Editorials: Flying in the dark: and Disarray up there

Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Cinta Costera Mirador — folks who have little more in common than a distaste for the corruption with impunity that we see will gather. One demand will be “civil death” for companies and people caught in the corruption scandals — denial of the legal standing to do business or hold public office. Varela’s call centers, social media trolls and speech to the legislature are pleading for the interests of the families that own the family businesses that have stolen from us.

Panama flies in the dark

At least three witnesses and a paper trail show that the Varela campaign took money from Odebrecht. Minister of Canal Affairs and Metro secretary Roberto Roy is accused of taking Odebrecht money via its partner FCC, which Roy denies but which is circumstantially suggested by how the Odebrecht / FCC consortium got the Metro Line 2 contract despite a lower bid from a very well qualified Chinese group. “Show your proofs,” we hear, from people who expect that those whose job it to investigate will not investigate. And thus the president’s curious speech to the legislature, wherein the word “Odebrecht” was not mentioned as he railed against his predecessor’s corruption.

Is Ubaldo Davis’s usually lowbrow, sometimes reactionary, generally adolescent male humor the burning issue of the day? Is his problem that he’s not under somebody’s Marxist-Leninist discipline so has no right to speak of corruption?

It the problem that Miguel Antonio Bernal is a persistent and annoying gadfly? Or is it that, as polls are banned in the run-up to the 2019 elections, his independent campaign might take off and steal a surprise march on the severely discredited political parties?

The purported bans on polls and campaigning, the latter until two months before the election, do not make politics go away. They just force it underground or into euphemisms, or reserve the field to the protected statements of those already holding public offices. Panama is in a severe and dangerous predicament, with all of the branches of government afflicted by multiple scandals. In our relatively short history as an independent republic, such times have often presaged police or military coups. The perhaps well meaning attempt to shorten the extremely expensive perpetual campaigning just has us flying blind. It’s not a shorter and more elevated debate, but a rumble in the dark.


The problem is not a few extremists who glommed onto the Trump entourage. It’s a prolonged embrace by the Republican Party of far-right racist politics in other countries and easy acceptance of similar foreign entanglements in US politics as well.

Washington in disarray

Let’s see if the US federal government can get through this winter without a shutdown. Let’s see the next cards that Donald Trump and Robert Mueller play.

When a party controls everything, but people in prominent positions with it are in panicky flight toward the exits, you know that something extraordinary is underway. The outlines of what that is are emerging:

  • Was the special prosecutor’s job to investigate Trump’s ties with “The Russians?” The man, and members of his family, have been laundering money for Russian thugs for decades and some of those thugs’ common ties with the Putin entourage bring those situations within the purview of the investigation. Whether or not some collusion with the Russian government to the extent of a case of conspiracy to violate US election laws is there to be made beyond a reasonable doubt, the Trumps are very likely going down for money laundering and other financial crimes. The lies and obstructions of justice are just the low-hanging fruit for the prosecution team to harvest.
  • The extremely wealthy got the huge tax windfall they wanted, there’s no lipstick that they can put on that pig to fool enough people about the nature of it, and to some of those who had thought of politics as a career it now seems to be the time to take the money and run.
  • There are some hardcore committed neofascist militants — like the Charlottesville death driver — who are willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause. That sort of commitment is not found among the selfish rich and wannabes in the Trump entourage. They will turn on Trump or on each other before broaching the prospect of spending even one night in jail. Team Trump are wimps and it has been easy for Mueller to break up their solidarity.
  • The GOP still holds power in the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of government. They seem set to lose control of Congress in November. Might there be dramatic moves to head that off? That raises the prospect of a constitutional crisis. Perhaps to fanatics who believe in End Times religion that risk doesn’t matter, but to conservatives who still believe in conserving something Trump’s ego is not worth a constitutional breakdown. Which, then, calls into question the nature and extent of Republican control in Washington.

Such are the wages of broken solidarity among those who were insufferably selfish to begin with. It’s likely to be a terrible reckoning.


Bear in mind


The great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
Thomas H. Huxley


They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.
Dorothy Parker


Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Proverbs 11:14


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