Background Briefing Archive


We begin with troubling questions raised in investigative reports by the BBC that in spite of Trump’s talk of bombing the **** out of ISIS and General Mattis’ promise to annihilate ISIS, it seems that some kind of deal was made to allow ISIS fighters to escape from Raqqa, and according to truck drivers who ferried the terrorists to safety, there were huge numbers of foreign fighters among the evacuated ISIS survivors who will likely go on to cause mayhem in the west. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years working in Congress, the last 16 as a senior analyst on the House and Senate Budget Committees whose latest book is “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of the Shadow Government”, joins us. We will discuss his article at The Washington Monthly “The Trump Scandal That Democrats Aren’t Talking About: Did ISIS escape Raqqa with Trump’s connivance?” and try to understand how the world’s most dangerous jihadists were allowed to live to fight another day, and whether there will be any inquiry into what happened given how much time, money and attention was devoted to the phony Benghazi story that pales in comparison.

Then we examine the Trump Administration’s reversal of an Obama-era ban on the importation of elephant trophies from big game hunting which was the result of a suit by Safari Club International and the NRA to block Obama’s 2014 ban. George Wittemyer, a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology who is the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Save the Elephants in Africa, joins us to discuss the rapidly diminishing populations of African elephants who have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1978.

Then finally we speak with The Guardian’s former Moscow bureau chief who was expelled from the country by the Kremlin about his new book just out, “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House”. Luke Harding who knows Julian Assange and Edward Snowden well and has interviewed the author of the Steele dossier Christopher Steele, joins us to discuss why Steele believes that his dossier on Trump’s collusion with the Russians is between 70 and 90% accurate, and why Steel feels he will be vindicated as the special counsel’s investigation digs deeper into Trump, his family and associates’ contacts and collusion with Russians close to Putin.

Background Briefing

November 16, 2017

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We begin with the coup in Zimbabwe that so far has been bloodless and speak with Ambassador John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations who was a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria and a political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria during South Africa’s first non-racial election. He is the author of “Morning in South Africa” and joins us to discuss the military coup in Zimbabwe that has the 93 year-old President Robert Mugabe under house arrest along with his younger wife Grace Mugabe who has been criticized for her conspicuous consumption in a desperately poor country and likened to Imelda Marcos and Eva Peron. We look into whether the military will bring back Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who Mugabe recently sacked and how the generals who are veterans of the war of liberation from white rule in the 1970’s will neutralize the unpopular Grace Mugabe while treating the popular and revered Robert Mugabe with kid gloves.

Then we examine the exhibition of far right wing nationalism and fascism on display in Warsaw, Poland over the weekend with a march by over 60,000 that coincided with Poland’s 99thIndependence Day with marchers carrying banners with “Clean Blood” and “White Europe” emblazon while white supremacists chanted “Seig Heil” in a country where the Nazis carried out the worst atrocities. Jan Kubik, a Professor of Political Science at Rutgers and a professor in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University College, London and author of “Twenty Years After Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration”, joins us to discuss the apparent complicity of the Polish government since the only arrests by the police were 45 counter-protesters and Poland’s Foreign Minister called it “a great celebration of Poles…united around the common values of freedom and loyalty to an independent homeland”.

Then finally we get an analysis of the House and Senate’s so-called tax reform bills that have been negotiated in secret with the Democrats excluded which the House might vote on as early as Thursday. Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist and co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley joins us to discuss how the Republicans are scrambling to find pots of money to offset the enormous tax cuts to corporations and the richest Americans by going after Blue States, post-graduate students and in the case of the Senate bill, grabbing over $300 billion from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Background Briefing

November 15, 2017

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We begin with the testimony today by Attorney General Sessions before the House Judiciary Committee that was full of memory lapses when it came to discussions about the Trump campaign reaching out to the Russians and Putin himself. Lisa Graves, who served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department and as Chief Counsel for Nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee, joins us to discuss how Sessions denied that he lied to the Senate in October about contacts with Russians but his memory suddenly got better when he recalled shooting down a proposal for a Trump-Putin meeting. We also examine Trump’s picks for the federal judiciary which he is rapidly filling with far-right bloggers and assess whether the Republicans will stick with the party-line and all vote for a candidate who has never tried a case and is deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. Furthermore this 37 year old Hillary Hater failed to disclose that his wife is the Chief of Staff for the White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who along the Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, control the pipeline for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

Then we discuss today’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons” which has been prompted by bi-partisan concerns that Donald Trump does not have the stability and competence to be a steward on America’s nuclear arsenal and is so volatile and quixotic that he could wake up on the wrong side of the bed and order a nuclear strike. Jon Wolfsthal, who served at a special assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation, joins us to analyze what barriers could be placed between Trump and the nuclear button without diminishing the deterrence value of the US nuclear arsenal.

Then finally we look into the revelations in The Atlantic of secret correspondence between Donald Trump Junior and Wikileaks that uncover Julian Assange’s close cooperation with the Trump campaign to disseminate damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Russian hacks and show how much Assange was offering advice and guidance to Trump who he was unctuously endorsing. Michael Kelly, an editor and investigative reporter at Yahoo who previously was a senior news editor at Business Insider, joins us to assess how leftist supporters of Assange can reconcile their hero’s bromance with Donald Trump and his hard right wing presidency.

Background Briefing

November 14, 2017

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We begin with the emergence of a fifth woman claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Roy Moore when she was a minor, this following a call from the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate demanding that Moore step down as the Republican candidate for the Senate race in Alabama. Asked about Leigh Corfman’s account of being sexually assaulted by Roy Moore when she was 14 and Moore was 32, Mitch McConnell replied, “I believe the woman. Yes”. Diane Winston, who holds the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and is the publisher of Religion Dispatches, joins us to discuss whether or not a pedophile could be elected to the U.S. Senate by the Republican voters of Alabama. We will also try to assess what possible strategy could be behind Steve Bannon’s championing of far-right fringe candidates and why Bannon thinks Roy Moore, “Chemtrails” Kelly in Arizona and convicted felon Michael Grimm in New York could make America great again.

Then we go to Jerusalem to speak with Israeli journalist and historian Gershom Gorenberg who is the author of “The Unmaking of Israel” and a senior correspondent at The American Prospect where he has an article “In the Saudi Game of Thrones, a Prince Knocks Over the House of Cards”. He joins us to discuss what machinations and war plans as well as financial deals are underway within the secret alliances between Jared Kushner, the Saudi Crown Prince MBS and his mentor the leader of the Emirates MBZ, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Then finally we look into the war of words between Donald Trump and the former Director of National Intelligence Clapper and Director of the CIA Brennan, following Trump’s remarks in Asia that be believed Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with interfering in our elections. Ali Watkins, a national security correspondent for Politico joins us to discuss Trump’s subsequent correction of his remark to say that he believed Putin believed what he said, then the Russian claim that the conversation never took place, and Brennan’s remark that Trump is being played by Putin.

Background Briefing

November 13, 2017

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We begin with the changing political winds one year after the surprise upset election of Donald Trump who, in spite of record low approval numbers, remains popular with Republicans, 82% of whom say in a recent poll by Politico that they would vote for him again. Richard Parker, who teaches economics and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a co-founder of Mother Jones magazine and serves on the editorial board of The Nation, joins us to analyze the reasons behind the recent victories for Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey and how this new momentum can be built on. He argues that it is all about turnout, something which has dogged Democrats in midterm elections. And since already a substantial majority of Americans see Trump as a disastrous and destructive president, a coalition of pragmatic and populist Democrats, together with rueful Independents and disillusioned Republicans, could sweep enough Republicans out of the House and Senate in 2018 to take back control of the legislative branch and then in 2020, the executive branch.

Then we continue the analysis of the beginning of the end of Trump and Trumpism and the revival of a political opposition energized by recent electoral victories, and speak with Ruy Teixeira, the author of “The Emerging Democratic Majority whose latest book is “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think”. He joins us to discuss the reasons why the American left should be optimistic in spite on the unlimited dark money behind the Republicans and their cynical use of voter suppression and gerrymandering. And while he cautions the left not to fall into Hillary Clinton’s trap of labeling Trump voters as “deplorables”, he argues there is a way for the party of working Americans to win back the white working class and for progressives to stop being defensive and pessimistic and to be proud of their achievements and determined to make America better again.

Background Briefing

November 12, 2017

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We begin with the Senate version of the so-called Trump/Ryan tax reform bill that eliminates some of the most flagrantly egregious giveaways to the ultra-rich in the name of Middle Class tax cuts. Jeff Madrick, a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, a former economics columnist for The New York Times and the author of “Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World” joins us. We will discuss the admission by the White House Economic Advisor Gary Cohn that “the most excited group out there are big CEO’s, about our tax plan”, which Cohn goes on to describe as trickle-down economics. And look into the truth-telling by Republican Congressman Chris Collins who said that his big donors are saying “Get it done or don’t ever call me again” and Senator Lindsey Graham who admitted to blackmail by donors, suggesting that a failure to pass tax reform would split the GOP and result in more well-financed far-right challenges to incumbent Republicans.

Then we assess the impact of the explosive revelations in a Washington Post investigation of Steve Bannon’s candidate for the US Senate in Alabama, Judge Roy Moore, which document the experiences of four women who dated Roy Moore when one of the women was 14 and the others 16 and Moore was in his thirties. Zac McCrary, who served as a pollster and strategist for members of Congress, mayors, state legislative caucuses and public interest groups in Alabama, joins us to discuss the unusually quick response by Republican senators, including Alabama’s Richard Shelby, calling on Moore to step down if the allegations are true, and the staggering hypocrisy of such an aggressively holier-than-thou “Christian” who stands accused of sexually assaulting a 14 year old.

Then finally we speak with a veteran CIA analyst and author of “The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA”, Melvin Goodmanabout the possibility that Trump’s head of the CIA, who has proven to be a partisan hack and an ambitious toady, could sabotage the Mueller investigation by muzzling the CIA’s counterintelligence unit that he has placed under his personal control and hold back evidence that Mueller may not know exists. We examine Mike Pompeo’s record of distorting evidence of Russian interference in our election to please the beneficiary of Russian hacking, his boss Donald Trump.

Background Briefing

November 9, 2017

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We begin with an examination of what may be behind the recent meeting between Jared Kushner and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, MBS, after which a dozen Saudi princes were arrested and 2 killed in the name of stamping our corruption at the same time the Prime Minister of Lebanon resigns from office in Saudi Arabia and Iranian missiles are fired from Yemen at the Saudi capitol. Dov Zakheim, a former Undersecretary of Defense and Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Defense, joins us to discuss his article at Foreign Policy “Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up To Something”

Then we examine the denial about Russian involvement in the US election that rejects the consensus of all US Intelligence Agencies, found both on the political right and the left and propagated by polar opposite news outlets such as Fox New and Breitbart and The Nation. Mark LowenthalPresident of the Intelligence and Security Academy who served as Assistant Director for Analysis and Production at the CIA and Vice Chairman for Evaluation on the National Intelligence Council, joins us. We will discuss the consternation among intelligence professionals that the head of the CIA at Trump’s urging, met with a former NSA official who advocates a conspiracy theory that a US Intelligence insider hacked the DNC not the Russians.

Then finally we look into President Trump’s trip to China where the Chinese leader is giving him the imperial treatment of pomp and ceremony and flattery, using an old Chinese strategy of treating Trump with great respect but giving him nothing. One of the world’s foremost experts on China, Perry Link the editor of the “Tiananmen Papers” who was blacklisted by the Chinese government in 1996, joins us to discuss the futility of trying to get the Chinese to pull America’s irons out of the fire with North Korea.

Background Briefing

November 8, 2017

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We begin with President Trump’s remarks in response to the latest mass shooting at a Texas church where he blamed the problem on mental health, not access to military-style assault rifles, and rejected the idea of improving background checks when clearly the Texas shooter would have failed a background check had the Air Force not screwed up and passed on the shooter’s criminal record of domestic abuse into the FBI’s database. Congressman Ted Lieu joins us first. He currently serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee and today walked out of the moment of silence on the House floor to protest inaction on a universal background check law and a ban on assault rifles and on bump-fire stocks.

Then Paul Helmke, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Health at Indiana University who was formerly the President of the Brady Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, joins us to refute Trump’s NRA talking points, in particular his claim that Chicago has the strongest gun laws in the country yet is a disaster when in fact it was the NRA who weakened Chicago’s gun laws. Furthermore the guns used in crimes in Chicago almost all come from Indiana next door where gun laws are weak and straw purchases are commonplace.

Then we look into the impeding default by oil-rich Venezuela following last Thursday’s announcement by President Maduro that the country he has brought to its knees with a combination of corruption, mismanagement and mindless ideology, can no longer pay its debts. The founding Director at the Center For Energy and the Environment at IESA in Venezuela, Francisco Monaldi, now a fellow in Latin American energy policy at the Center for Energy Studies in the Mexico Center and the Latin America Initiative as well as a lecturer in Energy Economics at Rice University, joins us to discuss how Maduro has mortgaged bankrupt Venezuela’s $15 trillion in oil wealth first to China and now to Russia and how much Trump’s threat of an invasion has helped Maduro cling on to power.

Then finally, as results come in on the critical bellwether race for governor in Virginia, we will speak with Quentin Kidd, Professor of Political Science at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. We will discuss the ruthless and shameless campaign that the Republican Gillespie has run and the feckless campaign the conservative Democrat who voted for George W Bush in 2000 and in 2004 Lieutenant Governor Northam ran, after narrowly beating a progressive Democrat in the primary.

Background Briefing

November 7, 2017

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We begin with the release of 13.4 million secret files of hidden offshore accounts by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists whose previous release of the Panama Papers caused consternation amongst the global elite of billionaires, oligarchs and kleptocrats. This time it is the Paradise Papers that has everyone from members of Trump’s cabinet to the Queen of England ensnared in tax-dodging schemes along with giant corporations like Nike and Apple. Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Michael Hudson, a senior editor for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists joins us to discuss the price average citizens around the world pay because of the $10 trillion hidden offshore by the wealth defense industry of lawyers, accountants and lobbyists, in collusion with politicians, which pushes the tax burden onto everyone else below the super-rich, starving governments of funds for health, education and welfare. We also examine the impact of this expose on the on-going investigations into Trump’s ties to the Russians given how much Trump’s Secretary of Commerce and his son-in-law are swept up in the Paradise Papers scandal.

Then we look into the role of domestic violence, the gun culture and lax guns laws that played a role in the latest gun massacre which the Governor of Texas is calling “the largest mass shooting” in the state’s history with 26 dead and 20 wounded, 10 in critical condition. Robert Jensen, professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the new book, just out “The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men”, joins us to discuss the links between guns and masculinity in American culture.

Then finally we examine the presidential trip underway in Japan where Donald Trump is urging the Japanese to buy American weaponry to shoot North Korean missiles “out of the sky”, pressing his hosts to buy more U.S. military hardware to lower the trade deficit. Takako Hikotani, a Professor of Modern Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy at Columbia University and author of an article at Foreign Affairs “Trump’s Gift to Japan: Time for Tokyo to Invest in the Liberal Order”, joins us to discuss Trump’s summit with Japan’s Prime Minister Abe.

Background Briefing

November 6, 2017

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We begin with the arrest of 7 princes in Saudi Arabia by MBS the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who, with the takeover of the Saudi National Guard, is completing a consolidation of his total control of the military after having already taken over Saudi foreign, economic and social policies and ministries. David Hearst, the Editor of Middle East Eye, joins us to discuss the Trump family role in this major shakeup of a corrupt ruling family with the arrest of the outspoken critic of Trump, the billionaire Prince Alaweed bin Talal,  following Jared Kushner’s recent secret trip to the kingdom to meet with his new friend MBS.  We will analyze the links between Trump’s call on the Saudis for the Aramco IPO to be listed on the New York Stock exchange, the sudden resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister who fled to Saudi Arabia and the missile attack on the airport in the Saudi capitol launched from Yemen, and Iran’s fingerprints on the missile attack which has led to speculation that the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is heating up.

Then we look further into the sudden exit of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri who announced his resignation on the Saudi Al-Arabiya channel, speaking for Riyadh, not Beirut. Thanassis Cambanis, who writes “The Internationalist “column for The Boston Globe and is the author of “A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel”, joins us from Beirut, Lebanon to discuss Hariri’s claim that he was escaping an assassination planned by Hezbollah and how this crisis is impacting the already shaky political order is a country overwhelmed by refugees from the war next door in Syria.

Then finally we examine the new round of fratricide going on within the Democratic Party prompted by the forthcoming book by former DNC Chair Donna Brazile, Al Gore’s campaign manager responsible to getting Joe Lieberman on the ticket as Gore’s VP. David Halperin, a former policy advisor to Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and a White House Speechwriter and special assistant for national security affairs to President Clinton and counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, joins us. We discuss the pantheon of prominent Democrats who have made careers out of losing campaigns and the possibility that the Democrats could lose Tuesday’s critical race for governor in Virginia.

Background Briefing

November 5, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

This is the content including the guests on this installment of Background Briefing with Ian Masters.

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We begin with an analysis of the Trump tax plan hailed today by House Speaker Paul Ryan as “a very important and special moment” for the middle class when it is clear that the main beneficiaries are the super-rich and corporate America.  Pavlina Tcherneva, a professor of Economics and Chair of the Economics Department at Bard College who is a research scholar at the Levy Economics Institute, joins us to discuss the Republican sleight of hand as they do the bidding of their donor class while selling a bill of goods to their voters who will bear the increased burden as they pay more taxes while the debt and deficit explode. We also examine the choice of Jerome Powell as the new Fed Chairman which appears to be an unusually reasonable choice by Trump whose previous picks for high government posts are all hostile to the notion of government itself and are destroying the government departments they head up as they “deconstruct” Steve Bannon’s mythical “administrative state”.

Then finally with a civil war poised to break out in America on Saturday November the 4th, a violent insurrection led by Antifa “super soldiers” out to kill Trump voters, conservatives and gun-owner, all this according to alt-right websites and conspiracy-monger Alex Jones, we speak with Spencer Sunshine, a researcher and activist whose research interests include U.S. white nationalism, post-war fascism, left/right crossover movements, and left wing antisemitism.  He joins us to explore this paranoid fantasy that could have real world consequences since so many right wing gun nuts in the country believe this nonsense. We discuss how a demonstration by Chairman Bob Avakian’s Revolutionary Communist Party that blocked a Los Angles freeway with a sign that said “November 4 it begins”, has morphed into an apocalyptic call for right wing vigilantes to kill leftwing activists trying to spark a civil war.

Then we examine the hearings that took place in the last few days on Capitol Hill in which representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter were grilled by lawmakers concerned that the tech giants allowed Russian fake news to influence the last election and unless something is done, the Russians will interfere even more with the next election. Jonathan Taplin, the Founder and Director Emeritus of the Innovation Lab at the Annenberg School of Communication at USC and author of “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy” joins us along with Marc Rotenberg, the President and Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Network, EPIC, in Washington DC.

Background Briefing

November 2, 2017

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We begin with the worst terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11 that claimed 8 lives with 6 of the victims tourists, 5 from Argentina and one from Belgium.  Hassan Hassan, a Senior Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Peace who was previously a fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Program in London and is the author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror”, joins us. We will discuss the extent to which the perpetrator, a green card holder from Uzbekistan Sayfullo Saipov, a 29 year old truck driver who worked for Uber and is married with 3 children, was “inspired” by ISIS as the Deputy New York Police Commissioner claims. We assess whether Saipov is another amateur jihadi like most of the previous terrorist attackers of the homeland or if, with the fall of Raqqa, ISIS will be exporting battle-hardened terrorists who could be more deadly as the homegrown terrorist in Las Vegas recently proved to be with a readily-obtained arsenal of assault rifles, instead of the paintball gun Saipov was brandishing.

Then we speak with David Schanzer, a professor of the Practice and Director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security in the School of Public Policy at Duke University. The former Democratic Staff Director for the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, he joins us to discuss Trump’s call to send Saipov to Gitmo and his attack on Senator Schumer for an immigration lottery program that George H W Bush signed into law, and the likely political mileage Trump will get out of demagoguing an immigration system that let Saipov and the Tsarnaev brother into the country.

Then finally we look into the role that Rupert Murdoch is playing in distracting up to half of the American population from the daily destruction of the disastrous Trump Administration as he and his media empire’s obedient junkyard dogs attack Hillary Clinton for colluding with Putin and James Comey, both of whom played a major role in electing Donald Trump president. Ruth Ben Ghiat, a Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, joins us to discuss how Murdoch has borrowed Berlusconi’s political/media business model and the propaganda tactics of Putin to create a fact-free alternative universe in the service of America’s Il Duce, mien Fuhrer, our own “dear leader” Donald J. Trump.

Background Briefing

November 1, 2017

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We begin with the flagrant and cynical use of propaganda by the Trump White House Press Secretary and by so-called news operations like Fox News, along with the right wing echo chambers of Sinclair and Limbaugh and his clones, all of whom have become Trump’s “Pravda” or more Orwellian, his Ministry of Truth. Jason Stanley, a Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and author of “How Propaganda Works”, joins us to discuss the capture of almost half of the country by a fascist-style propaganda machine similar to what Joseph Goebbels used and Putin uses today. While Trump himself tweets out daily his own fake news to his 40 million twitter followers, the main support for Trump in post-truth America is orchestrated by Rupert Murdoch and other oligarchs like Bannon’s paymasters the Mercers. They have succeeded in creating an alternative media universe immune to facts and evidence and they will resort to any lie or manufacture any fiction no matter how absurd, to keep their president in power and his supporters sealed in a bubble of delusion.

Then we examine the first of 12 counts enumerated in the indictment against Paul Manafort and that is “Conspiracy Against the United States”.  Lawrence Douglas, a Professor of Law, jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College joins us to discuss his article at The Guardian “How will Donald Trump respond to the Russia Investigation?” We look into the challenge facing the reality-based majority in this country to convince Trump’s base that he chose an exemplar of the Washington swamp to run his campaign and that when top people in his own party and administration call him a “f-ing moron” and are concerned he might blow up the world, they should pay attention.

Then finally we assess the overwhelming evidence now apparent that Trump’s Chief of Staff General John Kelly is not “containing” Trump but is rather completely compatible if not much further to the right than the spoiled toddler he supposedly has under adult supervision. American historian Adam Goodheart, the author of “1861: The Civil War Awakening”, joins us to discuss Kelly’s opinions expressed on Fox News that “Robert E. Lee was an honorable man and that “the lack of an ability to compromise” led to the civil war.

Background Briefing

October 31, 2017

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We begin with the indictments against Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates unsealed today and the surprise smoking gun that ties the Trump campaign to Russia with charges against Trump’s former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos who was arrested by the FBI back in July and has been cooperating with the special counsel since then.  Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harpers in legal affairs and national security joins us to discuss the role of George Papadopoulos who was acting in collusion with higher-ranking officials in the Trump campaign in attempting to deliver “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and “thousands of emails” to the Trump campaign from a “professor” with links to the Kremlin who he met with in London in March, which he lied about to the FBI. Since Papadopoulos told the Trump campaign about the thousands of emails on Clinton hacked from the DNC in April, months before their existence was made public by Wikileaks in July of 2016, it is likely the Trump campaign had access to this material much earlier.

Then we look into the Manafort indictments with someone who knows him and his work in Ukraine which is central to the case against Trump’s former campaign manager.  Anders Aslund a former Swedish diplomat in Moscow who served as an economic advisor to the governments of Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, joins us to discuss the money laundering charges from the $75 million that Manafort funneled through overseas shell companies and the $60 million in personal loan that he got from a Russian oligarch close to Putin, and the lavish lifestyle the indictments charge Manafort with, noting $1.3 million he spent on expensive clothes.

Then finally we speak with Liz Kennedy, the Director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress. She joins us to question why Trump hired a campaign manager who is now exposed as an amazingly greedy crook. We examine how much Trump shares Manafort’s disdain for democracy and the rule of law since his campaign manager’s whole history as a lobbyist in Washington has been that of representing third world dictators, kleptocrats and criminals like Mobutu, Marcos and Suharto.

Background Briefing

October 30, 2017

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We begin with the sealed indictment of the first arrest by the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the target of which is expected to be revealed on Monday. Joining us to discuss the procedures involved as the Mueller investigation moves towards indictments is Harry Litman, a former United States Attorney and deputy assistant U.S. Attorney General. We speculate on who the first target might be and assess the furious backlash from Trump’s Republican surrogates and the flurry of angry tweets coming from a president who routinely blames Obama and Hillary Clinton for anything and everything.  Although Clinton lost the election and Trump won and is president, she is now being dredged up as Trump turns history on its head by accusing Clinton of colluding with Putin who hates her as he brings up the 33,000 emails that he called upon Russia to hack as well as referring to “the Comey fix” as though the person who many including Clinton consider the main reason she lost the presidency, was in collusion with her.

Then we go to Moscow to speak with Russian defense analyst Dr. Pavel Felgenhauer, whose daughter Tatyana, the deputy editor in chief of the only opposition radio in Russia Ekho Moskvy, was recently stabbed in the neck and almost died. He joins us to discuss the constant danger that journalists who oppose the Putin line face in an environment of propaganda-induced hyper-nationalism with government media branding critics of the Putin regime “enemies of the people” and America spies. We also discuss how the U.S. nuclear buildup announced on Friday by Vice President Pence will play into Putin’s hands

Then finally, with over 300,000 people demonstrating in Barcelona today in support of the Spanish government, we will go to Spain to discuss the volatile political standoff between Catalonia and Spain following a declaration of independence by the Catalan government on Friday then the firing of the Catalan government by Madrid.  Francisco Rodriguez-Jimenez , a Professor of Global and International Studies at the University of Salamanca, Spain joins us to discuss the popular backlash to the independence referendum which around 40% of Catalans voted for and the Spanish government tried to stop with a heavy-handed crackdown.

Background Briefing

October 29, 2017

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We begin with next week’s trip to Asia that a reluctant traveler President Trump is undertaking with a tour of the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii then on to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam for the APEC summit of world leaders and lastly the Philippines where he already cutting short his visit and skipping the East Asia summit being held there. The Director of East and Southeast Asia Policy at the Center for American Progress, Brian Harding, joins us from Japan.  He served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as country director for Asian and Pacific security affairs and we will discuss Trump’s reality TV show tease when asked whether he will visit the DMZ separating the two Korea’s, and the possibility that the North Koreans will upstage Trump with a nuclear or missile test. We will also look into whether or not Trump will meet with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam and assess what might be achieved by the 12 day trip which Trump has already shortened as he did earlier with his first foreign trip abroad about which he expressed dread and cut from nine days to five.

Then we speak with Mark Perry, an author and historian specializing in military, foreign affairs, and intelligence analysis about his article at Politico “Are Trump’s Generals in Over Their Heads?” and his article at The American Conservative “How Saddam Hussein Predicted America’s Failure in Iraq” which is a chapter in his new book “The Pentagon Wars”. We assess whether there has been too much expectation placed on the generals around Trump, the so-called “adults in the room”, and examine how much the deeply conservative and politically inexperienced Chief of Staff John Kelly is way out of his depth.

Then finally we look into the country that most Americans just learned the U.S. military is involved in, Niger.  A former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger,David Litt joins us. He was a State Department political advisor to the U.S. Special Operations Command from 1998 to 2002 and we discuss his article at Foreign Policy “Why Is the United States in Niger, Anyway?” and how in a region where it is easier to get an AK-47 assault rifle than a job, weak governance and poverty make the region a fertile ground for insurgents.

Background Briefing

October 26, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We begin with the vote late on Tuesday in the Senate overturning a CFPB, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that now means consumers who have been defrauded by banks and financial institutions will now be forced into arbitration where the record shows consumers only win 9% of the time and are often counter-sued and end up owing the banks that defrauded them an average of $7,725. Amanda Werner, the arbitration campaign manager at Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen, whose appearance dressed as Monopoly Man at a recent Senate hearing on fraud and negligence by Wells Fargo and Equifax went viral on the Internet, joins us to discuss how Republican critics of Trump, Senators Flake, Corker and McCain voted with Trump against the American consumer in a tie-breaking vote decided by Vice President Pence. Now that the parasitic payday lenders are lining up to challenge rules that prevent them from fleecing consumers more than they already do, we assess what this means for the future of the CFPB which has returned $12 billion to defrauded consumers while being under unrelenting attack by Republicans from day one.

Then we speak with Sam Quinones, a former LA Times reporter who now writes for The New York Times and Los Angeles Magazine and is the author of “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic”. He joins us to discuss the low expectations for Trump’s announcement Thursday to address the opioid crisis without anyone heading Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and how much the opioid epidemic is ravaging communities who voted for Trump in part because of the despair associated with their sense of a society falling apart from within.

Then finally, with a poll just out from The Military Times that finds 53% of active-duty military officers oppose their commander in chief Donald Trump, we speak with General Robert Gard who was the U.S. Army’s first director of Human Resources Development and later served as President of the National Defense University. He joins us to discuss the alarming lack of staffing at the senior levels of the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council at a time when we have a reckless and ignorant president who the top generals in the White House are busy “containing” instead of addressing global crises.

Background Briefing

October 25, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We begin with the Trump Administration’s National Security Advisor threatening a military option against North Korea in addition to Japan’s Defense Minister sounding the alarm at a meeting in the Philippines with the US and South Korean defense ministers that the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea had reached an “unprecedented, critical and imminent level” requiring “different responses”. A former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg, who was Vice President George HW Bush’s National Security Advisor, joins us to discuss his concern that Donald Trump is the greatest threat to peace and stability in Asia. He urges the Trump White House to urgently take up the offer by former President Carter to act as an envoy to resume diplomatic dialogue with North Korea before the war of words and reckless threats lead to a war that could see the first nuclear weapons used since Nagasaki, in spite of General McMaster’s assertion that there are military options available to deal with North Korea.

Then we assess the impact of Senator Jeff Flake’s impassioned resignation speech before the U.S. Senate today in which he lamented the damage being done to the country by Donald Trump and pleaded with his senate colleagues to show the leadership and courage necessary to oppose the destruction and desecration of American values, appealing to them in the name of our children who will ask “why didn’t you do something. Why didn’t you speak up?”  Joining us to discuss the likelihood that both U.S. Senate seats in Arizona will be contested in the next election is Evan Wyloge, an investigative reporter with the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting who previously spent 5 years as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times. We will discuss the number of Republicans vying for the seats and how much this could be an opportunity for the Democrats and who they might run.

Then finally we speak about Trump’s expected announcement on what he will do about the opioid crisis with Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the Co-director of Opioid Policy Research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University who is also the Executive Director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. He joins us to discuss the article in The New Yorker profiling the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma and how these prominent philanthropists pushed their drug OxyContin to generate billions in profits while creating millions of addicts in what has become America’s opioid epidemic.

Background Briefing

October 24, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We begin with a new low for Donald Trump who in effect called the widow of the slain Green Beret killed in Niger a liar, following her remarks on ABC’s “Good Morning America” where she supported what Congresswoman Wilson had said about Trump’s botched condolence call, saying Trump “made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn’t remember my husband’s name”.  A highly decorated combat veteran who was awarded 2 Silver Stars, 2 Legions of Merit, and 2 Purple Hearts, Phillip Butler, who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent 8 years as a POW, joins us.  Now that we are in day 8 of the continuing scandal over Trump’s handling of Gold Star families, we will discuss the national wound Trump opened when he accused his predecessors of not making condolence calls to the fallen, and the escalating war of words between Trump and Senator McCain. Having known McCain since they graduated together from the US Naval Academy in 1961 and later as Phil Butler spent 8 years in captivity compared to McCain’s 5, which Trump disparaged during the campaign, we will assess how Trump will react to being called a draft-dodger, which was clearly implied in McCain’s remark that rich kids avoided the Vietnam war by claiming to have bone spurs.

Then we look into Niger, the country suddenly in the news, and the growing questions surrounding the US military mission there and the apparent failure of intelligence that led to the ambush of the four Green Berets whose deaths have led to frictions between our military and civilian authorities and between Trump and the family of one of the fallen. Laura Seay, a professor of Government at Colby College who studies African politics, conflict, and development with a focus on central Africa, joins us to discuss the activities of AFRICOM and Senator Lindsay Graham’s announcement that there will be more US aggression on the continent.

Then finally we speak with John Feffer, the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies whose latest article at Foreign Policy in Focus is “Trump’s Enablers Should Be Shamed Out of Public Life”. He joins us to discuss how the generals, the so-called “adults in the room”, are in fact enabling militaristic policies around the world and are only restraining Trump’s personality defects and impulses, not his policies.

Background Briefing

October 23, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We will begin with Thursday’s expected release of the last of the JFK files on the Kennedy assassination following a 1992 order from Congress to the National Archives to release the documents 25 years later. Along with MLK and RFK, the JFK assassination has long been the subject of a cottage industry of conspiracy theories, and now with a conspiracy theorist in the Oval Office who claimed Ted Cruz’s father was seen with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before Kennedy’s death, we have Trump tweeting out on Saturday that “I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JKF FILES to be opened”.  Philip Shenon, the bestselling author of “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Commission” and a former reporter with The New York Times for 20 years, joins us to discuss his latest book “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” and his article at Politico “The JFK Document Dump Could be a Fiasco”. We will examine whether Thursday’s release will satisfy conspiracy theorists and whether there will be further redactions before the release of the last of the classified documents.

Then we speak with Charlie Sykes, a longtime host of the #1 conservative talk radio show in Wisconsin who is now a regular contributor to MSNBC. He joins us to discuss his new book, just out “How the Right Lost Its Mind” and the paradoxical place the Republican Party is now in with control of all branches of government and the judiciary but with all that power they can’t seem to get anything done and are becoming increasingly unpopular. We look into why Republicans have abandoned facts in the Trump era, why they can’t govern and when will traditional Republicans fight back in Steve Bannon’s “season of war” against the GOP.

Then finally we examine how voter suppression in Wisconsin may well have been the deciding factor in Trump’s narrow win of 23,000 votes in that key swing state. Ari Berman, a senior reporter at Mother Jones covering voting rights and author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America”, joins us to discuss his article at Mother Jones “Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump”. We look into the key role in enabling voter suppression that the judiciary played, and now that Trump is stacking the Federal Courts with reactionary judges, how Wisconsin’s “success” in voter suppression will be expanded nationwide.

Background Briefing

October 22, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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