Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

We begin with China’s leader Xi Jinping’s coronation of himself at the 19th Communist Party Congress where he promised a “new era” of Chinese power with his nation transforming itself into “a mighty power” that will lead the world politically, economically, militarily, and on environmental issues. In drawing a contrast to Trump without mentioning his name, Xi noted that China has “taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change”. Scott Kennedythe Director on the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of “Global Governance and China: The Dragon’s Learning Curve”, joins us to discuss Xi’s vision of a China he will lead with him at the top of the Communist Party, the Communist Party on top of China, and China on top of the world.

Then we speak with Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan Administration who was in charge of manpower to get an assessment of how the bitter and growing feud between Trump and families of the fallen is impacting morale and the important relationship between the men and women serving in the military and their families and dependents. We will discuss the apparently callous insensitivity of Trump who, in consoling a widow on her way to meet the body of her dead husband, is alleged to have said that the slain Special Forces sergeant “knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.”

Then finally we speak with Jonathan Tasini,the author of “The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America” who is President of the Economic Future Group and the host of the “Working Life” podcast whose new book “Resist and Rebel: The Peoples’ Uprising in America” will be out soon. He joins us to discuss his article at CNN “America needs higher wages: not lower taxes” and how increased unionization and a higher minimum wage, not lower taxes for the rich, will boost the American economy.

Background Briefing

October 18, 2017

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We begin with Trump’s latest distraction as he keeps the disgusting lie that Obama did not console families of the fallen alive by doubling down, questioning whether Obama consoled the family of Trump’s Chief of Staff General Kelly with a letter when they lost their son in Afghanistan, when in fact General Kelly and his wife sat at Michelle Obama’s table at a White House breakfast for Gold Star families. David Graham, a staff writer for The Atlantic joins us to discuss his latest article at The Atlantic “How Trump Changed the Topic to Obama’s Consolation Calls” and the method to Trump’s madness as he continues to distract the press and the public with outrageously false claims and inflammatory statements instead of addressing questions of policy and leadership in particular why were the Green Beret’s in combat in Niger and what is the U.S. doing there and what is our military strategy in Africa etc.

Then we will look into the brimming issue of impeachment and speak with the author of a new book, just out, “A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment”. Joining us is Barbara Radnofsky, who has practiced law for nearly four decades and was the first woman in Texas to run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate and for Texas Attorney General. We discuss her article at The Washington Post “The Founding Fathers designed impeachment for someone exactly like Donald Trump” and her article at The Los Angeles Times “The Founding Fathers provided us with a way out of troubled presidency – the direct, doable process of impeachment”.

Then finally with the fall of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last stronghold of the Islamic State in Syria, we speak with Middle East expert and a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Nicholas Heras. He joins us to discuss how a city that was once a prize is now a pile of rubble requiring billions in funds to restore it, and the challenges facing the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces of mostly Kurdish fighters who have liberated a Sunni Arab city but have Russian and Iranian forces and Assad’s Shia Army poised just miles away.

Background Briefing

October 17, 2017

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We begin with Trump’s promise to “look into” a report on his nominee for drug czar after a Washington Post/60 Minutes expose revealed that Congressman Tom Marino pushed legislation that hobbled the DEA in combatting the opioid crisis by preventing their enforcement efforts against big drug companies and distributers who manufacture and peddle Oxycoten and similar drugs that have killed close to 200,000 Americans. The editor of The Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, Mark Kleiman, a Professor of Public Policy in the Crime and Justice Program at the Marin Institute for Urban Management at NYU and author of “When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment”, joins us to discuss the legislation championed by Marino and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, who received $200,000 in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, that prevented the DEA from seizing suspicious shipments of pills to rogue pharmacies and corrupt doctors. We will also assess what President Trump might offer in terms of solutions when next week he is expected to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency.

Then we get an analysis of the results of the Austrian elections which indicate a major shift to the right inflamed by an Islamophobic and anti-immigrant campaign by the handsome 31 year-old Sebastian Kurz, the leader of the People’s Party which captured 31% of the vote and is likely to form a coalition with the right wing Freedom Party founded by former Nazis. Christian Schueller, Senior Editor in the magazine and documentary department of the Austrian TV network ORF, joins us to discuss the rise of anti-immigrant populism and nationalism across Western and Eastern Europe.

Then finally we examine the fate of the Kurds in Northern Iraq who are surrounded by enemies Turkey, Iran and now the government in Baghdad which just seized oil-rich Kirkuk, the cash cow of Iraqi Kurdistan. Henri Barkeya Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University who was a member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, joins us to discuss how a more engaged U.S. President and State Department might have prevented the Kurds from going ahead with a referendum on independence which has backfired, spreading more instability and possibly provoking conflict across the region.

Background Briefing

October 16, 2017

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We begin with Trump’s de-certification of the P5+1 deal with Iran which was kicked to the Congress as a compromise worked out by the adults in the White House day care center following a tantrum by Trump who insisted on repealing another Obama initiative against the advice of his top advisors and America’s allies with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Israel who want America to fight a war on their behalf against Iran. We begin and go to Iran and speak with Ali Arouzi, the NBC bureau chief in Tehran who is one of the few Western journalists operating out of the country. We will discuss the local reaction to Trump’s attempt to destroy an agreement put together by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany and the uncertainty that ensues from having the fate of America’s adherence to the deal in the hands of Congress.

Then following the Secretary of State’s denial that Trump is “castrating” him and Tillerson’s ambiguous statement that diplomacy goes on until “the first bomb drops”, we will look further into the political forces trying the preserve the deal and those trying to scuttle it. Iranian/American historian Maziar Behrooz, a professor of History at San Francisco State University joins us to discuss the symbiosis between hawks in the Trump Administration and in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and how this reversal of an American opening with Iran is seen by the majority of Iranians who are young.

Then we speak with Kurt Anderson, the host and co-creator of Studio 360, the Peabody Award-winning public radio show and bestselling author whose new book is “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History.” We discuss the post-truth “fake news” age of Trump in the context that America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, true believers and by hucksters and their suckers. And with the lines between reality and illusion blurred, we assess whether a consensus on what is real and true could be restored in America.

Then finally we examine the likely consequences of Donald Trump second and perhaps fatal blow against Obamacare following his cutoff of health insurance subsidies to the poor. Jonathan Oberlander,a Professor of Social Medicine and Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina joins us to discuss whether this spiteful and destructive act will backfire since the pain from these cuts will be felt most acutely in Red States that support Trump.

Background Briefing

October 15, 2017

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We begin with President Trump’s executive order that he held up to the press today with a self-satisfied smile which the Democratic Leader in the Senate says is aimed at sabotaging the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare.  Sarah Lueck, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who works on healthcare reform implementation, health insurance exchanges and private market reform included in the Affordable Care Act, joins us to discuss her article at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities “Trump Order Could Destabilize Health Insurance Markets, Hurt Those With Pre-Existing Conditions”, and the likely impact of Trump’s executive order combined with efforts within HHS by its former head Tom Price to sabotage the ACA via administrative obstacles. We analyze the extent to which the insurance pool essential to the ACA’s economic viability will be rendered ineffective as younger healthier participants are encouraged to pay less for less coverage ensuring that there will be less money in the pool to take care of older sicker patients and those with pre-existing conditions.

Then we speak with Robert Jay Lifton, an award-winning psychiatrist, historian and public intellectual about his article at The New York Times “”Our Changing Climate Mindset” and his new book, just out, “The Climate Swerve: Reflections on Mind, Hope, and Survival”. We will discuss how climate change is turning weather events from disasters into catastrophes forcing us to change our collective consciousness to look upon ourselves as members of a single species in deep trouble aboard lifeboat earth.

Then finally we examine the Republican tax plan with Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research who has an article at The Huffington Post, “The Republican Plan to Slow Growth”. We discuss how allowing “pass through” businesses to pay less in taxes has crippled revenues and almost bankrupted the state of Kansas and will surely explode the deficit if adopted at a national level, and how the plan to eliminate the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes is aimed at punishing successful states like California who largely vote for Democrats.

Background Briefing

October 12, 2017

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We will begin with President Trump’s threat to go after NBC’s FCC license because he does not like the news that they are reporting about his own Secretary of State calling him a moron and now revelations that Trump called for the U.S. nuclear arsenal to be increased tenfold. An historian of science who specializes in the history of nuclear weapons and nuclear secrecy, Alex Wellerstein, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology, joins us to discuss how different Trump is from previous presidents who upon learning of the power they have at their fingertips to destroy the world, felt the weight of enormous responsibility that came with their stewardship of the nuclear arsenal. But unlike his predecessors who found it a sobering burden, Trump sees nukes as instruments of power to be used, as he has said cavalierly, “otherwise why do we have them?”, and will also look into the sobering truth is that there is nothing stopping Trump from unleashing America’s arsenal of 7,100 nuclear weapons if he feels like it.

Then we speak with Norman Ornstein, a contributing editor to The Atlantic and the co-author of a new book, just out, “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported”. We discuss how Trump is both a threat to our democracy and a product of its weaknesses and look ahead to the challenges we face in fixing our broken democracy so that we don’t have more Trump’s elected by a minority via the reactionary Electoral College.  And because of demographic changes underway from the depopulation of rural Red States and the concentration of populations in urban areas, in a few decades 60% of the U.S. Senate will be elected by 40% of the American population.

Then finally we examine the growing tensions between the U.S. and Turkey as Turkey’s authoritarian leader becomes more and more unhinged with his government-controlled press demonizing America to the point where the U.S. is blamed for everything including earthquakes. A former senior advisor and foreign affairs expert to the State Department during the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, David Phillips, joins us to discuss how the U.S. and Turkey are on a collision course because of a trial in New York that will expose Erdogan and his family’s massive corruption.

Background Briefing

October 11, 2017

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We begin with a president who instead of governing is lashing out at an ESPN sportscaster, challenging his Secretary of State to an IQ test and tweeting out a new round of insults against the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referring to him as “Liddle” Bob Corker in a snide reference to Corker’s height.  Tim Naftalia clinical professor of history and public policy at New York University, who was the first director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, joins us to discuss his article at The Atlantic, “The Problem with Trump’s Madman Theory” and Corker’s rejection of the notion that there is some kind of madman strategy akin to Nixon’s behind Trump’s belligerent threats against North Korea. We will also examine the historical record of the waning days of the Nixon administration regarding an impaired Nixon’s access to the nuclear button, compared to the concerns raised by Senator Corker that “Trump may be setting us on a path to World War III”.

Then we assess the impact of the repeal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan by the head of the EPA who declared that the phony war on coal is over. David Freeman, who helped bring about the EPA, headed the TVA, New York Power and the LA DWP, and is the author of “All Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future” and a new autobiography “The Green Cowboy”, joins us. We will discuss the commonly- held delusion that switching from coal to natural gas is a move in the right direction and the need to immediately outlaw fossil fuels as poisons to the planet while rapidly converting to available clean solar and wind alternatives.

Then finally we examine the withdrawal of Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga from the rerun of the disputed August election overturned by Kenya’s Supreme Court and scheduled for October the 26th. Kefa Otiso, A Professor of Geography and Director of the Global Village at Bowling Green State University and the founding president of the US-based Kenya Scholars and Studies Association joins us to discuss the standoff between Odinga’s followers who want election reforms instituted before a new election and the Kenyetta government who are treating Odinga’s withdrawal as a concession instead of the protest that it is.

Background Briefing

October 10, 2017

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We begin with Donald Trump’s tweet storm attacking the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker who replied by tweeting “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning”. Derek Shearer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Finland who is currently a Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College where he serves as Director of the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs, joins us to discuss the state of U.S. diplomacy and Corker’s fear Trump is treating the presidency like “a reality show” and is steering the US “on a path to World War 111”. We will assess whether Senator Corker’s warning that Trump “Concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation”, will prompt other Republican senators to express in public what they say in private since Corker is apparently not alone in being alarmed about Trump, claiming “the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here”.

Then Wendy Young, the Executive Director of KIND, Kids in Need of Defense, the leading organization for the unaccompanied children who enter the US immigration system alone, joins us to look into the cynical game Donald Trump is playing by trying the fate of the 800,000 DACA “Dreamers” to a hardline wish list that is dead on arrival with Democrats who Trump can then blame for the failure of immigration reform. We discuss how Trump again throws red meat to his base as a way to distract from his failure to govern, by insisting on building his wall, hiring 10,000 more border patrol, denying federal funds to “sanctuary cities” and closing the door on thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America.

Then finally we explore the growing tyranny of the minority in America as an increasingly unpopular president whose approval rating continues to shrink, throws the full weight of his Administration behind satisfying the wish-lists of right wing extremists and religious zealots. Gretchen Borchelt, Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health at the National Women’s Law Center, joins us to discuss how the vast majority of American women can now be denied birth control coverage in order to satisfy a vocal minority of anti-abortionists who have succeeded in making abortions more likely, numerous and frequent.

Background Briefing

October 9, 2017

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