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.

Pacifica Archives Fund drive - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ian Masters, Alan Minksy, and Mark Torres host fund drive for Pacifica Radio archives. Clips from

Gore Vidal, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cornell West.

Daily Briefing - Monday, November 15, 2010

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the think tank Demos. He is a columnist for the Boston Globe, and has written for the Washington Post, The New Republic, and for 20 years, he wrote a column for Business Week. Mr. Kuttner was formerly an assistant to the legendary I.F. Stone, a chief investigator for the Senate Banking Committee. His books include Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets and Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency. His new book is A Presidency in Peril: The Inside Story of Obama's Promise, Wall Street's Power, and the Struggle to Control our Economic Future and his new piece at the Huffington Post is “What Planet are the Deficit Hawks Living On?”

William Cohan is a contributing editor at Fortune and a writer for Vanity Fair and The New York Times. His acclaimed book, House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street, details the last days of Bear Stearns & Co. He began his career as an investigative reporter in Raleigh, North Carolina and then went on to work on Wall Street for over a decade and a half, both at Lazard Frères and JP Morgan Chase. In 2007 he published, The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co. He is currently working on a book about Goldman Sachs.

Allan A. Ryan, Jr. is an attorney and professor at Harvard University, Harvard Business School, and teaches at Boston College Law School. He served as a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White of the Supreme Court and was Assistant to the Solicitor General, representing the U.S. government in the Supreme Court. In 1980, he was appointed the first Director of the Office of Special Investigations, U.S. Department of Justice. In this position, he was responsible for the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the United States. He has served as a consultant on genocide prosecutions to the government of Rwanda and participated in several international conferences on how governments should face the crimes of predecessor regimes. HIs book was: Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America.