808: The Watchpower Shows


Full Show:






Murtaza Hussain: “These are people who are very mainstream Americans – Navy JAGs, Republican congressional candidates, people who started civil liberties organizations – people who shouldn’t have been looked at as threats, but assets for helping the United States.”

We’ve learned the identities of several terrorists and foreign spies targeted for close surveillance by US intelligence agencies, and it turns out they’ve been hiding this whole time as Republican political candidates, professors and lawyers, cleverly not posing as a threat to national security. Murtaza Hussain and Glenn Greenwald profile five men who had their emails monitored between 2002 and 2008 in their article Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying On over at The Intercept.

Murtaza calls in to TiH! to discuss what the identities of these five men selected for surveillance says about the intelligence sector’s priorities and oversight, how civil liberties are just as much a target as religious affiliation in post 9/11 America, and why national security issues extend beyond whoever is occupying the Oval Office. Also, there’s no way Chuck lets Murtaza go without talking about his 2013 Al Jazeera opinion piece The Myth of 1,400 year old Sunni-Shia War, and the dangerous narrative about Iraq that Western journalists can’t get beyond.

Journalist Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept at First Look Media, where he covers foreign policy and civil liberties.

Murtaza on Twitter



Nell Bernstein: “Being incarcerated as a juvenile doubles the chances that a kid will go on to be incarcerated as an adult. So it turns out we have an intervention that not only isn’t helping, it’s actually creating the problem it’s supposed to prevent.”

America’s juvenile detention system is doing a great job turning jailed children into jailed adults. If that’s not the goal, then we’re doing more harm than good and we should look at scrapping the whole system. Writer Nell Bernstein makes that case in her new, incredibly powerful/depressing book Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison.

Nell talks with Chuck about the experiences of children behind bars, with less rights and protections than adults, the horrific statistics detailing all the failures of our current school-to-prison pipeline, and whether the state of juvenile incarceration in America is a reflection of our society’s priorities, or those of our political system.

Nell Bernstein is an award-winning journalist. Her previous book, All Alone in the World, details the lives of children with incarcerated parents.



Jón Gnarr: “When I’m asked about anarchism, I can agree on that, I’m an anarchist. But I’m not an anarchist because I believe anarchism is the perfect ideology that will make us all happy, but more because there is no such ideology.”

If the current state of politics seems indistinguishable from satire, what happens when an actual satirist enters politics? After worldwide banking bailouts made a mockery of public trust in politicians, Reykjavik’s public put their trust in a mockery of a politcian, and comedian Jón Gnarr became Iceland’s first mayor with a CRASS tattoo. He tells the whole story (and many more) in the book Gnarr!: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World.

In this weird, wide-ranging conversation, Jón talks about why Icelanders are happy despite their crap weather, the trouble with isms, why so many world leaders are drunk, why it’s ok to not know something, how understanding swimming pools is the key to understanding Iceland, why euro will never be cool, hating Nina Hagen, and the importance of showering with your constituents.

Actor / comedian / politician Jón Gnarr just stepped down after his first term as mayor of Reykjavik. His trilogy of autobiographical fiction is out next year in English from Deep Vellum, we’re super excited about that too.

Jón on Facebook


Brian Mier: “There’s a lot of people in the North trying to pressure for regime change down here. I don’t know at which point it’s just bad reporting, and at which point it’s big newspapers having an objective to get rid of the PT government.”

Brazil is an actual country. And actual countries are complicated. American political coverage of Brazil is pretty simplistic, but that’s our country’s problem, not theirs. Brian Mier has been speaking out against agenda-driven coverage of politics in Brazil, from well-meaning (but wrong) leftist critiques of President Dilma Rousseff as neoliberal agent to less-well-meaning (and still wrong) mainstream hyping of protests for a white, Western audience.

Brian talks with Chuck about Brazil’s actual (complicated) political realities, translates World Cup stadium chants into dump-button worthy English and explains how Brazilians love their soccer in a way Bears fans never could.

Brian Mier grew up on the North Side of Chicago and has lived in Brazil since 1999. He is currently a policy analyst at the Centro de Direitos Economicos e Sociais. His writing has appeared in Lumpen and Vice, and his roadtrip novel Slow Ride just came out. We can’t recommend it enough!


Matthieu Aikins: “A lesson we’ve learned time and time again with voting in Afghanistan – you can’t legitimize an election after the fact.”

A lot happened since we last talked to Matthieu Aikins during Afghanistan’s presidential election. Not a lot changed, but a lot happened at least. Two candidates have claimed victory in the election, which isn’t great news, but they’re largely similar politicians, besides a few biographical details and differing warlord backers. Which also isn’t great. Don’t worry though, John Kerry is on it!

Live from Banff (which gives Chuck an excuse to keep making a dumb joke about Banff,) Matthieu catches us on the politics around the election runoff, explains the stakes for Afghanistan and Western involvement, and reminds us that he was right last time about premature narrative triumphalism, which is the best phrase to describe almost any American foreign affairs story. We also revisit Matthieu’s 2012 Wired piece Jamming Tripoli: Inside Moammar Gadhafi’s Secret Surveillance Network to see the dark consequences of a surveillance state.

Matthieu Aikins is a journalist who has been reporting from Afghanistan since 2008. He recently won the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting and the 2014 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for his 2013 Rolling Stone article The A-Team Killings. Really you need to read it.

Matthieu’s website / Matthieu on Twitter


Jeff Dorchen: “Seems like even if there were only five people on the planet, one would have most of the food and land, one would be growing the food, one would be tasked with piling up all the poop and garbage away from the rich one, one would be unemployed and homeless, and one would be in charge of making sure the unemployed homeless one had nowhere to sleep but a freeway underpass somewhere near the poop and garbage.”

Be careful what you share with Jeff Dorchen on Facebook. As Israelis and Palestinians are sharing violence, hatred and kidnappings, Jeff’s “friends” are sharing internet prayers for Israel. Jeff has been following the same story as them, he just sees dicks everywhere. And not even the good kind!

According to his contacts on LinkedIn, Jeff Dorchen can do just about anything. He’s a visual artist, songwriter/musician, actor, essayist, poet, playwright and screenwriter. His many unfinished novels are still unfinished.

Producers Alexander Jerri and Richard Norwood let a calling card run out of money and drop a guest, but catch an obscenity just before it airs. Batting .500!