Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

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

October 17, 2018

How the Saudis Buy Washington, DC
Will Erdogan Release the Evidence or Bury It at the Behest of the Saudis and Trump?
Globalization as the Enemy of Social Democracy
Program Notes

We begin with the enormous financial clout Saudi Arabia wields in Washington through lobbying firms who then pass on the money to politicians, retired senior government officials and think tanks.Dr. Ben Freeman, the Director and Founder of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy who is the author of “The Foreign Policy Auction”, joins us to discuss how presumably now the Saudi lobbyists are working overtime, along with President Trump, to defend the indefensible as the whole world, with the exception of the White House and Fox News, is appalled at the brazen butchery of Jamal Khashoggi apparently ordered by the Saudi Crown Prince. With some Washington lobbying firms dropping their lucrative Saudi client, we examine how, after shelling out millions and having exerted enormous influence in Washington for decades, Saudi spending in 2017 was nearly three times what it was a year earlier. And we will assess whether the vocal outrage at Saudi behavior coming from prominent Republican senators will have an effect on Trump’s efforts at a cover-up since the Congress can exert its authority on arms sales and possibly impose sanctions on the kingdom to pressure the King to ditch his son the Crown Prince who Senator Graham described as “a wrecking ball”.

Then we speak with Max Hoffman, the Associate Director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress whose research focusses on Turkey and the Kurdish regions. He joins us to discuss if and when the Turks will release the audio and video evidence they have been leaking which they claim are recordings of the actual torture, murder and dismemberment of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. We assess what leverage President Erdogan might be using over the Saudis and what would prompt him to either release the evidence or bury it in a secret deal with Trump and the Saudis.

Then finally we speak with John Judis, Editor at Large of Taking Points Memo whose latest book just out, is “The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization”. He joins us to discuss his article at The New York Times “What the Left Misses About Nationalism” and argue that as long as corporations are free to roam the globe in search of lower wages and taxes, and as long as the United States opens its borders to millions of unskilled immigrants, liberals will not be able to create an equitable society free from the anxieties of obtaining healthcare, education and housing.

Dr. Ben Freeman | Max Hoffman | John Judis

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