Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

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November 23, 2017

Program Notes

We begin on this Thanksgiving with an exploration into the megatrends that will impact our lives and the planet as we gather to celebrate that which we have to give thanks for. The author of “The 8 Laws of Change”, Stephan Schwartzthe editor of the daily web publication, which concentrates on trends that will shape the future, joins us to discuss his new book “Awakening” and how simply being born white or male will no longer confer privilege in the future and how a new form of global feudalism is evolving with a handful of plutocratic families controlling most of the world’s wealth, while a vast worldwide peasantry scrambles to make a living as competition bids down labor and technological advances make traditional work obsolete. We also explore hopeful trends as a growing mass movement develops as citizens around the world begin to realize what they have in common and how they are all in lifeboat earth together which is threatened by rising sea levels from global warming, presenting a global challenge that transcends national boundaries.

Then we continue the conversation on Thanksgiving with Frank Schaeffer, a best-selling author whose parent Francis and Edith Schaeffer were world-famous evangelical speakers and authors, and Frank previously worked for such figures as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. However he felt increasingly alienated and experienced a crisis of faith that would ultimately lead to his departure from the evangelical movement. The author of a number of fiction and non-fiction books, he joins us to discuss his latest iBook “Letter to Lucy: A Manifesto of Creative Redemption – In an Age of Trump, Fascism and Lies” and talk about how the values of non-commercial family holiday Thanksgiving can be built upon to rescue the country from the Trump nightmare.

Stephan Schwartz | Frank Scheaffer

November 22, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with an investigation into the dark power of secret government that is the subject of the new film by the legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris who joins us in the studio. He won an Academy Award for his film “The Fog of War: Eleven Lesson from the Life of Robert S. MacNamara and his other films include “The Thin Blue Line”, “The Unknown Known” and his latest out on Netflix on December 15, “Wormwood”. This new four hour film is an exploration of the mysterious death of Frank Olson, a CIA employee who was unwittingly dosed with LSD and was pushed or plunged to his death from a New York City hotel window in 1953. The film follows the odyssey of Olson’s son Eric who tries to piece together the mystery behind his father’s death and uses dramatic scenes acted out by Peter Sarsgaard and Molly Parker to make the case that the CIA, which later apologized for drugging Frank Olson, also had him murdered and spent decades covering up its crime.

Then we look into the growth of a spinoff of the Military Industrial Complex President Eisenhower warned about, the Nuclear Industrial Complex, and speak with William Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the Center for International Policy. The author of “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex, he joins us to discuss his article at Tom Dispatch “Massive Overkill: Brought to You by the Nuclear Industrial Complex”. We analyze the insanity and the skewed priority of the massive investment about to made by the Trump Administration to spend $1.7 billion dollars on a new generation of bombers, submarines and missiles and the warheads that go with them that can only be used in ending the world as we know it, in a race of redundancy to improve on the quality of death at the expense of the quality of life in America.

Errol Morris | William Hartung

November 21, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with insight into a new radical movement Antifa that has become the nemesis of the alt-right who along with the Fox echo chamber have exaggerated the power and influence of a small group fighting back against well-funded right wing provocateurs on campus and Nazi attacking and murdering citizens as they did in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mark Bray, an historian of human rights, terrorism, and political radicalism in Modern Europe who was one of the organizers of Occupy Wall Street, joins us to discuss his latest book “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook”. We examine the rise of white supremacy and neo-Nazism around the world following recent demonstrations in Warsaw, Poland and survey the history of anti-fascism from its origins to the present day. While critics say shutting downs adversaries is anti-democratic, Antifa activists argue that the horrors of fascism must never be allowed to triumph again, especially with Donald Trump in the White House who is enacting his authoritarian tendencies at home while displaying affection and solidarity with despots abroad.

Then we speak with Henry Giroux, a world renowned educator, author and public intellectual whose latest book is “The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism”. He joins us to discuss his latest article at Truthout “Disposability in the Age of Disasters: From Dreamers and Puerto Rico to Violence in Las Vegas”. We assess how the Republican Party has been captured by the far right and will be a continuing problem for American democracy and society going forward unless a citizen’s movement can be built to counter a right wing kleptocratic takeover of America, as growing plutocratic power and the drift towards authoritarianism threatens our economic viability and democratic future.

Mark Bray | Henry Giroux

November 20, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with an analysis of how the Trump Administration’s foreign policy looks like from abroad one year after an “America First” isolationist whose business empire has been built upon shady financial deals with kleptocratic families and despotic regimes around the world, became President of the United States defeating a former Secretary of State who got three million more votes than he did. Thomas Wright, a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy, as well as a fellow in the Center on the United States at the Brookings Institution, and the author of “All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power”, joins us. We will discuss his article at the Irish Times, “In the age of Trump, maybe it gets worse from here” and the apparent retreat underway around the world of democratic institutions and the rule of law because of Trump’s embrace of criminal regimes and powerful despots he appears to admire. We examine the consequences of the unprecedented comingling of the Trump family businesses with US foreign policy and whether, in spite of the crippling of the Department of State under Rex Tillerson, the generals surrounding Trump can prevent the ship of state from sinking America’s standing and reputation around the world.

Then with the recent veto by the Russians that shut down a UN inquiry into the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against his own people, as Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers head for a Pyrrhic victory in Syria, a country that has been torn apart and largely destroyed, we speak with Firas Fayyad, an award-winning Syrian filmmaker about his latest film “The Last Men in Aleppo” which won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. He joins us to discuss the work of the White Helmets who are the subject of his film. They are ordinary Syrians who dig men, women and children out from under collapsed buildings, often with their bare hands, risking their lives as Russian bombs rain down on civilians as their city Aleppo is gradually turned to rubble.

Thomas Wright | Firas Fayyad

November 19, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with the possibility of a new war in the Middle East breaking out with the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran heating up as an impetuous young Saudi Crown Prince MSB tries to provoke a clash between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon while the endgame of the civil war in Syria appears to be leaving Russia and Iran in stronger positions in the region. A veteran CIA operative in the Middle East Robert Baer, who is now the national security affairs analyst for CNN, joins us to discuss the volatility in the region exacerbated by the unprecedented amateurism of an American Administration led by the Trump family whose priorities appear to be self-enrichment through their ties to MSB. In addition to this the State Department is led by a businessman who is both out of his depth in the world of diplomacy and undercut by his own president. Tillerson is also crippling this own department in the misguided name of corporate efficiency while the so-called “adults in the room”, the generals surrounding Donald Trump, also lack diplomatic skills and come from a hierarchical world of following orders and responding to every problem with military force.

Then we will speak with Diane McWhorter the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution”. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and is a regular contributor to The New York Times where she has an article ”Want to Know What Divides This Country: Come to Alabama” and as the nation’s attention turns to Alabama’s December 12 US Senate race, we will discuss the state that has transformed from backwoods to bellwether and the complex psyche of Alabama where Roy Moore’s supporters would rather be poor than not be proud.

Then finally we will be joined by Brian Klaas, a Fellow in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and the author of a new book “The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy”. We will discuss the growing number of countries controlled by despots and kleptocrats as democracy retreats around the world in part because the main champion of democracy, the United States is led by a powerful cheerleader for some of the world’s worst regimes as Donald Trump continues to display a bizarre adoration and idolization of despotic strongmen like Putin, Erdogan and Duterte.

Robert Baer | Diane McWhorter | Brian Klaas

November 16, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with troubling questions raised in investigative reports by the BBC that in spite of Trump’s talk of bombing the **** out of ISIS and General Mattis’ promise to annihilate ISIS, it seems that some kind of deal was made to allow ISIS fighters to escape from Raqqa, and according to truck drivers who ferried the terrorists to safety, there were huge numbers of foreign fighters among the evacuated ISIS survivors who will likely go on to cause mayhem in the west. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years working in Congress, the last 16 as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget Committees whose latest book is “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government”, joins us. We will discuss his article at The Washington Monthly “The Trump Scandal That Democrats Aren’t Talking About: Did ISIS escape Raqqa with Trump’s connivance?” and try to understand how the world’s most dangerous jihadists were allowed to live to fight another day, and whether there will be any inquiry into what happened given how much time, money and attention was devoted to the phony Benghazi story that pales in comparison.

Then we examine the Trump Administration’s reversal of an Obama-era ban on the importation of elephant trophies from big game hunting which was the result of a suit by Safari Club International and the NRA to block Obama’s 2014 ban. George Wittemyer, a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology who is the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Save the Elephants in Africa, joins us to discuss the rapidly diminishing populations of African elephants who have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978.

Then finally we speak with The Guardian’s former Moscow bureau chief who was expelled from the country by the Kremlin about his new book just out, “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House”. Luke Harding who knows Julian Assange and Edward Snowden well and has interviewed the author of the Steele dossier Christopher Steele, joins us to discuss why Steele believes that his dossier on Trump’s collusion with the Russians is between 70 and 90% accurate, and why Steel feels he will be vindicated as the special counsel’s investigation digs deeper into Trump, his family and associates’ contacts and collusion with Russians close to Putin.

Mike Logfren | George Wittemyer | Luke Harding

November 15, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with the coup in Zimbabwe that so far has been bloodless and speak with Ambassador John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations who was a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria during South Africa’s first non-racial election. He is the author of “Morning in South Africa” and joins us to discuss the military coup in Zimbabwe that has the 93 year-old President Robert Mugabe under house arrest along with his younger wife Grace Mugabe who has been criticized for her conspicuous consumption in a desperately poor country and likened to Imelda Marcos and Eva Peron. We look into whether the military will bring back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who Mugabe recently sacked and how the generals who are veterans of the war of liberation from white rule in the 1970’s will neutralize the unpopular Grace Mugabe while treating the popular and revered Robert Mugabe with kid gloves.

Then we examine the exhibition of far right wing nationalism and fascism on display in Warsaw, Poland over the weekend with a march by over 60,000 that coincided with Poland’s 99thIndependence Day with marchers carrying banners with “Clean Blood” and “White Europe” emblazon while white supremacists chanted “Seig Heil” in a country where the Nazis carried out the worst atrocities. Jan Kubik, a Professor of Political Science at Rutgers and a professor in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University College, London and author of “Twenty Years After Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration”, joins us to discuss the apparent complicity of the Polish government since the only arrests by the police were 45 counter-protesters and Poland’s Foreign Minister called it “a great celebration of Poles…united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland”.

Then finally we get an analysis of the House and Senate’s so-called tax reform bills that have been negotiated in secret with the Democrats excluded which the House might vote on as early as Thursday. Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist and co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley joins us to discuss how the Republicans are scrambling to find pots of money to offset the enormous tax cuts to corporations and the richest Americans by going after Blue States, post-graduate students and in the case of the Senate bill, grabbing over $300 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.


John Campbell | Jan Kubik | Sylvia Allegretto

November 14, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with the testimony today by Attorney General Sessions before the House Judiciary Committee that was full of memory lapses when it came to discussions about the Trump campaign reaching out to the Russians and Putin himself. Lisa Graves, who served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department and as Chief Counsel for Nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee, joins us to discuss how Sessions denied that he lied to the Senate in October about contacts with Russians but his memory suddenly got better when he recalled shooting down a proposal for a Trump-Putin meeting. We also examine Trump’s picks for the federal judiciary which he is rapidly filling with far-right bloggers and assess whether the Republicans will stick with the party-line and all vote for a candidate who has never tried a case and is deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Furthermore this 37 year old Hillary Hater failed to disclose that his wife is the Chief of Staff for the White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who along the Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, control the pipeline for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

Then we discuss today’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons” which has been prompted by bi-partisan concerns that Donald Trump does not have the stability and competence to be a steward on America’s nuclear arsenal and is so volatile and quixotic that he could wake up on the wrong side of the bed and order a nuclear strike. Jon Wolfsthal, who served at a special assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation, joins us to analyze what barriers could be placed between Trump and the nuclear button without diminishing the deterrence value of the US nuclear arsenal.

Then finally we look into the revelations in The Atlantic of secret correspondence between Donald Trump Junior and Wikileaks that uncover Julian Assange’s close cooperation with the Trump campaign to disseminate damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Russian hacks and show how much Assange was offering advice and guidance to Trump who he was unctuously endorsing. Michael Kelly, an editor and investigative reporter at Yahoo who previously was a senior news editor at Business Insider, joins us to assess how leftist supporters of Assange can reconcile their hero’s bromance with Donald Trump and his hard right wing presidency.

Lisa Graves | John Wolfsthal | Michael Kelley

November 13, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with the emergence of a fifth woman claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Roy Moore when she was a minor, this following a call from the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate demanding that Moore step down as the Republican candidate for the Senate race in Alabama. Asked about Leigh Corfman’s account of being sexually assaulted by Roy Moore when she was 14 and Moore was 32, Mitch McConnell replied, “I believe the woman. Yes”. Diane Winston, who holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and is the publisher of Religion Dispatches, joins us to discuss whether or not a pedophile could be elected to the U.S. Senate by the Republican voters of Alabama. We will also try to assess what possible strategy could be behind Steve Bannon’s championing of far-right fringe candidates and why Bannon thinks Roy Moore, “Chemtrails” Kelly in Arizona and convicted felon Michael Grimm in New York could make America great again.

Then we go to Jerusalem to speak with Israeli journalist and historian Gershom Gorenberg who is the author of “The Unmaking of Israel” and a senior correspondent at The American Prospect where he has an article “In the Saudi Game of Thrones, a Prince Knocks Over the House of Cards”. He joins us to discuss what machinations and war plans as well as financial deals are underway within the secret alliances between Jared Kushner, the Saudi Crown Prince MBS and his mentor the leader of the Emirates MBZ, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Then finally we look into the war of words between Donald Trump and the former Director of National Intelligence Clapper and Director of the CIA Brennan, following Trump’s remarks in Asia that be believed Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with interfering in our elections. Ali Watkins, a national security correspondent for Politico joins us to discuss Trump’s subsequent correction of his remark to say that he believed Putin believed what he said, then the Russian claim that the conversation never took place, and Brennan’s remark that Trump is being played by Putin.

Diane Winston | Gershom Gorenberg | Ali Watkins

November 9, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with the Senate version of the so-called Trump/Ryan tax reform bill that eliminates some of the most flagrantly egregious giveaways to the ultra-rich in the name of Middle Class tax cuts. Jeff Madrick, a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, a former economics columnist for The New York Times and the author of “Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World” joins us. We will discuss the admission by the White House Economic Advisor Gary Cohn that “the most excited group out there are big CEO’s, about our tax plan”, which Cohn goes on to describe as trickle-down economics. And look into the truth-telling by Republican Congressman Chris Collins who said that his big donors are saying “Get it done or don’t ever call me again” and Senator Lindsey Graham who admitted to blackmail by donors, suggesting that a failure to pass tax reform would split the GOP and result in more well-financed far-right challenges to incumbent Republicans.

Then we assess the impact of the explosive revelations in a Washington Post investigation of Steve Bannon’s candidate for the US Senate in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore, which document the experiences of four women who dated Roy Moore when one of the women was 14 and the others 16 and Moore was in his thirties. Zac McCrary, who served as a pollster and strategist for members of Congress, mayors, state legislative caucuses and public interest groups in Alabama, joins us to discuss the unusually quick response by Republican senators, including Alabama’s Richard Shelby, calling on Moore to step down if the allegations are true, and the staggering hypocrisy of such an aggressively holier-than-thou “Christian” who stands accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old.

Then finally we speak with a veteran CIA analyst and author of “The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA”, Melvin Goodmanabout the possibility that Trump’s head of the CIA, who has proven to be a partisan hack and an ambitious toady, could sabotage the Mueller investigation by muzzling the CIA’s counterintelligence unit that he has placed under his personal control and hold back evidence that Mueller may not know exists. We examine Mike Pompeo’s record of distorting evidence of Russian interference in our election to please the beneficiary of Russian hacking, his boss Donald Trump.

Jeff Madrick | Zack McCrary | Melvin Goodman

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November 8, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with an examination of what may be behind the recent meeting between Jared Kushner and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, MBS, after which a dozen Saudi princes were arrested and 2 killed in the name of stamping our corruption at the same time the Prime Minister of Lebanon resigns from office in Saudi Arabia and Iranian missiles are fired from Yemen at the Saudi capitol. Dov Zakheim, a former Undersecretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Defense, joins us to discuss his article at Foreign Policy “Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up To Something”

Then we examine the denial about Russian involvement in the US election that rejects the consensus of all US Intelligence Agencies, found both on the political right and the left and propagated by polar opposite news outlets such as Fox New and Breitbart and The Nation. Mark LowenthalPresident of the Intelligence and Security Academy who served as Assistant Director for Analysis and Production at the CIA and Vice Chairman for Evaluation on the National Intelligence Council, joins us. We will discuss the consternation among intelligence professionals that the head of the CIA at Trump’s urging, met with a former NSA official who advocates a conspiracy theory that a US Intelligence insider hacked the DNC not the Russians.

Then finally we look into President Trump’s trip to China where the Chinese leader is giving him the imperial treatment of pomp and ceremony and flattery, using an old Chinese strategy of treating Trump with great respect but giving him nothing. One of the world’s foremost experts on China, Perry Link the editor of the “Tiananmen Papers” who was blacklisted by the Chinese government in 1996, joins us to discuss the futility of trying to get the Chinese to pull America’s irons out of the fire with North Korea.

Dov Zakheim | Mark Lowenthal | Perry Link

November 7, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with President Trump’s remarks in response to the latest mass shooting at a Texas church where he blamed the problem on mental health, not access to military-style assault rifles, and rejected the idea of improving background checks when clearly the Texas shooter would have failed a background check had the Air Force not screwed up and passed on the shooter’s criminal record of domestic abuse into the FBI’s database. Congressman Ted Lieu joins us first. He currently serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee and today walked out of the moment of silence on the House floor to protest inaction on a universal background check law and a ban on assault rifles and on bump-fire stocks.

Then Paul Helmke, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Health at Indiana University who was formerly the President of the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, joins us to refute Trump’s NRA talking points, in particular his claim that Chicago has the strongest gun laws in the country yet is a disaster when in fact it was the NRA who weakened Chicago’s gun laws. Furthermore the guns used in crimes in Chicago almost all come from Indiana next door where gun laws are weak and straw purchases are commonplace.

Then we look into the impeding default by oil-rich Venezuela following last Thursday’s announcement by President Maduro that the country he has brought to its knees with a combination of corruption, mismanagement and mindless ideology, can no longer pay its debts. The founding Director at the Center For Energy and the Environment at IESA in Venezuela, Francisco Monaldi, now a fellow in Latin American energy policy at the Center for Energy Studies in the Mexico Center and the Latin America Initiative as well as a lecturer in Energy Economics at Rice University, joins us to discuss how Maduro has mortgaged bankrupt Venezuela’s $15 trillion in oil wealth first to China and now to Russia and how much Trump’s threat of an invasion has helped Maduro cling on to power.

Then finally, as results come in on the critical bellwether race for governor in Virginia, we will speak with Quentin Kidd, Professor of Political Science at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. We will discuss the ruthless and shameless campaign that the Republican Gillespie has run and the feckless campaign the conservative Democrat who voted for George W Bush in 2000 and in 2004 Lieutenant Governor Northam ran, after narrowly beating a progressive Democrat in the primary.

Ted Lieu | Paul Helmke | Francisco Monaldi | Quentin Kidd

November 6, 2017

Program Notes

We begin with the release of 13.4 million secret files of hidden offshore accounts by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists whose previous release of the Panama Papers caused consternation amongst the global elite of billionaires, oligarchs and kleptocrats. This time it is the Paradise Papers that has everyone from members of Trump’s cabinet to the Queen of England ensnared in tax-dodging schemes along with giant corporations like Nike and Apple. Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Michael Hudson, a senior editor for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists joins us to discuss the price average citizens around the world pay because of the $10 trillion hidden offshore by the wealth defense industry of lawyers, accountants and lobbyists, in collusion with politicians, which pushes the tax burden onto everyone else below the super-rich, starving governments of funds for health, education and welfare. We also examine the impact of this expose on the on-going investigations into Trump’s ties to the Russians given how much Trump’s Secretary of Commerce and his son-in-law are swept up in the Paradise Papers scandal.

Then we look into the role of domestic violence, the gun culture and lax guns laws that played a role in the latest gun massacre which the Governor of Texas is calling “the largest mass shooting” in the state’s history with 26 dead and 20 wounded, 10 in critical condition. Robert Jensen, professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the new book, just out “The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men”, joins us to discuss the links between guns and masculinity in American culture.

Then finally we examine the presidential trip underway in Japan where Donald Trump is urging the Japanese to buy American weaponry to shoot North Korean missiles “out of the sky”, pressing his hosts to buy more U.S. military hardware to lower the trade deficit. Takako Hikotani, a Professor of Modern Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy at Columbia University and author of an article at Foreign Affairs “Trump’s Gift to Japan: Time for Tokyo to Invest in the Liberal Order”, joins us to discuss Trump’s summit with Japan’s Prime Minister Abe.

Michael Hudson | Robert Jensen | Takako Hikotani

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