#183 | Process & Spectacle: The Mueller Report Is In, Now What? w/ William Rivers Pitt

In this episode, I speak with Truthout senior editor and lead columnist William Rivers Pitt. We discuss the federal investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller into Donald Trump’s potential collusion with Russian foreign agents during the 2016 presidential election -- an investigation that lasted for most of Trump's time as President. Without buying into the media spectacle that has clouded lucid analysis into the implications of this investigation, William provides much needed perspective into what we can expect now that the investigation has officially concluded (the findings of which have not yet been publicly released, it must be noted).

After Mueller officially submitted his report, Attorney General William Barr released a four-page "summary" of the 300-plus page report. As William has detailed in his work, the "Barr summary" proves to be highly unsatisfactory in its sparse conclusions.* Before we draw conclusions, we need to see the full report, not the vague "summary" provided by Trump's Attorney General. Also, we must remember that as a result of this investigation, multiple legal actions are being pursued against Trump and his cronies. In an op-ed in titled ‘The “Barr Summary” Is Meaningless. Release the Entire Report.’ William remarks that we “should take a deep breath and remember:

- Roger Stone is set for trial in November;

- The Southern District of New York investigation into Trump’s payments of hush money via Michael Cohen is ongoing;

- Multiple state and federal officials are investigating the shenanigans that went into the collection of a record $107 million by Trump’s inaugural committee;

- The New York Department of Financial Services is investigating whether Trump illegally inflated his net worth to insurance companies per Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony;

- The New York attorney general is investigating Trump’s questionable dealings with Deutsche Bank;

- The Trump Foundation is under investigation for what that attorney general has called a “shocking pattern of illegality”;

- The New York State tax department is investigating Trump’s decades-long tax schemes;

- Federal and state investigators are looking into Trump’s hiring of undocumented workers;

… and on top of all this are the ongoing investigations by the House Intelligence Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Oversight Committee, the Financial Services Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and the Foreign Affairs Committee.”**

William trusts the process, and he explains why in this interview.

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout, and is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

*http://bit.ly/BarrSummary

**http://bit.ly/2uBnQb5

Episode Notes:

- Read William’s columns at Truthout: https://truthout.org/authors/william-rivers-pitt

- The articles discussed in this interview: http://bit.ly/2uBnQb5 / http://bit.ly/2V7FIGn / http://bit.ly/2uDUWXU

- Read Barr's “summary”: http://bit.ly/BarrSummary

- Follow William on Twitter: https://twitter.com/WRPitt

- The introduction features audio from: https://youtu.be/JbK8euLYWrg

- The songs featured in this episode are “Nothing's Gonna Stop Me” and “What's Your World” by Lost Son from the album Flying Colors.

#180 | Suspension Of Consciousness: Culting, Donald Trump, & The Voice Of The Gods w/ Milton Bennett

In this episode, I speak with sociologist Milton Bennett, director of the Intercultural Development Research Institute, and the creator of the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (also known as the “Bennett Scale”). I was introduced to Milton and his work by journalist Dahr Jamail, after a private discussion Dahr and I had about the dynamics of cults and "culting" within certain political groups, in particular between President Donald Trump and his base of supporters, as explored in Dahr's interview with Milton in the Truthout article 'Is There a Cult of Trump?'

What is a cult in the literal sense, and what is "culting"? As can be observed in the hardcore base of support for leaders such as Donald Trump, and other examples Milton is very familiar with, like the Rajneeshee cult in Oregon in the 1980's (explored in the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country), "culting" is a very specific form indoctrination, often with a central figure that is actively, whether consciously or not, building an unquestioning base of followers. The first step in the “culting” process is to aggressively recruit; the second is control, which “includes specifically controlling the boundaries of the group”; the third step is coercion — “the cult leader always uses the limitation of alternatives as a strategy”; generate a conversion process — “which is a fast, transformative experience, not a long-term development”; finally, the maintenance of the group after this conversion process is instrumental.* In the exploration of this topic with Milton, we inevitably lead into his broader work in defining the development of intercultural sensitivity and communication, as expressed in the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS). As Milton explains, American society and culture is not, in a general sense, progressing toward intercultural understanding and sensitivity at all, and is in fact moving backwards on the scale, away from the third step of “minimization of difference” (which we have been stuck on, as Milton says) and toward step two and ultimately toward step one — “the denial of difference.” Trump, like all leaders that have engaged in this process, take advantage of the historical and sociological conditions of the societies in which they rise to prominence within, particularly ones that are in a state of crisis, ideologically or otherwise.

Professor Milton J. Bennett is the director of the Intercultural Development Research Institute, and is the creator of the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. Milton is an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Milano Bicocca in Italy. He holds a Ph.D. in intercultural communication and sociology and a Masters in psycholinguistics.

*Source: http://bit.ly/CultOfTrump

Episode Notes:

- Read Milton’s interview with journalist Dahr Jamail in Truthout: http://bit.ly/CultOfTrump

- Learn more about Milton’s work at the Intercultural Development Research Institute website: https://www.idrinstitute.org

- The songs featured in this episode are “Specters of the Future,” “Variations,” and “Être” by Nicolas Jaar from the album Space Is Only Noise.

#118 | The Geopolitics Of The Impossible: North/South Korea, Iran, & The World Today w/ John Feffer

In this episode, I speak with John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. This interview covers two major geopolitical trends currently developing in the world today: the reconciliation process currently unfolding between North and South Korea; and the inflamed tensions between the United States, Israel (and other regional players), with the government of Iran.

In the first half of this episode, John answers some of my questions regarding the current situation unfolding on the Korean Peninsula between North and South Korea. Very recently, North Korean leader Kim Jung-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met at the border between the nations, known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and began to engage in the early phases of negotiations between nations. John contextualized the series of events that have lead to this moment, including what role the United States, and the Trump Administration more specifically, has played in the escalation of tensions in the region. I ask, and John ultimately provides some answers to, the questions: What would it look like for North Korea to open up its borders, culturally and economically, to South Korea and the rest of the world? What do these to Korean nations gain in this process of reconciliation, and what are the underlying motivations for this change in relations between these nations?

In the second half of this episode, John lays out the current situation unfolding (as of the time of this recording: Friday May 4th 2018) between the United States and Iran, regarding the efforts by the Trump Administration (as well as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other regional players) to re-inflame tensions between these nations regarding Iran's alleged violation of JCPOA, known more popularly as the Iran Nuclear Deal. John provides the facts regarding Iran's ability, or lack thereof, to develop nuclear weapons, and whether or not the Trump Administration, along with some of its allies in this effort, have adequately provided any substantial evidence to back up their claims of there being an actual threat from nation of Iran. John attempts to answer: What are the underlying motives behind the recent escalations of tensions between these nations? What is to be gained (and lost) in this attempt to push the United States, Israel, and other regional players, into a direct conflict with Iran? 

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. In 2012-13, he was also an Open Society Fellow looking at the transformations that have taken place in Eastern Europe since 1989. He is the author of several books and numerous articles. His latest book is Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe’s Broken Dreams. He is also the author of the recent dystopian novel, Splinterlands. 

Episode Notes:

- John Feffer's website: http://www.johnfeffer.com

- Follow John's analysis of unfolding geopolitical trends: https://bit.ly/2I59l8Q

- John is the author of 'Aftershock: A Journey into Eastern Europe's Broken Dreams' and the novel 'Spinterlands': http://www.johnfeffer.com/category/books

- John on Twitter: https://twitter.com/johnfeffer

- The introduction of this episode features an audio segment of John Bolton's speech at CPAC from earlier this year.  Source: https://youtu.be/z98z9562a8A

- The song featured in this episode is "Loyalty" by Onra from the album Chinoiseries, Pt. 3.

#54 | Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons: Trump's Escalation In Syria

April 6th 2017, President Trump ordered an assault on Syrian government targets, launching 59 Tomahawk missiles in the first direct and major attack against Bashar Assad's government. The implications are vast and frighting. Seeing as Russia is a very close ally with the Syrian government, and has been aiding the government militarily for over a year now, it's not hard to fathom why direct confrontation with the Assad Regime might be a decision that leads us further down a path towards nuclear war.

Episode Notes:

Article sources:
- "Trump administration: Assad’s days are numbered" by Danika Fears (nyp.st/2oeDRld)
- "The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria" by Glenn Greenwald (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/07/the-spoils-of-war-trump-lavished-with-media-and-bipartisan-praise-for-bombing-syria/)

Featured soundbites:
- Brian Williams (youtu.be/Q4n3SI81m9w)
- Hillary Clinton (youtu.be/chYWrk5cIoo)

Outro: "Bitch Please" by Death Grips