Background Briefing - Monday, November 22, 2010

Hello and welcome to The Daily Briefing, I'm Ian Masters and today we will look into a number of stories and issues in the news. We will begin in a moment and go to Tokyo, Japan, to speak with Steve Clemons, who directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and founded the Japan Policy Research Institute, along with Chalmers Johnson, who passed away on Saturday and whose legacy we will discuss. Uniquely prescient in warning that our democracy is in the process of being lost as the Republic struggles to survive the Empire, Chalmers Johnson made the reverse journey of the neocons, from a champion of the Vietnam war to the author of such important books as Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, Nemesis and Dismantling the Empire. We will assess the impact today and tomorrow of this American original, Chalmers Johnson.

Then, following a report from Bloomberg News cited in Monday's New York Times lead editorial of unprecedented amounts of money from health insurance companies laundered by the Chamber of Commerce, we will talk with an insurance company insider on what the insurance giants want to retain in the new healthcare reform bill and what they want the new Republican Congress they helped elect to repeal. Wendell Potter, the former head of PR for CIGNA and Humana joins us to explain their strategy and talk about his new book Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out On How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans.

Then finally we will discuss the $100 billion EU/IMF bailout of Ireland with David Lynch the author of a new book, When The Luck Of The Irish Ran Out: The World's Most Resilient Country and its Struggle to Rise Again. A senior writer with Bloomberg News in Washington DC, he focuses on the intersection of politics and economics, twin crises the Irish government and economy are now beset by as other economies in the Eurozone, Portugal and Spain show signs of catching the contagion

Background Briefing - Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hello and welcome to Background Briefing, I’m Ian Masters and today we will look into a number of subjects and issues in the news. We will begin in a moment and speak with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky who is a member of President Obama’s 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the so-called Simpson/Bowles Commission. She joins us to discuss her alternative she is offering up that is friendlier to middle class and working Americans, a plan which does not rely heavily on benefit cuts but instead focuses on revenue increases.

Then we will be joined by the only Western journalists living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where there is a major offensive underway against the Taliban, that has provoked an outburst from President Karzai who has just attended the NATO summit in Lisbon, that has called for a new exit date of 2014, conditional upon a rebuilt Afghan Army that has yet to materialize. We will talk with Felix Kuehn and Alex Strick Von Linschoven who are working on a book-length study on the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Then we will dig deeper into the question of who are we fighting and what are we fighting for in Afghanistan, with Dr Marvin Weinbaum who was the head of the Afghanistan/Pakistan desk at the INR, the State Department Intelligence Bureau and is now Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute.

Background Briefing - Thursday, November 18, 2010

Today we will look into a number of stories and issues in the news. We will begin in a moment and discuss the need for progressives and economists to create alternatives to the deficit hawks' mantra that dominates the debate. Senator Bernie Sanders, the longest serving Independent in the history of the US Congress, joins us to call for an alternative to the deficit hoax that is being sold to the American people by the right wing echo chamber that dominates our airwaves who are ginning up a phony crisis that has everyone but the top 2 percent tightening their belts, while we can't afford to extend unemployment benefits, but need to extend tax cuts for the richest Americans.

Then we will talk about the apparent scuttling of the START treaty by Republican Senators who seem determined to risk America's security because they are so intent on denying President Obama any legislative success. William Hartung, who is Director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New American Foundation, joins us to attempt to understand why the party that has always claimed to be tougher on defense is so driven by petty political partisanship that they are prepared to undermine national security and endanger America.

Then finally we will examine whether we live in a meritocracy anymore and whether Americans respect excellence and still believe in fair play. Incredibly enough these issues have been raised by the outrage expressed in the press and the blogosphere from inquiring minds who want to know how Bristol Palin was elevated to the finals of ABC's “Dancing With The Stars” at the expense of the clearly much more talented African-American performer Brandy. Leo Braudy, a professor of literature, film and cultural history at USC, joins us to figure out whether the votes were rigged by the Tea Party for political gain or by Disney for ratings, and what this tells us about the health of our culture and our political future.