Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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I’m writing this in a space not owned by a billionaire

  • If I write something on this site and it gets mediocre traffic, 200 people will see it.
  • If I record a podcast for my employer (I prefer “chosen community of colleagues”) and it gets a mediocre number of downloads, 800 people will download it.
  • If I write something on the website of my chosen community of colleagues, and it gets mediocre traffic, 1,000 people will see it.
  • If I post something to my Twitter account and it performs in a mediocre way, 2,000 people will see it. (If it does well, a quarter million people might see it.)

That’s badly backwards, isn’t it? The platform that does the best for me, in terms of “reaching audiences,” is the one that neither I nor my colleagues own.

Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter for $44 billion (imagine how thoroughly infant mortality could be eradicated with $44 billion) is a bright, flashing reminder of how that needs to change.

We should be creating in spaces that we own, not in spaces run by oligarchs for marketers. Those others’ spaces should be more for conversations (hopefully constructive ones) about what we’ve developed elsewhere, in our own spaces.

My personal goal from this point forward to even out the imbalance between the numbers in that bulleted list above. A lot of that means being less lazy: sending a tweet is easier, by design, than writing an open-ended bunch of words like I’m doing now.

I guess I’m just repeating the now overplayed advice to “bring back the blog.” (The format doesn’t necessarily need to be a textual blog, of course.) But I think that advice is still generally right. We should own our ideas and words, and limit Elon Musk’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s properties to being places where we point to, and discuss, ideas and words developed elsewhere.

That’s all to say, expect to see more of me here and less of me on Twitter. Thanks, Elon, for the reminder.

Logged way too many hours this week

This isn’t normal, obviously. I’ve been finishing a giant project about the border which should go public in a few weeks, while writing a border update, a commentary, two speaking engagements, some planning meetings, and… I’m sure I’m forgetting “what else” because I’m very tired.

This is all to say that next week looks way more “normal” on my calendar, and I look forward to posting normally to this site again.

This site will be quiet this week

Back in November I neglected this site as I banged out a massive report on the fifth anniversary of Colombia’s peace accord. It was time well spent—several thousand downloads—but it did mean that adamisacson.com was dormant for a couple of weeks.

The same thing is happening this week (January 24-28). I’m in the latter phases of a big project about the U.S.-Mexico border, documenting abuse, impunity, and organizational cultural problems at U.S. law enforcement agencies. By “latter phases” I mean “the point at which the project has seriously taken shape, and what remains to be done is very fun (despite the subject matter) but very, very demanding of every waking moment of time.” And also some sleeping moments.

So while I’ve bookmarked dozens of browser tabs, I haven’t been able to fill up my news database, so I haven’t been able to post links or anything else here this week.

Since I’m also giving two talks this week, writing a border update, and also a short commentary, I’m more than maxed out. I won’t be able to put any content here.

Next week looks way better on the calendar. See you then.

Returning soon from vacation

I’m just finishing my second week of vacation time. My daughter just turned 17, college is looming in a year, so we drove all over the eastern seaboard looking at schools. Seventeen of them, as you can see here from these photo albums.

We’re at the beach for a few days, and coming back to Washington over the weekend. I’ll resume normal posting soon.

Busy day today

I’m not sure why items tend to congregate around a single day, but August 5 is one of those days for me.

  • The New York Times just published my column (second one in three months!) about Colombia’s troubling surplus of retired soldiers, who are massively entering the international market for contractors and mercenaries.
  • I’m moderating a WOLA event about forced eradication of illicit crops in Latin America, with colleagues from Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.
  • WOLA will be publishing a big analysis / explainer piece about the situation at the border.
  • We’re recording a podcast this afternoon about Cuba, which we’ll post shortly afterward.
  • I’m on a panel this evening hosted by Colombia’s El Espectador to talk about coca cultivation and drug policy.

I look forward to posting links to all of those.

The day ahead: June 15, 2021

I should be reachable much of the day. (How to contact me)

I’ve got no meetings on the schedule today—an artifact of being out last week and not scheduling anything. I’ve agreed to do a few interviews but with no fixed times, so I should be available as I dig through many past unanswered messages and do some planning for the next few months.

The day ahead: June 14, 2021

I’ll be unreachable until the latter part of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m back from vacation and will be spending the day catching up. I also have three internal meetings that I know of, and a border coalition meeting, which will take up all morning and at least the first half of the afternoon. I should be reachable after that.

The day ahead: June 7, 2021

I’m off this week and won’t be responsive. (How to contact me)

I’m taking a week of vacation. I may spend a lot of it just doing maintenance: updating contacts, lists, websites, and procedures that have fallen way behind, during this year of 65-hour weeks brought on by the border situation and Colombia’s protests. While I may be at my desk a lot, “vacation” means I’m taking the prerogative of shutting down communications, barely updating my news database, and writing no border or Colombia updates this week. By design, I will be nearly impossible to contact. See you next week.

The day ahead: June 4, 2021

I’m doing a lot of writing, but mostly around today. I’m out all of next week. (How to contact me)

I rolled out of bed this morning and got to work on our weekly border update, forgetting to do this “day ahead” post. I’m done with that, it’ll be posted soon, and am otherwise mostly around.

This is my last day on the job until June 14: I’m taking next week off to rest up after 5 nonstop months, and to get organized for the next several months.

The day ahead: June 3, 2021

I’m mostly around, except for meetings mid-day and late afternoon. (How to contact me)

I’m finishing up a very overdue weekly Colombia update, which fell victim to there simply not being enough hours in the day during an insanely busy time. I also plan to write most of a weekly border update today. This should be easier as my schedule is opening up a bit: only two meetings on the calendar today, one about communications strategy and one to talk about Colombia with legislative staff.

I am taking next week off, so will be spending today and tomorrow tying down loose ends.

The day ahead: June 2, 2021

I’m hard to contact today. (How to contact me)

I’m writing like crazy this morning through mid-day. Then we’re recording a podcast about Peru, and then I’ve got a Colombia coalition meeting. Then I’m going to keep writing.

The day ahead: June 1, 2021

I’m around for much of the afternoon. (How to contact me)

Wow, last week was one of the busiest weeks in my career. This week is less intense, but there’s a lot to catch up on that I couldn’t get to—from many emails to a still-unfinished weekly Colombia update to a podcast to prepare for tomorrow. Today I’ve got an internal meeting for much of the morning, a meeting to talk about Brazil at 2, and I’m on a Friedrich Ebert Foundation panel about Colombia at 5pm Eastern. Otherwise I should be reachable as I write the update and try to reduce my e-mail inbox’s inexorable rate of growth.

The day ahead: May 31, 2021

I’m off today. (How to contact me)

Today is a holiday in the United States (Memorial Day), and since I had to work Saturday—speaking on two panels at the Latin American Studies Association congress—I’m taking off as much of this Monday as I can. In the afternoon I hope to catch up on news, and in the evening write up a weekly Colombia update. But I’ll have my communications apps off.

The day ahead: May 26, 2021

I’m on a deadline and difficult to reach today. (How to contact me)

I’m way behind on a couple of presentations that I have to give later this week, in part because there have been many, many calls and interviews about the situation in Colombia. Unfortunately today I need to put things in “do not disturb” mode for several hours, when not in already-scheduled meetings (internal meetings, interviews, a sit-down with visiting Colombians). I will be hard to reach.

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