Editorial, Harry Díaz’s rebellion; and Hillary’s server (again)

Magistrate Harry Díaz. Photo by the Supreme Court.

Harry Díaz’s rebellion

In an October 2014 interview with La Prensa — for which he is now being accused of a crime — Supreme Court magistrate had this exchange with the newspaper’s Flor Mizrachi:

LP: In general, what are the magistrates’ bad practices?
HD: Hiding files and selling judgments.
LP: What purpose do the magistrates’ trips serve?
HD: Supposedly they are for work.
LP: When is the court going to collapse?
HD: Now. It has been for some time.
LP: What’s missing?
HD: That people come and shut us down. That’s the only thing.

Díaz was talking about a court over which José Ayú Prado presided at the time. With the new year came an election in which Díaz opposed Ayú Prado for the court’s presidency for the next two years, but the latter was re-elected. Most court reformer advocates found Ayú Prado’s re-election repugnant. Then Díaz made angry statements, mixing personal disappointment, more specific charges of misconduct by Ayú Prado from before he was on the court and serving as Ricardo Martinelli’s attorney general, and lurid gossip about how one former colleage called a current one a pedophile.

As to Díaz’s tales of corruption, it was said that he was either complicit or silent until moved by a personal grudge not to be. But he had been talking about the general problem for more than a year before that election among magistates. The pedophilia rumors that Diáz publicized may indeed be about criminal activity but they are the sorts of things that Panamanian culture does not accept as subjects of public discussion, especially when unaccompanied by ironclad proofs. The complaints about the high court leadership election were both an expression of widely held public concerns and crybaby talk by someone who lost an election.

Díaz has now been charged with crimes by fellow magistrates, under Panama’s benighted criminal defamation laws. But the embattled magistrate has picked up the gauntlet, volunteered to testify before the legislature’s Credentials Committee and issued a five-page open letter to the nation.

The open letter is partly self-serving, partly civic-minded. Díaz points out some faults with the way that the court is run and offers some suggested solutions. Some of these would be positive administrative rules to deter judicial corruption. Some are based on naive notions that law can be separated from politics or that the selection of ideal magistrates can somehow approach an exact science.

A lot of the wrath that has come Harry Díaz’s way is the typical lot of whistle blowers everywhere. People whose real complaint is that they don’t want their own misconduct discussed at any time or in any manner insincerely ask “Why didn’t you say something before?” People attack the person with guilty knowledge and urge that such knowledge be categorically discounted because of the character of the person who reveals it.

Harry Díaz is not going to be a perfect witness. The serious charges that he makes should not be taken at face value without any attempt to corroborate them with extrinsic proofs. But there is already a body of independent evidence about the sorts of things that Dáiz alleges on the public record — witnesses to judicial misconduct, documentary evidence of files that have gone missing in the high court, financial records of third parties that suggest bribery in that institution, circumstances like courthouse security videos “gone missing” in order to “disprove” charges that Martinelli’s man Salo Shamah made frequent visits to the court when he had no proper business there.

Harry Díaz may not come out of the process smelling like a rose, but his allegations deserve a complete and serious investigaton.

Hillary’s server, again

People can try — and have tried — to read tea leaves or construct conspiracy theories about delays in the release of emails from Hillary Clinton’s private Internet server. However, on the afternoon of the Friday before the Monday of hotly contested Iowa caucuses, the Obama administration said that notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton’s earlier denials, her home server contained government secrets that were supposed to be carefully guarded. That private Internet server was vulnerable to prying by hackers, although we don’t know if its security was actually breached. Compounding Hillary’s problem was an announcement that 22 emails were so sensitive that they could not be released, and that State Department investigators would now look into whether any of the material in those emails was classified at the time they went through the unofficial server. It looks bad, and comes at a bad time for her presidential campaign.

Let us understand certain GOP screeds and distinguish those from proper thinking. Many Republicans will scream treason, but this is not treason. Treason is narrowly defined in US law as making war against the United States — like, arguably, that Bundy crowd — or adhering to and giving material aid to America’s enemies in times of declared war. The ultra-right likes to scream treason a lot because they are vicious totalitarians and treason is a death penalty offense. These people are the spiritual heirs ot the people who lynched Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. Hillary’s critics on the Democratic side may momentarily have some adversaries in common, but have hardly anything in common with the far right or with what they think and say.

So did Hillary commit a crime? That’s debatable. Even if the material in those 22 emails was classified at the time, liability largely would hinge around knowledge and intent. We should leave those arguments to lawyers in judicial settings. The issue before the voters is not who is a criminal but the relative qualities of the judgment of those who would be president of the United States.

Hillary Clinton showed dangerously bad judgment. For starters, the main purpose of that private server was to evade the Freedom of Information act and hide non-classified public business from public view. She’s neither careful about protecting the nation’s secrets nor forthcoming with information that it’s the public’s right to have. Sure, she has all this international experience. But in the course of it she has never done very well. Hillary’s experiences are not qualifications and this is but one more example of his.

Bear in mind…


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world: indeed it’s the only thing that ever has!
Margaret Mead


I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.
Albert Einstein


Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.
Dwight D. Eisenhower


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