Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

October 23, 2018

Trump’s Torrent of Lies Rally His Base
Trump’s Lie-Filled “Nationalist” War on the Truth is Moving the US Towards Tyranny
A Capitalist’s Critique of American Capitalism
Program Notes

We begin with the torrent of lies issuing forth from Donald Trump as he doubles down in the final two weeks of campaigning ahead of the midterms rallying his base with the most absurd lies and fact-free assertions echoed by Fox News which unfortunately too many Americans believe. Charles Lewis, a bestselling author and investigative journalist and founder of the Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists joins us to discuss his book “935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity” and Trump’s war on the truth.  We examine why ridiculous lies like passing a new middle class tax cut in November when the congress in not in session and the bill has not been written are believed by Trump’s base who, according to the polls, are increasingly motivated to vote apparently by the combination of brazen lies and demagogic fearmongering. We will assess whether facts matter anymore in America and since we are reaching the point in the public discourse where virality trumps veracity, we explore the role of the tech titans like Facebook and Google in providing platforms for the spreading and dissemination of lies without what is described as algorithmic accountability.

Then we look further into Trump’s assault on the truth and his unabashed cynicism as he stokes fears of an invasion of migrants mixed with terrorists and criminals heading towards out southern border because Democrats have promised them luxury cars, even Rolls Royces. Will Bunch, an award-winning writer and national columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer Daily News and author of “The Backlash: Right Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama” joins us. We discuss his latest article “With lie-filled ‘nationalist’ war on caravan, transgender people, Trump moves U.S. toward tyranny” and how much Trump is motivated to stop the Democratic takeover of the House because of his fear of impeachment.

Then finally we speak with a successful capitalist, Jonathan Tepper, about his new book which is a critique of American capitalism “The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition”. He joins us to discuss how monopolies and oligopolies are not inexorable and how a revival of antitrust is needed to save us from an economy in which consumers already have little to no choice in banking, beer, beef, health insurance, social networks, air travel, Internet access and even the funeral industry.

Charles Lewis | Will Bunch | Jonathan Tepper


October 22, 2018

Is the Caravan From Central America a Pre-Election Gift to Trump?
Trump’s Withdrawal From the INF Treaty is a Gift to Putin
A Founding Member of Pussy Riot Calling for More Activism to Drive Putin and Trump Away (Extended Interview)
Program Notes

We begin with the caravan of Central American migrants now 5,000 strong heading north for the United States from Mexico’s southern border and speak with Adrienne Pine, a Professor of Anthropology at American University and author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras”. She joins us to discuss Trump’s wildly inaccurate tweets and cynical demagoguery blaming the exodus of migrant families from violence-torn Honduras and El Salvador on the Democrats and on George Soros for mysteriously funding the caravan. Trump is also raising the specter of terrorism claiming that people from the Middle East have been sprinkled along with criminals inside the large group of migrants who are seeking protection in numbers from the Mexican criminal gangs and drug cartels who prey on these desperate refugees as the head north. We will also look into the origins of this caravan which is proving to be a pre-election gift to Donald Trump who is rallying the Republicans ahead of the mid-term elections with the catch-cry of “Kavanaugh and the caravan”.

Then we get an analysis of the consequence of Trump pulling out of the INF treaty signed 30 years by President Reagan and former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev who has been sharply critical of the White House move warning that a U.S. withdrawal would reverse efforts made to achieve nuclear disarmament. Kingston Reif, Director of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association joins us to discuss the consequences of Trump’s move and John Bolton’s current trip to Moscow.

Then finally we speak with Nadya Tolokonnikova, an artist, political activist and founding member of Pussy Riot. The recipient of the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace and the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought she is the author of the new book, just out “Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism”. We discuss her call for more activism in the U.S. to stop the drift in this country under Trump towards the kind of authoritarianism she and her fellow activists suffer under Putin after having been beaten and tortured in a Russian gulag for trying to perform a punk prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow: “Mother of God, Drive Putin Away”.

Adrienne Pine | Kingston Reif | Nadya Tolokonnikova


October 21, 2018

Will the Truth About Khashoggi’s Murder Come Out?
Will Republican Minority Rule Lead to a Second Civil War?
The Psychological Underpinning of America’s Deadlocked Politics
Program Notes

We begin with the widely ridiculed and patently absurd Saudi explanation for the death of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and speak with Nukhet Sandal, a Professor of Political Science and Director of Global Studies in Ohio University’s Center for international Studies. She joins us to discuss her article at The Huffington Post “Killing Jamal Khashoggi Was a Saudi Warning Shot” and whether Turkey’s President Erdogan will release the recordings of Khashoggi’s death on Tuesday as promised when he plans to announce results of the Turkish police and intelligence investigation. Or will some kind of diplomatic deal involving regional stability over the future of Qatar be made and the grisly details buried. With Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announcing a comprehensive Saudi inquiry headed by his son, MBS, the main suspect who intelligence sources believe ordered the assassination, the findings of which will be issued in a month’s time, we assess whether Trump will succeed in making this embarrassment to his and Jared Kushner’s unconditional investment in the brutal and unstable Crown Prince go away, in spite of calls by Britain, France and Germany for a full and independent investigation.

Then we speak with Jonathan Taplin, the Founder and Director Emeritus of the Innovation Lab at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC and author of “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy”. He joins us to discuss his article at Harper’s Magazine “Rebirth of a Nation: Can States Rights Save Us from a Second Civil War?” and whether the imbalance of power from the ruthless minority rule of the Republicans will lead to a second civil war, or is Trump’s reign an interregnum in which the old white power structure is dying as a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Then finally we examine the psychological underpinning of America’s deadlocked politics with Jonathan Weiler, a professor of Global Studies at the University of North Carolina and co-author of a new book, just out “Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide”. He joins us to discuss the different worldviews of the “fixed” people on the conservative side and the “fluid” people on the liberal side and how personality differences rather than ideology divide us and how they can be decoupled from our toxic political debate.

Nukhet Sandal | Jonathan Taplin | Jonathan Weiler


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October 18, 2018

Will Congress Be Forced to Sanction Saudi Arabia Over Yemen?
America’s Middle East Strategy on Steroids
How the Two Dialysis Monopolies Almost Destroyed Obamacare
Program Notes

We begin with growing international outrage at the barbaric behavior of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince MBS who more evidence increasingly implicates as the author of the butchery of a dissident and Washington Post columnist. Yet MBS has yet to even come up with any explanation for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Shireen Al-Adeimi, an Assistant Professor of Education at Michigan State University who is originally from Yemen, joins us to discuss her article at NBC News “Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance has Accomplished What 50,000 Yemeni Deaths Could Not”. We look into the possibility that as Trump tries to offer cover to MBS whose arrogance and impunity knows no bounds, the evidence the Turks are holding back on will be released and will be so damning that the Congress will be forced to act. Although it is clear from complaints by Bob Corker the Republican Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the White House is preventing U.S. Intelligence agencies from sharing what they know with lawmakers, it seems likely that congress will eventually sanction Saudi Arabia. With bills already in the House and Senate to cut off U.S. military and logistical support for MBS’s cruel and pointless war on Yemen, there may be a respite for the Yemeni people facing what the U.N. calls the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet initiated by the impetuous brutality of Saudi Arabia’s incompetent boy king.

Then Stephen Walt, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University joins us to discuss his article at Foreign Policy “This is America’s Middle East Strategy on Steroids” and his latest book, just out, “The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy”. And while Trump is such a wrecking crew he makes the foreign policy elite look good, we explore how we can have greater security if we stopped trying to bomb enemies real and imagined and took better care of our own people, and stood as a more authentic example of democratic values.

Then finally we speak with the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and columnist for The Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik about his latest article at the LA Times “How profiteering by the same dialysis firms trying to kill Proposition 8 almost destroyed Obamacare”. We will examine how the country’s two biggest monopolies in the dialysis clinic business DaVita and Fresenius are spending a record-breaking $100 million plus on deceptive advertising to defeat Proposition 8. After having almost destroyed Obamacare by encouraging Medicare patients to sign up to the Affordable Care Act to have a pre-existing condition covered, these dialysis monopolies then gouged the insurance companies and made such exorbitant profits they forced big insurance companies to opt out of Obamacare.

Shireen Al-Adeimi | Stephen Walt | Michael Hiltzik



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