and ride facilities, and another part is bus and train interchanges. Map by the Metro de Panamá.

Line 3 of the Metro, the monorail

Starting at Albrook, passing through a tunnel more than 150 feet below the canal and out to the population centers of Arraijan and La Chorrera, this project is underway and is unlikely to be shut down now. It would be a huge political disaster if it was. Not only because it would be an in-everybody’s-face failure, but because in part it would be squandering a gift from Japan, which subsidizes much of the planning and construction management.

Perhaps the biggest advantage would be beyond the line’s reaches, with people driving into the city from the Interior being able to park their cars, get on the monorail and be in the city in short order. That would relieve congestion on the bridges across the canal and in the capital itself. There would be some of that effect in the other direction too, with parking in Albrook and Balboa to get on the monorail and across the canal into Panama Oeste. Get past the madness and hop on a bus at La Espiga in Chorrera, to be on your way to Coronado, El Valle or beyond? It would also be an attraction for many going the other direction.

We can argue about why a monorail instead of an extension of the other Metro lines’ light rail, but regardless of that and other questions, this project promises to change many urban realities for the better.

corredor caribe
The Corredor del Caribe, now stalled pending further litigation before the Supreme Court. Photo by Adopta Bosque Panamá.

The Corredor del Caribe

A 28.4 kilometer road through secondary forests between Quebrada Ancha and just west of Maria Chiquita on Colon’s Costa Arriba, this project is a good illustration of the fallacy of “residential tourism.” As in real estate speculators claiming the mantle of tourism promoters. As in an $87 million project intended to benefit one developer in particular, but which would open the way for much more deforestation along the route, which would be a shortcut from the Panama – Colon Autopista and Transistmica over the ridge to the road along the coast to Portobelo and a bit beyond. Zip right along. They got the former minister of public works, Rafael Sabonge to go along – what could possibly go wrong?

Via TVN. Portobelo Chamber of Tourism president Cristóbal Valencia gave us assurances. The road would not go through designated national parks, or primary forests. That the area being destroyed is rich in wildlife is no big problem, Valencia said. There are ways to move the birds and animals that call the area home to somewhere else.

The Panama Canal Authority is less convinced. This project deforests part of the Chagres River Watershed, potentially affecting rainfall and reducing available water for canal operations. Environmentalists are aghast. We get this optimistic prediction about the road itself, but not the developmental sprawl and deforestation that would follow.

Whatever the court rules, this is a PRD pet, so politics may stop it regardless of the law. A few folks might be incensed about losing that most central of human rights, return on investment. This thing can die without anyone else missing it.

Panamanian law, unlike the Anglo-American Common Law systems, does not get so much into history. But here, if the argument of the projects promoters and defenders about only secondary forests being affected gets enshrined as a principle in our environmental laws, just about everywhere in this country is vulnerable. There is very little primary forest in Panama. The Spaniards conquered a heavily farmed land, one where swidden agriculture was the norm. Cut away a patch of forest, burn what’s cut, then with the ash as fertilizer grow crops for a few seasons before abandoning it for the jungle to grow back and start over on another patch. The Europeans brought not only guns and horses to subdue the locals, but far more effectively if unintentionally they brought in diseases unknown to the pre-Columbian peoples of the isthmus. There was plenty of brutality in the conquest, but the most deadly things were the plagues. So as indigenous farms were abandoned and the forests grew back and became habitats for wildlife again, does the natural growth of the past five hundred years not count? Are only forests cut down in more recent times “secondary” and thus apt to be cut down again? Do we really want court decisions based on the denial of Panama’s human and natural history?

Then there is the consideration of “environment” as more than the bird and bees and flowers and trees. The Colon coastal road to which the Corredor del Caribe would connect. That in short order became an attraction for Colombian drug launches. Only later was policing enhanced. So, do we want a rapid shortcut to Panama’s urban areas from that dope road? And of course it’s not just drugs, but guns and ill-gotten cash, and fugitive criminals and illegal migration.

This project should be an easy throwaway.

mulino et al
Mulino’s first cabinet meeting declared this one a priority.

The Panama – David train

At its first cabinet meeting, the Mulino government announce the creation of a Natonal Secretariat for the Panama – David Train. It’s a project that has been talked about for years, a proposal that was extensively sketched out during the Varela years and then flatly rejected by the Cortizo administration.

For Mulino the train is the centerpiece of a major effort to meet the “notorious emergency” of a crumbling and inadequate land transportation system. This project is going to happen.

Will it meet future needs in light of rising seas? Is it the best route for national development? Will a Chinese company get the job, annoying the United States? These are all real questions, but not insurmountable barriers.

The biggest problem with this project is the context. It’s undertaken without benefit of any overall national development plan. Will it be just a passenger service, or also a means to quickly move perishable agricultural products from farms to the city? Will it swing upwards to connect places like the Ngabe-Bugle Comarca to the rest of the country? Where will it go in Panama City? Will it be more or less an express service, or one with many stops?

The government will muddle through these things, we will get a train and also a bill for it. Then we’ll be able to better judge whether it was a good investment.

Chorrera
This one is underway, and has been. It’s a traffic nightmare in Chorrera. The idea is to run from from an interchange with the Pan-American Highway to a road along the beaches out to Chame or so. Photo from Vivi Montagne’s Twitter / X feed.

Corredor de Las Playas

Here again we have a project that seems mostly for the benefit of real estate speculators, this time a species who want to sell “beachfront properties.” But much of that “beachfront” is environmentally sensitive mangrove forests.

It’s a throwaway that’s not likely to be thrown away.

climate change map
Climate change is real, but Panamanian government estimates of our vulnerability to it may not be. Government maps? It seems that when it comes to the Atlantic Side there is a paucity of maps showing the road infrastructure – by and large, from Miguel De La Borda in Colon to Bocas del Toro there hardly is any road along the coast. Access to and exports from the copper mine were designed to be by sea. Yet for many years there has been the suggestion that Panama needs a good road all along the Caribbean Sea from Colon to Bocas. Map by the Tommy Guardia institute.

The road from Colon to Bocas

When the copper mine is definitively kicked out – all of their toxic semi-processed ore, their machinery, their corporate security guards gone – there will remain this port along the coast, and roads that wind across the isthmus to Penonome. There will be the temptation for wildcatters to move in and look for gold on their own. There will be a need for police to guard against that, and against criminal gangs from taking over and using the port for their nefarious ends.

When you think about it, there is mixed news in that. Finish the long-contemplated road and it would attract smugglers, so there would be a need for cops anyway. Convert the port to a little facility serving our central provinces and there would first be a roadbuilding base and ultimately a facility that might serve the farms, businesses, tourism and residential conveniences of such up-over-the hills places as El Valle, Penonome and San Carlos.

But think about the vulnerability of our country, with only one main drag, the Pan-American Highway along the Pacific Side. Despite the policing issues, a parallel road along the Atlantic Side, with connecting roads here and there, would enhance Panama’s national security in the face of many possible calamities. It would spread our economic development around.

However, there is this stereotype about Colon. High crime, low potential, all of that stuff. The clichés are often enough expressed in overtly racist terms.

Panama is deep in a public debt hole and private investors who don’t intend to loot are hard to come by. It’s likely that this road, a worthy idea, is not happening anytime soon. That’s a pity.

The area around the Rio Indio that has been in legal and political limbo for years, but is now back in a position where the Panama Canal Authority can declare eminent domain, build a dam or two and expand the water supply to run the Panama Canal and for other uses. Map from the Gaceta Oficial.

Damming Rio Indio

Richard Fifer is in prison for fraud, his company’s CEO and her son the would-be PRD president are in disrepute, the Canada-based company that bought part of their mine concession to put in the infamous copper mine is probably the single most hated company in Panama and the attempt to wrest dibs on the Rio Indio waters is at an end with a recent Supreme Court decision. There will be one or more new dams to create a reservoir west of Gatun Lake to alleviate chronic Panama Canal water shortages. There is more or less a national consensus to do this.

That would not end all controversies. For years, at just about every opportunity, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has hinted that in such an undertaking rabiblanco business mores rather than solidarity among Panamanians would apply. Remove the people in the way of the dam as cheaply as possible, with no concerns about ways of life or established communities. The new lake could be created with those displaced being treated with dignity, respect and generosity. Old farms could be replaced with new farms, even better farms. On the other hand, a bad imitation of stingy billionaire power plays could get Panama’s roads blocked off again.

If done right, the new lake’s water would not all be needed for canal operations and a lot of it could be siphoned off for agricultural and household needs. Would we still hear somebody say that it would be better used to process metal ores? Hardly anybody wants to hear THAT.

The estimate is that it would take six years to build such a project. The political estimate is that in the meantime there would be an attempt to promulgate a new Panamanian constitution, in the drafting of which issues of water rights and the status of the ACP would likely be broached.

 

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Chinni & Pinkus, Common ground among a divided US electorate

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vote
For a country that often feels hopelessly divided, it turns out that there is a lot of agreement among Americans. Graphic by ZIPNON – pixabay.com.

American voters largely agree on many issues, including topics like abortion, immigration and wealth inequality

by Dante Chinni, Michigan State University and Ari Pinkus, Michigan State University

As the presidential election campaign heats up, media coverage suggests Americans are hopelessly divided and headed for a difficult fall – perhaps also a tense January.

But that isn’t the whole story, according to reporting and poll results from the American Communities Project, a journalism and research effort we lead that is based at Michigan State University that analyzes the country by looking at 15 different community types.

In fact, on issues and policies where government has a serious role – such matters as taxes, immigration, the state of the economy and even abortion – a 2023 survey from the American Communities Project, or the ACP, found a great deal of agreement in the 15 community types we examine.

But when the topic turned to “culture war” issues (religion, gender identity, guns, family values), the differences were deep.

That divide between talking about “policy” and talking about “culture” – between arguing about “what we want” versus “who we are” – is having a hugely divisive impact on the nation. And if politics and governing are going to get more productive, Americans need to find a way to move past the issues around cultural identity.

Broad agreement on policy

We saw the policy/culture difference in our 2023 survey.

The 15 community types in the ACP are very different from one another demographically, geographically and politically. The deeply rural, largely white community type we call “Aging Farmlands” – small rural counties spread across the Great Plains – gave 79% of their vote to Donald Trump in 2020. The densely populated and diverse group we call “Big Cities” – counties home to most of the nation’s 50 largest cities – gave 66% of their vote to Joe Biden.

And yet, on a range of questions concerning policy or the state of the nation, there was wide agreement.

For instance, in every one of the community types, more than 60% of those surveyed said they thought “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and the powerful.” On the statement “The U.S. government should cut social programs in order to lower taxes,” no more than 38% agreed in any community – a question we dug into with voters in Florida in a voter roundtable discussion.

Even on the thorny issue of abortion there was agreement around the statement “Obtaining an abortion should be a decision made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, without the government’s involvement.” More than 50% in every community type agreed. Many polls show high levels of support for keeping abortion legal, but the agreement across the different ACP types was surprising to us.

To be clear, the areas of agreement didn’t all favor Democratic positions. The statement “America would be better off if we let in more immigrants” didn’t get to 30% support in any community type. And “Government should take a more active role in policing private-sector behavior” didn’t get above 45% support anywhere.

Regardless, for a country that often feels hopelessly divided, that is a lot of agreement on statements that center on government action in one way or another.

Questions of culture

But when cultural issues were the focus of the poll, the well-known divisions appeared across our communities.

The widest chasm in the survey came on the statement “The right to own a firearm is central to what it means to be an American.” Overall, 49% of Americans agreed, but the divides by community type and landscape were stark.

In the rural “Evangelical Hubs,” based in the South and Midwest, 71% agreed that owning a gun is central to what it means to be an American, while in the “Aging Farmlands,” concentrated in the Central and Great Plains, 73% did. In the “Big Cities” and “Urban Suburbs,” outside of cities, the centrality of this right dropped to 30% and 34%, respectively.

There were similar divides around gender identity.

Those surveyed were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement “People should be free to express their gender identity however is best for them.” Gender expression was much more accepted in diverse communities, such as “Big Cities” “Urban Suburbs” and rural “Native American Lands,” at 61%, 60% and 60%, respectively. In rural blue-collar “Working Class Country” and “Evangelical Hubs,” the numbers sat at 37% and 32%, respectively.

Faith and religion

At the national level, there was something of a coalescing on the importance of faith and religion.

Overall, 58% agreed that “Faith and religion are important parts of American life.” But again, there were large differences by community type.

In the “Aging Farmlands,” faith and religion’s importance reached 77%, in the “Native American Lands,” 73%, while in the “Evangelical Hubs,” dominated by Christian evangelicals, it was 70%. Comparatively, in the “Big Cities” and “Urban Suburbs,” it was 47%, a difference of more than 20 points from these rural communities.

And there were sharp splits on the statement “Traditional structures for families, with a wage-earning father and homemaking mother, best equips children to succeed.” The percentages that agreed were highest in the “Native American Lands,” at 59%, and in the rural communities of “Christian faith,” “LDS Enclaves,” at 55%, and “Evangelical Hubs,” at 54%. The “Big Cities,” “Urban Suburbs” and “College Towns” were at the other end of the spectrum, at 33%, 36% and 36%, respectively.

Political debate ‘hijacked’ by culture fights

These issues – guns, gender, faith and families – clearly matter deeply to many Americans. But how much do they have to do with politics?

People are going to hold the beliefs they hold on gender or live by their personal ideals about faith and family regardless of who is in the White House. The government realistically cannot police every bedroom and kitchen table in America. The question about guns can be discussed as a matter of the U.S. Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretation as much as one’s personal belief, but that issue, too, is very personal, as we learned when we talked to people about it in Michigan.

In many ways, these culture fights have hijacked the political debate when there is broader agreement on issues in which government really does play an important role.

Of course, agreeing on the importance of key issues is not the same as agreeing on what should be done about them.

We know from our work talking to people in these different communities that their respective answers on how to handle a “rigged” system or taxation or abortion or immigration would likely be different. But those conversations are about give-and-take and hashing out answers. That’s the point of politics and different from the culture fights that dominate our discussions.

In a nation of 330 million people, there will never be easy answers to “who are we?” In fact, the country was designed to largely leave that question open within broad parameters.

But until politics moves on to the more relevant question of “What should we do?” the deadlock and tensions Americans feel in the 2024 election likely aren’t going to change.The Conversation

Dante Chinni, Director, American Communities Project, Michigan State University and Ari Pinkus, Manager, American Communities Project, Michigan State University

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

 

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Corbett, Where are the crowds of Democrats demanding Biden’s replacement?

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Joe Biden meets with supporters this past 4th of July in Iowa. So far, one journalist noted, “the loudest voices trying to force him out of the race are elites: major media columnists and wealthy donors.” Photo by Gage Skidmore.

If Biden ‘must step aside,’ why aren’t Democrats filling the streets to demand it?

by Jessica Corbett — Common Dreams

The number of congressional Democrats urging President Joe Biden to drop out of the race for the White House grew on Tuesday, but many of their colleagues—along with other elected officials and voters—remain supportive of the aging Democratic leader’s effort to beat former Republican President Donald Trump a second time.

Since Biden’s poor debate performance last month sparked concerns about whether he can defeat Trump and effectively serve another term, the president has remained defiant, insisting that he is determined to stay in the race—as he made clear with a Monday letter to Democrats in Congress that he also shared on social media.

Not only does the movement to convince Biden that he “must step aside” before the Democratic National Convention in August appear to be failing, “it’s failing in a very predictable way,” according to David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect.

“Though polling has consistently registered massive public concern with Biden’s age and his ability to withstand the rigors of a high-stakes campaign, let alone another term in office until he turns 86 years old, the loudest voices trying to force him out of the race are elites: major media columnists and wealthy donors,” he wrote Tuesday. “They lack democratic legitimacy and the public’s respect, even as they are expressing the popular will. And they have given Biden the opportunity to parry their attacks simply by employing the politics of resentment.”

“There is one group trying to change this. A very new organization (it literally started last Friday afternoon) founded by a handful of Democratic organizers called Pass the Torch is trying to motivate ordinary Democrats to speak out about the need for a stronger ticket to defeat Donald Trump,” Dayen pointed out. While the group has a petition and is talking with convention delegates, he added, “an effort like Pass the Torch will really only derive legitimacy from having a large number of rank-and-file voices behind it.”

Reflecting on Biden and Trump’s disastrous debate in a Tuesday opinion piece for Common Dreams, writer and retired mental health worker Phil Wilson asserted that “members of a sane society would be thundering angrily through the streets given the choice between a smoldering ghost and an aspiring Nazi monster.”

Wilson continued:

Who chose these two? Why are 50 million people curled up on couches, wrapped around plastic bowls of popcorn while these terrible, inept, and heartless fools cough up lies and trivial asides? We reflect upon levels of dementia and Nazi wannabe evil as if they were existential givens. Of course we all must decide on November 5th which genocidaire we prefer, the one who bombed the children of Gaza or the one vowing to deport up to 20 million innocent people. Do we pick the one who can barely remember his own name or the guy with a swirling vortex of hatred orbiting his eyeballs?

“This election is a farce—the dying throes of a criminal society, the death spasms of a plundering oligarchy that once devoured most of the world and now cannibalizes its own,” he concluded.

Also writing for Common Dreams on Tuesday, University of Essex professor Peter Bloom argued that “the recent Trump-Biden debate served as a grotesque apotheosis of ‘great man’ politics, laying bare the dangerous fallacy of entrusting democracy to the outsized personalities of flawed individuals.”

“The future of democracy, in the US and beyond, depends on our ability to move beyond the cult of personality and reclaim politics as a collective endeavor,” according to Bloom. “The alternative—a continued descent into gerontocratic oligarchy thinly disguised as populism—is too dire to contemplate. As we watch two aged politicians compete for the chance to lead a nation in crisis, let it serve as a wake-up call. The era of great men is over. The real work of rebuilding our democracy is just beginning.”

Biden’s campaign and supporters continue to frame his reelection as crucial to the fight to save US democracy—particularly given that a victorious Trump would be armed with new king-like powers, thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

As John Nichols, a national affairs correspondent for The Nation, noted Monday, Biden himself “says that the country is at ‘an inflection point,’ where the future of American democracy is at stake.”

“This requires more than putting in your best effort in a controlled setting,” Nichols wrote, describing Biden’s Friday rally in Wisconsin as “serviceable” but far from what is needed. “It requires an absolutely determined candidate and a big, bold, risk-taking campaign that inspires Wisconsinites, and voters nationwide, to defeat Trump and Trumpism. If Biden really is determined to stay in this race, he owes it to himself, his party, and his country to be all in.”

The president has received similar advice from progressives in Congress. Since the debate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and 2020—has stood by Biden but also stressed that he must “do better,” for which the senator has received some criticism.

Progressives in the House were noticeably quieter—as Slate’s Alexander Sammon noted last week, “There’s no real upside for Squad members to put themselves in the line of fire during an already bitter public deliberation”—until multiple members of the informal group confirmed support for Biden on Monday.

“The matter is closed,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told reporters Monday evening, citing her weekend conversation with Biden and his repeated statements over recent days that he has no intention of stepping aside. “He is in this race and I support him.”

“Now what I think is critically important right now is that we focus on what it takes to win in November because he is running against Donald Trump, who is a man with 34 felony convictions, that has committed 34 felony crimes, and not a single Republican has asked for Donald Trump to not be the nominee,” she continued.

Ocasio-Cortez explained that she has “communicated” to Biden that winning the election will require Democrats to “pivot and increasingly commit to the issues that are critically important to working people across this country,” including rent and mortgage relief as well as the expansion of Medicare and Social Security.

“And if we can do that and continue our work on student loans, secure a cease-fire, and bring those dollars back into investing in public policy, then that’s how we win in November,” she added. “That’s what I’m committed to and that’s what I want to make sure we secure.”

With lawmakers back on Capitol Hill following the Independence Day recess, Democrats in both chambers held caucus meetings on Tuesday. While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters, “As I’ve said before, I’m with Joe,” Politico reported that “many typically chatty senators almost entirely refused to talk with press about their caucus’ conversation.”

House Democrats met earlier in the day. Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN), who ended his longshot primary challenge to Biden and endorsed him in March, told reporters, “If this has been vindication, vindication has never been so unfulfilling.”

“I made my case eight months ago and I think it’s time for others to share their perspectives,” he said. “I’m deeply disappointed in a political system that has resulted in this dynamic that we now face.”

Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) joined the small but growing contingent urging him to step down, saying: “I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country. That’s why I am asking that he declare that he won’t run for reelection.”

As the Pass the Torch campaign highlighted on social media Tuesday, some congressional Democrats are worried that Biden remaining at the top of the ticket could have a negative down ballot impact.

At least one congressman who reportedly urged Biden to exit the race over the weekend, Reprsentative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), appeared to change course. He declined to comment on what he privately told Biden but said: “The president made very clear yesterday that he’s running… We have to support him.”

After House Democrats’ meeting, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) toldPolitico, “My personal takeaway is that Joe Biden has tremendous support from the Democratic caucus, and we’re going to move forward.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, suggested in a Monday statement that even as public and private conversations are taking place within the party about the best way forward, nobody should forget the core differences between what Democrats and Biden represent compared to Trump and his Republican Party.

“Make no mistake, the foundation of our democracy is at stake in this election,” said Jayapal.

“Any reporter or pundit who is asking about or talking about the aftermath of President Biden’s debate performance and his health,” she continued, “should also be spending at least the same amount of time and energy talking to Republicans about why they are still supporting a convicted felon who incited an insurrection and wants to be dictator on day one.”

“Republicans should be calling for Donald Trump to step down as a candidate for president,” she added. “The press should be covering for the American people the dozens of lies he told at the debate and the horrific statements he continues to make about immigrants and women. They should be asking every single Republican member why they support the democracy-destroying Project 2025.”

While Trump has recently tried to distance himself from Project 2025—spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, one of the sponsors of the Republican National Convention in Wisconsin next week—the Biden campaign and other critics have called “bullshit” on the frequently dishonest former president’s claims.

“After trying and failing to cover up his deep ties to Project 2025 authors and Heritage Foundation leadership, Trump is putting his MAGA besties on full display,” Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said of the convention sponsorship Tuesday. “Donald Trump can’t hide from Project 2025—it’s his agenda, his vision, and his dangerous and extreme plan for America’s future.”

Editor’s note: THIS Democrat? Yes, there is concern about Joe Biden’s health and an understanding that we have far from complete information about it. However, there is confidence that we have a “Plan B.” That’s Kamala Harris and I share the faith with most other Democrats that if need be she could step right in and serve the nation well. 

 

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Movimiento Democrático Popular, Intentarán reducir las pensiones

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rawk
Foto por la Caja de Seguro Social.

Los sectores empresariales intentarán reducir las pensiones de los jubilados

por el Movimiento Democrático Popular

En un reciente artículo habíamos llamado la atención sobre una posición del novel ministro de economía y finanzas, el que, de acuerdo a nota publicada por el diario La Estrella de Panamá el 2 de julio de 2024, habría afirmado que para enfrentar los problemas del programa de invalidez, vejez y muerte se necesitaría la cooperación del país, incluso de los pensionados.

Esta cooperación, entendida dentro de la política de choque adelantada por el actual gobierno junto a la cúpula empresarial, parece concretarse en la propuesta de Dino Mon, uno de los voceros de la cúpula empresarial, responsable de la Ley 51 y quien aspira a dirigir la CSS, cuando en el programa De Frente de Sabrina Cabral, planteó que dentro de poco habría que recortar las pensiones vigentes entre un 40.0% o 50.0%. Se trata de una propuesta inhumana que llevaría a hundir más en la pobreza a los jubilados.

Desde luego que la suerte de los futuros pensionados será igual de difícil, dado que este personaje estima que se deben hacer cambios paramétricos muy profundos, que abarcaría no solo un incremento de la edad de jubilación. En una entrevista previa habría propuesto la “necesidad” de: elevar la tasa de cotización del programa de invalidez vejez y muerte de 13.5% a 18.0% del salario. y elevar el tiempo de cotización necesario para pensionarse de 20 años (240 cuotas) a 35 años (420 cuotas).

Enmascara la responsabilidad empresarial

A nuestro juicio las declaraciones recientes del señor Mon se dan en forma tal que sirven para esconder la grave responsabilidad de la cúpula empresarial en la situación del sistema solidario de pensiones de la CSS. Esto por varios motivos.

En primer lugar, siendo parte, como lo reconoció el señor Mon, del grupo que diseñó la Ley 51, él mismo debía reconocer que esta Ley, al separar el modelo de cuentas individuales llamado subsistema mixto (fundamentalmente de cuentas individuales) del solidario, también determinó que a partir del 2008 ningún nuevo cotizante podría inscribirse en el subsistema solidario, separando además los fondos de los dos subsistemas. Se creo así una situación en la que la última generación del modelo solidario quedó sin el respaldo intergeneracional que debería servirle de base financiera. Se generó así un enorme costo de transición cuyo monto se calculó en el momento en cerca del 145.0% del PIB. Se trató, en efecto, de una deuda con esta última generación, la que no fue reconocida ni pagada. En realidad, desde nuestra perspectiva, los que diseñaron y aprobaron la Ley 51 cometieron un delito de fraude contra la población asegurada.

Entre otras cosas se perdió la posibilidad de que el subsistema solidario (SEBD) se capitalizara con el boom económico y de empleo previo a la aparición de la pandemia. De haberse dado esta posibilidad, la situación no sería de un inminente colapso del modelo solidario, el cual tendría en su haber una reserva efectiva de no menos de B/. 5,400.0 millones.

La falta de fondos, la evasión fiscal y la evasión de cuotas

Otra forma en la que el señor Mon no fue capaz de evidenciar la responsabilidad del sector empresarial en los problemas de la CSS, está dada por su confusión entre la morosidad y la evasión. La morosidad, que el mismo propone borrar de los libros de la institución, y la evasión. La primera de estas se refiere a las cuotas no entregadas por los empresarios a trabajadores declarados a la CSS por sus empleadores. La segunda se refiere a las cuotas no entregadas a la CSS por empresarios que ni siquiera inscriben a sus asalariados en la CSS.

La evasión constituye una grave carga negativa para los ingresos de la CSS, teniendo en cuenta que, de acuerdo a cálculos de la OIT, los empresarios hacia el 2019 evadieron al 25.1% de sus empleados asalariados. Si se aplica este porcentaje a los asalariados del sector privado en agosto de 2023, se estaría hablando de cerca de 214,338 personas. Si se utiliza la mediana del salario como referencia, entonces, la evasión podría ser calculada en B/. 450.8 millones anuales, cifra que crecería en la medida en que el número de asalariados de la empresa privada se eleve.

Otro método para acercarse a la evasión es, observando las recaudaciones efectivas, comparándolas con las que se darían en el caso de un estricto cumplimento de la Ley. En este caso se tendría que entre el 2018 y el 2021 el total de evasión puede haber alcanzado a cerca de B/. 7,000 millones.

Un principio básico de la seguridad social, junto a la solidaridad y la universalidad, es el que se refiere a la subsidiaridad, el cual obligaría al gobierno central a apoyar a la seguridad social. Este elemento, que el señor Mon no abordó, está relativamente bloqueado en el país por el alto nivel de evasión tributaria (no pago de impuestos) del sector empresarial. Según datos de la DGI para el año 2021, último para el que existen datos, esta evasión alcanzó a B/. 7,838.6 millones, esto es 11.6% del PIB. Si tan solo el gobierno lograra recortar en un punto porcentual esta evasión y entregarla al programa de invalidez vejez y muerte, sus ingresos se elevarían en B/ 1,351.6. Si se redujera en 1.5 puntos porcentuales, este monto se elevaría a B/ 2,027.2 millones.

Las Cuentas Individuales no son solidarias

Las cuentas individuales, a decir del señor Mon, pueden ser manejadas con solidaridad, por la vía de asumir las asimetrías. La realidad muestra que, por el contrario, las cuentas individuales operan en un esquema en el que los riesgos son asumidos por quienes son los titulares de las mismas, mientras que las capitalizadoras cobran, a precios oligopólicos, por la administración, sin importar si existen rendimientos positivos o no.

Esto esta claro para dar algunos ejemplos, en el clásico documento The Economics of Pensión (2006) de Nicholas Barr y Peter Diamond (Premio Nobel de Economía 2010). También está claro en el trabajo de Henry J. Aaron titulado Social Security: Tune Ir Up, Don’t’ Trade It In (1999), donde señala que en el modelo de las cuentas individuales los riegos de pérdida de capital, de modificación de la tasa de interés y del desempleo, entre otros, deben ser asumidos por los asegurados.

De hecho, como es conocido las cuentas individuales generan pensiones de miseria. Un estudio del sistema de pensiones de Panamá realizado por el FMI en el 2015 mostró que quienes se pensionen en el 2050 o 2060 en el subsistema mixto, que es básicamente de cuentas individuales, lo harán con una tasa de remplazo que no superará por mucho el 20.0% del promedio de sus salarios en los mejores diez años.

La economía básica de las pensiones

Cuando el señor Mon afirma que el sistema solidario es un simple esquema de Ponzi, parece no entender lo que Nicholas Barr aclara en su importante artículo “Reforma de las Pensiones: Mitos, Verdades y Opciones de Politicas” (2002). En efecto, las pensiones siempre implican que los pensionados tienen que consumir utilizando la producción de la siguiente generación, de manera que existen dos formas de hacer esto. Una es un pacto social en que una generación acuerda sostener a la previa, con el compromiso de que a la futura generación le corresponda. La otra es tener una serie de activos que luego se venderán a la generación que sigue a cambio de la posibilidad de consumir lo producido por la misma.

En última instancia, en ambos casos esto solo es posible si la economía y la productividad crecen, llevando a un aumento de salarios reales en línea con esto. En economía con políticas neoliberales, ni siquiera es seguro que los ingresos del trabajo de las siguientes generaciones sean superiores a los de la actual. Entonces: ¿con qué van a comprar los títulos de valor acumulados por la pasada generación? Esto es clave en un país como Panamá, en que el estilo de desarrollo impuesto por los sectores dominantes no es capaz de generar empleo decente, mientras que los salarios se retrasan en relación al crecimiento de la productividad.

Salirle al paso a la política de choque

Frente a la situación que se nos presenta en forma de política de choque, en la que solo se daría un mes para el debate de la situación de la reforma del sistema de pensiones, solo queda salirle al paso a esa nefasta política. Es urgente profundizar en las tareas de generar conciencia y organización, a la vez que logramos movilización y optimismo en la defensa de la seguridad social solidaria, proponiendo una política efectiva para resolver los problemas. Esta pasa por volver al sistema solidario y establecer las bases para fortalecer sus finanzas como está plasmado en documentos anteriores.

 

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Editorials: Times change; and Not all mean campaigning is the same

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homeless
The state of the economy, and how badly that city is run: somebody is camping out in the right-of way by the Pan-American Highway in Arraijan. Photo by Eric Jackson.

New game, new players

Coming down into the Interior from Cerro Campana the road is in woeful state and billboards are being dismantled. One offers to sell its component aluminum panels at bargain prices.

Who is advertising to sell what, through which medium – Panamanian law and culture have little transparency about such things, but there is a seismic shift with the government changing hands. Old informal business stands on the highway’s rights-of-way have shut down, others are popping up – is it about old political connections allowing de-facto permits giving away to new sets of these?

Alliances of bus and taxi syndicates are breaking up and forming.

There are more major construction projects on the agenda than the nation will be able to afford anytime soon. Will the most useful to the nation get priority over the bad ideas?

There are lots of questions to be answered over time, if ever. In a different configuration old politics won the elections, but those games can’t be afforded and won’t long be tolerated.

Wait and see. Speak out against what’s wrong, whoever is backing it; and for what helps Panama, no matter its proponent. And start some serious thinking about elections of delegates to a constitutional convention and what we want to see in a new founding charter for Panama’s government.

None of this is simple, but you’re not a simpleton, are you?

 

  

us
The unpleasant truth.

My, what an ugly election campaign – but don’t for a minute think that it’s all the same

them
A racist caricature of the truth.

  

her
Dorothy Parker portrait from the Library of Congress archives.

     

      That woman speaks eighteen languages and can’t say “No” in any of them.

Dorothy Parker     

Bear in mind…

Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.

Marie Curie

The more we are unfairly targeted, the more our supporters across the country will want to prove that these attacks are inefficient.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

A cult is a religion with no political power.

Tom Wolfe

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¿Wappin? Ya inició la larga cabalgata / The long ride has begun

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Walkiria Chandler
Walkiria Chandler, que no fue elegida presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional pero es líder y símbolo de una nueva gran oposición independiente en nuestra legislatura. Foto tomada de su página de Facebook.
Walkiria Chandler, who was not elected president of the National Assembly but is a leader and symbol of a large new independent opposition in our legislature. Photo taken from her Facebook page.

El camino hacia la libertad no es fácil
No easy walk to freedom

Ariadna & Graciela Núñez – Danzas de Países Quiméricos
https://youtu.be/zVgvR3x7yr4?si=XARahCw2kP5-jHiL

Richard Wagner — La Cabalgata de las Walkirias
https://youtu.be/zsRLV5BKFtg?si=EmXiX3FDQw4T8aIU

Gaitanes, You Salsa, Jeinson Manuel, Cielo Torres, Willie Colón – De qué me vale
https://youtu.be/HygaIT3ukw0?si=TSH06PSthtaOFNnB

Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time
https://youtu.be/iWaIF7NfW_I?si=1A2y6GA3KUWVBaD9

Residente & Jessie Reyez – El Encuentro
https://youtu.be/6cLxjdbSB-4?si=t9A-teqgvkLhm3Aq

Jeff Beck & Joss Stone – People Get Ready
https://youtu.be/NNO4tT9LQD4?si=8OUhD9tmHWAIhOju

Rosalía – La Fama
https://youtu.be/e-CEd6xrRQc?si=_G-TXOmEMcnrSJlp

Danny Rivera & Yomira John – Concierto Siempre Amigos
https://youtu.be/1pku4P1M7pg?si=s9aYSW4e0ycjih0k

Miley Cyrus – Sweet Jane
https://youtu.be/eIwiODeHHwc?si=9Rp7CZXdNsTbUMHp

Starship – Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now
https://youtu.be/tub93PAAO3k?si=3zkdTYc2xM76idD-

Los Ángeles Azules & Natalia Lafourcade – Nunca Es Suficiente
https://youtu.be/k76BgIb89-s?si=QrgkNNqOvn7s8FmK

Peter, Paul and Mary – No Easy Walk to Freedom
https://youtu.be/oNkY09V4T1U?si=MfjjqGxHFPP0WKgq

Boza & Elena Rose – Orión
https://youtu.be/fAFiHTyCioI?si=zaSupO7s237tiE3y

Kafu Banton – Soy Salvo
https://youtu.be/D3heOVS8t2c?si=J5g9lgyZnzWHd9Uv

Joshue Ashby & C3 Proyect – Concierto en Casa
https://youtu.be/luzNcWNPNr0?si=AcA_A8NWuRrp6V8b

 

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Gould, Trying to keep kids offline

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kids these days
Two kids and their smart phones. Photo by Ron Lach.

Banning social media for under-16s won’t help – teaching digital media literacy will

Melissa L. Gould, Auckland University of Technology

The astounding rise in social media use in the past few years is seeing policy responses come to a head, both internationally and in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Some estimates put the number using social media globally above five billion, with an annua growth rate of more than 5%.

Accelerated concerns about smartphone addiction, cyberbullying, misinformation and extremist content have often seen digital devices and social media blamed for declines in mental and social well-being, in young people in particular.

The American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls them “the anxious generation,” and politicians and policymakers are scrambling to respond.

This year, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy asked Congress to put warning labels on social media, similar to health labels on cigarettes.

Along with New Zealand, governments in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, China and parts of the United States have proposed or enforced restrictions on phone use in schools

Now, an Australian petition to increase the minimum age of social media account users from 13 to 16 is building traction, with more than 100,000 signatures. Such a move is backed by the Australian and UK prime ministers. And in New Zealand, Labour MP Priyanca Radhakrishnan and ACT Party leader David Seymour have supported exploring the option.

But the research into protecting young people by restricting social media use is largely inconclusive. What we do know, however, is that these measures don’t equip young people with the skills they already need to build healthy relationships with smartphones and social media.

Education as empowerment

In all the proposed official solutions, one has been seriously overlooked – teaching media literacy.

According to the US National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), this would provide the skills to “access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication”.

By making media literacy “highly valued and widely practiced as an essential life skill”, it aims to enable young people to shift from being passive media consumers to critical media users. It also helps them understand how they use – and are used by – media platforms.

Essentially, teaching media literacy is about shifting power and agency back to media users by educating them about how the media works.

Unfortunately, media studies (along with other subjects) was dropped from New Zealand’s NCEA level one curriculum from 2023.

So far, it remains at levels two and three, but the move signaled a devaluing of what should be a core subject in the digital age. This is especially relevant, given how digital media technology is being incorporated within classes themselves.

The more pervasive devices are in our everyday lives, the more essential media studies education becomes.

Students using laptops in classroomThe classroom is already digital, why isn’t digital literacy a priority? Getty Images

Accentuate the positive

Teaching social media literacy provides young people with the tools to engage with their smartphones and social media feeds in healthy, productive and meaningful ways. It also helps them navigate the darker, uglier sides of the online world.

By understanding the history, mechanics, ownership and funding models of social media, students can analyze its role and influence in their lives, and ask questions such as:

  • How does my behavior on social media train the algorithms that dictate what content is in my feed, and what content I don’t see?

  • How does a social media app make money, and what does it need from its users to make that money?

  • What techniques do social media apps use to gain my attention and keep me on the app?

  • How can social media help me find and belong to a community?

  • What stories do the content I post online tell other people about who I am and what I value?

As media literacy advocate Renee Hobbs of the US Media Education Lab has said, “there is a reciprocal relationship between protection and empowerment”.

In other words, conversations about social media shouldn’t be restricted to potential risk and harm. Social media also provides opportunities for people to be creative, to find communities and a sense of belonging, and to engage in learning, discussion and debate.

Social media as ‘virtual playground’

British social psychologist Sonia Livingstone suggests debates about the limits on screen time should focus on quality rather than quantity: it matters how screens are being used more than for how long.

US scholar Ethan Bresnick has described the online world as a “virtual playground.” There are risks, you can get hurt, but there is also joy, connections, play, creativity and laughter.

As with any playground, there need to be health and safety measures. But we must also support young people to assess and handle risk so they can thrive and have fun.

Above all, it is important not to forget that young people are social media experts.

Parenting and educating children experiencing childhoods so different from previous generations can be scary. Social media is complex and multifaceted – as should be our approach to learning how to navigate and understand it.The Conversation

Melissa L. Gould, Senior Lecturer in Critical Media Studies, Auckland University of Technology

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

 

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Jackson, A rainy end to an infrequent long weekend

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drizzle in Anton
Weekend drizzle in Anton. Photo by Eric Jackson.

A once every five years holiday doesn’t
always create a long weekend

by Eric Jackson

The last time, in 2019, it was also on a Monday. The time before that it was on a Sunday. The time before that, in 2014, it was on a Wednesday. It was also on a Wednesday in 2009.

Inauguration Day is the July 1 after a Panamanian Election Day. It comes once every five years. It’s a national holiday when a lot of businesses, even little informal ones, don’t open their doors.

It’s also, if the truth is to be told, terribly disruptive to Panama upon whatever days it falls. Shredders have been shredding, and public documents have been going up in smoke in many a burn pit. Outgoing municipal, ministerial and presidential websites have been erased. Functionaries have been told that their government jobs are at an end. Stick-ups have been consummated, abandoned, or in case of re-election been put on hold until the next cycle gets up to speed.

I left home in the light rain shopping items and to-do things in mind.

Stop one — the water in the wetland is up a bit. Whip out the camera, and message is that the chip is protected. I unsuccessfully tried to fiddle with that. A category of to-do ideas — pictures to take — stricken from the list.

The higher water in the swamp was not only a photo op idea for me, but also a recreational opportunity for my friend The Gimpy Dog. Is she a “street dog” or a “shared dog?” A little bit of both. I am not the only one, perhaps not the main one, who feeds her. Mostly though, on rainy days she takes shelter at bus stops rather than at somebody’s house. She came to me on this day dripping wet wet from a dip in the little wetland. And as a demonstration of her affection, jumped on me with muddy paws.

And why do I call her The Gimpy Dog anyway? Isn’t that terribly disrespectful?

Thing is, when first we crossed paths she was in heat for the first time, from the asentamiento campesino down the street with a pack of males in pursuit. I looked at her, at her gait and shape and the “out-of-alignment” way she ran, and figured that this is a dog with hip dysplasia, who might live a rather ordinary life but should not be allowed to pass on this genetic problem. I brought her inside, contacted Animal Rescue of Anton, and bonded with her on an hour-long walk on a leash from my house in El Bajito to the Pan-American Highway, where they picked her up and took her to be spayed. They brought her back and were no doubt appalled by my rustic — or should I say slovenly? — way of life. But mission accomplished. I kept her inside for a few days of post-op recovery, then let her come or go as desired.

The Gimpy Dog is one of those canines that seems not to want to be owned. And the place down the street from whence she came? I think people came to some realizations about her hips, and about her not going into heat or having puppies, and decided that they didn’t especially want to own her, either. But the asentamiento is a collective organization, including some unfeeling characters and some kind-hearted souls. This dog gets fed, sometimes at my place, but she’s awfully skinny at the moment. Put some worm medication on the mental shopping list.

We sat together in the caseta for longer than usual, because this was a holiday with fewer buses running. Eventually I caught a Penonome bus, but I was headed for Anton on this day, so got off at the truck stop at the entrada by the Pan-American Highway.

WHAT?!? None of those expensive no-sugar Costa Rican chocolate bars this time? Oh, well. Just got a can of the Monster zero-sugar ginseng energy drink and crossed the street to the stop along the eastbound lane.

This was a heavy traffic day in that direction. Lots of people from the city were taking an early start on getting home from a long weekend. Soon enough a Penonome to Las Guias bus stopped and I headed in to Anton.

The Internet store, a one-man business, was closed. I kind of expected that. Scratch a couple more things off of the list for this day. Pick up hard-copy newspapers to read, check to see if any of the fruit and veggie vendors are selling anything that I want to buy for seeds to plant — they didn’t, and most of them were closed. Then a hampao, hsiu mai and Monster energy drink lunch at Lissy’s, where I am kind of a regular.

The ATMs were working as always. Back into the store, and picked up few items to meet the animals and me.

At the pharmacy two cops were standing around, a cabo and a teniente. But the corporal was female, so would that make her a caba? I have lived here most of my life, but all of my formal education is in English and picking up and refining Spanish is still a work in progress at my buzzardly old age.

President Cortizo had said his farewell and the hated old establishment parties had cobbled together a shaky coalition to run the legislature. Neither at the local nor the national level had anyone bothered to issue a dry law decree for this holiday. Perhaps the outgoing PRD, which has more than 730,000 members but got fewer than 135,000 votes for its presidential candidate on May 5, NEEDED to drink it off on this Inauguration Day.

On the bus back to the village, I sipped on bottled water but several other folks broke out the six-packs and these men were chugging beer and throwing the cans out the windows.

Got home in one piece, with the neighbor dogs and I greeting one another on the walk from the bus stop. The home guard dogs were annoyed about being shut in for a couple of hours. But it was going to be a mondongo night and they could smell that through my bag, so that took some of the edge off of them being left to guard the house.

Didn’t FEEL LIKE much of a holiday. I probably have to wait another five years to see another one of these.

 

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Ben-Meir, Netanyahu is Israel’s most dangerous enemy

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him again
None of Israel’s enemies pose a greater danger to Israel than Netanyahu and his messianic government. US State Department photo.

Israel’s most dangerous enemy

by Alon Ben-Meir

Never in Israel’s history have Israeli-Palestinian relations been more poisonous than under Netanyahu’s nearly uninterrupted 17-year-long reign. It is now incumbent upon every Israeli, young and old, man and woman, to realize that Netanyahu’s rule brought Israel to this unprecedented, perilous state of affairs. I make this statement because I genuinely believe that Netanyahu’s ideological bent, self-indulgence, insatiable thirst for power, and illusions about Israel’s future are sliding Israel ever more precipitously toward the abyss. Hamas’ ferocious attack and the disastrous war that followed is the culmination of a series of tragic mistakes that Netanyahu had committed over the years.

In defiance of any logic, reason, and reality, Netanyahu has opposed throughout his entire political career the establishment of a Palestinian state and has sworn to prevent that from ever happening with absolute zeal. Whereas he was determined to thwart any attempt that could lead to that end, he had been gripped by the illusion that he could find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that precludes such a state yet allows Israel to still coexist peacefully with the Palestinians.

The tragedy is that he has been completely dismissive of the fact that the Palestinian problem will not fade away and will continue to haunt the Israelis. And worse yet, he has contributed directly and wittingly to the horrific disaster in which Israel and the Palestinians are thrust today.

From the day he rose to power in 1996, he was resolute and made no secret of his desire to scuttle the 1993 Oslo Accords. In 2001, in a private conversation with relatives of terror victims, he said: “I actually stopped the Oslo Accords.” And in December 2023, he stated at a press conference, “I will not let the State of Israel go back to the fateful mistake of Oslo.”

Since Oslo laid the foundation for Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu stopped short of nothing to sabotage it to prevent such a state from being realized. This was enshrined in the original Likud Party platform, 1977: “The right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is eternal and indisputable…” In 1997, Netanyahu reaffirmed this view: “This is the land of our forefathers, and we claim it to the same degree that the other side claims it.” And during his United Nations General Assembly speech last September, Netanyahu displayed a map that shows Israel encompassing all of Mandatory Palestine – Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

To make his case, Netanyahu skillfully and consistently portrayed the creation of a Palestinian state as a mortal danger to Israel. He stated in January 2024: “My insistence is what has prevented — over the years — the establishment of a Palestinian state that would have constituted an existential danger to Israel. As long as I am prime minister, I will continue to strongly insist on this.”

To cement his opposition to a Palestinian state, Netanyahu embarked surreptitiously on creeping annexation of Palestinian land in the West Bank. In defiance of the international community, he pushed for establishing new and expanding existing settlements, and legalizing illegal ones. In February 2023, in response to reports of a settlement freeze, he countered: “Construction and legalization in Judea and Samaria will continue according to the original planning and construction schedule, without any changes.”

Since 2007, following Hamas’s overthrow of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, Netanyahu imposed a blockade, claiming that Hamas poses an existential danger to Israel. True, while Hamas’ leaders professed that much publicly, Hamas never posed such a danger to Israel as they have never had the military capacity to do so. But Netanyahu’s repeated assertion was calculated to serve his political interest. In response to Hamas’ provocations, he was happy to dispatch his troops to Gaza several times to “mow the lawn,” to keep Hamas at bay and bolster his badly-sought reputation as “Mr. Security.”

Netanyahu’s public posture against Hamas was misleading and designed for public consumption. He knew all too well that Hamas was shaped into what it is today by Israel going back more than a decade before he became prime minister in 1996. Former Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, who was the Israeli military governor in Gaza in the early 1980s, told a New York Times reporter that he had helped finance Hamas as a “counterweight” to the secularists and leftists of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Fatah party, stating “The Israeli Government gave me a budget and the military government gives to the mosques.” And Avner Cohen, a former Israeli religious affairs official who worked in Gaza for two decades, told the Wall Street Journal in 2009 that “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.”

No one has strengthened Hamas’s military more than Netanyahu. It is under his watch that Hamas became a more potent force than it was ever before. Netanyahu was happily funneling billions of dollars from Qatar to Hamas, of which Hamas dedicated 55 percent to buying and manufacturing weapons, building 350-mile-long tunnels, and recruiting and training tens of thousands of fighters, preparing them for urban warfare beyond anyone’s wild imagination. In March 2019, Netanyahu stated that “Whoever opposes a Palestinian state must support the delivery of funds to Gaza because maintaining separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” All along, Netanyahu has convinced himself that Hamas is under control and that the Palestinians will succumb to living in Gaza in an open-air prison.

And then came Hamas’s unfathomably horrific attack, where 1,200 Israelis were savagely murdered and 250 abducted, laying 20 Israeli communities in ruin under his watch. But, of course, leave it to the shameless Netanyahu to refuse to take any responsibility, blaming the Israeli intelligence and everybody else for the colossal failure of his own making that fundamentally amended the status quo. Netanyahu is now bent on making matters even worse.

The Israeli retaliation was undoubtedly justified, but in the manner the war was carried out, there were strong elements of revenge and retribution that no calculus could justify. The killing of 37,000 Palestinians, among them more than 50 percent women and children (albeit only 12,800 have so far been positively identified), while laying more than half of Gaza in ruin, transcends any proportionality and indeed is tantamount to war crimes. This unfolding horror obscured Hamas’ butchering of 1,200 innocent Israelis in cold blood courtesy of Netanyahu’s catastrophic mistake, and how he executed the war enraged the international community, putting Israel and its people to shame.

But then leave it to the masterful manipulator to paint the whole war as an existential threat to justify the often-indiscriminating bombardments, claiming: “I think we’ve responded in a way that goes after the terrorists and tries to minimize the civilian population in which the terrorists embed themselves and use them as human shields.” But then, how do you square that statement with what he said on November 2023: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember”

The first Book of Samuel states:

I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

Then, in December 2023, he pledged, “We are not stopping, and we will not stop until we are victorious.

What kind of victory? Victory is celebrated if it ushers in a new era—an era of sustainable peace and promising horizon, not a new opening of an even greater inferno with the Palestinians, which will surely follow. Netanyahu’s continued refusal to articulate a sensible exit strategy from Gaza and his persistent rejection of the Palestinian right to statehood will only pave the way for the next catastrophic war that may well involve other regional actors, making this war anything but a rehearsal.

Netanyahu’s disdainful criticism of Biden

Netanyahu knows how indispensable the United States is to Israel, as no country has provided Israel with more financial, military, and political support than the USA. And no American president has ever been more supportive and committed to Israel’s security than President Biden. But then, leave it to the most loathsome Netanyahu, who dares to criticize the president for suspending the shipment specifically of 2,000-pound bombs to continue with his devastating bombardment of Rafah that could indiscriminately kill thousands of innocent civilians.

On June 18, 2024, Netanyahu shamelessly stated: “It is inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.” And on June 23, 2024, he again brazenly stated: “Four months ago, there was a dramatic decrease in the munitions coming from the US to Israel… We received all sorts of explanations, but we didn’t receive one thing: the basic situation did not change. Certain items arrived in trickles, but the munitions at large remained behind.” In reality, only one shipment of “high-payload munitions” was paused in May.

Even if this were true, only an ungrateful fool would publicly make such an ill-thought-out statement for the whole world to hear. This character is scheduled to speak at a joint session of the US Congress on July 24. Inviting him at this particular juncture will do nothing but disgrace Congress. Netanyahu has repeatedly defied President Biden, and giving him the prestige to address Congress is nothing but a slap in Biden’s face.

Moreover, bestowing him this honor before he agrees on an endgame to the war further strengthens his resolve to prolong the war in order to stay in power. Netanyahu’s speech will drive a deeper wedge between the Democrats who support versus those who are against the war. Known for his strong affinity to the Republican party, coming to Congress amid presidential elections, Netanyahu will allow Republican leaders to show more support to Israel than the Democrats. Indeed, there is no depth that Netanyahu will not stoop to only to see Trump be re-elected, believing that Trump will give him free rein to do whatever he wants to the Palestinians.

To sum up Netanyahu’s saga, he, more than any other individual in Israel’s history, tried to destroy every pillar on which Israeli-Palestinian coexistence must inevitably rest. Since he returned to power in 2008, he has spared no effort to make the Palestinians’ lives unbearable. His successive governments have systematically been oppressing the Palestinians, especially in the West Bank, subjecting them to forced evacuation, administrative detention, and night raids, demolishing their homes, and expropriating their land. At the same time, several hundred are being killed every single year. All the while, he let settlers harass and intimidate the Palestinians, poison their wells, uproot their trees, and block them from grazing on their land, forcing many to leave their villages in desperation.

Failing to cleanse the territories ethnically, Netanyahu’s actions only poisoned the minds of yet another Palestinian generation who now live with ever deeper hatred toward Israel, waiting to exact blood from the country they view as their existential enemy. More alarmingly, as the war rages on, one cannot escape the evidentiary conclusion that Netanyahu has become Israel’s most insidious and dangerous enemy from within.

All Israelis who care about their country’s future must rise and demand the immediate resignation of this corrupt and brazen creature who inflicted untold damage on the only Jewish state, making it a pariah state. It will take many years before Israel recovers, but only if it recognizes the Palestinians’ unmitigated reality and forges peace based on a two-state solution.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations, most recently at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies

 

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