Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

June 6, 2018

The Democrats Squeak by with a Low Turn-Out in California
A Mexican Court Demands a REAL Investigation into the 43 Missing Students
Trump Sells out the Kurds and US National Security

Program Notes

We begin with the results of primary elections in eight states yesterday with close attention being paid to New Jersey and California for signs of a Blue Wave that could sweep away Republican control of the House in November. Ed Kilgorethe Managing Editor of The Democratic Strategist and a political columnist for New York Magazine where his latest article is “California Democrats Did Well, But Not Perfectly, in Primary”, joins us to discuss the light turnout by Democrats who narrowly avoided being shut out of key House races and, in spite of Trump’s unpopularity in the Golden State, there was a strong showing of Republicans. With a considerable number of mail-in ballots yet to be counted, we will analyze whether in a number of close races where a Democratic candidate in a crowded field of other Democratic hopefuls, managed to slip into second place behind a Republican incumbent, the chances of a Blue Wave upset in November could be diminished. And since the margins between Democratic challengers in second and third place are so close with 2.7 million mail-in ballots now being counted, we assess who might end up being the most viable Democratic candidates in the general since some were chosen by the DCCC and others by the California Democratic Party.

Then with Mexico’s opposition candidate Lopez Obrador polling over 50% way ahead of other candidates including the PRI Party of outgoing President Pena Nieto, we  go to Mexico City to examine the latest twist in the tortured sage of the 43 missing students which had gripped Mexico and led to Pena Nieto’s downfall. John Gibler, the author of “I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us: A Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa” joins us to discuss how a Mexican federal court has ordered the government to investigate the 2014 disappearances again, this time under the supervision of a truth commission led by Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights along with parents of the victims. This time the court insists that for the first time the role of the Federal Police and the Army in the massacre and disappearances has to be investigated.

Then finally we speak with David Phillips, a former senior advisor and foreign policy expert to the State Department under Presidents, Clinton, Bush and Obama. He joins us to look into a major strategic blunder underway with Secretary of State Pompeo making a deal with Turkey to sell out the Kurds over the objections of Secretary of Defense Mattis. We try to make sense of why Trump is letting ISIS off the hook just as it is about to be finished off and rewarding Turkey, Russia and Iran against the national security interests of the United States.

Ed Kilgore | John Gibler | David Phillips

June 5, 2018

Trump’s Cynical Politicization of Sports
A Conversation With Michael Eric Dyson
Manafort Faces Jail For Witness Tampering

Program Notes

We begin with President Trump un-inviting the Super Bowl winners the Philadelphia Eagles to a White House celebration today to get ahead of the fact few of the team were going to show up. Ben Carrington, a Professor of Sociology at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC and author of “Race, Sport and Politics”, joins us to discuss his article at The Huffington Post “You Can’t Separate Sports From Politics Because Sports Are Politics” and how Trump has set himself up as the arbiter of patriotism where he alone decides who is patriotic enough to be invited to the White House. We examine how patriotism and sports have been fused in the rituals of playing the national anthem and having military honor guards open NFL games as military jets fly overhead. With Trump using every opportunity to insert himself into patriotic events such as he did on Memorial Day when he tweeted out that those who died fighting for our country would be happy with the Trump economy, we will assess whether erroneously tarring the Eagles with not standing for the national anthem, American sports fans will fall for Trump cynical ploy which Samuel Johnson wrote about in 1775 warning that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.

Then we speak with Michael Eric Dyson, one of America’s premier public intellectuals and the University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University whose latest book, just out, is “What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversations About Race in America”. He joins us on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of RFK to discuss what white America can learn from the black experience just as Robert Kennedy learned after meeting with James Baldwin and other black activists in 1963. And how we can all fight back as Trump tries to turn the clock back on race relations and divide America with dog whistle appeals reviving racist hatred to rile up his base.

Then finally we speak with Louis Michael Seidman, Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University’s School of Law who served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He joins us to discuss the latest twists and turns as Trump tries to discredit, slow and stop the Mueller inquiry. With Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort now facing jail for witness tampering, we assess whether the truth will win and justice prevail in the end as Trump desperately fights his rear-guard offensive against both the truth and the law.

Ben Carrington | Michael Eric Dyson | Louis Michael Seidman

June 4, 2018

A Supreme Court Ruling as “Christian” Nationalists Move Into State Legislatures
How Work Could Become Meaningful
Analyzing Trump’s Claim He Can Pardon Himself

Program Notes

We begin with the Supreme Court decision on the Christian fundamentalist baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and discuss the ruling with Rachel Laser, the President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. She joins us to discuss her article at The Advocate “We Can Protect Religious Liberty Without Denying Rights to LGBT People” and how The Do No Harm Act co-sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and Congressman Joseph Kennedy would fix the main issues involved in this case which the Supreme Court did not address in their narrow ruling. We also examine Project Blitz, the legislative assault underway in state legislatures by Christian nationalists to reshape America which has brought forward 75 “In God We Trust” bills in more than 20 legislatures using the claim of imaginary attacks on religious freedom to impose their narrow Christian fundamentalist dogma on the American public to dictate our political and cultural life. With a Christian fundamentalist televangelist asking his flock to pony up $54 million for him to fly around in a top of the line Gulfstream private jet, it hardly seems possible that the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation’s justification for Project Blitz is based on the absurd notion that Christians in America are oppressed and that Sharia Law is about to be imposed on these beleaguered believers.

Then with President Trump touting last month’s job numbers, we go to the U.K. to speak with David Graebera Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics about his new book, just out, “Bull**** Jobs: A Theory”. We discuss how up to 40% of the working public believe their jobs are pointless, a view held in both the private and public sector, and that less than half of their time spent working involves actual work.  We discuss the paradox that the more valuable your work is to society, the less you are paid for it, and as robotics replace repetitive manual labor, the need for a guaranteed universal basic income begins to look more necessary.

Then finally, following today’s barrage of petulant protestations in tweets from Trump claiming he has “the absolute right” to pardon himself and that the Mueller investigation led by “13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats” is “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!”, we speak with Brian Kalt, a Professor of Law at Michigan State University about his article in Foreign Policy written over a year ago “Can Trump Pardon Himself?” We analyze both Trump’s and his TV lawyer Rudy’s Giuliani’s claims of the presidential right to self-pardon which they claim is supported by “numerous legal scholars”.

Rachel Laser | David Graeber | Brian Kalt

June 3, 2018

Tuesday’s California Primary as a Bellwether For Flipping the House
The UN Warns Inequality in the US is Reaching a Dangerous Level
Trump Starts Trade Wars With Allies While Making Easy Deals With Despots

Program Notes

With the June 5th California primary two days away and the expectation that the results will be a bellwether for the Democrat’s chances of taking the House and possibly the Senate in November, we will begin with Cenk Uyger,the host and founder of the Young Turks, the largest online news show in the world and the CEO of The Young Turks Network. He joins us to discuss the possibilities of flipping the 14 Republican-held House seats in California. And while Trump is deeply unpopular in California with Republicans now in third place in registration after Independents and Democrats, Democrat’s chances may be hampered by overcrowded fields of hopefuls, fratricide between the DCCC and the California Democratic Party and the so-called jungle primary which has the top two vote-winners advancing to the general election regardless of party affiliation.  We will assess whether the conventional wisdom of running centrist Democrats against Republican incumbents holds anymore, since running Republican-lite Democrats dampens the enthusiasm of the progressive majority in the state where grassroots fundraising is proving just as effective as corporate donations and, as the Bernie Sanders campaign has shown, there is widespread populist appeal for progressive politics.

Then we speak with Chuck Collins, who directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is co-editor of and the author of “Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tacking Inequality”, “Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good”, and his latest book just out, “Is Inequality in America Irreversible?” With the U.N. warning that Trump’s “cruel” policies of rewarding billionaires and punishing the poor are pushing inequality in the United States to a dangerous level, we will discuss Chuck Collins’ policy agenda to reverse inequality emphasizing the power of local campaigns.

Then finally, with Syria’s murderous dictator Assad announcing he will be visiting North Korea, we examine Trump’s ominous reversal of U.S. foreign policy away from democratic alliances and human rights towards the embrace and rehabilitation of dictators and kleptocrats. Stephen Noerper, a professor and Korea Society senior director for policy at Columbia University who was a State Department senior analyst and a fellow at the Korea’s Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security, joins us to discuss how Trump is starting trade wars with allies while making easy deals with despots to boost his ratings from the forthcoming Singapore summit where the press will dutifully amplify Trump’s the photo-op as groundbreaking statesmanship.

Cenk Uygur | Chuck Collins | Stephen Noerper

May 31, 2018

50 Years After RFK’s Assassination, His Son Now Believes The Wrong Person Was Convicted
Robert Reich On “The Common Good”
Trump Punishes Allies As He Starts a Trade War

Program Notes

With the June 5th California primary fast approaching, we are reminded that 50 years ago Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 just after winning the California primary which made RFK a shoe-in to become the next President of the United States.  We begin with Tom Jackman the Washington Post reporter who covers criminal justice and discuss his article at The Washington Post “Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan”. Tom’s article is based on extensive conversations he had with RFK Jr. after it was revealed that RFK’s son had visited Sirhan Sirhan in prison before Christmas last year and had spent three hours in private conversation with the 64 year old man convicted of assassinating his father. We discuss the efforts of Paul Schrade the UAW Union organizer who was shot in the forehead by Sirhan Sirhan to re-open the case because of his belief that there was a second gunman standing behind Kennedy who fired the fatal shots. This is a conviction also shared by RFK Jr. who believes the wrong person has been convicted of killing his father then the chief law enforcement officer in the country who RFK Jr. feels would not have wanted to put someone in jail for a crime they did not commit.

Then we speak with the former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of the new book “The Common Good”. We discuss how societies and nations undergo virtuous cycles that reinforce and build the common good, and conversely we have vicious cycles which we are now suffering under Donald Trump’s misrule that undermine it. But there are optimistic signs emerging from the young high school students in Florida to the many women running for elective office indicating that the Trump nightmare may soon be over.

Then finally with Trump slapping 25 % tariffs on steel and aluminum imports punishing America’s closest allies Canada, the E.U. and Mexico, we look into the implications this has for the looming trade war with China and speak with Scott Kennedy, the director of the Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy at CSIS who is just back from three weeks in China. The author of “Beyond the Middle Kingdom”, he joins us to discuss how alienating our allies while issuing hollow threats to China, isolates the U.S. and makes us weaker.

Tom Jackman | Robert Reich | Scott Kennedy

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