Editorials: Democracy in Panama’s dialogue; and The rule of law in the USA

general principle
A bottom-line problem for this country’s self-proclaimed “productive sector” is that they are dedicated to defending a business model that the world condemns. One of many indications of this is Panama’s recent six-month extended inclusion on the European Union’s financial restrictions list for not meeting agreements that were previously made. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian – Open Democracy.

To the business groups “legitimacy” means the
disqualification of almost all of the rest of Panama

The Chamber of Commerce and the Private Enterprise Council, the core of the “Grand National Alliance for Panama,” now say that they won’t participate in a second round of the “national dialogue” if their prior conditions are not met. They have asked that the talks be postponed pending that.

There main demand is the “legitimacy” of participants. As in, must have legal status with the government. As in, the informal sector in which about half of the adult work force makes its living – and its needs and desires – gets excluded. As in unincorporated non-governmental organizations – most civic groups in this society – get excluded.

They demand undemocratic organization for any group allowed to participate in the talks – full powers to make decisions at the table, with no consultation or ratification process allowed. Fine for a business with a single owner, fine for a company union with a single owner, not at all appropriate for a real labor union. The structure of that demand is for “negotiations” with people who are amenable to taking personal bribes, not good faith talks with bona fide organizations.

The Grand Alliance follows the old business model of cornered markets, disqualified competition and no penalties for monopolistic practices. They estimate that they have worn most Panamanians down and can call out the riot squads and purchased public officials to suppress anyone not ready to submit to their demands.

Let’s see if they get away with it.


Clarence Thomas, from the Steve Petteway official Supreme Court portrait.

Among the things that are collapsing…

It’s a little more than a month out from US Election Day, which is an eternity.

Moreover, all the players in the 2022 midterms’ end game are not Americans. Are the Russians and the Saudis collaborating to jack up oil prices with an eye toward as an October surprise in the US election? Stranger and more subtle things have happened.

On the other hand, not all of those who act from abroad in this election drama are foreigners. A lot of US citizens living abroad are sending in ballots – people vote absentee, generally where they last lived in the USA, with the rules and deadlines varying state to state.

Sleazy politicians, unethical judges? So many of us living abroad have seen those things in other countries, or sometimes the rarity of those things in places with low tolerance for corruption. Plus we are often exposed to different media, live in different cultures, and in general are in better positions to run the smell test on what goes on back in the States. Some of us even fled just to be able to sniff from afar.

From this distance at this time it seems that TrumpWorld is crumbling down, from the woes of the dumbest dumb jock candidate ever in the US Senate race in Georgia to Donald Trump’s myriad legal problems.

In the Mar-a-Lago documents case, The Donald may have a partisan district judge on his side, but he makes extreme and unprecedented demands to conceal the details of classified documents seized from his unlawful possession. The Department of Justice has stepped in and the case is rapidly climbing up on appeal,

The problem is that for the 11th Federal Judicial Circuit, which includes Florida, the immediate reception and handling of appeals to the Supreme Court falls by assignment to Justice Clarence Thomas. As in, the husband of Ginni Thomas, a political activist deeply involved in the maneuvers to overturn the result of the 2020 US presidential election.

There can surely be some nefarious precedents produced, but it’s a conflict of interest for Thomas to be touching any Trump-related court business in any way. It becomes a political controversy all by itself.

Thomas should have recused himself from receiving the appeal from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and he should recuse himself from involvement in any further proceedings with respect to that case. That’s textbook American judicial ethics.

And if the justice wants to be partisan, and help the Republican Party however he can? He still ought to recuse, because the rule of law is shaping up as a hot-button issue that helps the Democrats and his involvement with the Mar-a-Lago documents case looks and smells horrible and can only hurt the GOP.


Annie Proulx at a 2018 book signing in Warsaw. Photo by Mariusz Kubik.

                What we fear we often rage against.

E. Annie Proulx                

Bear in mind…

From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.

Jacques Cousteau

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

John Steinbeck

There are people who think that we cannot rule ourselves because the few times we tried, we failed, as if all the others who rule themselves today got it right the first time. It is like telling a crawling baby who tries to walk, and then falls back on his buttocks, to stay there. As if the adults walking past him did not crawl, once.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



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