—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration, literature and film.
“The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: The White People Meeting,” by Barrett Brown. D Magazine, February 17, 2014.
Since January 14, imprisoned journalist and activist Barrett Brown has been contributing a bi-monthly column for D Magazine’s FrontBurner blog focused on (in his words) “the literary life of North Texas jail inmates.” The columns, delivered in a relentlessly sardonic tone, teeter on a cringe-inducing edge between blasé political incorrectness (here, he pokes fun at a Latino gang called “Tango Blast”) and genuine sympathy for his fellow inmates. Readers seeking revolutionary polemic will be disappointed to find mostly historical esoterica and cartoony accounts of prison life in these pages. (Brown is forbidden, by court mandate, from discussing his case.) But the passing reference in this piece to Antonio Gramsci, who wrote a highly influential Marxist treatise while in prison, may give them some hope.
—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.
“Los negocios en el Ejército.” by Semana, February 16, 2014.
Weekly magazine Semana has been at the center of attention in Colombia after publishing two reports this month exposing massive military scandals. The first, titled "Did Someone Spy on the Havana Negotiators?," revealed that Colombian military intelligence illegally spied on leftists, NGOs and Colombian politicians involved in peace talks with FARC rebels. The second report, "Business in the Army," is Semana's newest divulgement: a report alleging, among other things, that military leaders stole money from defense contracts. In some cases, they gave this money to soldiers jailed in the "false positives" scandal, in which poor civilians, lured to war zones by promises of jobs, were killed and dressed in rebel uniforms to boost military body counts (and thus claims of success). The stolen money allegedly went to the soldiers' families in exchange for their silence about high-ranking officer involvement in the scandal. These allegations reveal the kind of corruption, brutality and secrecy at the heart of the American-trained, funded and equipped Colombian military. For almost fifteen years, Colombia has been America's largest recipient of military aid in the western hemisphere. Maybe it's finally time to consider scaling back.