Editorials: Protecting Panama’s sovereignty? and Does he get off on insanity?

red horse
US Air Force building the air base in Meteti, Darien in 2010.

Is SENAFRONT there to defend Panama’s sovereignty?

It’s a story told often enough, in many different versions. The DEA agent, a US civil servant with a middle class standard of living that would seem fabulous to the Latin America cop, sits down to meet with one of the latter and notices the Rolex watch and expensive jewelry. The agent quickly realizes that she’s in the presence of the enemy.

Who knows what happened, how it happened or why? The Pentagon has insisted that the commander of SENAFRONT, the National Frontier Service that is both Panama’s border patrol and our de facto army, Commissioner Erick Estrada, be removed. President Varela is apparently going along with it. La Estrella reports that it’s about Estrada’s opposition to a string of US military electronic sensors in the Meteti area. All very classified, in a country where the US military bases were supposed to have been gone nearly 20 years ago.

Does a top Panamanian law enforcement officer have to be a crook to resist this country becoming, like back in 1904, a US military protectorate? Will there be more purges in the National Police when it is discovered that there are cops who don’t like Panama being used as a staging point for US military operations against Venezuela?

And what about a Panamanian diplomat or law enforcement official who has the occasion to sit down to meet with Donald Trump. Will SHE quickly realize that she’s in the presence of the enemy?


Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss. ‘Mr. Trump, you’re no Pittsburgh Phil.’

Dr. Warren, The Donald and Pittsburgh Phil

Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss (1909-1941) was Murder Incorporated’s most prolific and gifted hit man. He was never tried for the great majority of his crimes – he is said to have killed more than 100 people – but finally the State of New York got him on just enough, and executed him in the electric chair at Sing Sing.

When the cops nabbed him and pulled him before the court, he didn’t get all weepy and repentant and rediscover the Jewish faith of his ancestors. He didn’t deny that he had ever killed anyone. He pleaded insanity and acted up for the reporters and all others assembled. He probably was mentally ill, but he knew what his profession was and he knew that society considered it wrong. The jury didn’t buy it but Pittsburgh Phil kept up the act right up to the switch being thrown.

Donald Trump has surely heard that story. A New Yorker, The Donald has done business with mobsters all through his business career, starting with New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia notables from La Cosa Nostra, to money laundering for Russian gangsters starting in the 1980s, to a collection of former Soviet, Colombian, Brazilian and Panamanian underworld figures with his ill-fated project here.

Does he know that money laundering for mobsters is wrong? Does he know that calling foreign powers in to meddle in American elections is wrong? Perhaps The Donald is so self-centered that other people’s opinions mean nothing to him – but he has lied, and he has instructed others to lie, so there is at least an intellectual understanding about society’s official view. Even if, deep down inside, he believes that the universe revolves around himself so any other standard is beside the point.

Trump has been in rare, raving, threatening form of late. Revelations that he told off to US intelligence people who gave him bad news with an “I don’t care — I believe Putin” rejoinder is just gravy. People he once appointed are now dirty rats, treasonous and so on. He threatens the folks at Saturday Night Live with retribution. He threatens to overturn the constitutional arrangement in which the US House of Representatives holds the purse strings, seeking to declare a “state of emergency” in which he misappropriates these powers.

Dr. Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, presidential hopeful and noteworthy economist, suggests that in light of the president’s erratic behavior, the cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment and declare him medically incapacitated. That would be the end of Trump’s presidency and the start of Pence’s reign of religious fanaticism. It might be a quick and elegant solution, a wise and prudent idea from she who would be president.

But do we really want to let The Donald beat the rap on insanity?


Bear in mind…


Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.
George Santayana


The first time Adam had a chance, he laid the blame on a woman.
Nancy Astor


The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.
Umberto Eco


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