Inmates are housed in three-tier bunks in what was once a multi-purpose recreation room at the Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“With 2.3 Million People Incarcerated in the US, Prisons Are Big Business,” by Liliana Segura. The Nation, October 1, 2013.
Liliana Segura calls attention to a new video series “Prison Profiteers,” a collaboration between Beyond Bars, the ACLU and The Nation that exposes the businesses and people who are most enriched by a thriving Prison Industrial Complex. She goes on to reveal some of the groups that have a vested interest in keeping prison cells full, including a callously exploitive telephone service provider, a criminally negligent prison healthcare company and—most outrageous of all—a private prison corporation that asks its clientele of governors to “keep their [prison] facilities up to ninety percent full” in exchange for its services.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
“The Ethic of Marginal Value,” by Peter Frase. Jacobin, October 1, 2013.
Frase picks apart the mainstream-economics response to the conundrum, as formulated by David Graeber, that “the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it” (think of nurses versus advertisers). In so doing, he casts marginal utility theory as an ethical theory rather than the empirical description of the world it purports to be.
—Omar Ghabra focuses on Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
“If It Happened There … the Government Shutdown,” by Joshua Keating. Slate, September 30, 2013.
This brilliant, thought-provoking piece parodies the way the American media portray events taking place in other countries by applying the same rhetoric they typically use exclusively when writing about others to the current crisis in Washington DC. It’s as entertaining as it is insightful.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“A Conversation With Meagan Hatcher-Mays About The ‘Baby Veronica’ Case,” by Mallory Ortberg. The Toast, September 27, 2013.
Co-editor of The Toast Mallory Ortberg interviewed law student Heather Hatcher-Mays about the backlash against an article she wrote about Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (a.k.a. the Baby Veronica case) for Jezebel a few months back that sided with the biological parents. The Jezebel article was published before the Supreme Court decision was handed down in June, but the interview gets into the dirty details of the transracial adoption case and ensuing custody battle between the Cherokee father of the child and her white adoptive parents. What is, perhaps, most surprising and nasty about the case was the public’s championing of the adoptive parents. As Matcher-Mays points out, “the way the media has characterized ICWA as it relates to this case has been insane. Like it’s a ‘loophole’ or a ‘technicality.’ But this is exactly the type of situation ICWA is supposed to prevent.”
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
“Can Mayors Really Save the World?” by Emma Green. The Atlantic Cities, September 23, 2013.
Take this week’s government shutdown as the ultimate example: our national political system is broken. As a way around the morass of mass governance, a growing number of activist mayors (i.e. Bloomberg, Booker, Newsom) are working to address complex issues such as immigration reform, gay marriage and global warming by implementing concrete policies in their own cities. “Glocalists”—the unfortunate moniker for the theorists, scholars and politicians advocating this sort of smaller-scale local action—insist that because city residents are politically invested in their surrounding communities and share common concerns (rising sea levels in New York City, abandoned homes in Detroit, public education in Philly), it is easier to carry out positive change without getting bogged down in partisan squabbles.
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
“Northwestern’s Journalism Program Offers Students Internships with Prestige, But No Paycheck,” by Kara Brandeisky. ProPublica, October 1, 2013.
Kara Brandeisky spearheads Propublica’s #ProjectIntern this week with the first installment in a series that will dive deep into the US intern economy and attempt to personalize and problematize the current conversation. Northwestern’s journalism program, Brandeisky finds, has channeled students towards internships as a graduation requirement since 1989. Yet how these on-the-job experiences compare to the academic training students are actually paying tuition for and consequently missing out on is at best a fuzzy question and at worst a source of crass exploitation. One of the more meta aspects of the investigation is that it’s being designed and conducted by Propublica’s own reporting interns, one of whom is about to embark on a cross-country trip to find out what interns really do and whether the financial payoff can be quantified.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Faces of Addiction,” Chris Arnade. Flickr.
“Ted Cruz and Obamacare critics clearly don’t get it,” by Chris Arnade. The Guardian, October 2, 2013.
Former Wall Street banker (see his piece in this week’s Guardian about that here) turned activist photographer Chris Arnade’s Flickr page of photographs of addicts in the Hunt’s Point section of the Bronx is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. His October 2 piece in The Guardian is a reminder of the cruel realities of healthcare for many US Citizens, and especially those who are the most vulnerable: the poor and the addicted. He contrasts wealthy senators and congressmen who can afford great healthcare making legislation with the powerful story of a heroin addict’s attempt to get treatment in a place with “nasty doctors and nurses who treat you like shit.” Arnade’s work traces the lives of people who have been forgotten by society and live at the margins. This used to be one of the functions of traditional papers and magazines—to give us ‘slices of life’ different to our own. But now the stories of people who are not wealthy or powerful rarely break the surface, and I think this deficit has surely engendered much of the intolerance and intransigence we see in people’s political opinions.
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“Latin America’s Pacific Alliance liberalizes trade,” by Manuela Badawy. Reuters, September 25, 2013.
Four key Latin American countries consolidated free trade agreements and encouraged Wall Street investment last week at a summit meeting in New York City. Embracing Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile, the Pacific Alliance has moved towards breaking down commercial and financial barriers between member countries. The latest summit announced the elimination of 90 percent of all trade restrictions between member states, with much or all of the remaining tariffs to be eliminated in less than a decade. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that two days after the summit, and one after the official announcement of its results, Franklin Templeton Investments tweeted their enthusiasm, and a game plan, for opportunities in the region.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“My Detainment Story or: How I learned to Stop Feeling Safe in My Own Country and Hate Border Agents,” by Sarah Abdurrahman. On the Media, September 20, 2013.
On the way back from her cousin’s wedding near Toronto, Sarah Abdurrahman was detained for six hours without explanation by US Border Patrol agents in Niagara Falls. As her account demonstrates, border agents regularly violate the civil liberties of both citizens and non-citizens alike, and the agency operates with virtually no oversight or accountability.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.
“Sex imperialism,” by Scott Long. A Paper Bird, September 24, 2013.
This important piece provides the context for the Equality Now campaign urging the UN to retract support for sex workers and their rights. With sex work and human trafficking being so often and erroneously conflated in policy, public understanding and even some women’s rights communities, Scott Long’s piece breaks down the power politics behind the “waning impulses of absolutist Western feminism” and how it endangers the freedom and safety of workers and activists.