Panama is not “The Next Dubai” — and this country should be wary of the current one
President Varela is off to Dubai to talk with oil sheiks, selected Gulf Arab political officials and business leaders from that region and Latin America. Before heading out, he announced a deal whereby Panama will export fresh pineapple to the United Arab Emirates. Ostensibly the trip is to attend the February 27-28 Global Business Forum Latin America 2018 but Varela’s schedule has him going to the Middle East a few days before that. The vice president and foreign minister will go with Varela, along with several other cabinet ministers.
From the United Arab Emirates side, we read that Varela will be the only Latin American head of state there, although several former presidents for the region will attend. The sponsor is the Dubai Chambert of Commerce. The host is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir and ruler of Dubai, who is also the prime minister and vice president of the UAE. If the two leaders will meet outside of the purely economic business context, we are not told what is on their agenda.
Panama should beware. Neutrality is the central part of Panama’s defense — a canal that everyone can use and nobody would want to attack is the basic premise. But the United Arab Emirates, in addition to getting its name all over Panama on soccer jerseys for the poor, is engaged in a merciless and expanding Sunni jihad. Emiraiti bombers are in action over Yemen every day and have flown combat missions over Syria and Iraq. The Saudi-UAE alliance’s cold war against the governments of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Qatar is heating up. If the embattled crook who leads Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, figures it’s a convenient time for his country to join the jihad, that’s no excuse for Panama or anybody else to do so.
Perhaps Varela will be doing or attempting a bit of peacemaking. Panama has sometimes played that role. However, it looks like he’s flying away from an unfolding political and perhaps constitutional crisis at home in search of some very wealthy patrons. That all of the other Latin American heads of state consider it a fool’s mission ought to give pause to Varela, and to Panamanians. It’s unwise to identify ourselves with Dubai, the UAE and especially its wars.
The NRA continues the assault on high school kids
Wayne La Pierre, the principal shill for a gun industry whose false advertising message is that having a gun makes you and the people around you safer, has been justly derided for orchestrating a vilification campaign against Florida high school students who, having survived a horrific massacre at their school, launched a protest movement aimed at among other things banning assault rifles.
All of the vacuous slogans and facile non-solutions were deployed, all the trolls came out with technical jargon and semantic arguments and insults, and waves of bots posing as people swept across Facebook and Twitter “liking” and spreading these messages. The kids are fake actors, we were told. The kids were coached, they told us when it was made manifestly clear that these were actual people who survived an actual event. Some went on to weave conspiracy theories around that fact that the father of one of the outspoken survivors works for the FBI.
It’s mostly for naught. La Pierre’s outfit is losing corporate sponsors left and right. The companies that are bailing out of their relationships with the National Rifle Association are doing so not only because the association loses them more customers than it wins in the aftermath of yet another school shooting, but because another shoe looks ready to drop. We shall see if Mr. Mueller indicts about it, but the allegation is out there that La Pierre and his group were the conduit for Russian funding of advertising that boosted the Trump campaign. Ties to a vicious fanatic who lies to sell a popular if controversial product is one thing, but the link with a disloyal person and organization who sold the American political process to a foreign dictator is generally not a smart position for a company that wants to sell some product or service to the American people.
Let’s step back a second, though. What’s that about the kids from that high school being “coached?” As in, taught to think analytically in the midst of a crisis? As in, learning basic civics, so as to be able to exercise their First Amendment constitutional rights to freely express themselves, assemble peacefully and petition the government for a redress of their grievances? As in, having been taught to assemble and make a coherent argument in speech or writing?
The horror, the horror! A young generation of Americans who can think for themselves, express themselves — and VOTE. While La Pierre and his trolls and bots continue with their attacks on them, older folks with consciences ought to lend all possible assistance to those high school kids who remain under fire of a different sort, and still won’t be silenced.
Bear in mind…