Background Briefing: May 6, 2020


Have We Become a Family-Run Banana Republic?

We begin with the cracks of sunlight shedding light on the hidden corruption inside the Trump administration with an insider from Jared Kushner’s shadow coronavirus task force telling House investigators about cronyism and crooked dealings. And at HHS, Dr. Rick Bright, the former head of vaccines who was fired by the president for questioning dangerous drugs Trump was touting, has become a whistleblower and will soon testify to the House about how his bosses Azar and Dr. Kaldec steered lucrative contracts to cronies while refusing to fund the production of face masks and other PPE. Sarah Chayes who covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR and has studied corruption in the third world which she wrote about in Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, whose forthcoming book is On Corruption in America and What is at Stake, joins us to discuss her article at The Atlantic “Look Out, Corruption Ahead: As the country mobilizes resources to address the pandemic, politicians and corporations may attempt to exploit the crisis to enrich themselves“. We discuss how Mnuchin and Kushner, who are in charge of directing the trillions of taxpayer money flying out the door, come from the sociopathic world of vulture capitalism and as they throw money at their friends on Wall Street, 33 million unemployed Americans wait in line for unemployment checks which have yet to arrive. With the United States more and more resembling a family-run banana republic, will the American people demand that their government take care of them instead of Trump and his cronies, since as Sarah Chayes points out, crises are opportunities, the outcomes depend on who seizes them?


The Fiasco in Venezuela and its Ties to Q-Anon and Trump

Then we look into the fiasco in Venezuela which is being likened to Rambo meets the Bay of Pigs in which a group of hapless ex-Green Beret mercenaries and Q-Anon believers along with former members of the Venezuelan military tried to decapitate the Maduro regime and collect the $15 to $55 million dollar bounty the Trump administration is offering up to take out Maduro and his top lieutenants. Alejandro Velasco, a professor at New York University and author of Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela, joins us to discuss the coincidence that the Florida-based brainchild of the operation was hired by Trump to provide security at his rallies and how Trump, Pompeo and Abrams continue to underestimate Maduro’s hold on power while overestimating the opposition leader’s influence.

Instead of Saving the American Hamburger, Trump Has Crippled the Food Chain

Then finally we explore further the disaster Trump has made out of his impetuous invocation of the Defense Production Act to save the American hamburger now that Wendy’s is running out of beef for their burgers. Art Cullen, the Editor of the Storm Lake Times in Iowa who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 and is a columnist at The Guardian where he has an article “Why is Trump insisting meat-packing plants stay open despite risks?”, joins us. We discuss how small towns across Iowa and the mid-west are overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients from unsafe working conditions Trump ignored. This has resulted in a collapse of the food chain with plants closing due to lack of workers then farmers having to euthanize their herds of cattle, hogs and chickens, leaving American meat-eaters to figure out who to blame which voters in Red States apparently are doing and it’s bad news for Trump’s reelection.