- 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…”
On The Monitor this week:
- What does ISIS really want and how should people try to analyze the group’s extreme positions? We talk with Jennifer Loewenstein about two recent articles dealing with the topic.
- Documents reveal that the U.S. government helped Israel acquire nuclear weapons. What are the political implications? We talk with Grant Smith who obtained the documents.
More about this week’s guests:
Jennifer Loewenstein is Faculty associate in Middle East Studies and Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Loewenstein has followed news of ISIS closely and joins us to comment on the media narrative surrounding the group. She has also recently written about the topic – Holding Ourselves Hostage to History: Burnt Offering
Quote: “Too few people, I fear, will understand that the monstrous activities of ISIS will continue, if not increase, as long as the former colonial and imperial powers of the West, Japan, and their Arab allies –all of them run by tyrants and dictators beholden to or in league with US state power and seeking “security” — persist in their attempts to shape and control the destiny of the Middle East.
It nevertheless seems likely that however long the infernal activities of ISIS continue, ISIS itself – like so many other extremist and fanatical organizations past and present – will eventually destroy itself from within. Public opinion worldwide, above all in the Middle East, is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of such depraved, barbaric tactics. Everywhere, especially where terror like this reigns day and night, people fear and abhor it. Ultimately, the core leaders of ISIS and groups similar to it, will fall upon their own swords and then be devoured, however savagely, by the populations most directly affected by their brutality.
We start the discussion with an assessment of the arguments in an article published by The Atlantic that has been very widely circulated: What ISIS Really Wants
Grant Smith, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). It is a nonprofit organization that “studies US-Middle East policy formulation. Founded in 2002, the Institute became an independent private non-profit tax-exempt organization in 2003. IRmep’s Center for Policy & Law Enforcement examines how balanced and vigorous law enforcement can improve trade, economic development and America’s international standing. IRmep‘s Israel Lobby Archive documents and provides citizen access to initiatives of one of the most harmful forces driving policy formulation in the US political process.”
Courthouse News reports: “In the midst of controversy over the Israeli prime minister’s plans to address Congress next month, a researcher has won the release of a decades-old Defense Department report detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb. “I am struck by the degree of cooperation on specialized war making devices between Israel and the U.S.,’ said Roger Mattson, a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission technical staff. The 1987 report, ‘Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,’ compares the key Israeli facilities developing nuclear weapons to Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the principal U.S. laboratories that developed the bomb for the United States.The tightly held report notes that the Israelis are ‘developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level.’ The release comes after Grant Smith, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy filed a FOIA request last year and followed with a lawsuit in September seeking to compel release of the report. The government fought to delay release of the 386-page report in hearings before Judge Tanya Chutkan in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who expressed skepticism with the government’s reasons for refusing to provide a single unclassified document. The report’s release this week has substantial political ramifications.”
Last week marked the start of KPFT‘s pledge drive.
The Drive continues this week and The Monitor again has a goal $1,000 to meet. We need your help to get there, especially because we fell short last week. Please dial 713-526-5738 during the show and show your support for this show and the station that put it on the air. This is your last chance during this drive to support The Monitor.
Our guest for this week’s show is Gareth Porter. Gareth has been on The Monitor many times over the years and is one of my favorite guests. His work optimizes what this show is all about – current events in the context of history. It is this context that makes Gareth’s work so important and we spend the majority of this week’s show with him. We have copies of Gareth’s book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, available as a thank you gift to anyone who donates $120 or more to KPFT. Gareth’s publisher Just World Books is giving KPFT a great deal on this books to allow us to offer it to our listeners. So, please give us a call 713-526-5738 or go online
About the book:
For several years now, Israel and U.S. officials and much of the mainstream media have maintained a steady drumbeat of allegations and accusations that the government of Iran has been pursuing a secret, “military” adjunct to its (quite legal, and regularly inspected) civilian nuclear program. Numerous western officials and commentators have warned that there will be a time coming very soon, beyond which this alleged military nuclear program will be unstoppable. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have warned that military action must be taken, if necessary, to prevent this from happening. Meantime, Washington has been leading a worldwide effort to impose punishing economic sanctions on Iran, in an effort to make it give up this alleged nuclear-weapons program.
But where is the evidence that this program even exists? Veteran investigative journalist Gareth Porter has been following this issue closely for over six years. In his book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, he shows how Israel and the George W. Bush administration successfully portrayed the various actions taken by Western nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as responses to a long history of Iranian covert work on militarization of its nuclear program. In reality, however, the United States had intervened aggressively as early as 1983 to prevent Iran from its open effort to pursue its legitimate right to peaceful nuclear power– and it was that aggressive U.S. intervention that pushed Iran to resort to black market transactions in order to acquire the technology needed for its civilian nuclear power program.
More about Gareth
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian who specialises in U.S. national security policy. He is the author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published by Just World Books in February 2014. He writes regularly for IPS and has also 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 also 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. You can follow him on Twitter and read his latest articles online as well.
Praise for Manufactured Crisis
Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare by Gareth Porter has received some well-deserved endorsements from public figures, as follows:
From JUAN COLE, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan:
Gareth Porter is among the last of that rare breed– the independent investigative journalist who brings to bear long experience in foreign policy reporting with a keen and critical eye for K Street propaganda. He is essential.
From Hon. CHAS W. FREEMAN, Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and author of America’s Misadventures in the Middle East:
Want to understand why a peaceful U.S. modus vivendi with Iran has been so elusive? Read this exceptionally timely, gripping account of the Iranian nuclear program and the diplomacy surrounding it! Porter meticulously documents both Iranian misjudgments and American and Israeli diplomatic overreach based on willful self-deception and political, bureaucratic, and budget-motivated cherry-picking of intelligence to support unfounded preconceptions. He shows how these have combined to produce a steady escalation of both Iranian enrichment activities and Western sanctions. Manufactured Crisis is essential reading for anyone interested in the resolution by diplomacy of a confrontation that otherwise threatens a reprise of the delusional decision-making that led to the Iraq War of 2003–11 but with even more catastrophic consequences.
From GRAHAM E. FULLER, former vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council at CIA and author of A World Without Islam and Three Truths and a Lie (a memoir):
At a time of irrational hype and often irresponsible western journalism on the subject of a “nuclear Iran”—promoting heightened confrontation and even the possibility of war—this book provides disturbing and detailed insight into the manipulation—even invention—of “facts” marshaled to achieve dubious US and Israeli policy objectives. Gareth Porter, one of our most distinguished and dogged investigative journalists and historians, provides a striking and vital corrective on the geopolitically damaging course of our last decades of manufactured confrontations with an already prickly Iran.
From SHIREEN T. HUNTER, Georgetown University:
Those who regularly follow Iranian affairs and Iran’s relations with the United States, always knew that Iran’s nuclear dossier was closely linked with the broader problems of how to deal with Iran and what strategies to adopt towards the Islamic Republic. Now, Gareth Porter through extensive and meticulous research demonstrates these elaborate linkages. In understanding these linkages Iran watchers would be better able to predict the future trajectory of the Iran nuclear dossier.
From SEYMOUR M. HERSH, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist:
Gareth Porter has become a one-man truth squad for the American government and its acolytes in the mainstream press corps…His probing and digging is a reminder that those in power, and those who report on that power, must be held to the highest possible standard.
From OLIVER STONE and PETER KUZNICK, Co-authors The Untold History of the United States:
Manufactured Crisis is untold history at its finest! Gareth Porter systematically and masterfully debunks three decades of U.S. and allied lies and distortions about an Iranian nuclear weapons program that never really existed.
On the show this week:
- We welcome Gareth Porter back to the show. This time to talk about his new book: Manufactured Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare
- We also discuss Ukraine, again, this time with Mark Ames who tells us why Everything you know about Ukraine is wrong
More about this week’s guests:
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian who specialises in U.S. national security policy. He writes regularly for IPS and has also 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. You can follow him on Twitter and you can read his articles online here: Gareth Porter – Author – Inter Press Service
Mark Ames is the founding editor of the satirical Moscow biweekly “The eXile,” author of “Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine” and co-author of “The eXile: Sex, Drugs & Libel in the New Russia.” Mark was a regular contributor to The Nation and MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. This week we will be talking to him about two recent articles:
On this week’s show:
- Corporate espionage – taking a leaf out of the NSA’s book? An interview with Gary Ruskin
- Remembering Nelson Mandela before his legacy is appropriated. An interview with Bill Fletcher
More about this week’s guests:
Gary Ruskin is director of the Center for Corporate Policy. During the 2012 election cycle, he was campaign manager of Proposition 37, for labeling of genetically engineered food in the state of California. For fourteen years, he directed the Congressional Accountability Project, which opposed corruption in the U. S. Congress. For nine years, he was executive director and co-founder of Commercial Alert, which opposed the commercialization of every nook and cranny of our lives and culture. He has often been quoted in major newspapers across the country and has appeared scores of times on TV news programs on all the networks. He received his undergraduate degree in religion from Carleton College, and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Our main discussion on the show is about a report, titled Spooky Business, which Gary says “documents how corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), US military, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Secret Service and local police departments to target nonprofit organizations.”
Quote: “Giant corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against nonprofit organizations with near impunity. Our report documents how corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, U.S. military, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service and local police departments to target nonprofit organizations. Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON — have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers. Many different types of nonprofit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups. Corporations and their trade associations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics against nonprofit organizations. The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing as a volunteer or journalist, to obtain information from a nonprofit. But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical and electronic espionage tactics against nonprofits. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal.”
Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941″; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.
He just wrote: “Nelson Mandela will be mourned and celebrated. But something else will happen. There will soon, probably very soon, be efforts to reinterpret his life. I do not mean leaving things out, as happened in the otherwise excellent film just released about his life. Rather, as we have experienced here in the USA with great leaders like King and Malcolm, there will be efforts to convert Mandela into a very safe character in order to advance the ends of the global elite. We will, for instance, not hear much about Mandela’s refusal to renounce armed struggle against apartheid, even though such a renunciation could have resulted in his release much earlier. We will not hear much about his expressions of gratitude to the Cuban people for their consistent support to the people of Angola, Namibia and South Africa who were fighting the South African apartheid regime. We will not hear about Mandela’s consistent, unwavering support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation.”
On this week’s show:
- New Study on Campaign Cash Behind the National Surveillance State – an interview with Paul Jorgensen
- The Complexity “Baked into Obamacare” – an interview with Philip Caper
More about this week’s guests:
Paul Jorgensen is assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas Pan American and a lab fellow of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University. With Thomas Ferguson and Jie Chen, he just completed a major study of campaign finance in the 2012 election. They summarize their results on AlterNet: “Who Buys the Spies? The Hidden Corporate Cash Behind America’s Out-of-Control National Surveillance State.”
Quote: “As the storm over surveillance broke, we were completing a statistical analysis of campaign contributions in 2012, using an entirely new dataset that we constructed from the raw material provided by the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. … In our big sample, which pretty well approximates ‘business as a whole,’ Obama trailed far behind Romney.”
But they continue: “In sharp contrast to … claims that big business was deeply suspicious of the president, our statistical results show that a large and powerful bloc of ‘industries of the future’ — telecommunications, high tech, computers, and software — showed essentially equal or higher percentages of support for the president in 2012 than they did for Romney.
“We think this finding is the most significant of all: Firms in many of the industries directly involved in the surveillance programs were relative bastions of support for the president.
“Bush and Cheney may have invented it, but national Democratic leaders are full-fledged players in this 21st century National Surveillance State and the interest group pressures that now help to sustain its defenders in Washington work just as powerfully on Democrats as on Republicans.”
They add that “we do not believe that it would be impossible to strike a reasonable balance between the demands of security and freedom that accords with traditional Fourth Amendment principles. … But a system dominated by firms that want to sell all your data working with a government that seems to want to collect nearly all of it through them is unlikely to produce that.”
A preliminary version of their longer study, with several tables, is available as a Roosevelt Institute Working Paper: “Party Competition and Industrial Structure in the 2012 Elections: Who’s Really Driving the Taxi to the Dark Side?“
Philip Caper is a doctor in Portland, Maine and regular columnist at the Bangor Daily News. He is a founding board member of Maine AllCare, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group committed to making health care in Maine universal, accessible and affordable for all. He recently wrote the piece “The High Costs of Complexity in Health Care Reform.” Caper said today: “The problem with the ACA is not that the federal government is involved, but that literally thousands of private insurers have their fingers in the cookie jar, resulting in a law that is much too complicated for what it needs to accomplish, and too complex for anybody to administer efficiently and effectively. … Together, Medicare and Social Security — both run by the federal government — have been successfully providing access to private health care and income security for millions of seniors and the disabled for almost 50 years. They have been a major factor in keeping seniors in our country out of poverty. … We need expanded and improved Medicare-for-All. And we need to vote any politician who won’t advance us toward that goal out of office.”
On this week’s show we take a closer look at two topics mentioned during the news headlines segment last week. One was the statement from Lavabit owner Ladar Levison when he hinted at some of the reasons behind the shut down of the Secure Email service. The other topic is the ruling on NY state’s and ‘Stop and Frisk’ program. Our guests are Kade Crockford and Shahid Buttar.
More about this week’s guests:
Kade Crockford is director of the technology for liberty project at the ACLU of Massachusetts, where she edits and writes for the Privacy Matters blog
Quote: “That a privacy-centric email service would shut down instead of disclose information about one of its users, as appears to be the case with Lavabit, speaks incredibly highly of the company, and reminds us that even in the face of a seemingly all powerful surveillance state, each of us can bravely refuse to submit. The incident also shines a bright light on a pernicious tool of government surveillance — the National Security Letter — that violates the spirit of every democratic value and the Bill of Rights itself. That Lavabit cannot speak clearly about what actually happened here is chilling. If the United States government is seeking to alienate technologists and people who care about their privacy, it is doing a great job.”
Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the People’s Campaign for the Constitution (PCC). This is the BORDC’s focus on defending civil liberties, constitutional rights, and rule of law principles threatened within the United States by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. He is a constitutional lawyer, grassroots organizer, independent columnist, musician, and poet.
Before joining BORDC in 2009, Shahid directed a national program to combat racial and religious profiling, after serving for three years as associate director of the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy. He previously pursued public interest litigation (advancing marriage equality for same sex couples and campaign finance reform) in private practice at Heller Ehrman LLP, after receiving his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2003, where he served as executive editor of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal and a teaching assistant for Constitutional Law. He graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Chicago with a BA in political science and creative writing in 2000, ten years after beginning college at the University of Chicago and after a six-year career in financial services to pay for school.
Shahid’s comments have been featured by news outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, al-Jazeera, FOX News, Agence-France Presse, Huffington Post, Truthout, Democracy Now!, and many others, including dozens of radio stations around the country. He frequently addresses public audiences, such as elected bodies, colleges, and law schools, including Stanford, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, and Georgetown.
In addition to his work leading BORDC, Shahid also serves on the advisory bodies of the Rights Working Group, the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights, and South Asian Americans Leading Together.
Shahid also supports populist constitutionalism as a independent columnist (writing for outlets including Huffington Post and Truthout, as well as the People’s Blog for the Constitution) community organizer, and hip-hop and electronica MC. In his creative capacities as a poet and musician, Shahid has performed around the world, co-founded several grassroots art and culture groups around the country, facilitated workshops for young people and emerging artists, and released his debut CD, Get Outta Your Chair, in 2008. Shahid’s music, many of his articles, and an expanded bio are available at his website.