Beneath The Surface with Suzi Weissman airs every Friday on KPFK Pacifica Radio from 5:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. Tune in at 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, 98.7 FM in Santa Barbara, and worldwide on KPFK.ORG. You can listen to archived shows online on the KPFK website.

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BTS 11/27/09: Capitalism Hits the Fan; Proto-Fascist Fundamentalism

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Richard Wolff’s new book Capitalism Hits the Fan offers critical analyses of the causes of the economic crisis, the Keynesian stimulus-cum regulation "solutions" being pursued and sketches an alternative solution. We'll talk to Professor Wolff (Economics, UMass Amherst) about the prevalent notion that recovery is underway but unemployment takes time to catch up -- and whether the solutions have so far failed because too little money was thrown too late at the problem by the government, or something deeper.

Richard Lichtman has written a response to the anger that has surfaced over the economic crisis, bailouts and health insurance reform. While some commentators see the rage as something the left should use, Richard Lichtman sees that as misconstrued: he calls it proto-fascist fundamentalism, and says the content of right wing rage has consequences. The left's practice, he argues, should embody the ideals it promotes. You won't want to miss his arguments.

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BTS 11/20/09: Crisis at UC; Honduran Workers Victory; Vicarious Traumatization at Fort Hood; China and US

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Chris Newfield, English Professor at UCSB blogs about the nature of the financial crisis hitting the University of California – where students are occupying and protesting in response to the regent’s decision yesterday to hike fees 32%, cut salaries, add furloughs and more to make it through the budget shortfall. Newfield writes on his blog, “Remaking the University” that the students’ actions are the best news in this crisis and doubts the assurances of the administration that students won’t be hurt by the fee hikes.

Jack Mahoney, National Organizer, USAS (United Students Against Sweatshops): The anti-sweatshop movement at American universities from Georgetown to UCLA won a tremendous victory in bleak times this week. Their pressure tactics persuaded leading sportswear company Russell Athletic to agree to rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when Russell closed their factory last January, soon after the workers had unionized. The anti-sweatshop coalition orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company. Most important, the coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, persuaded the administrations of at least 96 colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell. We’ll talk to Jack Mahoney about the significance of this victory – students and workers together -- and the winning strategy they adopted.

David Gangsei, a clinical psychologist from Survivors of Torture International specializes in treating victims of torture. Missing from the discussion about Fort Hood psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan’s murderous rampage last week is something mental health workers who work with torture survivors understand well: vicarious traumatization. We’ll ask Gangsei what mental health professionals think about what could be behind the Fort Hood shootings.

President Obama’s trip to China was seen by most commentators as a balancing act given China’s economic ascendance and US economic decline. But Hung Ho-Fung questions whether China is as formidable an economy as appearance suggests. His recent article in New Left Review 60- “America's Head Servant? The PRC’s Dilemma in the Global Crisis” suggests that China is still America’s head servant and a recentering of global capitalism from West to East and from North to South in the aftermath of the global crisis remains little more than wishful thinking.

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BTS 11/13/09: Obama's Asia Trip; Meltdown: End of the Age of Greed; The Postmodern Prince

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Tonight we'll be featuring 2 classic interviews from Suzi Weissman. Suzi speaks with Paul Mason, author of Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, who had a ringside seat at last year's economic meltdown and tells the blow-by-blow story of the crash which brought the global economy to its knees, undermining three decades of neoliberal orthodoxy. Paul says the neoliberal era is over - and has a few suggestions about what kind of capitalism could emerge from its ruins.

Then, we'll feature Suzi's interview with John Sanbonmatsu, author of the book The Postmodern Prince. Suzi and Jon are joined by Carl Boggs, an expert on the cultural theories of Antonio Gramsci, and the three of them have a fascinating and revealing talk about the state of, and possibilities for, a grand Left strategy in a time of social fragmentation. This interview is especially relevant now, as the Left finds itself at a critical juncture and struggles to move ahead in a time of multiple crises: of social services such as health care and education, economic depression, war and climate change.

But first, today's news: Obama met today with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on the first stop of his nine-day tour of East Asia, a region of immense geopolitical, economic, and strategic importance to the world and particularly to the United States. Producer Meleiza Figueroa and Interim Program Director Alan Minsky speak with Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee.

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BTS 11/6/09: Health Reform; Unemployment; Sick Days and H1N1

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Representative Dennis Kucinich on The House Health Insurance Reform Vote: why was the Kucinich amendment (which would allow states to enact state single Payer legislation) not included, and what was behind the decision to pull the Weiner Amendment (a national vote on Single Payer) scheduled today?

John Nichols on the official double digit unemployment figures, President Obama’s economic policy and the likely impact of ‘one in ten unemployed’? John reminds us that the official figures leave out millions more Americans who have given up looking for work, and it doesn’t include those who have had hours cut or been furloughed. The real unemployment rate is closer to 17.5% -- and we’ll ask John how that impacted the off year elections on Tuesday.

Steven Greenhouse wrote on the front page of the New York Times Business section on Monday that unpaid sick days could be contributing to the spreading flu epidemic. 40% of American workers do not get paid sick days, and many are food handlers. His article may have lead to Rep. George Miller’s bill introduced Tuesday that would guarantee five paid sick days for workers sent home by their employers with a contagious illness.

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BTS 10/30/09: Health Care; Vietnamistan; UC Crisis; So-Called Recovery

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We begin tonight's program with Harold Meyerson on Health Insurance reform: Harold wrote in Wednesday's Washington Post that the proposal to tax the Cadillac Plans is more like a Chevy Tax. We’ll ask him to comment on the House Plan, which leaves out the Kucinich amendment that allows states to opt for single payer.

Then Daniel Ellsberg joins us. He leaked the Pentagon Papers -- top-secret government documents that showed a pattern of governmental deceit about the Vietnam War -- in 1971. Today he talks to us about Mathew Hoh, the first US official to resign in protest over the Afghan war. Ellsberg calls Matthew Hoh’s resignation “The highest form of patriotism.” As for the war, Ellsberg sees the situation as Vietnamistan… stay tuned to find out what he means.

And later in the hour Richard Walker, Professor of Geography at UC Berkeley talks to us about how California's budget meltdown and cutbacks in higher education are killing California’s Public University System. A coalition of Faculty, Staff and Students are fighting back,– and on Tuesday are joining the Latina/o community in using Día de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, to mourn these losses and to re-imagine a transformed university that could emerge from the current crisis.

And finally on tonight's BTS, we talk to Jack Rasmus about the so called recovery amidst increasing unemployment, falling consumer spending, the falling dollar, continuing foreclosures and economic decline.

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BTS 10/19/09: Looking on the Bright Side; Letting Pharma Off the Hook; The Invention of the Jewish People

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Barbara Ehrenreich joins us to talk about her new book:  Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes, and they are undeniably angry. Yet they are told to look on the bright side – as if visualizing happiness will chase away cancer, money will fall from the sky and foreclosures won’t happen. Pursuing happiness is one of our inalienable rights, but Ehrenreich shows how it has been turned into a “cult of cheerfulness,” that requires Americans to “think positively” rather than to take positive action for change.  There’s no excuse for failure, we’re told, optimism is the key to material success -- as if concentrating on the good makes the bad cease to exist.  If we lose our jobs and our homes, it must be our own fault, we didn’t focus enough on the good, right? ‘Be sure to tune in for Ehrenreich’s sensible, savage, and hilarious critique of the positive thinking movement’s pseudo-science and pseudo-intellectual foundation.

Melody Petersen, author of Our Daily Meds, covered the pharmaceutical industry for the New York Times from 1999 to 2003. She recently wrote in the LA Times that allowing the government to use its substantial buying power to negotiate lower prices for medicine is one remedy missing from the legislation being written on health insurance reform.  That’s because drug companies, with the help of hundreds of hired lobbyists, have succeeded in keeping this proposal off the table, even though studies indicate it would save billions of dollars a year. Melody Petersen shows in her book on the pharmaceutical industry how the most profitable business sector in America (from 1995-2002) with nearly 65% of the population on physician-prescribed medicine, has lost its way. Rather than plowing their profits back into life-saving drugs, the drug makers have used the money to influence the science of medicine with their cash, making drugs that are profitable but not always an advance. In too many, cases, whether a medicine helps or harms a patient has become secondary to how much it will bring shareholders in profits.

Plus: We talk to Israeli historian (University of Tel Aviv) Shlomo Sand whose book on nationalism and Jewish identity, The Invention of the Jewish People, (Verso) spent 19 weeks on the bestseller list in Israel and won the coveted Aujourd’hui award in France.  It also sparked considerable debate and scandal – Sand’s scholarly study demolishes myths and taboos that surround Jewish and Israeli history.  Was there really a forced exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans? Sand evaluates the national myth of the Jewish exile from the promised land and finds the Israeli national myth has its origins in the nineteenth century, rather than in biblical times — when Jewish historians, like scholars in many other cultures, reconstituted an imagined people in order to model a future nation. Sand forensically dissects the official story --  and the evidence shows that that there was a Jewish religion, but not a Jewish people, and the exile never happened. Jews actually descend from converts whose native lands were scattered far across the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Bertell Ollman of NYU says “This may be the most important and surprising book on Zionism, Israel and Judaism written in the last fifty years. Nothing in the Middle East looks the same after reading it.” 

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BTS 10/12/09: Economy Still on the Brink; Baucus Bill; Empire of Illusion

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If you pay attention to Wall Street, mainstream economists and investor blogs, the verdict on the economy -- one year after its near collapse -- is that the recession is over and the recovery is about to begin (or is underway).  Sure unemployment is at an all time high with little end in sight, but the banks are back and the stock market could hit 10,000 at any minute now.  But the dollar is falling and that makes economists rush for the ‘gold standard’ mentality, the one that worsened the depression because it obsesses about inflation in the face of deflation, opposes easy credit when it is desperately needed and is against government creating jobs. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman worries about this mentality, and Jack Rasmus decries the falsity of recovery, and the banks mostly failed the stress test. The banking panic is over but a year after near collapse, the financial system is fragile at best, with moribund credit and lending, commercial property in trouble, a broke FDIC  and the real economy in deep trouble, at best a “pause on the way down.”

Health insurance reform is moving forward, but Jamie Court says the Baucus bill is a major step backward. Over all it is a gift to the insurance industry, and the public option was smothered in a lobbyist love blanket. But is it dead on arrival? We’ll ask our favorite consumer watch dog --Jamie Court.

And finally, on tonight’s Beneath The Surface, Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and former war correspondent for the NY Times, joins us to talk about his new book Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.  Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins. A culture that cannot distinguish between reality and illusion dies – and Hedges says we are dying now.  His new book examines the rift between the two Americas – and sees our culture as detached from intellectualism, instead relying on spectacle, false idols and snake oil salesmen to distract us from the economic, political and moral collapse around us. He warns that those who cling to fantasy in times of despair and turmoil inevitably turn to demagogues and charlatans to reassure and entertain them.

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BTS 9/14/09: Racial Backlash; The Real Obscenity; Economy A Year After Lehman

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It is one year since Lehman Bros was allowed to fail and finance capital collapsed, credit seized and the world nearly plunged into the abyss. State intervention in the form of bailouts and nationalizations prevented the worst, but Main Street is suffering mightily in this epic recession while Wall Street is still in charge, bolstered by taxpayer cash. Unemployment is at record highs, poverty is soaring, houses are still foreclosing, hitting black and brown families hardest, where depression has become a fact of life. On tonight’s BTS we talk to Nomi Prins about Wall Street and the economy a year after the meltdown, chronicled in her new book, It Takes a Pillage, out later this month. Nomi puts her Wall Street experience and expertise on the “arcane methods used to turn your money into their bonuses” into a scathing account that shows how “the key players escaped being brought to account and kept their pet officials in power.”

We begin tonight’s program with our own Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who has been blogging and broadcasting about the boisterous backlash targeting President Obama’s efforts to reform healthcare. Hutchinson points to the paranoid, racist extreme right wing politics behind the mobilization, whipped into a frenzy by the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh -- who along with longer-term leaders of the far right are exploiting the fear, anger and frustration of outright racists, conspiracy theorists, gun enthusiasts and anti-tax activists. Hutchinson writes that hate groups bank on the volatile mix of frustration and hostility toward a government they feel has betrayed them, and a black President whose message of change scares them – to swell their ranks. That, he says, is a chilling prospect for Obama and all of us.

Continuing where Earl Ofari Hutchinson leaves off on the theme of crazy, paranoid, racist politics in our bizarre culture and politics, Paul Krassner joins us to preview his latest collection Who's to Say What's Obscene. With his usual irreverence and unique perspective on obscenity and comedy, Krassner looks at free speech and self-censorship in the face of threats — real and perceived — from religious fundamentalists. He also riffs about busted public figures, counterculture, free speech, late-night talk shows, censorship, sex, and the current state of satire. "These are times of repression," says Krassner, "and the more repression there is, the more need there is for irreverence toward those in authority."

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BTS 9/7/09: Labor Day Special

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We celebrate Labor Day today with Canada – isolated from workers all over the world who celebrate labor on May 1st -- commemorating the bloody repression of workers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square (1886) who were fighting for the 8 hour day. After decades in the wilderness we have a labor friendly administration – but how goes labor? We’ll ask Maria Elena Durazo and Steven Greenhouse.

Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of labor (AFL-CIO), the largest labor council in the country, makes no apologies for continuing to push her cause: fighting for union workers. The state may be going broke, jobs may be vanishing like the morning mist, and the nation may be enduring its worst economic stretch in decades. But Southern California's top labor leader says this is not the time for unions to beat a retreat. On the contrary. She joins us to talk about the state of labor today.

Steven Greenhouse, labor correspondent for the New York Times and author of The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker regularly reports on the state of labor, showing how employers have been squeezing the life out of American workers – most recently by cheating low wage workers out of hard earned pay – but also how workers are fighting back, and how consistently their friends in government back them up in the fight they say they also champion.

Plus: Vintage clips from labor heroes Walter Reuther and Eugene V. Debs.

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BTS 8/31/09: Education Special; Fire Update

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It’s our Back to School Special:  Education Reform, Charter Schools and the right to equal, public education, a civil rights issue of our time.

We begin our discussion of the staggering injustices and savage inequalities of our education system with long time education reformer, teacher and writer Jonathan Kozol, who insists that children are not commodities to be “herded into line and trained for the jobs that white people who live in segregated neighborhoods have available.”  Reform efforts continue to measure children by the standard of whether “they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs” instead of seeing them for “the blessings that they are.” Kozol writes “so long as these kinds of inequalities persist, all of us who are given expensive educations have to live with the knowledge that our victories are contaminated because the game has been rigged to our advantage.”  We’ll ask Jonathan about the state of schools and reform in the nation today.

We are then joined by Danny Weil, educator and advocate who says that reform proposals in Los Angeles amount to an assault on public education. His book Charter Schools comes out in September and he’s published a three part series on Charter Schools at counterpunch.org. We’ll talk about the move to Charter Schools, their record, and Mayor Villaraigosa’s plan to allow 250 LAUSD public schools to be operated as Charter Schools. Weil writes that the LA Unified School Board has voted to auction off kids, and “outside operators” are poised to start bidding in January 2010.

Continuing our discussion of education reform, Horace Small of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods joins us from Boston. The UMN has two education campaign coalitions: RISE (Rally in Support of Public Education) and BP4BPS (Black People for Better Public Schools) to take on the inequities of public education with committed community involvement in Massachusetts.  He sees education equity and quality as the Civil Rights issue of our time. Small notes that the movement to more Charter Schools is accompanied by increased underfunding for public schools, exacerbating the already appalling state of public education in Boston. The solution? Full civic engagement and forcing change with involved parents and communities. He joins our discussion

Also: an update on the fires raging in Southern California:  Jon Keeley, expert on the ecological impacts and history of wildfires in Southern California joins us for an overview. He teaches in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

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