Riff-Raff Runways

Vassar Bushmills

(First written in 2010, a reflection on the traveling season.)

Are riff-raff runways in America’s future? I’ll bet you didn’t know that Europe has had them for years, at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly 30 years ago,

I’ve flown through most every major European hub, Heathrow and Gatwick in London, Amsterdam, Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich, DeGaulle in Paris, Vienna…always headed for points east. Each has its own peculiar charm (or lack thereof) and its own ambiance, but clearly their design is intended to keep the more olive-skinned, dressed-down Valdemars and over-painted Ellie Mae’s from rubbing elbows with the blondies from Dusseldorf waiting for a flight to Madrid. After all, no one in Dusseldorf would go to Skopje unless he absolutely had to.

Instead, there is a single terminal for all those points east (read “dark points”) while der sonnenkinder traffic arrive and depart in other terminals amidst their own.

The funny thing is that I don’t think the Europeans even notice it, or would admit it is planned. “Eezz normal” (stress on the second syllable) as they say in Moscow…to separate people by class in this way. Of the bunch, DeGaulle, Gatwick and Vienna stand out most in my memory, but for varying reasons. While every “plane station” has a riff-raff terminal, it’s said deGaulle even has riff-raff runways, although I actually doubt it. But after three hours in a well lit beautiful concourse, inhabited exclusively with dingy-clad east Europeans, feisty Asians and non-francophone Africans (I checked their departures) we are taken down to a bus, which drives around for twenty-thirty minutes and empties us on a parking strip that is visible to the terminal only with binoculars, where our aircraft is parked, and we board like an old DC-3 at National in 1960, only no Pall Mall to crush out before climbing the stairs. Then we taxi across several perfectly functioning runways to one headed in an entirely different angle than the others, amidst tall trees. I felt like the Mississippi State basketball team trying to sneak out of the state in order to play Loyola in 1963. While almost everyone is traveling to Philadelphia or New York, there are always a few headed to Pottstown[…]

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Bookworm Beat 11/30/18 — Another round-up of interesting news

Another Bookworm Beat looking at the daily news, including the daily propaganda from former news outlets, all of which is endlessly fascinating

It’s not Trump’s foibles, but the media’s failures, that account for his low numbers. NeverTrumpers, looking at the chasm between Trump’s out-sized positive accomplishments in areas that matter to conservatives and to ordinary Americans, are inclined to blame Trump’s out-sized personality for his poor ratings. I disagree. The problem is definitely the media. In the old days, media outlets led with news: the economy did this, this happened overseas, the president struck this trade deal, etc. It was solid stuff of the type that’s boring to children and adolescents, but that kept the American public generally informed about their country’s health.

In the Trump era, the news is “mean girl” stuff aimed straight at children and adolescents. Whether on TV or in the print/online media, front page news has almost nothing to do with old-fashioned reporting and everything to do with breathlessly maligning Trump for saying this or that. His grammar, his clothes, his stumbles, his past . . . all are reported with breathless enthusiasm, as if any of that matters to the heartbeat of a nation that once stood astride the world like a colossus.

Because ordinary people — the ones who scan the front page and aren’t wedded to information the way we political junkies are — hear only the mean-girl bitch gossip, and are entirely unaware of the actual news, they’re incapable of judging Trump on his accomplishments as president. All that they can do is judge him by the carefully calibrated, low, extremely vicious standards of adolescent gossip.

The Founders venerated a free media, one that they envisioned having outlets representing all sorts of political views, because they thought this freedom and intellectual variety informed the citizenry and stood as a bulwark against government tyranny. They could never have imagined a monolithic, one-party media machine that turned its back on actual reporting and confined itself entirely to savage personal attacks on a political figure.

The great Don Surber helps clarify for me the way to challenge social media tyranny. Don Surber’s blog is one of my favorite places on the internet and one I check in with several times a day. He’s right up there with Scott Adams when it comes to understanding the Trump phenomenon and decoding America’s Pravda-esque media. If you don’t read Don’s writing, you’re missing out on an essential tool to help you make sense of today’s politics.

No surprise, then, that Don wrote something this morning that got my intellectual juices flowing. I assume that most of you are familiar with the fact that Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN contributor, lost his CNN gig when he advocated violent Palestinian resistance against Israel and repeated Hamas’s genocidal mantra, calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Don doesn’t agree with Hill, but thinks CNN was wrong to fire him:

Firing a man over something he said is repugnant. Oh, it is legal, but it is wrong.

I stand with Marc Lamont Hill out of self-preservation.

CNN works hard to get competing views silenced on Facebook and Twitter. The Fake News channel is willing to throw an occasional minor star under the bus if that is what it takes to preserve its power to silence others.

Conservatives enjoying Marc Lamont Hill’s demise only set themselves up to be censored later. CNN can now claim to be centrist. After all, it cashiered Marc Lamont Hill.

You see, supporting free speech isn’t idealistic. It is practical.

That is why I stand with Marc Lamont Hill.

As it happens, this is one of those rare occasions that sees me parting ways with Don. Aside from thinking Hill got an appropriate comeuppance for advocating for genocide, from a legal perspective I think CNN did the right thing.

While I find our modern media utterly disgusting (see the first part of this post), as private corporations they are allowed to say what they want to say. However, as publishers of content under their control, they also must take responsibility for what people acting under their aegis say. If one of their commentators says something libelous, the media outlet hosting that commentator can be sued for its agent’s statements. The flip side is that, if the publishing outlet makes a wrong call in silencing an agent, the agent can sue it.

That thought was, for me, a clarifying one when it comes to social media. If social media is merely vehicle for self-publishing — the way WordPress is for blogs — it cannot have a say in the content. And if it cannot have a say in the content, it cannot be sued for bad content. However, the flip side is that, if social media controls content, it turned itself into a content publisher and those providing its content, whether they realize it or not, are the social media’s agents. Social media content controllers may worry about being sued for bad content, but they also should worry about wrongly “firing” their content providers, who can — and should — sue for wrongful discharge and silencing.

In other words, the weapon against Facebook and Twitter and all these other platforms isn’t to get the government involved (because, trust me, you’ll hate it when President Kamala Harris gets her hands on internet content), but to use lawfare. People who are silenced should sue these companies either into submission or oblivion for a form of wrongful discharge against content providers over whom the outlets exercise control.

No, there is not a surge in “right wing violence.” The media is touting yet another study purporting to show that so-called “right wing violence” dwarfs anything coming from the Left. Aside from starting its “violence count” on September 12, 2001, which conveniently gets rid of almost 3,000 deaths in a single hour as a result of Muslim violence, the data is simply dishonest. An obvious dishonesty is the fact that it ignores entirely Antifa’s contribution to American violence. David Harsanyi details myriad other problems.

Doctors, not climate change, threaten Americans. According to a Johns Hopkins study, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States:

Based on an analysis of prior research, the Johns Hopkins study estimates that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. On the CDC’s official list, that would rank just behind heart disease and cancer, which each took about 600,000 lives in 2014, and in front of respiratory disease, which caused about 150,000 deaths.

Even that number, though, is probably undercounting the problem:

But no one knows the exact toll taken by medical errors. In significant part, that’s because the coding system used by CDC to record death certificate data doesn’t capture things like communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors and poor judgment that cost lives, the study says.

Doctors are killers but we keep them around because, on balance, they save more lives than they take.

The same thing is true for guns. That’s why I sneer at those doctors who keep trying to ban guns which are responsible for about 33,000 deaths (most of which were suicides) and more than 2.5 million lives saved annually.

The latest example of physicians sticking their collective noses into an area in which they don’t belong is a report from the Hard Left Lancet, a former medical journal. The Lancet claims that climate change is the “biggest global health threat” of the century. Aside from the fact that climate change is a chimerical thing that is responsible for anything the Left doesn’t like, I think this is a case of “physician, heal thyself,” before destroying the West’s economy.

Incidentally, destroying the West’s economy will be the real health threat. People didn’t fare well health-wise in pre-modern times.

Speaking of guns, Swalwell, who threatened gun owners with nukes, is just wrong. There is no one better when it comes to writing about guns, whether at a functional level or at a constitutional level, than Larry Correia. His latest effort tackles the Leftist argument that armed Americans should give up already, because America’s military might means the battle is already lost. The most recent expression of this argument was Leftist Rep. Eric Swalwell’s tweet about nuking gun owners (a joke, he said, to make the larger point that the military can destroy gun owners without resorting to nukes).

Wrong, says Correia!

Correia carefully (and entertainingly) develops his important and complex ideas with strong factual support, so the post is a bit long, but entirely worth reading. I’ll just give you a tantalizing taste of some of his arguments:

We are so divided it’s like we are speaking two different languages. Hell, on this topic we are on two different planets. And it is usually framed with a sanctimonious left versus right, enlightened being versus racist hillbilly, unfailing arrow of history versus the knuckle dragging past sort of vibe.

But basically it boils down to one side making the argument: The idea of the 2nd Amendment resisting a tyrannical government is obsolete, because the federal government is too overwhelmingly powerful, and has too many advanced technologies.


First, let’s talk about the basic premise that an irregular force primarily armed with rifles would be helpless against a powerful army that has things like drones and attack helicopters.

This is a deeply ironic argument to make, considering that the most technologically advanced military coalition in history has spent the better part of the last two decades fighting goat herders with AKs in Afghanistan and Iraq. Seriously, it’s like you guys only pay attention to American casualties when there’s a republican in office and an election coming up.


Recently the WaPo ran an article called Americans Vastly Overestimate the Number of Gun Owners. As with most WaPo articles, it was about 90% bullshit, but they are claiming that only 20 to 30 percent of Americans own guns. That may sound plausible if you live in Manhattan, but out here in flyover country, that’s downright laughable, but anyways, to make the idea of mass gun confiscation as plausible as possible, let’s run with that rosy figure. We’ll even take the lower one of 20%. (snort)

Too bad America has over a third of a billion people, because even the unrealistic figure of 20% of 325 million is still a whopping 65 MILLION people. That’s about the same as the entire population of France. That’s about the same as the population of Great Britain, only with 500 times the firepower. Good thing we didn’t go with that 30%, because now the number is way bigger than the population of Germany (and you know what a pain beating them last time was!). Or ironically, about three times the population of Iraq.


Rather than a realistic number, like half or a third of those people getting really, really pissed off and hoisting the black flag, let’s say that 99% of them decide to totally put all their faith into the government, and that the all-powerful entity which just threatened to kill their entire family will never ever turn tyrannical from now on, pinky swear, so what do they have to lose? And a whopping 90% of gun owners go along peacefully.

That means you are only dealing with six and a half MILLION insurgents. The entire active US military is about 1.3 million, with about 800,000 reserve. Which is also assuming that those two Venn diagrams don’t overlap, which is just plain idiotic, but I’ll get to that too.

You get the idea. As always, the gun grabbers are talking through their rear fundaments, a region in which the light of the Constitution, never mind facts, never shines.

Please read the whole thing. Indeed, you should probably memorize it so you have your answers readily at hand next time a Leftist gun-grabber greets you with the Swalwell argument.

I’m having a schadenfreude attack. I’m probably going to go to Hell for failing to resist these schadenfreude attacks, but I can help myself.

Schadenfreude 1: Smug, condescending, sanctimonious, hard-Left Neil deGrasse Tyson is again accused of being a bullying sex predator. I believe it because these Leftist men so often use outspoken feminism as a cover for crude sexual misconduct.

Schadenfreude 2: NPR fired David Edelstein, a film critic who has worked exclusively for Leftist media outlets and is himself a hard Leftist, for allegedly making a joke about the rape scene in Last Tango in Paris. Apparently Edelstein forgot that the actress who participated in the movie’s famous sex scene later said she didn’t enjoy the experience. Edelstein didn’t deserve to be fired for what he wrote, but I can’t help appreciating the moments when Leftist fascists turn on each other.

Schadenfreude 3: Nobody is a harder Leftist than Mark Zuckerberg. He also once did something peculiar for billionaire Leftists: Instead of massaging his ego by giving money to another school for rich people (Harvard, Stanford, etc.), as opposed to giving money to a school that serves ordinary people, Zuckerberg gave a lot of money — $75 million — to San Francisco General Hospital. SF General is a often place of last resort for the poorest of poor patients and is a front line for urban trauma treatment. That was a good donation.

Now that George Soros has Zuckerberg in his cross hairs, though, the Leftist fascists are turning on Zuckerberg. The latest example is a push to remove Zuckerberg’s name from the trauma center he funded. Given Facebook’s despicable treatment of conservatives, this is a big one on my schadenfreude meter, even though I think Zuckerberg’s money was well spent in this particular case.

Of course, in a showdown between Soros and Zuckerberg, I would dearly love to see both destroyed. No physical harm, of course. Just a collapse of their money and power.

Make Pope Francis act on his platitudes. You’ve heard, I’m sure, about Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row after a blasphemy conviction before the Pakistini Supreme Court freed her. Bibi’s travails are not over, though, because Pakistan’s primitive citizens are seeking vigilante justice against her.

England has already bowed to pressure from its Muslim population and refused to admit her. America, for reasons unclear to me, has not yet offered her asylum.

What I love, though, is Hugh Fitzgerald’s suggestion that Pope Francis offer this beleaguered woman asylum in the Vatican:

By doing so, Asia Bibi would be putting the islamophilic Pope Francis on the spot. He who has been insisting that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence” would be confronted with the reality of a Christian woman who, living in a Muslim land, falsely accused by Muslim coworkers of blasphemy against Muhammad, was sentenced to death. After spending eight years of her life in prison waiting for that sentence to be carried out, she was finally acquitted by the Pakistani Supreme Court. Two high-ranking Pakistani officials who had criticized the prosecution of Asia Bibi, the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, and the Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were both assassinated as a result.

But how could Pope Francis, who has been endlessly critical of the West for not admitting all the migrants who want to be admitted, who has even compared those he calls “populists,” who wish ill to nobody, but only want to be able to control the number and kind of migrants admitted to their own countries, to Hitler, now turn down Asia Bibi? How could he who has insisted that Christ would have welcomed with open arms all those who might have asked him for asylum, no matter what their background or views, now turn down Asia Bibi’s request for asylum? Can he, who has claimed that a failure to welcome migrants is “rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and amplified by populist rhetoric,” now reject Asia Bibi, a genuine martyr for her faith who refused to convert to Islam, which might have ended her suffering? If the Pope were to reject her plea for asylum, could he ever again lecture those who want to limit the migration to their own countries, and especially to limit the number of Muslim migrants because of the menacing ideology that they bring with them in their mental baggage?


England’s not the only one backing down before Islam. As I noted in the above squiblet, England, fearing its burgeoning Muslim population, is refusing to offer Bibi asylum despite its long-standing immigration ties with Pakistan. France, too, is revealing its dhimmitude:

A Muslim refugee from Bangladesh was acquitted of the rape of a high school girl – with a French court excusing the sexual attack due to the young man’s “different cultural norms.”

The young Islamic migrant was also charged with sexually assaulting another young girl, but his defense argued that he should not be held responsible because he could have misinterpreted his aggressive sexual contact with the girl due to his Muslim “cultural codes.”

I’m betting that, if you send to prison just a handful of those young men suffering from “different cultural norms,” their suffering will end with amazing rapidity.

When will Leftist gays abandon their intersectional Islamophilia? I ask this because of a news report out of Manhattan:

It was supposed to be a quick Uber ride, but a gay Manhattan couple claims the driver turned on them, leaving them scarred in more ways than one.

Taray Carey and Alex from the East Village say the driver gunned the car, dragging one of them along the ground down a busy street and they said it all started from a hate-filled tirade.

The couple tells News 4 in an exclusive interview that it was a hug in the backseat that set the Uber driver into a hateful rage Tuesday night.

“He’s telling us in his country we would be beheaded and left for dead,” said Carey, who was left scrapes and bruises after he said he was dragged for half a block down East Fourth Street.

I can’t find a follow-up story identifying that driver but you already know in which countries gays are beheaded: Muslim countries. Which makes people like this very, very stupid:

President Counter-puncher threatens to counter-punch. One of the things Leftists don’t get is that President Trump isn’t a puncher, he’s a counter-puncher. As Scott Adams long ago noted, Trump is actually fairly risk averse. He’ll try to negotiate things to suit himself and, if he can’t, he walks away rather than take what he considers to be unreasonable risks. If you’re nice to him, he’s nice back. He almost never throws the first insult but, oh Lord!, cross him and he’ll hit you hard.

Ironically enough, Trump is the 21st century version of Roosevelt’s rule to “speak softly and carry a bit stick.” He’ll speak softly but, if you rile him, not only does the stick come out, he uses it.

That’s why I don’t think Trump was bluffing when he told the incoming Democrat House to “bring it on” because it will give him real pleasure to unleash on them all the information he’s gathered and kept to himself since entering the White House:

In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with The Post, President Trump said Wednesday that if House Democrats launched probes into his administration — which he called “presidential harassment” — they’d pay a heavy price.

“If they go down the presidential harassment track, if they want go and harass the president and the administration, I think that would be the best thing that would happen to me. I’m a counter-puncher and I will hit them so hard they’d never been hit like that,” he said during a 36-minute Oval Office sitdown.

The commander-in-chief said he could declassify FISA warrant applications and other documents from Robert Mueller’s probe — and predicted the disclosure would expose the FBI, the Justice Department and the Clinton campaign as being in cahoots to set him up.

“I think that would help my campaign. If they want to play tough, I will do it. They will see how devastating those pages are.”

But Trump told The Post he wanted to save the documents until they were needed.

“It’s much more powerful if I do it then,” Trump said, “because if we had done it already, it would already be yesterday’s news.”

Borders keep us healthy. I’ve blogged before about the fact that a primary purpose of borders is to keep diseases out of America. After all, it was diseases, more than any specific European acts, that destroyed 90% of the indigenous population in the Americas after first contact with those germ-ridden Europeans.

With that in mind:

Lice and respiratory infections are becoming endemic inside the Benito Juarez sports complex and health workers warn that it’s a matter of ‘when, not if’ an outbreak of serious disease sweeps the scruffy labyrinth of tents and tarps sheltering an estimated 6,000 people.

Tijuana’s Health Department revealed on Thursday that there are cases of migrants suffering from tuberculosis, chickenpox, skin infections, and there is now a risk of an hepatitis outbreak due to the squalid conditions.

So far, there have been three confirmed cases of tuberculosis, four of chickenpox, and four cases of HIV/AIDS.

Ellis Island and the immigration outpost on San Francisco’s Angel Island may not have been very nice places, but they did serve to catch infectious diseases before those same diseases got a foothold in America.

Does this confirm a Biblical story? The Biblical story about Sodom and Gomorrah is about God destroying complete two cities rife with sin. Those cities were located in the Dead Sea region. Now comes this science report:

Some 3,700 years ago, a meteor or comet exploded over the Middle East, wiping out human life across a swath of land called Middle Ghor, north of the Dead Sea, say archaeologists who have found evidence of the cosmic airburst.

The airburst “in an instant, devastated approximately 500 km2 [about 200 square miles] immediately north of the Dead Sea, not only wiping out 100 percent of the [cities] and towns, but also stripping agricultural soils from once-fertile fields and covering the eastern Middle Ghor with a super-heated brine of Dead Sea anhydride salts pushed over the landscape by the event’s frontal shock waves,” the researchers wrote in the abstract for a paper that was presented at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting held in Denver Nov. 14 to 17. Anhydride salts are a mix of salt and sulfates.

I do wonder whether the Bible put its own spin on this ancient natural disaster that was probably still a part of collective memory in the form of oral histories.

Caddell: Trump Will Lose 2020 if He Doesn’t Change Incompetent WH Team

Caddell: Trump Will Lose 2020 if He Doesn’t Change Incompetent WH Team


Veteran [Democrat] pollster Pat Caddell told Breitbart News that President Donald Trump will not be re-elected if he does not change his White House team and “purge” the Republican Party of politicians and consultants “bought” by the “donor class.”

Caddell joined Wednesday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight for an interview with Breitbart News Senior Editors-at-Large Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak.

Caddell criticized Republicans for not holding accountable Democrats who, while campaigning, expressed opposition to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) speakership bid following the year’s midterm elections.

“A lot of these people were going to end up supporting her,” said Caddell. “They were lying that they weren’t going to support her. Now, the Republicans are responsible, in part, for this, because they don’t hold anybody’s feet to the fire.”

Caddell added, “I don’t understand why some of the Republicans don’t reach out across the aisle and say, ‘Look, we’ll deliver a bunch of votes if you run somebody and we’ll try to do a bipartisan House, the way Willie Brown was kept speaker in California, and the same thing also happened in Texas in another year. But the Republicans are so pathetic, it is beyond my description. They should be out there saying, ‘These people are lying. People who’ve run [against Nancy Pelosi] have already said they’re voting for her,’ and they’re not being harassed on social media or in any kind of campaign on Facebook, or online, or even in the newspapers, saying so-and-so lied, starting with the new senator from Arizona who came in and voted for Chuck Schumer as her first act, which she said she would not do.”

Caddell continued, “This is not what they promised. The point is they can be held responsible for what they said. Basically this is a cynical belief that the voters are too stupid to care about what they were promised and voted for, and the Republicans share in that cynicism. It’s a Washington phenomenon. The voters are so stupid, we can do whatever we want. It really opens up the question of exactly the kind of politics we have. … This is nothing but a way to be cynical. There are still votes that [Nancy Pelosi] doesn’t have, yet, but no pressure is being on brought on these people to say, ‘This is not what you promised. You can’t do this.’ The Republican Party is an incompetent political operation of the first order…..”

…Caddell described Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) as beholden to the Koch brothers and donors favoring “open borders.”

Caddell stated, “Let’s go to the border thing. Paul Ryan — the Koch Brothers’ Speaker, and the donors’ Speaker; the people who want open borders on the Republican side — sold out he and McConnell to the Democrats in an earlier negotiation, and that is what Trump is challenging. Trump’s got to hold the feet to the fire.”

Caddell added, “Democrats do not want border security. They put illegal immigrants ahead of American citizens. This should have been [the GOP’s] theme in the campaign, and they didn’t deliver. This is another opportunity to put the heat on, but it is a party incapable of doing anything, including walking, or chewing gum, or either one much less together. I’m tired of playing games, here.”

Caddell remarked, “Trump is surrounded by leadership in his own party and in his own White House who are constantly stabbing him in the back and his agenda, and he’s powerless, it seems, to do anything about it. … The Republican Party is essentially wusses. They will not fight. They don’t believe in fighting. They just lay down roll over, and usually for their donor class, who are basically antithetical to 90 percent of Republicans and what they want.”

Caddell continued, “He’s got a White House, his political people are the worst. He has got a White House that is essentially still the people who oppose him. … It’s not just his government, it’s also his White House. They do not fight, because the chief of staff has no interest in politics, and no one else there takes the lead, and that includes the all-powerful son-in-law. Trump is on his way to losing the next election, and I don’t care what they think they know. If he keeps these same people, he will lose.”

Caddell added, “I don’t know why [Donald Trump’s] people would want to vote for him, or a lot of them, because he did not deliver. He’s got a Congress that won’t support him. The reason there’s not a wall is because he’s had a House and he’s had a Senate, yet many of those people are not involved in caring about what the president wants. They answer to the donors who are open borders people, and most of them are bought like the Speaker [Paul Ryan]. Let’s just get it straight. I am tired of this shilly-shallying around. [Paul Ryan] going to take a job and get five or ten million dollars from the Koch brothers, or more, a year, for having delivered. [Paul Ryan] didn’t deliver for the president, he delivered for the party. If Trump doesn’t purge his party or do something, but to have a strategy … they don’t know how to get anything done. They’re losers, and that’s the truth, and many of them are against what they claim to be for. They don’t believe in what they tell their voters, and they prove it all the time. I think it’s a disgusting situation.”

Caddell concluded, “This fight over immigration [and] the border, Democrats are playing with fire. If Trump is smart and could lower his rhetoric and go to the country on the rational arguments that they totally believe in, he could move it. He could put Democrats in a really hard spot, because the truth is they don’t care about the borders. Let’s get it straight. The American people aren’t stupid. They can see it with their own eyes, and all that has to be done is point it out to them, and force these people to have to address this stuff.”


Family Dollar shopper stabbed to death with knives plucked from store’s shelves in St. Louis County

Family Dollar shopper stabbed to death with knives plucked from store’s shelves in St. Louis County

Panama the new flashpoint in China’s growing presence in Latin America




Panama the new flashpoint in China’s growing presence in Latin America

A spat over the site of China’s embassy has underlined the strategic value of the canal – through which two-thirds of ships to or from the US pass

…The Amador peninsula separates the concrete and glass skyline of Panama City from the soaring iron arch of the Bridge of the Americas – under which 40 cargo ships pass each day en route to or from the Panama Canal.

This strategic outcrop is home to a handful of derelict buildings once used to house US military personnel. But it has become a new flashpoint in the global rivalry between Beijing and Washington, as the US struggles to develop a coherent strategy to deal with China’s rising influence in Latin America.

China’s plans to build a new embassy on the islands were derailed after US officials pressured the government of Panama’s president, Juan Carlos Varela, to withdraw its offer of a four-hectare plot, according to senior Panamanian and diplomatic sources.

“Of course there was pushback from the US: they weren’t going to allow a huge Chinese flag next to the entrance to the canal,” a diplomatic source told the Guardian. “But local pressure was also important. Handing over that land to the Chinese would have been a hugely unpopular move by the Varela government.”

Panama’s government has insisted that the decision was based on security and environmental concerns.

But a previous plan to build a new Chinese embassy in the traditional diplomatic district of Panama City was also blocked by objections from Washington, and Beijing has now established a temporary mission in an office block.

The incident may prove to be a pyrrhic victory for Washington, however. This weekend, the Chinese premier, Xi Jinping, arrives in Panama for a visit aimed at cementing ties with the Central American nation.

It will be the first such visit by a senior Chinese figure since Panama cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan to open formal relations with Beijing in June 2017.

Since then, the two countries have signed 28 diplomatic and investment agreements, a $500m renminbi-denominated “Panda” bond is expected before the end of the year and Chinese contractors have won major contracts for a port, convention centre and a new bridge over the canal.

The growth of Chinese investment and influence in the country has been the source of growing unease in Washington….

…In July, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, ended a visit to Panama with the warning that “when Chinacomes calling, it’s not always to the good of your citizens”. He added that state-run Chinese firms often operated with political, rather than market-driven, motives.

Xi’s visit comes amid an escalating trade war between China and the US, which has highlighted Panama’s strategic importance as a pinch-point of world commerce.

Two-thirds of ships to or from the US pass through the Panama Canal – which was an unincorporated territory of the US between 1903 and 1979 and was home to dozens of American military installations.

“Recent rhetoric from Washington suggests the US has not accepted that the canal has shifted from being a military asset to a commercial one,” said Eddie Tapiero, a competitive intelligence specialist for the Panama Canal Authority and author of a new book on China-Panama relations. “The US has a decision to make: does it accept free trade in the Americas or does it revert to a cold war approach? The latter would be disastrous.”

Negotiations for a free trade agreement between China and Panama are at an advanced stage; Panamanian officials say the country can benefit from its growing role as a regional logistics hub, build its exports to China and protect local farmers.

“We will become the gateway for Chinese goods into Latin America,” the trade minister, Augusto Arosemena, told the Guardian. “I think Panama will be an example of how smaller countries can negotiate with China.”

Meanwhile, the US has been caught flatfooted: diplomats were unaware of Varela’s decision to establish ties with Beijing until hours before its announcement and the state department has yet to name a replacement for John Feeley, who stood down as ambassador in March saying he was “honor bound” to resign rather than serve under Donald Trump.

Wei Qiang, the Chinese ambassador to Panama, has dismissed the “apprehensive, fearful and jealous speculations” over his country’s intentions. “China’s world vision is one of dialogue and accommodation rather than confrontation, we have no option but to let the facts speak for themselves,” he said at a recent book launch.

But in recent years, Beijing has shown growing interest in strategic infrastructure projects in the region: Chinese companies are involved in a project to build a rival interoceanic canal through Nicaragua and investigated the option of a “dry canal” railroad linking Colombia’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Some Panamanians are also wary of Bejing’s intentions, said Euclides Tapia, a professor of international relations at the University of Panama. “The Chinese are here for the long term – and they’ve come for the canal,” he said.