Background Briefing

Ian Masters

Ian Masters

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In our divided country where fake news and alternative facts compete with urgent realities and scientific truths, Ian Masters’ “Background Briefing” offers a daily digest of analysis and insight into national and international events. While Donald Trump ignores the Presidential Daily Briefing and gets a version edited by Stephen Bannon, listeners to “Background Briefing” obtain the best open-source information from the most experienced specialists closest to the scene so that an informed citizenry can restore civic engagement and establish a fact-based consensus on how our country deals with the challenges we face.

Five days a week, Background Briefing asks knowledgeable and thoughtful experts to explain the complexities behind major news stories in long-format interviews.

The program airs Monday-Thursday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time and on Sundays from 11:00 to Noon, broadcast live on KPFK, 90.7FM in Los Angeles.

Ian Masters is an Australian-born and BBC-trained journalist and filmmaker. He has made a career of asking provocative questions of the most informed thinkers in order to bring light to the day’s most important news stories. Since 1980 his Sunday program, Background Briefing, has aired on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles. In 2009, the program expanded to five days each week.

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We begin with a new poll that finds the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters believe he is honest and trustworthy and will keep his campaign promises. At the same time they do not believe the mainstream media with 78% of Trump voters believing that news organizations regularly produce false stories. Ben Schreckinger, who covers national politics for Politico, joins us to discuss his latest article at Politico Magazine “Trump’s Fake War on the Fake News”, and the paradox that while Trump’s lies are working with cynical perfection on his base, he also wants the approval of the mainstream media that he demonizes as he spends a lot of his time obsessing over how he is covered and how his underlings like Sean Spicer are performing on his behalf. We will also look into the trickle down nature of the culture of lying in the White House that has junior staffers routinely lying to the press just for fun.

Then we will gauge the reactions to the highly touted but thinly supported tax cut and tax reform proposals announced at the White House yesterday and assess the impact of the tax cuts on the deficit with Frank Clemente, the Executive Director and co-founder of Americans for Tax Fairness. He joins us to explain how getting rid of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax while cutting the corporate tax to 15% will benefit Trump and enrich him, his family, his friends and members of his cabinet.

Then finally we will get an update on the deteriorating situation in Venezuela where the son of a top official in the Maduro government made a heartfelt appeal to his father on video begging him “to end the injustice that has sunk this country”. Jennifer McCoy, a professor of political science at Georgia State University and author of “The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela” and “International Mediation in Venezuela”, joins us to discuss plans for an intervention by the Organization of American States that may come too late as this heavily-armed country is poised to descend into violent chaos.

Background Briefing

How Trump's Lies Work For Him

The Impact of Trump's Tax Cuts

Venezuela Poised to Descend Into Violent Chaos



We begin with the White House trumpeting the biggest tax cut in history which will add bigly to the deficit by allowing the top taxpayers to call themselves pass-through corporations reducing their tax rate down from 39% to 15% which is the new corporate tax rate Trump is proposing. Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of “Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy are Structured to Make the Rich Richer”, joins us to discuss how these so-called “tax reform” proposals are the same old tax cuts for the rich that are supposed to magically spur the economy and create jobs, as well as his latest article at Common Dreams “Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut…For Himself”.

Then we will examine the tweet storm from Donald Trump following a ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco that blocked his executive order targeting sanctuary cities. Kevin Johnson, a Professor and the Dean of Public Interest Law at the University of California, Davis joins us to discuss Trump’s latest attack on the federal judiciary that include a personal attack on the judge who issued the nationwide preliminary injunction as well as an attack on the 9th Circuit which did not make the ruling that Trump mischaracterizes as a gift to criminal gangs and cartels when in fact the judge ruled Trump’s order will likely violate the Constitution by depriving a jurisdiction of funds unrelated to immigration.

Then finally we will get an update on the just-concluded meeting at the White House by U.S. Senators invited there for an unusual briefing on North Korea by the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Sung Yoon Lee, a Professor of International Affairs at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, joins us to discuss whether this was a photo-op for Trump or an opportunity to learn what strategies are to be employed following a sixth North Korean nuclear test which is expected soon.


Background Briefing

Trump's Biggest Tax Cut in History... For Himself

Trump's Latest Attack on the Federal Judiciary

What Came Out of the Unusual White House Briefing of Senators on North Korea



With the House Intelligence Committee in shambles after what appears to be deliberate sabotage by its chairman Devon Nunes, we begin with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with Trump in the 2016 election which is moving at glacial speed. Tim Mak, a senior correspondent at the Daily Beast, joins us to discuss his reports that there are no qualified full-time staff members of the seven working part-time on the Senate Russia inquiry and that “no interviews have been conducted with key individuals.”

Then as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tries to reassure Trump’s base that “priorities have not changed,” we will look into President Trump’s backing down on his repeated campaign promise to build a wall along the border that Mexico will pay for which was supposed to be funded in this week’s spending bill. Sonia Nazario, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her 6 part investigative series “Enrique’s Journey” which is now a best-selling book, joins us to discuss her article at the Los Angeles Times, “How to Secure the Border. Spoiler alert: A Wall won’t do it.” We will discuss how much cheaper solutions will help solve the problems that a $20 billion wall will certain not do.

Then finally, as the general in charge of US operation in Afghanistan refuses to dispute claims that Russia is sending weapons to the Taliban, we will examine the charges and what evidence might support them with Marvin Weinbaum who served as an analyst on Pakistan and Afghanistan for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois and a resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and the author of The Future of Afghanistan and we will assess whether there are other reasons why we appear to losing America’s longest war other than the possibility of perfidious behavior by Putin.

Background Briefing

Is The Senate Intelligence Committee Also Dysfunctional?

Cheap and Effective Alternatives to Trump's Border Wall

Is Russia Arming the Taliban?



We will begin with the production line killings being carried out by the state of Arkansas with eight men scheduled to be put to death in 11 days because suppliers of drugs used for lethal injections will only allow their products to be used for medically approved purposes so the state’s executioners, who are short on supply, had to drive to an undisclosed location to make a drug deal with an unnamed dealer who made no record of the sale.  The President of Death Penalty Focus, Mike Farrell, a political and social activist best known for his roles in MASH and Providence, joins us to discuss the unseemly rush to kill which resulted in Justice Gorsuch casting his first vote on the Supreme Court to put a likely innocent man to death even though Ledell Lee in mentally incapacitated, DNA evidence was never tested, his defense was grossly incompetent and the judge who sentenced him was having an affair with the prosecutor.

Then we will go to Istanbul, Turkey to speak with Ronald Suny an historian at the University of Michigan and a professor emeritus of political science and history at the University of Chicago. The author of “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide”, he joins us to discuss the local reaction to the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide and how the educated and urban half of Turkey who voted against President Erdogan’s recent power grab feel about Donald Trump’s endorsement of their new dictator.

Then finally we will speak with the Turkish scholar who is considered the Sherlock Holmes of the Armenian genocide. Taner Akcam, who holds the chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University and is the author of “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity” joins us to discuss how he found documentation, the “smoking gun” that proves the genocide against the Armenians that the Turkish government persists in denying, took place.

Background Briefing

Arkansas' Assembly Line Executions

A Report From Turkey on the 102nd Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

The Turkish Scholar Known as the Sherlock Holmes of the Armenian Genocide