Editorials: Nature’s wrath; Political games; and America’s decline

Hurricane Michael, up to Category 4 intensity, about to slam into Florida. US Air Force radar image.

Our hearts go out to Floridians

Lets not blame it on God. Let’s set aside questions of blame for a few days. Florida is in harm’s way and humanity stands with the people and other living things about to be battered. Whatever we can do for Floridians, we should. We are all neighbors on this planet.


Imploding political caste

It was a bad post-primary for Alfredo “Fello” Pérez, the PRD legislator for Chepo. First he got charged before the Supreme Court for writing large bounced checks, then he was on a list of people whose PRD primary wins were challenged, mainly for vote buying. Then we heard that nearly 300 candidates from that primary are being fined $3,000 each for failing to report their campaign donations and expenditures.

This comes amidst a scandal engulfing all parties in the National Assembly, most of whose members refuse to divulge their “Planilla 80” payrolls for “personal services.” The less than one-quarter of members whose Planilla 80 information has come out have told partly concealed tales of relatives, people working for their private companies and people who don’t actually work on these payrolls, and some of those listed say that they did not know and were not paid. That’s the old botella scheme, of phantom employees whose paychecks the deputies pocket. We were reassured, however, that it’s not just the legislature, that the people who run the Social Security Fund that’s said to be headed toward insolvency also have Planilla 80 schemes.

The members of President Varela’s party are running away from his record. The ugliest part of it, Odebrecht contracts, touch the Panama City administration and may cost Mayor Blandón the Panameñista nomination for president. Odebrecht also touches the Metro and the Panama Canal Authority board.

So, what to do? The squabbling parties in the legislature demanded more money to spend on their constituencies during campaign season, and Varela demanded more money to cut more ribbons between now and when he leaves office at the end of next June. So they compromised on legislation to raise the deficit limit by $300 million. That may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but our national debt is already high and the Panamanian economy is down and apparently heading lower.

The point is not that we need austerity — that’s the wrong policy during hard times — but that we need to stop the looting. Otherwise there arises a great reaction among people who can’t see beyond the problems on the surface and whose educational level leads them to act upon simplistic stereotypes rather than address fundamental problems.

This time next year most of this crowd will be out of office, but with what and whom we replace them really does matter.


America’s decline

Along its long slide into the past tense, ancient Rome also got into sneering public assertions of rape culture and great spectacles of cruelty before cheering crowds. When that slide into barbarism began there were the trappings of a republic and wiser minds in play, but bread and circuses usually sufficed to buy the continuation of the unsustainable. Until, in an empire with troops at war across much of the then-known world, the troops began to go unpaid. Then there was Hell to pay.

Mussolini’s “Risorgimento” has its even louder echo in Trump’s “MAGA.” But peace, shared prosperity and a systemic justice that keeps the peace is eternally a better program than a return to some exaggerated imperial grandeur.

Americans will soon go to the polls. If basic decency prevails over bluster, and people go for progress more than nostalgia, the country will start to head out of its woes. If the United States comes out of it as a solid and decent country rather than a wannabe superpower, Americans will have reason for satisfaction.


Bear in mind…

I think it’s too bad that everybody’s decided to turn on drugs, I don’t think drugs are the problem. Crime is the problem. Cops are the problem. Money’s the problem. But drugs are just drugs.
Jerry Garcia


Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs.
Emmeline Pankhurst


Morals and enlightenment are the poles of a republic, morals and enlightenment are our first needs.
Simón Bolívar


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