Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

June 20, 2018

A Global Report on the Refugee Crisis
Trump, Haley and Pompeo Hand Human Rights to China and Russia to Define
The Real Message in the Bible About How to Treat Refugees
Program Notes

On World Refugee Day we  begin with the report just out from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2017” and speak with Chris Boian, the spokesperson for the UNHCR. After so much media attention focused on the plight of refugee children separated from their parents by the Trump Administration, today President Trump reversed his cruel policy of ripping crying children from their mothers’ arms at the southern border.  But across the world the refugee problem is worse than it has ever been since World War II, so we look at the wider global landscape in which 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017, with 44,500 people forcibly displaced every day. With one out of every 110 people in the world displaced, 20% are Palestinians and the remaining two thirds come from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. And while nativist sentiments against refugees have been stirred up and exploited by President Trump and his advisors, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant policies with overtly racist overtones are on the rise not just in the U.S., but across Europe too.

Then we speak with Barbara Crossettethe U.N. correspondent for The Nation and the senior consulting editor and writer for Pass Blue, which provides independent coverage of the U.N., where she has an article “As Expected, the U.S. Quits the UN Human Rights Council”. She joins us to discuss how much the Trump Administration’s close ties to Israel influenced the decision, given the ridiculous number of times the UN criticizes Israel, and the expectation that in abdicating America’s traditional role as the main champion of human rights, the vacuum on the council will be filled by China and Russia and others who will reshape human rights according to their definitions.

Then finally with the leading champion of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, Jeff Sessions, using the Bible to justify a state policy of child abuse, we speak with the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, the Co-Chair with the Reverend William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, a national Call for Moral Revival. She joins us to discuss her article with the Reverend William Barber at The Guardian “Jeff Sessions got the Bible wrong. We care for strangers, not rob their rights” and how the real message throughout the Bible is reflected in Isaiah 10: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed”.

Chris Boian | Barbara Crossette | Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis


June 19, 2018

The Mental Health and Childhood Development Consequences from Separating Children at the Border
The Infliction of Childhood Trauma as National Policy
Inside the Corrupt Deal That Brought the World Cup to Russia

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Dr. Julie Linton | Dr. Dawn Garzon-Maaks | Ken Bensinger[/caption]


June 18, 2018

In Resisting Trump “We Lose Only When We Get Quiet”
How Propaganda is Working for Trump
An Update on the World Cup in Russia
Program Notes

We begin with the relentless nature of the Trump Administration’s government by stunt and spectacle and Trump’s constant assault on our political, legal, economic, cultural and social structures in a tyranny of the minority which is demoralizing the outraged majority, making us numb and weakening our resolve to fight back. Dahlia Lithwickwho writes about the courts and the law for Slate Magazine and hosts the podcast Amicus, joins us to discuss her article at Slate “It’s All Too Much, and We Still Have to Care”. With growing signs of outrage as two thirds of Americans now disapprove of Trump’s cruel border policies separating young children from their mothers, we discuss the warning by the head of the Poor People’s Campaign the Reverend William Barber that “We lose only when we get quiet”. And since Republican women like former First Lady Laura Bush and even Melania Trump (with a conspicuous silence from women’s and children’s advocate Ivanka Trump) are speaking out against the callous inhumanity Trump, Sessions, Kelly and Stephen Miller are displaying in the name of the American people, there are signs that truth and justice will prevail in the end.

Then we speak with Jason Stanleya Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and author of “How Propaganda Works” whose forthcoming book is “How Fascism Works”. He joins us to discuss the extent to which Donald Trump has weaponized the advice of the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels to “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it”. Amid signs that Trump’s campaign to discredit the Mueller investigation is working with 36% now having an unfavorable opinion of Mueller and just 32% approving of the inquiry, we will discuss how, thanks to Fox News and other pro-Trump propaganda outlets, propaganda is working for Trump and America is getting closer to fascism.

Then finally we look into the FIFA World Cup underway in Russia and the surprising defeat of the soccer powerhouse Germany by Mexico, a victory undermined by Mexican fans chanting a homophobic slur which FIFA is now investigating. Andrei Markovits, Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies at the University of Michigan and author of “Offside: Soccer and American Exceptionalism” and “Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture”, joins us for an update on the world’s most-watched sporting event.

Dahlia Lithwick | Jason Stanley | Andrei Markovitz


June 17, 2018

The Utility of Psychological Profiles on Kim Jong-Un, Putin and Xi Jinping
Trump Denies His Own Cruel Policy
Can the White House Press Corps Unite to Force Trump and Sanders to Stop Lying and Answer Questions?
Program Notes

We begin with an analysis of why the recent summit in Singapore might be successful now that North Korea’s main propaganda outlet has broadcast a 45 minute documentary full of the requisite praise for Chairman Kim, but with favorable words for President Trump and a mentioning of the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula with images of the gleaming Singapore skyline as a modernistic future for North Korea to aspire towards. We will speak with someone who predicted a successful summit, Ken Dekleva, a clinical psychiatrist who until recently served as a psychiatrist with the U.S. State Department. He has created psychological profiles of foreign leaders ahead of presidential summits having created profiles on North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping among others. Given President Trump’s emphasis on personal engagement as opposed to policy preparation, we discuss the importance of personal chemistry in terms of meetings between heads of state and how understanding who you are dealing with and what makes them tick can be helpful if not crucial.

Then we examine the cruel immigration policy underway on the southern border directed by a president who is denying what he is doing, which amounts to child abuse, then blaming it on Democrats. Ruthie Epstein, an immigration policy analyst and lobbyist at the American Civil Liberties Union joins us to discuss the brazen nature of Trump’s cynical denial of his own policy and attempts by the Republicans next week to pass a bill that their so-called moderates and hard-liners can agree on, about which Trump has sent mixed signals.

Then finally, with President Trump holding an impromptu press gaggle in the White House driveway at which one reporter asked “why are you lying” but was drowned out by other reporters shouting questions, we assess whether it would be possible for the White House press corps to form some sort of solidarity and united front to demand that Trump and Sarah Sanders stop lying and answer questions. The author of “The Press effect”, Paul Waldman, who blogs at the Washington Post’s Plum line and is a senior writer for the American Prospect, joins us.

Ken Dekleva | Ruthie Epstein | Paul Waldman


June 14, 2018

The Long-Anticipated DOJ IG’s Report Trump is Seizing On
The First Look Inside a Detention Facility Holding 1500 Immigrant Children
The Worsening Situation in Yemen
Program Notes

We begin with the release of the long-anticipated report by the Department of Justice Inspector General who investigated former FBI Director Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email saga which Trump has relentlessly tried to build up as a criminal outrage worse than Watergate in order to distract from the on-going Mueller investigation into him and his family. Lisa Kern Griffin, a professor of law at Duke University who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner and spent five years as a Federal Prosecutor in the Chicago United States Attorney’s Office, joins us. We will discuss how the report’s main finding is that Comey was “insubordinate” in his handling of the Clinton investigation but it finds there was no “bias” in the FBI’s decision to clear Clinton. However buried in the 568 pages of this report are seven words that Trump and his Fox and friends media allies are blowing up into a smoking gun to proves the “Deep State” is out to get Trump, and that is an exchange of texts between a former Army officer and FBI agent Peter Strzok and his girlfriend FBI lawyer Lisa Page who asked rhetorically “Trump’s not ever going to become president right? Right?” To which Strzok fatefully replied “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”

Then we speak with Emma Brown, an investigative reporter at The Washington Post where her latest article is “Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart where the U.S. is holding nearly 1,500 immigrant children”. We discuss the first access the press has had to a detention facilities housing some of the 11,200 children now in federal custody. And while the excuse is given that the privacy of children is being protected, the U.S. public knows very little about the fate of children as young as breast-feeding babies who have been ripped from their mother’s arms at the southern border, and the conditions in which they are being detained under what the Trump Administration calls a “zero tolerance policy”.

Then finally we get an update on the worsening situation in Yemen which is already a humanitarian catastrophe, as a Saudi-led force moves on the port city of Hudaydah to close off the only access to aid for a country under a merciless blockade which has resulted in a third of the country’s population facing starvation. An expert on YemenDr. Sheila Carapico, a Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Richmond and author of “Arabia Incognita: Dispatches from Yemen and the Gulf”, joins us to discuss the extent to which the U.S. has blood on its hands as a result of supporting and arming the Saudi war now threatening to destroy a city of 600,000.

Lisa Kern Griffin | Emma Brown | Dr. Sheila Carapico


June 13, 2018

Normalizing Trump’s Embarrassing Amateurism
Meanness and Madness in Trump’s America
The AT&T-Time Warner Mega-Merger
Program Notes

We will begin with the embarrassing amateurism on display with Trump’s train-wreck leadership now being normalized as being an unorthodox way of doing business. Meanwhile it is increasingly clear that Trump hates meetings like the G-7 because he is unable to keep up with his peers without looking foolish and exposing his ignorance. And having purged those few top White House advisors who tried to speak truth to power, we now have a team of sycophants, lightweights, cranks and crackpots surrounding a woefully unqualified president who has to resort to reality TV spectacle to disguise his incompetence and inability to govern in an executive branch unable to implement policies and enact promises. Kent Harrington, a former CIA analyst who served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, joins us to discuss the staged-for-TV Singapore summit which late night TV hosts have likened to the TV reality show “The Bachelorette”. And now that the only adult left in the Trump cabinet who is not a sycophant or a toady, Defense Secretary Mattis, has been blindsided by promises to stop exercises and pull troops out of South Korea, we will examine whether there is the capacity in this Administration to follow through on the opening Trump has claimed his wildly successful summit has provided.

Then, with a white supremacist sympathizer running as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, and a wife-beating Democrat running for the House in South Carolina, and a pimp running as a Republican for the State Legislature in Nevada, we will assess the meanness and madness in Trump’s America that will escalate as the November elections approach. With Republican Senator Corker describing his Republican Party as having become “a cult-like situation under Trump”, we will speak with Mike Lofgren, the author of the best-seller “The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted”.

Then finally we discuss the $85.4 billion mega-merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which was approved on Tuesday in full by the Federal Judge Richard Leon in defiance of the Department of Justice. With 50,000 mergers having taken place in 2016 and 50,000 in 2017, and $2 trillion spent on mergers so far in 2018, we will speak with Jesse Eisinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica who covers Wall Street and Finance about this new laissez- faire business environment in which AntiTrust tools are not being used.

Kent Harrington | Mike Lofgren | Jesse Eisenger


June 12, 2018

Singapore Summit Light on Disarmament
Maybe the Ego-Driven Amateur is the Right Person to Pull Off the Korean Deal
How a Trade War With Canada Could Backfire

Program Notes

We begin with the choreographed Kim-Trump photo-op that was very light on substance and even lighter on the takeaway, a one-page signed agreement which promised much less than the 1994 and 2006 joint communiques, which has left almost all specialists on Korea and U.S. officials who have dealt with the peninsula considerably underwhelmed. Grace Liu, a Research Associate at the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, joins us to discuss what was left undone and glossed over and that is some kind of nuclear arms reduction agreement with North Korea in exchange for vague security guarantees offered by Secretary of State Pompeo who declined to describe what they might be. With no substantial action forthcoming on denuclearization the Singapore summit was hardly a victory for disarmament but now that the door is open for more meetings ahead, we will assess whether at the end of the day the best deal that could be arrived at between the U.S. and North Korea might end up looking a lot like the Iran deal which Trump tore up.

Then we speak with Kyung Moon Hwang, a Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Southern California who writes a bi-weekly column for the Korea Times of Seoul whose most recent study is “Rationalizing Korea”.  He joins us to discuss how the ego-driven amateur who talked of pristine North Korean beaches as real estate opportunities to build condos, might just be the best person to pull of this deal since clearly over the decades the professionals have failed. We will also look into the frightening signal that a desperately poor country devoting all of its resources to make nuclear weapons sends to the world; if you want respect and to be taken seriously, then get a nuke.

Then finally we speak with the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University, Leo Panitch about President Trump’s new best friend the North Korean dictator he describes effusively as “a talented man who loves his country very much” compared to his newest global enemy Canada’s Prime Minister who Trump refers to dismissively as Justin. We discuss how China reaches out to the world by building roads while Trump builds walls.

Grace Liu | Kyung Moon Hwang | Leo Panitch


June 11, 2018

Could North Korea Play the US Off Against China?
Could Starting a Trade War Backfire on Trump?
The Supreme Court OK’s Purging Voters If They Miss One Election
Program Notes

We begin with the meeting between President Trump and the North Korean dictator due to take place in one hour from now and explore the possibility that Kim Jong-un could put himself in the position of playing China off against the U.S. in the way that Nixon’s meeting with Mao during the Cold War enabled the U.S. to play China off against the Soviet Union. A former deputy secretary of defense and a member of the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council, Rudy deLeon, a senior fellow with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center for American Progress, joins us to discuss how a nuclear deal with North Korea could be negotiated if the U.S. and its allies know so little about what North Korea has in terms of weapons, nuclear facilities and delivery vehicles. We also assess the role of China and South Korea behind the scenes and going forward if a deal is to be struck. And since Trump has done little to no preparation compared to Nixon, we will analyze what Kim Jong-un has won so far and what he might want out of a deal which Trump appears eager to make up front without paying much attention to the details that will have to follow.

Then with Trump attacking Canada’s Prime Minister again on Monday in tweets from the summit in Singapore, we speak with Matt Golda Professor of Law who teaches international trade law at Fordham University who held an appointment within the Executive Office of the President as Deputy Assistant Trade Representative for North America. He joins us to examine whether insulting close neighbors and long-standing allies could degenerate into a trade war.  And while Trump is obviously playing to the “Rust Belt” for the mid-terms and 2020 and using the “national security” rubric against Canada to avoid input from Congress, if reciprocal tariffs start escalating in a tit-for-tat trade war, the stock market could tank and backfire on Trump.

Then finally we look into the 5 to 4 decision on the Supreme Court by the conservative majority to break a bi-partisan tradition and side with the Trump Administration to uphold a controversial Ohio voter purge to remove voters from the rolls if they fail to vote in one election. A nationally-recognized expert on election law, Richard Hasen, the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine joins us to discuss his article at Slate “Sonia Sotomayor’s Dissent in the Big Voter Purge Case Points to How the Law Might Still be Struck Down”.

Rudy deLeon | Matt Gold | Richard Hasen


June 10, 2018

Trump Forges a Global Realignment Rewarding Despots While Punishing Allies
The Now-Obvious Hold Putin Has Over Trump
“Nicaragua on the Brink of Calamity”
Program Notes

We begin with the politics of petulance as the man-child and leader of the free world blows up alliances and tramples on relations with traditional allies while reaching out to rehabilitate Russia and reward China as our president forges a radical global realignment with despots and kleptocrats with Trump, like a Godfather meeting with fellow mob bosses to carve up territory, announcing that “we’ve got a world to run”. Thomas Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College whose latest book is “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters” joins us to discuss the extraordinary inversion of national security priorities as Trump embraces enemies and trashes allies with an insulting attack on America’s closest neighbor and ally Canada at the same time elevating one of the world’s worst dictators with praise and prestige. We look into Trump’s childish reversal over an imaginary sleight by Canada’s Prime Minister who Trump gratuitously demeaned, rejecting a consensus reached at the G-7.  And the unreal nature of the reality TV summit about to take place in Singapore where the theatrics of an easy deal with a do-over dictator is about to be sold as great global statesmanship.

Then we explore the now obvious hold that Vladimir Putin has over Donald Trump with Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence at a meeting in France warning that Putin is trying to divide the NATO alliance while at the same time Trump calls for Putin’s re-admission to the G-7 at the testy meeting in Quebec at which the British Prime Minister was hoping to get a unanimous condemnation of Russia for their nerve gas attack on British soil.  Roger Morris, who served on the National Security Council under both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, until resigning with Anthony Lake over the bombing of Cambodia, whose latest book is the comparative history of the U.S. and the USSR, “Kindred Rivals: America, Russia and Their Failed Ideals”, joins us to discuss the disturbing possibility that our president is Putin’s puppet.

Then finally we speak with Stephen Kinzerwho served as The New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua and is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs about his article at The Boston Globe “Nicaragua on the Brink of Calamity”. He joins us to discuss how for the second time in many generations, Nicaraguans are rebelling against a decadent family regime and efforts by the Catholic bishops to get the authoritarian leader Daniel Ortega to stop shooting down peaceful protesters and agree on a new election.

Thomas Nichols | Roger Morris | Stephen Kinzer


June 7, 2018

Trump Stiffs Allies While Embracing Despots
Trump Revives Nativism and Protectionism Like the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act
Senate Confirms a Proponent of Equating Criticism of Israel with Antisemitism as Head of Civil Rights at the Dept.of Education
Program Notes

We begin with tomorrow’s G-7 Summit in Quebec City, Canada which President Trump is reluctantly attending because it is likely he will get an earful from the leaders of France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and Canada who as America’s allies, are furious that he is imposing tariffs on them and starting a trade war. Donald Abelsona professor and chair of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who specializes in American politics and U.S. foreign policy, joins us to discuss the alarming ignorance of history displayed by Donald Trump in his testy phone call with Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau and Trump’s State Department spokesperson who cited the D Day invasion as an example of America’s “very strong relationship” with Germany.  We review the list of world leaders and close allies such as Abe, May, Macron and Trudeau who went out of their way to court Trump and establish friendships with him only to be stiffed and assess what the impact might be of a threat from France’s President Macron to join with other world leaders at the G-7 to issue a rare rebuke by excluding the U.S. from the joint statement issued at the end of the summit.

Then we examine further Trump tariffs on allies and neighbors and the extent to which, because of anger at Trump from indignant populations in France, the U.K., Germany, Japan, Mexico and Canada, leaders of these countries will be forced to reciprocate and perhaps trigger a trade war. Rodrique Tremblay, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal who was president of the Canadian Economics Society and a member of the Committee of Dispute Settlement of the North American Free Trade Agreement, joins us to discuss Trump’s revival of the nativist and isolationist stupidity which led to the Smoot/Hawley Act signed by President Hoover in 1930 which triggered a global depression. And since Trump is pandering to nativist protectionism in hopes of winning reelection in the Rust Belt in 2020, we assess whether corporate America and the Congress will step up to prevent a looming trade war.

Then finally we speak with Rabbi Joseph BermanGovernment Affairs Manager at Jewish Voice for Peace about the 50 to 46 vote in the Senate today to confirm Kenneth Marcus as assistant secretary for civil rights under Education Secretary DeVos. In what appears to be yet another example of Trump appointing someone who is implacably opposed to the mission they are charged with, we will look into how the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act before Congress which Kenneth Marcus champions, would prevent schools and colleges from supporting Palestinian rights or criticizing Israel because of the risk of losing federal funding and being branded as anti-Semites.

Donald Abelson | Rodrique Tremblay | Rabbi Joseph Berman



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