May 6 - Revelations About Mob Ties to Trumps' Lawyers; Could We Have Peace on the Korean Peninsula?; Could Democratic Fratricide

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Part 1

We begin with the bombshell revelations in The New York Times into the background of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen who was the target of a recent FBI raid. An expert on money laundering and offshore banking James Henry, the author of “Blood Bankers” and co-founder with David Cay Johnston of the new investigative reporting news service DCReport.org. He joins us to discuss how Cohen came to Trump’s attention because he was buying condos in Trump Tower for Russian and Ukrainian gangsters and what role Cohen played after Trump was blackballed by U.S. banks after taking them down and the Trump Organization moved from debt to cash. Given Cohen’s mob ties revealed by The New York Times that go back to his favorite uncle Morty who was the doctor for the Lucchese crime family and owner of a catering hall frequented by mobsters, then deeper connection with Cohen’s Ukrainian father-in-law who runs a catering hall frequented by Ukrainian and Russian mobsters. Little wonder that Cohen was on the FBI’s radar and we will speculate how much the extent of evidence seized by the FBI will implicate Trump in ties to organized crime.

 

Lisa Graves

Part 2

Then we will get an assessment of whether the upcoming Trump-Kim Jong-un summit and the recent meetings between the leaders of North and South Korea could bring an end to the Korean War and peace on the Korean peninsula and even a reunification of the two Koreas. Graham Fuller, the former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, joins us to discuss the competing centers of power in the Trump Administration over the direction of U.S. foreign policy with the Koch brothers-backed Mike Pompeo who laid the groundwork for the summit with Kim representing a more libertarian realpolitik approach, competing with the neoconservative wing championed by the new national security advisor John Bolton who is itching to go to war with Iran.

Part 3

Then finally we look into Tuesday’s important primary races in the important swing state Ohio and speak with Robert Alexander, the Chair of the Department of History, Politics and Justice and a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University. Because the Ohio governorship is key to the Democrat’s chance to remake the electoral map in the 2020 census which is now in doubt, he joins us to discuss the weird, wacky and bitter battle for the governorship in Ohio which the Democrats were hoping to pick up with Richard Cordray who is now being challenged by Dennis Kucinich who ironically was gerrymandered out of office.

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May 6 -

Full Program

LISTEN TO FULL PROGRAM  

Part 1

We will begin with yesterday’s extraordinary display of prominent people spouting damaging and damning statements, starting with Rudolph Giuliani on Fox admitting Trump paid a porn star to gag her just before the election. Then in Arizona yesterday Vice President Pence praised someone the GOP does not want as their senate candidate, the convicted criminal Joe Arpaio who Pence called “a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law”.  And finally the wackiest self-inflicted wound came from Elon Musk who in a Tesla earnings call, insulted his investors with the dismissal that “Boring boneheaded questions are not cool”, resulting in Tesla stock plunging 8%. Lisa Graves, the co-founder of Documented, a watchdog group which investigates corporate manipulation of public policy who was formerly Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department, Chief Counsel for nominations on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a Deputy Chief for the U.S. Courts, joins us to discuss Trump’s escalating war on the Mueller investigation.  We examine whether Giuliani was sending a signal to Michael Cohen not to flip, and since the FBI already has the evidence of the $130,000 “funneled” to Stormy Daniels from their raid on Cohen and their prior wiretaps of him, are Trump and Giuliani trying to get out in front of an impending bad news nightmare?

 

Lisa Graves

Part 2

Then we look further into the aggressive stance being taken by Trump’s new legal team and speak with Andy Wright, a Professor at Savannah Law School who served in the White House as Associate Counsel to President Barack Obama. He joins us to discuss whether as America faces a defining battle between truth and power, Trump will drag the country through a protracted constitutional crisis and fight a Mueller subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court, something that previous presidents Jefferson, Nixon and Clinton declined to do.  We will assess whether short of coming clean, which Trump could have done the day after he was elected, Trump’s only strategy now is to try to run out the clock until after the elections.

Part 3

Then finally we examine the most bizarre behavior in terms of biting the hand that feeds you, with the CEO and founder of Tesla going out of his way to insult investors who wanted to know how he burnt through a billion dollars in cash in the last quarter and is still way behind in delivering cars on order and meeting earlier manufacturing goals.Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and columnist at the Los Angeles Times whose column “Golden State” covers business and economic issues in California, joins us to discuss his latest article at The Los Angeles Times “Elon Musk’s performance on Tesla’s earnings call could make people afraid to buy his stock – or his cars”.

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Controlling the Uncontrollable

This Thursday the secret cabal that is supposed to run the world, the Bilderberg Group, meets behind closed doors at a five-star ski resort in Switzerland for four days of discussions about the future of the world they supposedly control.

My first thought is they are not doing a very good job because everything appears to going to hell in a hand basket.  But others would argue that things are just hunky dory for the world’s elite as the rich get richer while the rest of us feel more and more alienated and helpless. 

So who are they and what are they meeting about in secret?  The Bilderbergers first met in 1954 at a Dutch hotel called Bilderberg, apparently to strengthen American and European relations to prevent a third world war coming out of Europe.  Clearly they have succeeded, so what now for the backroom boys led by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Viscount Davignon, a former vice president of the European Union?

According to the co-founder of the group, British Labor politician Denis Healey, there are enormous practical benefits to be had from an informal meeting between the world’s top CEO’s and Prince Charles, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, where confidentiality enables the mighty to mingle and speak honestly without creating headlines.

With about 120 big wigs meeting, (one third politicians from both the left and right, and two thirds from business, labor, education and communication), it might be nothing more than a glorified dinner party.  But there is a stated purpose behind the Western elites meeting informally, and it is to shore-up a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe.

To Americans on the fringes of the left and the right, led by radio conspiracy jock Alex Jones and the followers of Lyndon LaRouche, the Bilderbergers are a sinister cabal run by the European Union that threatens American freedoms.  But in Europe, it is seen in more classically Marxist terms as a Neo-Liberal elite trying to impose their free market agenda of globalism.

Meanwhile as public education in America collapses and faith replaces fact, conspiracy theories are increasingly obstructing a rational view of the world with “birthers”, “truthers” and creationists furthering an anti-science and anti-intellectual trend that is rapidly making ignorance mainstream and acceptable.  This might even culminate in 2012 with a Sarah Palin as the next president of the United States.

Part of the failure is the press, who should have long ago demanded that the names of attendees at the Bilderberg gatherings be released before the meetings.  And while the proceedings are closed to the public and the media, and no press releases are issued, they should have at least done ambush interviews as the high and mighty exit the conference.  If the press can ambush Lindsay Lohan exiting a nightclub, they should have the resources to ask the world’s elite what they have planned for us.

But for the growing number of navel-gazers, many of whom ironically consider themselves activists, these often strong and passionate beliefs have turned political fiction and social fantasy into an almost religious cult.  The notion that the world is controlled by a room full of white men amounts to total political abdication, and can only lead to paralysis and alienation. 

There is also the ugly side of conspiracy that gravitates to the Jews controlling the world and other anti-Semitic calumnies that are held as common fact in the Middle East where the belief persists that the Jews, not al Qaeda were behind the 9/11 attacks, a similar delusion to the “inside job” shared by the “truthers”.      

But like religion, there is a comfort to belief systems, no matter how outlandish, as in the case of the Mormons or the Scientologists, their sacred texts might be.  Conspiracies like the Bilderberg cabal suggest that there are people with God-like power who reign over us helpless beings.  These belief systems act as a crutch, replacing the accurate but uncomfortable realization that there is nothing at work here at all, and nobody in charge of a world that is chaotic and spiraling out of control.  The downside however, to this form of therapy, is the rising know-nothing tide of ignorance in America that has more and more people believing in anti-scientific messages that often victimize and demonize others.

But conspiracies have shaped history and they do exist.  I explored a big one recently with Annie Jacobsen, the author of a new book “Area 51: an uncensored history of America’s top secret military base.”  She uncovered the mother of all conspiracies involving the Roswell crash of an “alien” spacecraft that the government has covered up for decades. 

But both the former scientists and engineers at the secret base, and the Art Bell UFO crowd, who have been enmeshed in these swirling conspiracies for decades, attacked her explanation, which was based on the first-hand account of one of her most reliable sources.  So go figure.

The Tea Party of the Left

Until the passage of Prop 13, California used to have the best education system in the country and one of the best in the world.  Now it shares the shame of next-to-last place with Mississippi in the race to the bottom as the dumbing down of America continues unabated.  Not only did that reactionary legislation with its supermajority traps hamstring the predominantly Democratic state with minority Republican rule, it has led directly to the obscenity of a gold-plated prison industrial complex with the lobby for the prison guards union running Sacramento. 

While the owners of commercial property have made out like bandits, public education has been eviscerated and our schools impoverished.  But even worse, this malevolently misplaced priority perpetuates a cycle of social failure, as unschooled kids are fed into the prison system as ill-educated inmates only to return to the streets as skilled sociopaths.

Lately it has become increasingly clear to me that on a national level, right wing Republicans have an investment in destroying public education which they are doing by blaming teachers, promoting “Christian” privatization and deliberately cutting funding.  The less educated the voter, the more likely they are to vote for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. 

And while the Republican establishment is desperately trying to promote an intelligent and reasonable Jon Huntsman as their presidential candidate, the monster that Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have unleashed is likely to propel Palin through the primaries to victory.

But there is another Tea Party that I am unfortunately familiar with, and it is just as ignorant, inchoate and dangerous as the one on the right, and that is the Tea Party of the left.  And while the far fringes of the right and left merge with anti-government conspiracies of the likes of Alex Jones, what they share in common is a hostile rejection of the Republican Party by the right and the Democratic Party by the left.  However the difference is the right votes and the left doesn’t.

But that is not to say the Kochs, Karl Rove and Dick Army have not successfully co-opted the Tea Party by cleverly re-branding the Republican right wing and driving it to victory.  But its twin on the left, instead of propelling the Democratic Party from within to majority rule, is dragging it down into an apathetic minority.

A microcosm of this sad phenomenon is on display with the pending capture of the Pacifica radio network by a cultish, conspiratorial, uneducated pseudo-left that claims political activism while encouraging alienation and self-marginalization.  What was once the platform for dissent and political activism in the sixties and an incubator and outlet for some of our greatest dramatists, poets, novelists and singers, is now a pathetic perch for purveyors of political fiction and medical fraud.

Following a phony revolution in response to a mythical corporate takeover, the Pacific network saddled itself with an onerous Soviet-style “democratic” governance structure that punishes listeners and soaks up their money with endless elections that less than 10% of listeners participate in. 

This pseudo-democratic farce not only results in the election of disruptive fringe dwellers, it could easily be captured by stealth candidates from a cult or a front for a right wing or “Christian” organization out to grab some of the most valuable broadcast licenses in the land.  Short of that, these elections often end up in expensive lawsuits in addition to the millions that were paid out in the name of “freeing” Pacifica.   

Having driven away two thirds to three quarters of their audience over the past decade, in order to avert bankruptcy, Pacifica’s airwaves have lately been turned over to New Age quacks and peddlers of miracle cures, as well as right wing anti-government hucksters.  While proclaiming to be holier than NPR by not taking corporate money, Pacifica’s increasingly frequent and interminable fund drives have become free infomercials for corporate bottom feeders who promote their snake oil for profit while claiming the mantle of resistance, revolution and investigative journalism. 

Worse still, is the anti-science sales pitches that accompany these miracle cures, making the people’s radio on the left indistinguishable from the corporate-funded global warming deniers and creationists.  And morally reprehensible does not even begin to describe those who exploit dying cancer patients with the promise of a cure from a revolutionary natural elixir that Big Pharma is trying to suppress. 

If it wasn’t so pernicious it would be laughable, but without any moral, ethical or political compass, Pacifica’s pursuit of “health and spirituality” will likely lead to an FCC license challenge due to the flagrant misuse of the public’s money and airwaves for the private gain of a few patent medicine peddlers. 

If the only rationale for selling their soul to the lowest bidder is that it pays the bills, then why not promote pornography in fund drives?  People like it and there’s a lot of money to be made.  But in the end, maybe it comes down to the number of gullible hypochondriacs and political illiterates there are on the left in America.  Even though they are not really on the left.

The Heist In Plain Sight

When the guy cutting your hair offers his considered opinion that “we’ve got to do something about the deficit” you know the mind of America is seriously twisted.  How could working Americans and the middle class have fallen for the con that there is a deficit crisis and that it’s their responsibility to fix it?

Without the slightest notion that George W. Bush single-handed ran up one third of the national debt, and combined with his father and Ronald Reagan they are responsible for a half of the $14.3 trillion debt accumulated over the entire life of the Republic, hitting the debt ceiling is suddenly my problem. 

And although in the real world we have a revenue crisis, not a deficit crisis, the political landscape laid out by the Republicans and reinforced by the mainstream media, has everyone accepting that we can’t raise taxes to generate revenues to pay down the deficit, we have to cut spending.

This is the most flagrant in-your-face robbery and brazen act of class warfare that any democracy has ever accepted, but the top one percent and their political hirelings are pulling it off.  The beneficiaries of decades of tax breaks that have demonstrably widened the income gap to where America has the greatest disparity in wealth on the planet, apparently have got the poor overburdened taxpayer to take up the deficit challenge and shoulder it alone.

The Republicans, who are likely to pick up the Senate next year, have drawn the line on no taxes and will not budge. Raising revenues are off the table, so that means cut only.  So the rich who pay little to no taxes, who are largely responsible for the economic collapse, who were made whole by the taxpayer and are better off than ever, are telling the rest of us to tighten our belts. 

Telling us we should sacrifice our Social Security and Medicare so that their tax breaks can go on forever, and if Congressman Ryan, who wants to cut Medicare gets his way, their taxes will be lowered even further.

Meanwhile the surplus wealth the one percent have stashed offshore, in hedge funds and in other Wall Street “instruments”, is working overtime to further impoverish the working stiff at the gas pump and kitchen table as more wealth is transferred from the poor to the rich through commodity speculation.  This unfettered predation is slowing down the anemic economic recovery and it could lead to a double-dip recession which will no doubt help the Republican get elected next year while hurting the rest of us.   

If we had a full recovery and the 13.7 million out of work were paying taxes, the deficit would cease to be an issue overnight.  That is how phony it is, because it is the idle poor who need work not the idle rich who need more tax breaks. 

Stimulus not austerity is how you get demand back into the economy, unless of course the infamous Citibank memo cited in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism” movie has come to pass.  A government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy where the plutonomy can get by without working stiffs going to the mall.  In other words, the plantation economy that Warren Buffet warns we are heading into.

This will mean the final triumph of money over votes and the ultimate success of Fox News and other class war propaganda outlets who will have finally turned logic on its head.  Having convinced the guy who cuts my hair, they will have convinced the rest of working America that the “freedom” of a hedge fund billionaire to pay less in taxes than his secretary, also makes them free. 

Free to strive for the American dream that is no longer attainable, because our game show democracy is rigged with meritocracy a sham.  And once the land of the free is fully privatized by inheritors and investors, and the home of the brave rented out to suckers and slaves, will the rest of the huddled masses yearn to breathe free?