October 24 - Succession in Saudi Arabia: The US Ambassador is Pulled Out of Syria; The Ultimate in Corporate Greed

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We begin with the succession this week in Saudi Arabia of a new crown prince likely to be Prince Nayef, who is a hardliner close to the Wahabbi religious establishment. Saudi expert Gregory Gause joins us to discuss what influence the current Interior Minister will have on the political future of an absolute monarchy that finds itself increasingly isolated by the Arab Spring unfolding in the Middle East and increasingly drawn into a conflict with Iran, following recent accusations that Iranian agents planned to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington.
 
Greg Gause

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Then we discuss the departure of the US Ambassador to Syria, who has been pulled out because of threats from the Assad regime who are unhappy with the Ambassador’s support for the Syrian opposition. Murhaf Joujati, a Syrian-born expert on the Middle East who teaches at the National Defense University joins us to assess the impact of this escalation between the US and Syria and whether the downfall of Qaddafi will lead the Syrian opposition to take up arms.
 
Murhaf Jouejati

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Then finally we discuss the mother of all corporate scandals, outlined in a new book “Retirement Heist; How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers". The author, former Wall Street Journal Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Ellen Schultz joins us to explain the obvious brazen contempt the top one percent have for the bottom 99% whose pensions are being robbed blind to enrich the already lavish retirements of overpaid CEO’s Ellen Schultz

 

October 23 - The Eurozone Punts as the Crisis Deepens; The Author of the Important New Book "Oligarchy"

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We begin with the looming European financial crisis as the summit of 27 heads of EU states in Brussels failed to come to an agreement, putting off a possible resolution until next Wednesday. With Greece already in collapse and Spain, Portugal and Italy teetering, it is looking more and more likely that the contagion will spread to the U.S. and deepen and prolong the recession we are stuck in, making the Republicans, whose policies are accelerating our economic decline, more likely to be elected. Dimitri Papadimitriou, who just returned from Europe, joins us. He is president of the Levy Economics Institute, and Jerome Levy Professor of Economics at Bard College. He has testified on a number of occasions before Senate and House Committees of the U.S. Congress, and is a distinguished scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Dimitri Papadimitriou

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Then we with speak with a professor of Political Economy at Northwestern University Jeffrey Winters, the author of a new book “Oligarchy”.  He has studied the oligarchs of ancient Greece and Rome as well as contemporary Indonesia and the Philippines, and by comparison finds America’s oligarch unusually greedy.  We examine the American Right’s fetishizing of the wealthy and powerful and its a contempt for the weak and needy.

For the last couple of years on “Background Briefing” we have questioned how much our democracy has succumbed to the power of concentrated wealth, so much so that listeners have complained that I was using the words oligarchy and plutonomy too much.

But now with the 99% movement spreading across the country and around the world, it is clear to a growing number of people that America’s oligarchs and their political hirelings control our economy and own our politics, effectively disenfranchising the majority of American voters.

oligarchy

 

October 20 - Death of a Dictator; The Global Awakening of the 99%; The Revenge of the Electric Car

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We begin with the death of the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi who was killed by rebel fighters today as he tried to escape from his besieged hometown of Sirte. A former Libyan diplomat who was a translator for Qaddafi, Dr. Abubaker Saad joins us to discuss the end of a long dictatorship and the beginning of a new chapter for an oil rich country with the a small population who could all benefit greatly from a redistribution of wealth and democratic rule. Dr. Abubaker Saad

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Then Dr. David Ruccio joins us. He is a professor of Economics at Notre Dame University and has just returned from Italy where street protests turned violent. We discuss how non-violent protests against Wall Street have spread around the world and what this global awakening of the 99% might lead to as demands for economic justice confront the power of the world’s oligarchs who either benefit from dictatorial rule or increasingly dominate electoral politics in democracies.

 

David Ruccio

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Then finally we speak with the film maker of a new documentary feature opening tomorrow, Friday, "The Revenge of the Electric Car". Chris Paine joins us to discuss his sequel to "Who Killed the Electric Car" that shows how Nissan, GM and Tesla Motors have rediscovered electric cars with a vengeance in the face of a growing worldwide public demand for clean cars. Chris Paine

 

October 19 - The Austerity Trap; Student Debt at One Trillion!; Drone Wars Coming Soon

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We begin with the former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and discuss the austerity trap that the economy is stuck in with political gridlock and election politics digging the hole deeper.  However there is some reason to hope that as the powerful and privileged one percent try to take us back to the Gilded Age, a movement forming might rally the nation to reclaim the American Dream for the 99%. Robert Riech

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Then we look into the shameful growth of student debt that will reach one trillion dollars this year. David Halperin, who is the director of Campus Progress at the Center for American Progress joins us to explain the increasing debt load students are now burdened with as they face a shrinking jobs market, and how lobbyists for the for-profit college industry have managed to get Congress to have taxpayer money charged back to unwitting students at exorbitant rates for a worthless education and a useless diploma. David Halperin

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Then finally we talk about drone warfare and the inevitable blowback that will come as the U.S. loses its technological edge and other nations develop their own drones. David Cortwright, the Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University joins us to discuss the future implications of the proliferation of remote-control killing machines. David Cortwright

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Then finally we speak with Robert Greenwald a producer, director and political activist. He is the founder of Brave New Films. We discuss his new documentary, "The Koch Brothers Exposed," which sheds light on the toxic harm that the Koch Brothers are inflicting on this country.

Robert Greenwald

 

October 18 - Will a Revived Left Create a New Center?; A Further Analysis of the 99% Movement; Bill Maher on Trying to Keep up With Political Absurdity

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We begin with a political analysis of the likely effect the Occupy Wall Street movement will have on the future of progressive politics in America and the elections next year. Michael Lind joins us. He has an article at Salon.com “Occupation and Realignment; How a Real Leftist Movement Could Create a New Center in American Politics”, and we discuss the promise and pitfalls of a movement that now has a powerful and unifying economic message, which could be diffused by identity politics and other single-issue protests. Michael Lind

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Then we will examine the Occupy Wall Street movement further with Michael Heaney, who is a professor of Organizational Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan. We will discuss what political agenda and strategy will eventually emerge from this movement that is an apparent counterweight to the right-wing Tea Party, and how much it is a response to an acute sense of threat on the political left which feels its political representatives have failed them. Michael Heaney

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Then finally Bill Maher joins us. He is the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” and we  talk politics and humor, in a political environment where political candidates, many of whom are running for president, provide such a rich serving of comedic absurdity that it is difficult to tell whether life is imitating comedy or comedy is imitating life.
Bill Maher