On The Monitor this week:
I am unable to be in the studio this week. Rather than play an older show I am playing the last part of a documentary series made in 2004. The series “The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear” is a BBC television series by Adam Curtis. It mainly consists of archive footage, with Curtis narrating. The series was originally broadcast in the United Kingdom in 2004. It has subsequently been aired in multiple countries and shown at various film festivals, including the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.
The film compares the rise of the neoconservative movement in the United States and the radical Islamist movement, drawing comparisons between their origins, and remarking on similarities between the two groups. More controversially, it argues that radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organisation, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is a myth, or noble lie, perpetuated by leaders of many countries—and particularly neoconservatives in the U.S.—in a renewed attempt to unite and inspire their people after the ultimate failure of utopian ideas. Part 3, played on the show this week is called “The Shadows in the Cave”. Short synopsis:
- Donald Trump nominates Betsy DeVos to be his Secretary of Education. We discuss the topic with Diane Ravitch.
- News or Propaganda? What is happening to the news and what is the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” about? We discuss the topic with Rick Sterling.
Diane Ravitch is an historian of education and Research Professor of Education at New York University. She was born in Houston, Texas, attended the Houston public schools from kindergarten through high school, and graduated from Wellesley College in 1960. She received her Ph.D. in the history of American education in 1975. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net
Quote: “Betsy DeVos should not be approved by the Senate committee or confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Education. She has no experience or qualifications for the job. She is a lobbyist for alternatives to public schools. Eighty-five percent of the students in the U.S. attend public schools. Her only plan is to weaken and destroy them by diverting public money to charter schools and vouchers for religious schools. DeVos is a billionaire who has never worked in a public school, never attended a public school, never sent her own children to public school. She has lived in a billionaire bubble of privilege. She has no understanding of the needs of our nation’s public schools, and she is in fact actively hostile to them. This is unacceptable. She is unacceptable. Our public schools are one of the cornerstones of our democracy. We have never had a Secretary of Education who was opposed to public schools. We should never have one.”
Rick Sterling is a retired electronics / aerospace engineer turned independent investigative journalist. He just wrote the piece “The War Against Alternative Information” for ConsortiumNews.com — which states: “The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act’ that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any ‘propaganda’ that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality. The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center ‘to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.’ The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to ‘coordinate with allied nations.’The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian ‘propaganda’ on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth — or Global Engagement Center — to protect the American people from ‘foreign propaganda and disinformation.’ As part of the effort to detect and defeat these unwanted narratives, the law authorizes the Center to: ‘Facilitate the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among Federal departments and agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.’ (This section is an apparent reference to proposals that Google, Facebook and other technology companies find ways to block or brand certain Internet sites as purveyors of ‘Russian propaganda’ or ‘fake news.’) Justifying this new bureaucracy, the bill’s sponsors argued that the existing agencies for ‘strategic communications’ and ‘public diplomacy’ were not enough, that the information threat required ‘a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power.’ The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world’s biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation…”
- The Wells Fargo scandal and settlement with William Black
- U.S. Violation of Syrian Ceasefire with Reese Erlich
Bill Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the executive director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He previously taught at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
The Los Angeles Times reports this morning: “The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on aggressive sales tactics employed by Wells Fargo employees that led to a $185-million settlement package with federal and state regulators. Five senators requested a committee investigation into the bank’s pressure-cooker sales practices that pushed thousands of Wells Fargo employees to open as many as 2 million accounts that customers never asked for. Scheduled to testify at the hearing are John Stumpf, chief executive of the San Francisco-based bank, and Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
Professor Black was litigation director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, deputy director of the FSLIC, SVP and general counsel of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and senior deputy chief counsel, Office of Thrift Supervision. He was deputy director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement.
His book, The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One (University of Texas Press 2005)
Reese Erlich is a veteran foreign correspondent. Erlich’s books include The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis, Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire, Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect.
Reese Erlich‘s history in journalism goes back 42 years. He first worked as a staff writer and research editor for Ramparts, an investigative reporting magazine published in San Francisco from 1963 to 1975. Today he works as a full-time print and broadcast, freelance reporter. He reports regularly for National Public Radio, CBC, ABC (Australia), Radio Deutche Welle and Market Place Radio. His articles appear in the SF Chronicle and Dallas Morning News. His television documentaries have aired on PBS stations nationwide.
Erlich’s book, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You co-authored with Norman Solomon, became a best seller in 2003. The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis was published in 2007. Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba was published in 2009. Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire, was published in 2010. The paperback edition of Erlich’s book Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect was published this week.
Erlich shared a Peabody Award in 2006 as a segment producer for Crossing East, a radio documentary on the history of Asians in the US. In 2004 Erlich’s radio special “Children of War: Fighting, Dying, Surviving,” won a Clarion Award presented by the Alliance for Women in Communication and second and third place from the National Headlines Awards.
Quote: “The U.S. bombed Syrian government soldiers and a Syrian military base, with estimates off 62-90 dead and over 100 wounded. The U.S. says the attack was accidental. However, on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry attacked the Assad regime for continuing its air strikes and for not allowing delivery of relief supplies to besieged cities — only briefly apologizing for the U.S.-caused death and destruction. The tone of the comments suggest the bombing raid was an intentional effort to pressure Assad and the Russians. Regardless of the intent, objectively the attacks are a huge setback to the announced U.S.-Russian ceasefire and proposed military cooperation against extremist rebels. The Russian government has called for a special meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the matter.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Are we allergic to food or what’s been done to it? An interview with Robyn O’Brien
- Turkey’s invasion of Syria. An interview with Michael Beer
More about this week’s guests:
Robyn O’Brien is a former financial and food industry analyst. She has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by Bloomberg and the New York Times. She is the author of The Unhealthy Truth published in May 2009 by Random House, which reveals the alarming relationship between the manipulation of our food and both the increase in dangerous allergies in our children as well as the increase in cancers in our families—and offers a road map to healthy living.
From a conservative Texas family, Robyn earned an MBA on a full scholarship, graduating as the top woman in her class before going to work as a financial analyst that covered the food industry. For ten years, she has led a food awakening among consumers, corporations and political leaders. Armed with data and analytics, food companies now responding to Robyn’s work include Bloomberg, Compass Food Group, Kraft, Coca Cola, Burger King, Chipotle, Nestle, Target and others. She sheds light on how the changing landscape of food and health are impacting the food industry and our economy. You can follow her on Twitter here: @
Michael Beer has been the Executive Director of Nonviolence International since 1998. Michael is a global activist for human rights, minority rights and against war and casino capitalism. He has trained activists in many countries, including Burma, Kosovo, Tibet, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, USA and Zimbabwe. He is a frequent public speaker on nonviolence and has been broadcast on CSPAN, CNN, and other major media. Michael is the co-parent of two children along with his life partner, Latanja.s the director of Nonviolence International.
Quote: “Turkey has invaded Syria without the support of the Assad government nor the United Nations nor the Arab League. This is another damaging blow to international laws meant to prevent war. Given hundreds of years of Turkish/Ottoman dominion over Arabs, this Turkish invasion is unlikely to gain much support in Syria or the Arab world. The timing is remarkable just as the vice president of the U.S. arrived in Turkey. The U.S. cooperated, in part, because the U.S. already has troops in Syria in violation of international law and the U.S. constitution and has no credible platform to protest. International protest has been slow to emerge: No attempt to bring this to the UN; the media refusing to label this an invasion/violation of international law. European governments support it, and the Iranians refuse to release a public statement. We are seeing more and more countries follow the U.S. and Russia’s example of using military force outside of international law. This is a dangerous direction for the future security of planet earth.”
On The Monitor this week:
- Gareth Porter on the Syria “dissent” memo and US bureaucratic support for Kerry war strategy
- Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore on “Transgender Troops”
More about this week’s guests:
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He has published investigative articles on Salon.com, the Nation, the American Prospect, Truthout and The Raw Story. His blogs have been published on Huffington Post, Firedoglake, Counterpunch and many other websites. Porter was Saigon bureau chief of Dispatch News Service International in 1971 and later reported on trips to Southeast Asia for The Guardian, Asian Wall Street Journal and Pacific News Service. He is the author of four books on the Vietnam War and the political system of Vietnam. Historian Andrew Bacevich called his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War , published by University of California Press in 2005, without a doubt, the most important contribution to the history of U.S. national security policy to appear in the past decade. He has taught Southeast Asian politics and international studies at American University, City College of New York and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore described as “startlingly bold and provocative” by Howard Zinn, “a cross between Tinkerbell and a honky Malcolm X with a queer agenda” by the Austin Chronicle, and “a gender-fucking tower of pure pulsing purple fabulous” by The Stranger, Mattilda is most recently the author of a memoir, The End of San Francisco, winner of a 2014 Lambda Literary Award. She’s also the editor of Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform (AK Press 2012), an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. Mattilda is the author of two novels, So Many Ways to Sleep Badly (City Lights 2008) and Pulling Taffy (Suspect Thoughts 2003). She is the editor of four additional nonfiction anthologies, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (Seal 2007), That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (Soft Skull 2004; 2008), Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving (Haworth 2004), and Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write about Their Clients (Haworth 2000), which now also appears in Italian (Effepi Libri 2007). Mattilda is currently finishing a third novel, Sketchtasy.
On The Monitor this week is an extended interview with Barry Lando in which we discuss the terror attacks in Paris and Orlando in a broader context of history, international events, media coverage, and the relationship between government and media. This is the kind of exchange this show is known for – a freeform conversation about an important topic that moves beyond the media’s norm of decontextualized sound-bytes and ahistorical sensationalism.
More about this week’s guest:
Barry Lando was a producer for 60 Minutes for over 25 years, most of those producing stories for Mike Wallace. Lando produced the first interview with the Ayatollah Khomeini after the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, which aired 14 days after the hostages were captured. Another famous story he produced was on the 1990 Temple Mount riots. Wallace said of Lando and another producer, “if it wasn’t for [Marion Goldin] and Barry there would be no 60 Minutes.”
Lando pioneered the use of hidden cameras for investigative television reporting. He was awarded a George Polk award for Television Reporting in 1977. Lando and Wallace won a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award in 1990 for the segment “40,000 a Day.” Lando also won two Emmys at 60 Minutes.
In 2004, Lando collaborated with Michel Despratx to produce a documentary for Canal+ called “Saddam Hussein, the Trial the World Will Never See.” Lando’s 2007 book, Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush, covered 85 years of Western intervention in Iraq. Lando has written for The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the International Herald Tribune, and Le Monde.
His most recent book is The Watchman’s File. You can read excerpts of that book here. During the interview, specific reference is made to Barry’s recent article TERRORISM: PARIS & ORLANDO-AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS
You can follow Barry Lando on Twitter
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This week we feature an interview with Mark Karlin during which we will discuss some of his recent articles and the importance of independent media.
More about this week’s guest:
Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout. He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for 10 years before joining Truthout in 2010. BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles (ranging from the failed “war on drugs” to reviews relating to political art) for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout’s Progressive Picks of the Week. Before linking with Truthout, Karlin conducted interviews with cultural figures, political progressives and innovative advocates on a weekly basis for 10 years. He authored many columns about the lies propagated to launch the Iraq War.
Some of his recent articles:
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