Editorials, The ACP’s port project; and An ugly final debate

ACP pretension
The Panama Canal Authority can’t get its questionable projects approved through Panama’s regular if not well functioning democratic institutions, so they just barge ahead as if they are a sovereign state unto themselves. Graphic by the ACP.

The lawyers put it mildly, but well

The Panama Canal Authority can’t get the votes in the legislature to take another part of the ports business from the jurisdiction of the Panama Maritime Authority and the elected national government, so it’s moving ahead to present the Corozal – Diablo port project as a fait accompli. It’s also now big into the real estate speculation business, making deals with corporations that could not care less about the canal area environmental regime that came along with the 1977 Panama Canal Treaties and has by and large served the nation well.

For a moment, forget about the current weaknesses and uncertain futures of worldwide shipping and Panama’s role as a regional wholesaling and warehousing center. Those things will surely change, even if we don’t know how. What can’t change is history — the people who ran the canal made ridiculous economic projections for public consumption back in a 2006 referendum campaign, and worse yet acted as if those had some relationship with reality. They didn’t and now their succeeding subordinates at the ACP are looking for more sources of revenue for an institution in trouble of its own making.

The nation’s largest bar association, the Colegio de Abogados, is calling for a national referendum on the port project. That’s a good idea. The Colegio is also calling for the convening of a constitutional convention to redesign Panama’s dysfunctional government and that’s an even better idea. If it comes to pass, delegates to an assembly that drafts a new constitution should take up the entire matter of canal governance. What we have now is not working.

Ugly debate leaves the issues clear enough

The nasty woman against the boorish lout? A lot of people who watched the third and final US presidential debate probably saw it that way, but few of them had their minds changed. The election swing would be among a small percentage of “undecideds,” who are probably less than the maybe five percent shown in the polls, to whom we should probably add some of the folks who say that they will vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Greens’ Jill Stein.

Here in Panama, after a long tradition of quadrennial Democrat – Republican debates, the Republicans have chickened out since the last time we had one in 2008. In this year’s US election campaign it’s kind of sad that there wasn’t a four-candidate debate in which Johnson and Stein, neither of whom are likely to win a single electoral vote, added their in many cases good ideas into the national discourse. Convincing anybody of anything — except maybe those with the money to do so to buy this or that — seems to be a rare and endangered species of social discourse among Americans.

So we are left with a “turnout election” — Donald Trump and his surly, belligerent and fictional crusade for xenophobia, white supremacy and intolerance of religions other than a caricature of the Christianity which he doesn’t practice versus Hillary Clinton and her conventional wisdoms presented with a forced smile in the face of insults that would put ordinary people into a fighting rage.

The most disturbing thing is a man who has suggested that his “Second Amendment people” might deal with his opponent refusing to pledge that he will accept the voters’ verdict. Is the election system rigged? Surely it is, and in the general election more in Trump’s favor than Clinton’s given all of the red state vote suppression laws and practices. Clinton doesn’t use those words and maybe the tale of her primary battles with Bernie Sanders make that avoidance the wise and polite approach, but her stated desire to overturn the Citizens United decision on campaign finance actually shows a far greater commitment to address the topic of unfair election practices than does any policy that Trump has ever suggested. After the election Americans do need a major debate, acrimonious as it may be, about genuine election reforms. The argument is likely to burn hottest among Democrats, but progress on this matter is only possible if Clinton blows out Trump so badly as to erode or eliminate Republican power in Congress.

Elect Democrats, and if Trump’s “Second Amendment people” mobilize their “patriot” militias to overturn that verdict, crush them like noxious little insects. And if Democrats, independents and third party supporters are so unwise as to allow Trump and his entourage to win, then join and grow a new small-d democratic resistance.

Bear in mind…


Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.
Santa Teresa de Avila


I didn’t really say everything I said.
Yogi Berra


Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other? If so, white children must know that if they go to Heaven, they must go there without their prejudice against color, for in Heaven black and white are one in the love of Jesus.
Sojourner Truth


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