—Sam Adler-Bell focuses on labo and mass incarceration.
“Would You Feel Differently About Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange If You Knew What They Really Thought?,” by Sean Wilentz. The New Republic, January 19, 2014.
I associate Sean Wilentz with two subjects close to my heart: American labor history and Bob Dylan. (I own books of his on both subjects.) So I approached this article, a hit piece directed at anti-NSA crusaders Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, with some trepidation. Wilentz, I feared, would either succeed in convincing me that these figures (lionized by the left for exposing the secret machinations of our government's security apparatus) are really paranoid fanatics, hostile to the idea of liberal governance and critical of the surveillance state only as a means of undermining social democratic institutions—or else I would wind up with a seriously diminished estimation of the writer himself. Suffice it to say, I experienced the latter. But the piece is worth reading, I think, as a demonstration of how even a very smart liberal falls victim to the delusion, more and more prevalent today, that one cannot criticize the excesses of the (surveillance/police/carceral) state while simultaneously endorsing the government's role in alleviating poverty, regulating corporations and protecting the rights of marginalized people. We can do both, and we have to. (Henry Farrell has a comprehensive dismantling of Wilentz's arguments here.)
—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.
“World Report 2014: Peru,” Human Rights Watch, January 21, 2014.
With the release of Human Rights Watch's twenty-fourth annual World Report, attention has focused largely on its criticism of the NSA. However, there are also serious concerns raised regarding Latin America, particularly Peruvian president Ollanta Humala's crackdown on protesters fighting against large-scale mining projects in the region. Twenty-seven civilians have died in protests since Humala took office in 2011, and little progress has been made in investigating these cases or prosecuting military or police personal who "used force unlawfully." This condemnation comes amid reports that Newmont Mining Corporation's controversial Conga mine project could restart operations sometime this year. The Conga mine is currently on hold after violent protests against the project in 2011 caused Humala to impose a state of emergency.
—Laura Cremer focuses on labor, gender and the historicization of culture and politics.
“Disrupting the Disruptors,” by Erik Forman. In These Times, January 16, 2014.
Plenty has been written about the ways in which the Internet is changing work—and worker organizing—but two recent pieces in In These Times offer good case studies. Forman's piece, on Amazon warehouse workers' recent unionization attempt, explains why the "disruption" of old industries by new, high-tech firms like Amazon makes active organizing more important than ever. Sarah Jaffe's "How Walmart Organizers Turned the Internet Into a Shop Floor," discusses ways the Internet in turn makes effective organizing possible. The articles offer some perspective on the connections among different "disruptive" trends in different industries as well as an interesting look at how exactly employers are reacting to resistance.
—Cecilia D’Anastasio focuses on ethics, feminism, press freedom and tech.
“The case the media should make for Edward Snowden,” by Edward Wasserman. The Miami Herald, January 19, 2014.
Just two days before The New Yorker published an exclusive interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, in which Snowden complains that "[t]he media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account," Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, penned a fiery call to arms directed at the Snowden-obsessed media. Wasserman aptly notes that the media aren't simple observers in the Snowden affair, but his "beneficiaries and enablers," giving them the power, and indeed the responsibility, to do his enormous act of bravery justice: "We need more muscular defense, something equal to the enormity of the wrongdoing we’re all indebted to him for exposing." Instead of clouding up airspace with groundless accusations (Is he a spy? Perhaps a robot?), the media should fight alongside Snowden to challenge institutional abuses of power and create a safe environment for future whistleblowers.
—Simon Davis-Cohen focuses on self-governance, climate adaptation and institutional voids.
As the War on Poverty turned fifty, President Obama announced the designation of five “Promise Zones” within the US. The zones offer tax incentives for hiring workers and write-offs for capital investment. Some are concerned Promise Zones, which have garnered the support of Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, will have gentrifying effects. Reminiscent of the War on Poverty’s policy of “maximum feasible participation” (touched on in the recent Nation feature “The Battle Hymn of the War on Poverty”), Becker’s two-part column offers suggestions on how the impoverished can self-govern their own rise from poverty.
—Justine Drennan focuses on marginalized groups' relationship with technology and development.
“Want to Predict the Future of Surveillance? Ask Poor Communities,” by Virginia Eubanks. The American Prospect, January 15, 2014.
Eubanks discusses how the sort of government surveillance that outraged so many Americans when revealed by Snowden had long been used against many of their poorer and non-white co-nationals. Now, with government collection of electronic data, "groups of 'like' subjects are…targeted for different, and often unequal, forms of supervision, discipline and surveillance, with marginalized communities singled out for more aggressive scrutiny," she writes. "Imagine the hue and cry if police officers scanned the fingerprints of white, middle-class Americans on the street, as has happened to day laborers in Los Angeles." She argues that we must learn from such groups' experiences of surveillance in order both to fight against these injustices themselves and to try to prevent such policies being applied to society as a whole.
—Corinne Grinapol focuses on education and international relations/national security.
“Nine charged in 2000 murder of Haitian journalist Jean Dominique,” by Amelie Baron. Reuters, January 18, 2014.
In April 2000, Jean Dominique was gunned down outside of Radio Haiti Inter, the independent radio station he owned. Dominique was a true voice of independence in Haiti, reflected in his coverage of Haitian culture, his choice to run shows in Creole—considered rural and unfashionable—and his willingness to criticize those who wielded power in Haiti. It was the latter inclination that led to his assassination; fourteen years after Dominique's death, a judge has charged nine people with planning and carrying out his murder, including a senator from former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party. It is widely suspected that the plot originated with Aristide, but he remains untouched, and to date none of the accused has been arrested. (To begin this story with Dominique's life, rather than the aftermath of his death, watch The Agronomist, Jonathan Demme's superb documentary on Jean Dominique.)
—Mara Kardas-Nelson focuses on health.
“Death Dust,” by Dana Goodyear. The New Yorker, January 20, 2014.
Dana Goodyear's piece on valley fever ties together the many complex issues concerning one illness found in some of America's driest places: climate change and its impact on disease patterns; the health effects of increasing desertification; drug cost and regulation; why pharmaceutical companies, scientists, researchers and policy makers respond to some diseases, and not others. Of interest to the more ghoulish reader: the effects of valley fever and its treatment are positively sci-fi-esque. As we watch California, one of the homes of valley fever, in the grips of drought, Goodyear's piece is more timely than ever.
—David Kortava focuses on sustainable development.
“Self-Interest, Reality and Global Climate Policy,” by Steven Cohen. Huffington Post, January 21, 2014.
Steven Cohen, executive director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, argues that unless or until renewable energy is priced significantly cheaper than fossil fuels, climate change will continue unabated. He calls on the federal government to back the research to make this possible. Green entrepreneurs and climate activists undoubtedly have a role to play, but their success hinges on the efforts of the underfunded scientists and engineers working to generate solutions.
—Benjamin Pokross focuses on education and the arts.
“Short Cuts,” by Eyal Weizman. London Review of Books, January 9, 2014.
This article isn't really related to my beat, but it's too good not to share. In the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, specific leaders and events can seem unimportant in the face of an unchanging political situation. In this winding essay, Eyal Weizman describes the efforts to determine Yasser Arafat's legacy by looking at the forensic analysis done on his body and the almost completed museum dedicated to him. Yet, as Weizman shows, these attempts to establish historical certainty can't obscure the complex past of the Middle East.