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 an analysis of the just-released draft of the Republican Senate’s repeal and replacement of Obamacare bill that Mitch McConnell is determined to get passed by the fourth of July holiday in a grotesque perversion of patriotism as Republicans are poised to celebrate millions of their fellow citizens loosing healthcare coverage in order to make a handful of their richest patrons even richer. A veteran of the health insurance industry, Wendell Potter, who was chief corporate spokesman at CIGNA and head of corporate communications at Humana, joins us to discuss what has emerged from secret behind-closed-doors negotiations and the unseemly rush to get something passed before it can be studied or scored to assess its impact, in order to fulfill a Trump campaign promise so that Republicans can move on to the important work of “reforming” taxes to further enrich the wealthiest Americans like Trump and his family.

Then we get an assessment of the Democrat’s recent loss in the most expensive House race in history and why they ran such a bland candidate with a feckless message and whether by reaching so high they gave Trump a gift and squandered millions of dollars of small donations from concerned citizens who are alarmed by Trump’s reckless and destructive presidency. Simon Rosenberg, the President and Founder of the New Democrat Network, a leading progressive think tank and advocacy organization, joins us to discuss the kind of messages and candidates the Democrats need to take back the House and Senate in 2018.

Then finally we speak with John Lawrence, a visiting professor at the University of California, Washington who worked for 38 years in the House of Representatives and served as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff. He joins us to discuss unrelenting Republican attacks on Pelosi as well as some criticism of her leadership from a few Democrats and the underlying reason why she is the target of Republicans, not because they see her as a weak leader, but as a strong one.

Background Briefing


The Republicans Celebrate the 4th of July By Making America Sick Again

The Kind of Messages and Candidates Democrats Need in 2018

Why the Republicans are Attacking Nancy Pelosi


We begin with an analysis of why the Democrats lost the uphill race they hoped to win in Georgia’s sixth congressional district and speak with Ian Haney Lopez, a Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley and author of “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class”. We will discuss how the successful demonization of Hillary Clinton by the Republicans in the last election was updated to target Nancy Pelosi in yesterday’s election and tie her to Jon Ossoff who was depicted as her puppet. We explore why people prefer to believe that Nancy Pelosi is a monster without any apparent evidence to support the demonized portrait of her GOP operatives so successfully employed. Using dog whistle coded appeals they implied Jon Ossoff was not one of us, but a gay-loving San Francisco sanctuary city type who wants to hand out benefits to undeserving minorities while looking down at hard working white folks who the Democrats don’t care about that have been left at the back of the cue.

Then we examine the absence of American leadership with a commander in chief who is AWOL on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where the Russians appear to be running the show and making the rules. Kate Brannen, the Deputy Managing Editor of Just Security and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council joins us to discuss her latest article at Foreign Policy “White House Officials Push for Widening the War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections” and how hawks on the National Security Council are working behind the backs of the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Advisor to confront Iran and its proxy forces.

Then finally we assess the elevation of Saudi Arabia’s 31 year old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the role of Crown Prince by his father King Salman, passing over his older uncle Prince Nayef. Dr. Ali Alyami, the founder and director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia joins us to discuss this palace intrigue and his latest article at “Settling Scores with Qatar in the Guise of Defeating Terrorism” and how the Saudis are shamelessly stroking Trump’s ego while playing him like a gullible fool.

Background Briefing


How Demonizing HIllary and Then Pelosi Has Paid Off

Our Commander in Chief is AWOL

Saudi Arabia's Boy King Moves Closer to the Throne


We begin with the most expensive congressional race in the nation’s history in Georgia where the polls closed an hour ago and speak with Andra Gillespie, a Professor of Political Science at Emory University who served as a Martin Luther King Visiting Scholar in Political Science at MIT and was an analyst for Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. She joins us to discuss this tight race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel that has been flooded with outside money since it is widely seen as an early referendum on the troubled Trump Administration. We look into whether Ossoff can squeak by with a narrow victory this time with the help of the African/American vote, the absence of which some analysts say cost Ossoff an outright win in the primary in which he fell just short of the 50% threshold.

Then following the shoot-down of 2 Iranian drones and a Syrian fighter-bomber by U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria, we assess the warning from the Russians that any coalition aircraft venturing west of the Euphrates will be painted by Russian radar and treated as targets. An expert on Syria, Nicholas Heras, a Middle East researcher at the Center for a New American Security, joins us to discuss how Syria and Iran are trying to capture territory in the east of Syria, attempting to fill the vacuum as the Islamic State is defeated in the hope that they can create a land corridor from Assad-controlled territory across Iraq to Iran.

Then finally we speak with Jonathan Marshall, an award-winning journalist and researcher who has a 5 part series of articles on foreign lobbying at Consortium News, the latest of which is “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets”. We discuss how other nations, apart from Russia, interfere in our elections by pouring money into hiring lobbyists and former officials while funding think tanks and political issues using the dark money channels opened up the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Background Briefing


An Update on the Georgia Congressional Race

Could an Accidental War Between the US and Russia Break Out in Syria?

How Other Nations, Apart From Russia, Interfere in Our Elections


We begin with a looming showdown in the U.S. Senate as Democrats try to force the Republican Obamacare replacement bill out into the open from its behind closed doors negotiations by Republicans whose Senate leader hopes to jam it through using the reconciliation process to avoid a filibuster. Joining us is a veteran senate staffer Paul Light, Professor of Public Service at New York University who was director of the Government Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and is the author of “Government by Investigation: Presidents, Congress, and the Search for Answers 1945-2012”. We discuss the many tactics that can slow down the Senate and the likelihood that when the Republican healthcare bill sees the light of day and is scored by the CBO, moderate Republican will abandon it, as well as try to figure out Trump’s tweet calling the bill “mean” and what effect that might have on its uncertain future.

Then we examine the latest disarray caused by Trump’s tweets attacking the Deputy Attorney General for initiating an investigation of him which Trump calls a witch hunt only to have his lawyer say the president is not being investigated at the same time saying he is. James Kirchick, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington D.C. and author of “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age” joins us to discuss his article at the Los Angeles Times ”If Trump were really in league with Russia, that would be reassuring for America’s civic sanity” and why he thinks it is unlikely that Trump will be found guilty of collusion with the Russians and how the various investigations serve to distract us from the fact that Trump is guilty of being an unscrupulous, unpatriotic demagogue.

Then finally we look into a terror attack in London in which nine worshippers leaving a north London mosque were seriously injured by a van driven by a father of four from Cardiff who told the group of Muslims who held him until the police arrived that “you deserve it” and “I did my bit”. Charles Kurzman, the co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations joins us to discuss how this attack is exactly what the Islamic State was hoping to provoke in response to its terrorist attacks designed to drive a wedge between Muslims in the diaspora and their host countries.

Background Briefing


Senate Democrats Try to Force Republicans Into the Open

What Trump is Really Guilty Of

Terror Attack in London Against Muslim Worshipers