Editorials, Fun with numbers; and Responding to Orlando

PISA shame
Comparative 2010 PISA test scores. Numbers by the UN, graphic by Erick Simpson Aguilera.

Fun with numbers for a nation that flunks math

Panama’s education system is world-class horrible, intentionally so because an inbred ruling elite sees everything as a zero-sum competition and has rigged things in the hope that their kids get a special advantage over everyone else their age. But it’s no way to run a society or its economy.

It’s worse yet when the government and the corporate mainstream media play to the widespread ignorance.

For example, when the lead story in La Prensa is that Panama’s public debt is up to $21.415 billlion, which is $7.749 billion more than it was four years ago. With most of Panama’s economic sectors slowing down and the regional economy across Latin America and the Caribbean a mess, it ought to be cause for concern.

But not to worry, says the Ministry of Economy and Finance. On the ministry’s composite of ratings issued by bond rating agencies — mostly before the Panama Papers revelations and the Waked bust — across the region only Chile has a lower perception of risk than does Panama. Gee, numbers based on the hunches of the companies that didn’t see the 2008 financial melt-down coming — OBVIOUSLY those kind of statistics can’t lie. Or at least it should be obvious to anyone who learned what the powers that be wanted him or her to learn in Panama’s public schools.


Orlando: better the jab to the nose than
the roundhouse that hits someone else

“We should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign, accelerating support for our friends fighting to take and hold ground and pushing our partners in the region to do even more,” [Clinton] said.

“We have generals that feel we can win this thing so fast and so strong, but we have to be furious for a short period of time, and we’re not doing it!” Trump complained.

A mean, abusive security guard in a dead end job with a multinational corporation went into a downward spiral and shot more than 100 people on his way down. He was allowed to purchase a weapon that should not be readily available in society. He pledged allegiance to the world’s most obnoxious organization in the course of his death mission, on which he alone sent himself.

There is no doubt that the Islamic State is doing its utmost to incite life’s hateful losers to do such stuff. It is properly part of the world’s indictment. More serious counts are genocide and slavery, crimes against all humanity for which any nation may try and punish any perpetrator. The world did not need the Orlando massacre to justify war against the Islamic State.

But do we lash out in rage, carpet bombing towns that the jihadis control to kill innocent people who already have to endure the fanatics’ rule? Do we arm “our” jihadi fanatics to fight against “those” jihadi fanatics? Do we restore Western colonialism and issue orders from Washington about which people will hold which ground and follow which policies there?

Before the shooting started in Orlando there was ample reason to give any significant Islamic State leader the same status as Nazi war criminals had. The nightclub attack does not change that. These people must be politically, religiously and militarily defeated and hunted to the ends of the Earth and to the ends of their lives as the most dangerous of criminals. But lashing out in blind rage is never a good way to fight.

It seems that neither of the presumptive presidential nominees of the two major US political parties have much to say about discrediting the ideas that are at the core of the jihadis’ appeal, about marginalizing their movement within the cultures of Islam. It seems that neither of them convey a sense of restraint that keeps Americans from trying to fix that which it is not up to Americans to fix, that keeps Washington from trying to govern that which Washington can’t govern.

Does President Obama have the balance right? Probably not, but that he is trying to strike balances among contending powers in Syria and Iraq while limiting direct US participation does at least indicate a basic sense of reality. That’s something that’s lacking in the discourse of those whose first and only response is to bomb somebody else whenever a maniac with some real or claimed international tie explodes into a violent rage in the USA.


Bear in mind…


Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
Margaret Atwood


It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
Arthur C. Clarke


Before a war, military science seems a real science, like astronomy. After a war it seems more like astrology.
Rebecca West


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