Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag

Make Way for Ducklings statues, Boston Public Garden

Make Way for Ducklings statues, Boston Public Garden

Good Morning!!

For absolutely no sensible reason, I’m illustrating this post with photos of Boston in Spring. It’s not like this yet, but it will be soon. My post won’t be particularly organized, just a mixed bag of stories I wanted to share. My brain just isn’t working as well as I’d like and my thoughts are not organized at all. I’m feeling a lot better than I was a week ago, but I’m still tired and spacey. I have two more days on the antibiotics, and I’m really hoping it will be uphill from here on.

It’s been a long time since Richard Nixon was president, but his effects on our country and its politics still linger. Quite a few books have been published about him recently, and The New York Review of Books has an interesting long review of several of them by historian Robert G. Kaiser: The Disaster of Richard Nixon. I just want to highlight one section of the article that describes how Nixon used the Vietnam War to win the 1968 election.

Vietnam was the defining issue of Nixon’s presidency, as he knew it would be. Months before he became president, Nixon assured H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, his closest aide, that “I’m not going to end up like LBJ, Bob, holed up in the White House, afraid to show my face on the street. I’m going to stop that war. Fast.” Antiwar protesters had driven Lyndon Johnson into early retirement, which allowed Nixon to become president. Nixon played to the country’s war weariness in his 1968 campaign, implying that he had a plan to end the war.

But he had no plan. Ironically, even before he took office Nixon personally sabotaged an opportunity he might have had to avoid Johnson’s fate. The books under review suggest that this is one of the stories that will continue to stain Nixon’s reputation.

Boston Common in Spring

Boston Common in Spring

In late October 1968, when Johnson’s negotiators in Paris finally reached an agreement with North Vietnam to end American bombing and begin negotiations on a political settlement, Nixon took an enormous personal risk to derail the peace talks before they could begin. At the time, polls showed that Hubert H. Humphrey, Nixon’s Democratic opponent and Johnson’s vice-president, was rising fast—so fast that Nixon feared he might lose the presidency because of the peace deal. So he performed a dirty trick that foreshadowed many more to come.

For months Nixon had worried about a last-minute deal, or appearance of a deal, that would boost Humphrey. In July he opened his own channel to Nguyen Van Thieu, the president of South Vietnam. As his intermediaries to Thieu Nixon chose his campaign manager, the New York attorney John Mitchell, and Anna Chennault, the exotic, Chinese-born widow of Claire Chennault, a former US Air Force general who led the Chinese Nationalist air force during World War II. In a secret meeting (Nixon loved secret meetings) in Mitchell’s New York office with Chennault and Bui Diem, Thieu’s ambassador to the United States, Nixon explained that when he had a message for Thieu, he would give it to Chennault, who would convey it to the ambassador to forward to Saigon.

Read much more at the link.

Peters Hill at Arnold Arboretum in Spring

Peters Hill at Arnold Arboretum in Spring

Did you hear about the brouhaha over famed journalist Gay Talese’s appearance at Boston University last weekend? The Boston Globe reports: The backlash over writer Gay Talese’s comments at BU.

Speaking at a conference at Boston University on Saturday, the legendary journalist-turned-author struggled to answer a question about female writers who inspired him.

He mentioned Nora Ephron and Mary McCarthy, followed by an awkward silence. Finally the 84-year-old writer blurted out: “None.”

Talese went on to explain that women writers of his generation did not like to talk to strangers and that prevented them from taking on tough subjects.

The response seemed to stun many in the audience at BU’s Power of Narrative Writing conference. One person shouted out “Joan Didion” as a potential female author to admire, while others took to Twitter to criticize Talese….

Talese’s controversial remarks were soon trending on Twitter, as journalists quickly turned to the social media site.

Spring flowers in Boston Public Garden

Spring flowers in Boston Public Garden

After his keynote speech at the conference, Talese went on to insult New York Time Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. Richard Prince at journal-isms:

Immediately after his keynote, Talese walked over to attend a private luncheon for speakers. He met Nikole Hannah-Jones, who has won widespread acclaim for her coverage of racial segregation in schools and housing.

“Hannah-Jones delivered Friday’s keynote address, launching the conference. But when she was introduced to him as a New York Times Magazinestaff writer, Talese was more curious about how she got her job.

“ ‘He asked again if I was actually a staff writer. And I said yes,’ Hannah-Jones told me by phone on Monday. He asked her how she got hired for that job. ‘I said they called and offered me a job,’ she recalled. ‘He asked me who hired me, why was I hired?’

“Hannah-Jones said she was the only Black person in the room.

“ ‘I felt defensive,’ Hannah-Jones recalled. ‘I feel like I’ve been explaining why I’m in a room where apparently people think I’m not supposed to be most of my life, so I know when someone is asking me that question.’

“The conversation moved on to other topics. But at the end of the luncheon, Talese asked Hannah-Jones something else.

“ ‘I was talking with another woman journalist,’ Hannah-Jones recalled. ‘We were trying to figure out what session we were going to go to next, and that’s when he asked me if I was going to get my nails done.’

On Twitter, women shared the story about Talese from Gloria Steinem’s 2015 memoir:

One day, trying to cover Bobby Kennedy, she found herself in a taxicab between Saul Bellow and Gay Talese. Talese leaned over and said to Bellow, “You know how every year, there’s a pretty girl who comes to New York and pretends to be a writer? Well, Gloria is this year’s pretty girl.” Steinem didn’t object at the time; she was too embarrassed and reluctant to express anger. Decades later, in the telling of the anecdote, she metes out a justified revenge.

Boston Common

Boston Common

Washington Post writer Marisa Bellak wrote: I was Gay Talese’s teaching assistant. I quit because of his sexism. 

My disillusionment with the master of narrative nonfiction happened back in 1999. Talese was a visiting fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and I gladly accepted an offer to work with one of my literary heroes. Before the course began, I reread my favorites of his books: “Fame and Obscurity,” with its remarkable profile of Frank Sinatra, and “Unto the Sons,” the story of his Italian immigrant family.

Our fallout occurred just a few classes into the semester. During a 10-minute break, Talese asked me to make him a cup of tea. The request seemed vaguely demeaning and inappropriate. But I wasn’t really in a position to consider it. My hands were already full with a stack of handouts he’d asked me to photocopy for him. “I’m on my way to copy these,” I nodded toward the stack. “There’s a kitchen just through there, with a kettle on the stove and an assortment of teas in the cabinet.” Our class met at Penn’s Writers House, a lovely 13-room Victorian on the main campus walk that’s a make-yourself-at-home sort of space. Other students from the class had already congregated in the kitchen — I could hear laughter as someone finished telling a story. I assured Talese that they would help if he had trouble finding anything, and then I headed upstairs to the photocopier.

After class that day, we ended up revisiting the tea episode, and Talese berated me for refusing his request. One comment still sears. “You’re not perky enough for me,” he said….

With all the perkiness I could muster, I told Mr. Talese he could find someone else to make him tea and to help teach his class.

I probably spent too much time on that story, but I found it really satisfying to see Talese brought down a peg.

Cherry blossoms at Arnold Arboretum

Cherry blossoms at Arnold Arboretum

And now a tale of another woman hater. A judge has been forced to release court documents on Robert Dear’s interviews with police after he murdered three people and injured others at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. From The Washington Post: The twisted ‘dream’ of accused Planned Parenthood killer Robert Dear Jr.

Robert Dear Jr. had a hero, Paul Hill, the murderous leader of an anti-abortion group. He also had his enemies: President Obama, for one, who Dear refers to as the “antichrist,” and Planned Parenthood, for another.

And he had a dream: “When he died and went to heaven, he would be met by all the aborted fetuses at the gates of heaven and they would thank him … for what he did because his actions saved lives of other unborn fetuses.” ….

Until Nov. 27, 2015, all Robert Dear had accomplished toward his dream, he told police, was to show up at an abortion clinic in South Carolina and place superglue in all the door locks at the clinic, “so they could not get into the building.” That way, at least, he would have “at least stopped any abortions from occurring” on that particular day and at that particular clinic.

But in late November of last year, Dear put on a makeshift metal vest, made of coins and duct tape, according to the documents, armed himself with four SKS rifles and two propane tanks, and shot up the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, killing three people, including Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Iraq War veteran who had been outside the clinic on his cellphone; Jennifer Tarkovsky, 35, a mother of two who had been at the clinic to support a friend; and Garret Swasey, a University of Colorado police officer who had responded to the incident.

Here’s a bit more about Dear’s idol:

Dear…was determined to emulate Hill, a Presbyterian minister and vocal antiabortion protester who opened fire outside an abortion clinic in 1994. He shot and killed John Bayard Britton, a 69-year-old physician who worked at the clinic, and the doctor’s escort, retired Air Force lieutenant colonel James Herman Barrett.

According to the documents, Dear said Hill “was somebody he thought very highly of.” He previously posted messages to Hill’s website and other online forums espousing his antiabortion and anti-government views….

Hill was executed in 2003, but a page in his name can be found on the domain of the “Army of God,” a Christian antiabortion organization.

A quote from Hill atop the page affirms from whom Dear derived his dogma: “In an effort to suppress this truth, you may mix my blood with the blood of the unborn.”

Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden

Did you hear about the woman named Cara Jennings who called Florida Gov. Rick Scott an asshole in a Gainsville Starbucks? The Daily Dot has an interview with her. 

I understand that the video started recording after your conversation with Gov. Scott was already under way. What had been said before the video?

It started out very calm. I saw his profile and wasn’t sure if it was him. So I just said, “Governor Scott,” and he turned towards me. I asked, “Why did you pass that awful law last week that impacts women’s healthcare choices?” And he said, “I don’t vote on bills,” which is so incredibly disingenuous. If I didn’t understand the political process, at that point I would have thought, “Oh, I got the information wrong,” and I would have dropped it. But he didn’t even own up to the fact that he passed this bill.

So I said, right you don’t vote—but you have executive authority to sign bills into law. And this bill you signed into law is very harmful to women like me, who rely on women’s health services like Planned Parenthood. And he said, go to your county health clinic then.

So I have the governor of the state of Florida telling me which healthcare provider I should go to, in a coffee shop. I bought a smart coffee cup which is very cool at https://www.fastcodesign.com/90150019/the-perfect-smart-coffee-cup-is-here. Completely inappropriate. And basically where the video picks up is when I respond by saying, “You’re an asshole.”

Read the rest at the link.

So those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following?

55 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: A Mixed Bag”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice day everyone!

    • Ron4Hills says:

      It was Nixon and the Watergate that sparked my love of politics. I remember watching the hearings on TV at my Big Mama’s house. The hearings interrupted her stories so we watched together.

      Nixon was a ratf*cker even before he got elected.

      Excellent post. Thanks.

    • Fannie says:

      Luv your Boston Spring Photos………and your articles, and especially that Cara in Florida.

      Hang in there with that sinus problem, and hopefully you can get out and smell the roses.

    • joanelle says:

      Great post BB, Nixon was really a smarmy guy, Now when will someone write a book that tells the truth about how Reagan destroyed so much that was good in America?

  2. Ron4Hills says:

    Oops, I posted on the wrong day….

    Bernie wasted all that energy on calling Hills unqualified, claiming she made the charge first, and of course she never did, but the thing that pisses me off is…it was the media that called him unqualified!

    No one is calling him out on that little fact. In Sunday’s comments I noticed that one video that showed pundit after pundit saying in plain language, “WTF this guy is a joke….” Bernie punched back but claimed it was Hills he was counter-punching. Liar! He was trying to rebut the media outlets that were crushing him of that disastrous interview.

    I want someone to point out to him, “Secretary Clinton never said you were unqualified but here, here and here they came right out and said it. Why are they wrong? “

    Also, my girlfriend told me that she was watching Fox News this morning and they were inexplicably very complimentary toward Hills. I suspect a dirty trick, because I cannot explain it any other way.

    • NW Luna says:

      Bernie seems incapable of realizing that he is indeed unqualified, so he looks for someone else to blame.

    • quixote says:

      It’s problematic to call almost anyone unqualified after recent history. I mean, Dubya anyone? Okay, he grew up in a political family so maybe he absorbed this stuff with his Cheerios, but that sure didn’t show. Other than that, wasn’t the sum total of his experience being Governor in a state where that’s a near-ceremonial position? That did show.

      And then Obama. A municipal office in Chicago (that he was elected to only in the Rovian sense), Illinois State Senator, one term in the national Senate, and that was supposed to be plenty.

      Berned is way ahead of either of them. Way behind Hills, of course, but so is everybody.

      • Ron4Hills says:

        Actually Obambam did not serve a full term in the Senate.

        And he got that job because a sex scandal destroyed the presumptive front-runner.

        He was a reasonably quick study though. Light years ahead of Dubya. 🙂

        • purplefinn says:

          “He was a reasonably quick study though.”
          Yes, Obama has been. I’m afraid it’s too late for Bernie to get up to any kind of speed. Not “doing his homework” and all.

        • quixote says:

          You have to admit, “light years ahead of Dubya” is a rather low bar :>.

          And, yes, Berner is quite clearly no study at all.

      • bostonboomer says:

        But of course no one has called him unqualified. Hillary merely noted that he seemed unprepared to talk about specifics in his NYDN interview.

  3. dakinikat says:

    And TrumpBros on parade: from Ed Kilgore

    Trump Supporter Believes Donald Will Make the World Safe ‘for Hooking Up With Girls on Spring Break’


    Finally, in the interests of both political science and sociology, someone — to be precise CBS News’s Jacqueline Alemany — has taken a closer look at these Trump bros, and it turns out that they are passionate young men with some very serious concerns:

    Their reason for backing Trump was simple, and echoed the sentiments of his other fans: He isn’t politically correct, and he doesn’t back down in the face of criticism.
    In other words, he’s crude, and he’s rude about it. Maybe some of these bros have faced aggressive campus speech codes that have made them proud to be offensive. But you get the sense that they just don’t want to control their behavior at all. Alemany’s prize interview is with David Portnoy, “founder of Barstool Sports, the frat-focused sports website.” Here’s Portnoy’s complaint:

    “There is a sentiment among frat guys, lacrosse players and middle class affluent white kids that they are kind of getting persecuted lately,” Portnoy told CBS News.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Gay Talese thinks it’s appropriate to ask a journalist if she’s getting her nails done?! Not to mention quizzing her on how she was hired and by whom? And thinks he has the right to demand a “perky” teaching assistant? And a “pretty” journalist can’t have brains?

    Why would anyone think Talese is worth listening to or reading?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Until all this happened, he was considered one of the greatest narrative journalists ever. I’ve never been a fan. I made the mistake of reading his book Thy Neighbor’s Wife years ago, and that was it for me.

      • janicen says:

        Thy Neighbor’s Wife is my only experience with his work as well. I found it plodding and frankly, boring and never even finished it. So fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

        • Sweet Sue says:

          He’s a dinosaur who’ll shuffle off his mortal coil sooner rather than later, and I don’t give a shit about his antediluvian opinions.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Be sure to read that link I put up about him from Slate Mag (below comment). It will blow your mind! I think he belongs in jail.

          • NW Luna says:

            Yeach. I’ve never read anything by him. IIRC I may have picked up something at a library, glanced at a page, and didn’t care for it. He’s now on my “Do not read this vileness” list.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    OMG! I can’t believe I left out the most important article about Gay Talese! You’re not going to believe this.

    Slate: Gay Talese’s Other Problem. The writer’s latest New Yorker piece is far more troubling than his sexist comments.

    Talese revealed an even darker side of himself via a massively long piece in the current issue of the New Yorker, titled “The Voyeur’s Motel.” Although it has been on the magazine’s “most read” list for days, it hasn’t elicited a fraction of the commentary that his remarks did. But the article is a failure of journalistic ethics and a revealing window into Talese’s character.

    Talese’s narrative is undeniably fascinating. The story is about a strange man named Gerald Foos, who owned and operated a motel in Colorado. With the help and knowledge of his wife, he modified many of the motel’s rooms in such a way that he could watch his guests from above the ceiling. Although he admits to being sexually aroused by his spying, he is also intellectually curious: He fastidiously records details about the occupants (especially about their sex lives), and believes himself to be gleaning a great deal of sociological insight into them. As the story moves from the 1960s through the 1990s, he witnesses and catalogs various societal changes, such as an increase in interracial couples, that are compelling but ultimately unsurprising and never revelatory. The real interest of Talese’s piece, in other words, is Foos himself.

    Be sure to read the rest. It even involves a murder. I can’t believe The New Yorker published this and it’s going to be a book as well.

    • babama says:

      Reprehensible. I’ve subscribed to The New Yorker for years and used to read it pretty much cover to cover, it’s been going downhill for awhile. Have liked Elisabeth Kolbert’s climate change articles, but only about 20% of a given issue is interesting lately. I won’t miss it much.

    • NW Luna says:

      I agree with you — it’s troubling that the New Yorker published this. IMO they have a history of excusing this sort of writing on the claim that it’s artistic.

      WTF? “undeniably fascinating” — Not to me.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    New Quinnipac poll of New York

    With a 65 – 28 percent lead among black voters, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tops Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont 53 – 40 percent among New York State likely Democratic primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

    Donald Trump has 55 percent of New York likely Republican primary voters, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 20 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 19 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.

    Today’s results show little movement from a March 31 survey showing Clinton over Sanders 54 – 42 percent and Trump with 56 percent, followed by Cruz at 20 percent and Kasich at 19 percent.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Tom Hayden joins the ranks of former icons now hated by Bernie bros.

    The Nation:

    I Used to Support Bernie, But Then I Changed My Mind.


    • Ron4Hills says:

      Is it subscription only.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I was able to read it. Try searching for the title on Google. That works sometimes. It’s a thoughtful piece, especially at the end.

        • Jslat says:

          Google search method worked. Good article. Thank you for posting it.

          • bostonboomer says:

            Oh good. Hayden said his reason for supporting Hillary is race. Makes sense.

          • babama says:

            I couldn’t get through with Google but there’s a summary at Blue Nation Review. Glad to hear it and appreciated his reasoning from what I could read. I hope it helps in NY and CA.

    • NW Luna says:

      “ Respect and support for Bernie are rising” Really? He does get more thoughtful in the last third or so of the article, where he calls out Bernie’s lack of detail plans and questions his ability to get policy change. I didn’t bother to look at the comments; I’m sure the ‘bros are knifing him.

  8. dakinikat says:

    President Obama Speaks at the Newly-Designated Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

    • Fannie says:

      Really wonderful to follow this, and see Alice Paul’s House, and all the other women who fought and backed up the National Woman’s Party, and Women’s Liberation! So, so good.

  9. Ron4Hills says:

    With friends like De Blasio who needs idiots? . Good grief C.P. Time? Really?

    Like Hills does not have enough have enough trouble with faux outrage from Sanders supporters?

    I don’t like De Blasio I think he is a liability.

    It is Spitzer all over again. Remember when Hills did not want to undercut Spitzer for his licensing of undocumented immigrants and Edwards and Obama pounced? Well move over Governor Whoremonger, make room for Mayor Moron!!!!!

  10. Fannie says:

    You know, my first thoughts upon reading about Nixon/Vietnam, took me back to the streets of San Diego, where I was working for Project Jove, and there I was in with a group of inmates freshly from prison, and arranging their counseling, housing, and job interviews. We watched as Pres. Nixon resigned, and it was a powerful moment. If I remember correctly they walked out with $100, which was nothing but pennies back then. The struggle was on because nothing was free back then, and nothing free now, the discrimination against parolees was quite intense.

    Trump and Sanders do not have any foreign policy in regards to the wars. All he ever says is that Hillary voted for it when he needs to read the entire resolution. Cruz does have some foreign policy, and his is about killing all Muslims.

    By the by, my wages back in that day were pitiful, I don’t even know how I survived living in downtown San Diego. I think I was expected to get married and have children, and the struggle would end. Only I knew there was nothing, no wages house work back then. I was expected to give a hand at work, make the coffee, etc. I remember those days.

    Robert Dear just makes me sick, and Marsha Blackburn is creating many many more of his type that will go after women, and abortion clinics.