Editorials: No rule of law in Panama; and The US gun cult

Nito and Arquesio, a cropped FRENADESO montage from an old PRD campaign poster.

‘Move along – justice doesn’t concern YOU’

Today was supposed to be the preliminary hearing for 58 people involved in the “smaller” wholesale public construction contract kickback and money laundering scandal, Blue Apple. It was put off until August because several defense lawyers didn’t show up.

Over the weekend, the perfect “winning streak” of legislators charged with crimes continued, with the Supreme Court throwing out the remaining three sexual assault charges against PRD deputy Arquesio Arias.

Also in the past few days, we learned that the Odebrecht construction company kickback and money laundering scandal – in terms of number of contracts fewer than Blue Apple, in terms of money stolen from Panama roughly comparable – had been again delayed when the high court returned some hundreds of pages of a million-page investigative record to prosecutors for correction. The delays in just reading the record pose the high probability that the whole case with be thrown out under a statute of limitations with almost no tolling provisions.

It’s not just the feminists, not just the usual anti-corruption activists, not just a few muckrakers in the press – even the Chamber of Commerce now says that the present constitutional order doesn’t work.

How to go about changing things, and what to change, there the emerging national consensus breaks up. There is no clear alternative person or plan that’s capturing the nation’s imagination.

This, together with a lingering epidemic and a broken economy that will not mend anytime soon, makes for a very unstable Panama.

Does somebody tell you that this evaluation is untrue, that everything is all arranged, that nothing can or will change? The arrangements, and the intention to freeze the dictatorship’s constitution in place forever, do probably exist. However, such things can be quite fragile.



Vigil for the Newtown elementary school massacre. When the NRA came to town, blamed the victims and called on teachers and staff to be armed, then the last vestige reason fled from one side of the national debate. Photo by Jeremy Pollack.

A mass shooting trifecta

The “Second Amendment People” had a field day in a 24-hour period of Saturday and Sunday. There were mass shootings in Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas. 

The statisticians usually only count events in which three or more people are shot as “mass shootings,” so the Sunday night coup de grace didn’t qualify. A Chicago drive-by shooting killed a seven-year-old girl with six bullets in her body, and seriously wounded her father.

Just what the founders of the republic wanted?

Actually, the “militia” referred to in the Second Amendment was mostly about white men’s patrols to keep black people off the roads in the South — no runaway slaves, no organizers of slave revolts — and to enforce the dispossession of North America’s original nations at the point of a gun. Not a history to celebrate, unless one is a white supremacist or that history gets distorted beyond all semblance or reality.

Back then, a free white person could have a muzzle-loading musket, rifle or pistol, but not a cannon.

The notions of rogue militias, private individuals who possess arsenals and fancy themselves as one-person sovereigns, unrestricted arms races in all places including houses of worship and so on are modern innovations. they were implanted into gullible minds and US culture in general by those in the business of selling weapons. Then the Republican Party implanted them into the law.

What makes it all worse is the extreme inequality and insecurity in the American way of life these days. Setbacks that in previous generations could be borne if not enjoyed are more likely to mean family dissolution, homelessness, bankruptcy and the loss of dwindling chances for prosperity in life in our times.

Some of the ways to reduce this spiral down the drain of violence are obvious. Take the military-style weapons out of private hands. Do a better job of checking to see that those known to be violent don’t get firearms. Slow down the process of weapons acquisition so that passions can cool before instruments of death get introduced into tense situations.

But society has to become kinder. Not through the intimidation of guns, but through the appearance, reality, expectation and palpable feel of more justice in the world.




I am gradually approaching the period in my life when work comes first. No longer diverted by other emotions, I work the way a cow grazes.

Käthe Kollwitz


Bear in mind…


My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.



Justice can never be done in the midst of injustice.

Simone de Beauvoir



He who praises you for what you lack wishes to take from you what you have.

Don Juan Manuel


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