I have some great memories from 2018 but it was a very difficult year for me. My very wonderful mother died in December of 2017 and it pretty much wiped me out until mid-year. In terms of journalism, I haven’t written so little for several decades.
So I don’t have much to report in terms of my personal journalism highlights for the year, but I did some work I’m proud of these past few months. So here’s my list of favorites, in no particular order.
1/ I have been working part-time since August with the Project on Government Oversight, the great Washington group, doing a series on immigration. (And I’ll be doing many more stories about that topic in 2019.) My two favorites so far, because they are both very important, are an inside look at the Adelanto detention camp in California and a story that revealed that Correct Care Solutions, a company whose medical care of immigrant detainees at Adelanto has been sued a staggering 1,395 times in federal courts over the last decade, according to a document I obtained. I want to especially thank the legendary Danielle Brian, Executive Director of POGO, for hiring me, and Nick Schwellenbach, its director of investigations, for being such an utter delight and consummate professional to work with.
2/ The stories on immigration ran at Yahoo, and were edited by Sharon Weinberger who may be the greatest editor I have ever had the privilege of working with. (It’s close, there are about a dozen in the running, but Sharon is a treasure.) I also wrote two other stories for Yahoo and Sharon that I’m quite fond of, one about a trio of loony Venezuelan exiles in Miami plotting to overthrow their government and the other about hedge funds successfully advocating with the Trump administration to lift sanctions on the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
3/ I am very pleased that in December, the U.S. Justice Department announced the indictment of four people charged “with wire fraud, tax fraud, money laundering and other offenses in connection with their alleged roles in a decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca & Co., a Panamanian-based global law firm, and related entities.” Three of the four defendants named in the indictment have been arrested. Ramses Owens, a Panamanian attorney who worked for Mossack Fonseca, remains at large.
Long before news broke about the Panama Papers, I spent a year investigating Mossack Fonesca and wrote a story about it, which mentioned Ramses Owens, for VICE. I am quite certain that the Justice Department read my story with interest. I have lost count of the number of people who were investigated, indicted or imprisoned as a result of my work over the years, but I’m happy Owens is the latest on that list.
4/ It’s been an honor to work for the first time with the brilliant and politically (and personally, I expect) eccentric Russ Smith at Splice Today. When Russ founded the greatly missed New York Press many years ago, he edited Alexander Cockburn, who I then worked for. (And later I worked with Alex at CounterPunch, the newsletter I founded in 1993 and which he joined later that year. It is now run admirably by my friend and comrade Jeffrey St. Clair. Despite his flaws — and I have plenty of my own, and a personal fallout that fortunately was mended long before his sad death in 2012 — I loved Alex and reading him, first at the Village Voice, is what inspired me to go into journalism. He is a hero and inspiration to me.) I wrote a number of stories for Russ but I’ll highlight the one about why I loathe the U.S. media establishment.
5/ Last but not least, I’m very happy about a funny but I hope insightful story for Washington Babylon about the marvelous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Thanks again to Rob Sussman for the great art of AOC leading Jeff Bezos around on a leash, headed for the guillotine.)
I am quite that I’ll have a more productive year of journalism in 2019, and have ten stories or so already in the works. And despite the very painful loss of my mother, who I miss every day, I had a lot of great times this year with friends and family, traveled widely and met many, many wonderful people in the U.S. and around the world. I love you all.
And special shout outs to Vijay Prashad, the Indian historian, journalist and Marxist intellectual who is Executive Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, which provided me with a research grant; Teri Mattson, Program Manager of the Intrepid News Fund, which did as well; and the irrepressible Andrew Stewart, managing editor of Washington Babylon, who has stuck by me through thick and thin, and who has also developed into a truly great writer.
There are too many more people I could mention here and I don’t mean to slight anyone, but there’s only so much space, even on the Internet. (Plus I am famously discreet.) But I would be remiss not to mention my dear, treasured friend Ely Calil, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. I love him and miss him tremendously.
But in closing I do want to thank my mother, who along with my father, who thankfully is still alive and kicking, gave me the gift of life, a sense of humor and strength and courage. I could not have asked for a better mother. I loved her and always will.
So that’s it for 2018. Onward to 2019 comrades, I feel optimistic about my personal and political future, and that’s unlike me. I truly believe capitalism has run out of steam — it has always been evil and very good at exploiting most everyone while generating immense profits for the privileged few and their political serfs — but now our rulers have run out of ways to keep the system running. All they can do now is ratchet up the ruthless exploitation of the 99 percent; at some point this shit is going to blow, and I very much hope to see it and be part of the history we will make together.
See you soon and have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a unique and amazing 2019. I know I will.