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 reality TV president teasing upcoming episodes of the Apprentice in the Oval Office by cryptically warning about “the calm before the storm” then tweeting that “only one thing will work” with North Korea, implying military action. Mark Fitzpatrick, the Executive Director of the Washington-based Americas office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and head of their Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy Program and author of “Asia’s Latent Nuclear Powers, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan”, joins us to discuss how Trump’s threats are forcing Kim Jong-un into a hair trigger posture with North Korea’s nuclear weapons based on the “use them or lose them” logic of striking first. We examine the symbiosis of hawks on both sides leading us into a holocaust and the dangers of provoking a cult-like regime whose hardliners are buoyed by delusional propaganda and the belief that they could not only survive a nuclear war with the United States, but win.

Then we get an update on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and speak with investigative journalist James Henry, the co-founder of DCReport.org and a global justice fellow at Yale and the lead researcher for the Tax Justice Network. He joins us to discuss the significance of the special counsel’s interviews with the author of the Steele dossier and Robert Mueller’s focus on the Trump campaign’s use of data mining in social media and micro-targeting voters in key swing states with the possible magnification of their messaging involving help from Russian bots and troll farms.

Then finally we examine the consequences of the Trump Administration’s reversal of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate which will now allow employers to deny their female employees contraceptive coverage under health plans on the specious basis of a moral objection. Francis Kissling, a feminist activist and the former President of Catholics for Choice and a consultant to the Western Hemisphere Region of the International Planned Parenthood Federation joins us to discuss how employers can now save money by claiming to have a moral objection to birth control which will likely result in many more women seeking abortions.

Background Briefing

October 8, 2017

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We begin with the U.S. Senate primary election in Alabama that resulted in Judge Roy Moore emerging as the Republican candidate, which raises the possibility an avowed theocrat and Christian dominionist could end up in the United States Senate and grind an already dysfunctional body to a halt, holding up bills and nominees if they do not pass muster with God who is apparently on speaking terms with Roy Moore. Frederick Clarkson, a Senior Fellow at Political Research Associates and the author of “Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy” joins us to discuss Judge Roy Moore’s belief that 9/11 was America’s punishment for Godlessness and how he has defied the constitutional separation of Church and State and the Supreme Court while claiming that Obama is a secret Muslim and parts of the U.S. are under Sharia Law.

Then we look into whether the Democrat who will run against Roy Moore for the senate seat in Alabama in December, a former Federal prosecutor Doug Jones, could pull off an upset victory and speak with political strategist and pollster Zac McCrary, a partner at ALG Research based in Montgomery, Alabama. He served as Communications Director for the Alabama Democratic Party and we will discuss how Alabamans are sick of the state being a joke and will likely vote for the underdog Democrat. They are also weary of political scandals which contributed to Trump’s candidate losing to Moore since Luther Strange was handpicked to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat by the same now-disgraced Governor he was investigating for sexual impropriety with a female employee.

Then finally following Trump’s tweet today attacking Facebook after having praised them for helping elect him, we speak with Ann Ravel, a Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley who served on the Federal Election Commission until resigning in 2017. In October of 2015 at a meeting of the FEC she warned, “Think of it, do we want Vladimir Putin or drug cartels to be influencing American elections?”, a warning that led to a Republican FEC commissioner ridiculing her on Fox News which resulted in her receiving death threats.

Background Briefing

September 27, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We begin with the massive hurricane making landfall on Florida’s southwest coast as we go to air and speak with Dr. Susan McManus, the Distinguished University Professor of Political Science at the University of South Florida. A long-time resident of Florida who has experienced many hurricanes, she is just north of Tampa which is poised to suffer a direct hit from Hurricane Irma but her house is on high ground and she will be hunkering down to ride out the storm. Since Tampa has not seen a direct hit from a major hurricane in almost a century, we discuss how state and local authorities have handled the looming disaster and whether those who evacuated Miami and sought shelter in Tampa, will be in harm’s way as the storm surge is expected to impact Tampa Bay with a wall of water between 10 and 15 feet high.

Then we get an update on the latest revelations about Russia’s active measures campaign to influence the last election which, while it has sown chaos in the United States and could lead to more political paralysis and possibly a constitutional crisis involving the 25th Amendment or even impeachment, this multi-faceted intelligence operation has also impacted politics in Russia with blowback that has Putin on the defensive having over-reached massively while the leader of the far-right New Russia Movement is on state TV threatening to “hit Donald Trump with our Kompromat”. A veteran former CIA officer Robert Baer who is now the national security analyst on CNN, joins us to discuss the growing weight of evidence that a vast Russian intelligence operation targeted U.S. democracy in 2016 and now its architect Vladimir Putin may well have buyer’s remorse.

Then finally we speak with Asha Rangappa, Associate Dean at Yale Law School who teaches National Security Law and served as a Special Agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation specializing in counter-intelligence operations. She joins us to discuss her article at Politico “How Facebook Changed the Spy Game” and assess at what point will all the dots be connected to reveal the full scope of the Russian active measures operation, as breaking news dribbles out almost daily revealing more incriminating details.

Background Briefing

September 10, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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We begin with growing evidence that the Russian influence attack on the election was more widespread and brazen with Facebook announcing that they had shut down several hundred accounts created by a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin who spent $100,000 pushing divisive fake news attacking Hillary Clinton in order to help elect Donald Trump. Dr. Michael Sulmeyer, the Director of the Cyber Security Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs who was formerly the Director of Plans and Operations for Cyber Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, joins us to discuss the warning by Senator Warner, the Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Facebook’s Russian ads are ”just the tip of the iceberg”.

Then we speak with Hal Roberts, a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University who is the co-author of a new study “Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 Election” which documents how, along with Russian interference, highly partisan right-wing sources like Breitbart helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

Then we speak with Frank Pasquale, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland and author of “The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information”. He joins us to discuss Facebook’s decision to get rid of human curation of the news because of bogus Republican charges of bias and the role of Cambridge Analytica’s owner Robert Mercer and Stephen Bannon in flooding social media with fake news, possibly in collusion with the Russians.

Then finally we try to make sense of the Oval Office about face that stunned Republican leaders as President Trump suddenly embraced his new political allies Chuck and Nancy as he agreed with the Democrats on a 3 month extension of the debt limit instead of the 18 month extension that McConnell, Ryan and the Secretary of the Treasury were arguing for. Lawrence Jacobs, the Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey School of Political Affairs, joins us to discuss if there is a savvy strategy here or whether President Trump has gone rogue.

Background Briefing

September 7, 2017

PROGRAM NOTES

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