Welcome back to Nixonland: After four decades, the Oval Office is once again the seat of empire, occupied by a paranoid pilot hellbent on an unremittingly personal fight, and no holds are barred. Between US Presidents ...
Welcome back to Nixonland: After four decades, the Oval Office is once again the seat of empire, occupied by a paranoid pilot hellbent on an unremittingly personal fight, and no holds are barred.
Between US Presidents 37 and 45, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, the links of language and temperament are getting uncannily close—their political predicaments, too. Even beyond the Saturday Night Massacre parallels and the rising calls for impeachment, there are other points of comparisons.
Both Trump and Nixon, for instance, refer to their stalwart base using the same title: the silent majority. Both presidents also share a certain adversarial view of the political press. Trump has called the media his opposition. Nixon made them his enemies. For the benefit of Henry Kissinger and others on his staff, Nixon—inadvertently taping himself—turned his sentiments into a sort of prose poem:
The press is the enemy
The press is the enemy
The press is the enemy
The establishment is the enemy
The professors are the enemy
The professors are the enemy
Write that on a blackboard 100 times
And never forget it….
To understand how and why the ambient fears of the Nixon presidential years are now resurfacing in the Trump White House, we talk to the man who might be the missing link: Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan is one man who’s not just looking at a movie he’s seen before. He was, after all, a major player in the prequel: writing some of Richard Nixon’s most famous fighting lines. You could say he anticipated the movie playing now in his own right-wing populist “America First” presidential campaigns in the 90s and then 2000—first as a Republican, then as an independent.
John Aloysius Farrell, the esteemed biographer of Tip O’Neill in the Congress, and Clarence Darrow in the courtroom, joins us. He’s spiced up the Nixon legend in a big one-volume life full of fresh letters and tapes and lines we’d almost forgotten—to David Frost, famously, when he spelled out the ultimate executive privilege: “When the president does it,” Nixon said, “that means that it is not illegal.” Beverly Gage—historian at Yale working on a new biography of J. Edgar Hoover, the founding G-man of the FBI—discusses another set of parallels: from Nixon-Hoover to Trump-Comey. She tells a broader story about the culture of an institution that has always chafed against the presidential leash. Glenn Greenwald—co-founder of The Intercept and one of the main journalists who broke the Snowden story—draws out the parallels between Daniel Ellsberg‘s Pentagon Papers and today’s Wikileakers, including Snowden and recently released Chelsea Manning. We’re asking Glenn, of the latest flurry of Trump scandals: “Do you ever feel like we’re in a game of distraction—to keep our eyes off the ball?”
While he may not have admitted to being a crook, President Richard Nixon would have certainly admitted to being a cinephile. During his abbreviated time in office, he viewed an astonishing 528 films. In this short essay film, Boston Globe film critic Mary Feeney explores Richard Nixon’s devoted relationship to the movies.
In John F. Kennedy’s hundredth birthday spring, we’re looking again at the family portrait we all know, by the painter Jamie Wyeth. His canvas summoned the late president as a ruddy sort of ghost, face aglow against deep ...
In John F. Kennedy’s hundredth birthday spring, we’re looking again at the family portrait we all know, by the painter Jamie Wyeth.
His canvas summoned the late president as a ruddy sort of ghost, face aglow against deep brown shadows, beefy hand in front of his chin, eyes all alert but just out of alignment, one looks into you, one past you. He’s returned from another place, mouth open a crack, not quite smiling. The mind of an A student, hesitating, kindling a wise-crack, maybe hiding something, pain of injury perhaps, or illness. He looks not combative exactly but forceful, open to the fun of teasing or an argument, open to the pleasure of his own company.
We’re taking fresh impressions of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on his hundredth birthday. The historian Fredrik Logevall, who’s working on a new one-volume JFK biography, was born in Sweden in 1963, the year Kennedy was assassinated. A year later, Wyeth undertook his most noted portrait at the age of 18. He’s 70 now, and his iconic portrait of JFK (beloved by Jackie, besmirched by Bobby) now calls the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston home.
Illustration by Susan Coyne
Poet laureate of Open Source, Eileen Myles tells us about how President Kennedy shaped her childhood as a young, scrappy Catholic kid growing up in a Kennedy worshipping family. Here, she reads us her complicated ode to the Kennedys in a An American Poem.
Also on the phone with us: a chorus of Kennedy watchers, family members, and journalists, including Marty Nolan, Richard Reeves, Sally Fay, Caitlin Flanagan, and Bobby Shriver.
The ICE age: ICE for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal agents that will swoop down if they think your citizenship is irregular. Suspense, surprise, and a certain arbitrary striking power are essentials in the ...
The ICE age:ICE for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Federal agents that will swoop down if they think your citizenship is irregular. Suspense, surprise, and a certain arbitrary striking power are essentials in the ICE process. It’s the hallmark of the early Trump Era in police work, though it’s not exactly new.
President Obama deported more migrants than all the presidents before him: locking many thousands of people up for nothing worse than lacking ‘papers.’ But in the Trump era, there’s now a special emphasis on the fear of “crimmigration”: the supposed overlap between illegal acts and an illegal status in the U.S.
Why put that criminal brand on mostly hard-working, tax-paying family people who get in much less trouble, in fact, than U.S..-born citizens?And why now, when the tide of migration is mostly going out?
We’re joined this week by Daniel Kanstroom, author of Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History, tracks the story of how a supposed nation of immigrants decides who stays and who’s gotta go. He says we’ve reached a crisis point under Trump, but the crisis has been building for thirty years.
Mary Waters, sociologist at Harvard, is increasingly concerned by the parallels between mass deportation and mass incarceration. She termed the phenomenon “crimmigration.” In order to resist this system, she writes, “we need a model of a social movement that is not based in civil rights, because we have defined millions of people living in this country as being outside of civil society.“
Roberto Gonzales spent 12 years following the lives of undocumented teenagers in Los Angeles. His heart-breaking account in Lives in Limbo paints a tragic portrait of squandered potential and unrealized dreams. For undocumented teenagers, adulthood marks a transition to illegality — a period of ever-narrowing opportunities. One teenager named Esperanza lamented to Roberto: “I would have been the walking truth instead of a walking shadow.”
We also spent sometime digging into the stories of undocumented immigrants here in Boston. You can here some their voices in our Soundcloud playlist list below
You can also read the transcript of our conversation with “Amber”—a longtime WBUR caller and undocumented immigrant—here on our Medium page.
The story master George Saunders is widely revered as the nicest guy in the writing game, but it’s sweeter and deeper than that. I met him in the Boston Public Library the other day to gab about ...
The story master George Saunders is widely revered as the nicest guy in the writing game, but it’s sweeter and deeper than that. I met him in the Boston Public Library the other day to gab about his spooky transcendental first novel — about Abraham Lincoln in limbo with the son that died in the White House; immediately I was reminded of what Maxim Gorki noticed about Anton Chekhov, a Saunders idol: “In Anton Chekhov’s presence,” Gorki said, “every one involuntarily felt in himself a desire to be simpler, more truthful, more one’s self…”
And so it went for us with George Saunders. He’s famous for writing: “Stay open, forever, so open it hurts,” and he talks that way about everything – about his and his wife’s version of Tibetan Buddhism, for example; about his very complicated feelings inside Trump campaign rallies; about the notion he teaches that “if death is in the room,” as it is in throughout his new novel, the writing and the reading get pretty interesting. The book in question is titled Lincoln in the Bardo – using the Tibetan word for a mysterious space underground for lost souls after death, but not quite dead. He gave me a feeling it’s a zone we all might well get to know better.
Why are we everywhere in the world, so often with guns drawn? The provocative reporter Stephen Kinzer has covered a number of our “regime-change” interventions in the world, from Guatemala to the Middle East. And ...
Why are we everywhere in the world, so often with guns drawn? The provocative reporter Stephen Kinzer has covered a number of our “regime-change” interventions in the world, from Guatemala to the Middle East. And in book after book, he’s sharpened the question: how did our country that was born in proud rebellion against the British Empire become the mightiest empire of them all — taking on the sorrows and burdens and expenses that come with most of a thousand military bases around the world. And how has the instinct to intervene persisted through so many bitter mistakes and losses, from the first de-stabilization of democratic Iran in the 1950s to Vietnam in the 60s to Iraq yesterday and Afghanistan today?
In Kinzer’s new book, called The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, the short answer to the big question is a conflict in our blood: We are isolationists to the bone, and incurably drawn to trouble, both. Once upon a time, the biggest names in the country — President Teddy Roosevelt and his arch enemy Mark Twain — argued the difference at the top of their lungs. Steve Kinzer surfaces their argument again.
Millions of people marched over the weekend, showing the outlines of a global, feminist, anti-racist, anti-Trump resistance… maybe. The question on our minds this week is whether the protesters can sustain and direct their dissent to create real ...
Millions of people marched over the weekend, showing the outlines of a global, feminist, anti-racist, anti-Trump resistance… maybe. The question on our minds this week is whether the protesters can sustain and direct their dissent to create real political and economic change.
Nobody can predict exactly how Trump’s agenda will play out, and the first days haven’t been good — the non-stop volley of tweets, executive orders, appointments, and headlines. Attention has been paid, Mr President. Now what? Without the institutional structures of old — party, unions, media, and churches — what’s the path of most resistance?
Our guest L.A. Kauffman helped organize the New York anti-war protests in 2003 and 2004, and has written a new book for Verso called Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism. She traces U.S. movements after the 1960s, from Earth First to ACT UP to the Seattle WTO protests to Occupy and beyond. She is euphoric about the possibilities of “upbeat unruliness” to transform our current, dismal political reality.
Protesters inin D.C., where an estimated 500,000 people marched, and New York, where 400,000 people came out. Hundreds of thousands more marched around the world, including at least 750,000 in Los Angeles. Photos by Zach Goldhammer and Conor Gillies.
Keeanga-YamahttaTaylor, Princeton professor, socialist organizer, and author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation,offers a broad-tent vision of grassroots resistance mixed with a healthy dose of cynicism about traditional political leadership. In a widely-shared statement this week, Taylor encouraged Americans to build social movements outside of existing party politics. She disregards the Democrats as revisionists, who throughout the 20th century have worked to absorb, contain, and de-radicalize social movements (black liberation movements in particular). But Prof. Taylor critiques are aimed primarily at the ruling political class; she discourages organizers from harping on whether whether or not the street-level marchers were too white, too liberal, or too #StillWithHer: “The women’s marches were the beginning, not the end. …There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings, marches, and much more to them.”
Mark Greif, founding editor of the magazine n+1and author of a new essay collection, Against Everything, takes the position of a born contrarian when it comes to the new administration: “No President” — not “not my president” — has been his motto since the election and civil disobedience remains his default stance. Greif, like us, is deeply influenced by the New England transcendentalists, and forces us to ask, WWTD (what would Thoreau do)? The answer may lie in Thoreau’s own question: “The laws are there. Do they really represent you? What would it take for them to represent you?” Cultivate inefficiency, and don’t be afraid to be a crank, Greif says. “Be yourself friction, inside the machine.” Hear a longer interview with Greif below:
Thomas Paine, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Saint Augustine, and Thomas Hobbes all agreed: A house divided against itself cannot stand. In this election season, the massive fault lines of gender, race, and class—snaking deep underneath the ...
Thomas Paine, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Saint Augustine, and Thomas Hobbes all agreed: A house divided against itself cannot stand. In this election season, the massive fault lines of gender, race, and class—snaking deep underneath the foundation of American democracy—have been revealed for all to see.
In many ways, Campaign 2016 has been one long series of seismic quakes, laying wreckage to any semblance of a shared national identity. And the Big One, Trump has teased/threatened, is possibly still to come — a contested election that spills out into the streets.
Gordon Matta Clark, Splitting (1974)
We’re joined by journalists Sarah Smarsh and Matt Taibbi. Smarsh’s recent article in the Guardian takes the media to task for their monolithic presentation of the white working-class, particularly in her own state of Kansas. Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributor and fierce Wall Street critic, envisions for us a scenario in which the specter of Trump continues to exert enormous influence long into foreseeable future of U.S. politics. He takes the long view ahead: how Trump might end up being the best thing to happen to Clinton (and her friends in finance and the pentagon) — acting as an instrument to suppress dissenting voices of any stripe. As Taibbi writes:
Trump ran as an outsider antidote to a corrupt two-party system, and instead will leave that system more entrenched than ever. If he goes on to lose, he will be our Bonaparte, the monster who will continue to terrify us even in exile, reinforcing the authority of kings. If you thought lesser-evilism was bad before, wait until the answer to every question you might have about your political leaders becomes, “Would you rather have Trump in office?”
More than Hitler or Mussolini, Bonaparte may be the most apt comparison for Trump. Even if he loses, he will continue to be an imminent danger (conveniently, for some in the Establishment) to democracy.
Donald Trump’s gross behavior towards women has been self-evident for years. Even The Donald himself, seen in this Howard Stern video from 2006, agrees that Donald Trump can be called a sexual predator. So how do ...
Donald Trump’s gross behavior towards women has been self-evident for years. Even The Donald himself, seen in this Howard Stern video from 2006, agrees that Donald Trump can be called a sexual predator. So how do we explain the shocked (shocked!) reaction to the non-revelation of the Billy Bush bus tape?
Perhaps an answer can be gleaned from an entirely separate incident. It’s October 1971 and William Friedkin’s The French Connection is playing to a packed, all African-American audience in a movie theater in Harlem. Up on the screen, Gene Hackman’s character, Popeye Doyle, turns to his partner and mutters, “Never trust a [N word].” The audience erupts — in cheers.
This week on Open Source we’re unpacking the gender politics operating behind the scenes in the Locker-Room Election.Eileen Myles wants to take Trump’s defensive words at face value: let’s talk about what “locker room banter” actually is, another hidden domain for patriarchy.
And Felix Biederman, creator of the centrist pundit parody Carl Diggler and co-host of the brilliantly vulgar Chapo Trap House podcast, helps us turn the corner into a conversation about language and the fine line between what different generations find forgivable and unforgivable in speech.
Plus, Labor of Love author Moira Weigel, political philosopher Rafia Zakaria, and Atlantic contributor Caitlin Flanagan join us live in studio to flesh out what we’re really talking about when we talk about Trump’s words.
Can a secret still be a secret if everybody knows about it? Top brass US intelligence officials, including former NSA director General Michael Hayden, seem to think so. “Stuxnet, no comment!” echoes like a mantra ...
Can a secret still be a secret if everybody knows about it?
Top brass US intelligence officials, including former NSA director General Michael Hayden, seem to think so. “Stuxnet, no comment!” echoes like a mantra throughout the beginning of Zero Days, Alex Gibney’s latest documentary,airing on Showtime November 19th. Unfortunately for the higher-ups at NSA, the secret’s out and pandora’s cyber box has been thrown wide open.
Co-designed by NSA and Mossad to wreak havoc on Iranian centrifuges back in the mid 2000’s, the Stuxnet virus, “the Stradivarius of malware,” has ushered in a whole new world, one in which physical objects in the real world can be turned into targets for sophisticated cyber weapons.
Nations around the world have rules of war IRL—treaties and red lines for nuclear and chemical weapons—but what are the rules of engagement online? Al-Qaeda whistleblower and all-around intelligence guru, Richard Clarke, tells us about the critical need for a new Geneva Convention for cyber warfare.
The Internet began with beautiful dreams of free-flowing information, of unfettered access to all the world’s information, of technology making the world a better place. But behind all the promises and wonders lay hidden vulnerabilities. Now with each hack, each breach, each leak—all spawning thousands of news stories around the world—we’re all being forced to confront the other side of paradise.
This hour, it’s digitally assured destruction, with Walter Isaacson, Richard Clarke, Alex Gibney, Jeremy Allaire, Sara M. Watson and Jonathan Zittrain.
Timeline: Weaponizing the Web
1952: The National Security Administration (NSA) is founded secretly by the Truman administration to surveil communications and provide intelligence to governments.
1952: Israel’s intelligence corps Unit 8200 founded.
1989: Tim Berners-Lee conceives of the internet at CERN.
2007-10: The US and Israel sabotage Iran’s uranium enrinchment facilities at Natanz with Stuxnet, malware coded by the NSA in conjunction with Unit 8200. It’s the first time a cyber attack affects real-world infrastructure. (Reuters)
2009: United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) created under the Obama administration as the “offensive” outgrowth of the “defensive” NSA. (Washington Post)
2010 Iran creates their own cyber command organization, قرارگاه دفاع سایبری (The Cyber Defense Command).
2012: Iran’s Cyber Defense Command releases a virus that erases three-quarters of the files at Aramco, Saudi’s national oil company. (New York Times)
2013: Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald leak NSA documents, revealing the scope of the U.S. executive branch’s global surveillance powers. (The Guardian)
2015: Obama administration releases officialcyber policy. (The White House)
2016: Justice Department indicts seven Iranian hackers for breaking into major US banks and attempting to shut down a dam in NY. (Bloomberg)
2016: Alex Gibney documentary reveals large-scale offensive cyber program, Nitro Zeus. (New York Times)
If all elections are about the future, why does this one come with so much baggage from our political and cultural past? It was in the misfit decade of the ‘90s that both Donald Trump ...
If all elections are about the future, why does this one come with so much baggage from our political and cultural past?
It was in the misfit decade of the ‘90s that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton cemented their almost ubiquitous presence on the national stage. Trump, already a bold face name in New York real estate, left the Plaza Hotel behind for Hollywood. (Here he is on Letterman Show, here in Home Alone 2, and over here The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.) Hillary debuted as First Lady, but bet on her skills as a West Wing wonk for the prize assignment of reforming health care. Her penchant back then for secrecy, loyalty, and vast right wing conspiracies started the trail of scandal headlines—Travelgate, Whitewater, Filegate—that dog her today.
Our guest Maureen Dowd of the New York Times calls the 2016 election the “Seinfeld election.” ”It’s really about nothing,” she says. “Except the two most famous people on the planet that nobody really seems to know.”
So we’re looking back at the Seinfeld decade—that sunny time after the Cold War that ended abruptly with 9/11. The era of peace and prosperity. The heady days of business porn, corporate synergy, and the “personal brand.” The first digital decade, a drug decade in Pharmacy Nation (including Viagra, Prozac and Ritalin). The Third Wave Feminism decade, too.
The ‘90s live on, not only in our Truman Show-like obsession with Trump, or the persistence of Third Way politics, or normcore fashion trends, but also in wounds never healed from NAFTA, welfare reform, the 1994 crime bill, and finance deregulation. Maybe with these two candidates we’re trying to resolve the ‘90s: the racial violence, the feminist and gender identity questions, the inequality, the global war and domestic safety. Let’s party like it’s 1999 and get our heads around the origin story of Campaign 2016.