Guest: Bryan MacDonald. We talk about some of the history and the current state of affairs in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko and his opposition, the recent elections and subsequent protests and whether or not this is a color revolution. Bryan has been to Belarus many times understands the politics in Russia and Eastern Europe. There’s a bonus question for patrons about the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny and the information leaked by Lukashenko about that affair. I also add some recent updates on Navalny who posted on Instagram today after several weeks in a medically induced coma. He said that he plans to return to Russia.
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia. He has written for RT since 2014. Before moving to Russia, Bryan worked for The Irish Independent, the Evening Herald, Ireland on Sunday, and The Irish Daily Mail. Follow him on Twitter @27khv
Recorded on September 6,, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Peter Lee. We discussed some of the background story on Xinjiang, a province and autonomous region in the northwest of China that borders on Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and is part of the historical Silk Road. We also talked about the Uyghurs, the current situation in Xinjiang, the media coverage and the escalating tensions between the US and China. In a bonus question for patrons (Ep 181EXTRA Taiwan and Top Asia-Related Issues), I asked Peter Which Asia-related issues he thinks are most pressing, worrying or important to focus on right now.
Peter has decades of experience in East Asia both as a businessman and as a writer. He produces Peter Lee’s China Threat Report and has been published at Asia Times, CounterPunch at his own blog, China Matters.
Recorded on September 2, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Isa Blumi. We talk about the current state of affairs in the gulf states and the region during the economic crisis and lockdowns for Covid19, the UAE-Israel deal, the evolution of situation in the Middle East, the war Yemen and the rivalry between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Turkey. We discuss the increasing influence of China in the region and we also talk about media coverage and how it is heavily influenced by various sources of funding.
There is a bonus question for patrons at the end of the interview on China’s increasing influence in the Middle East and whether they will be a savior for the Global South. Episode 180EXTRA Will China be the Savior of the Global South?
Dr. Isa Blumi is an historian, an author and Professor of Global History, Islamic World, Ottoman Empire, Yemen, Albania. His very prescient book, titled Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia Tells Us about the World tells the story of the wars in Yemen but also “ultimately tells an even larger story of today’s political economy of global capitalism, development, and the war on terror as disparate actors intersect in Arabia.”
Recorded on August 30, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Carl Zha. We did a follow up discussion about the Hong Kong protests (which we had talked about last summer in Episode 119). Then we had a longer, broad ranging discussion on the rapid deterioration of US-China relations, a new Cold War, the power structure in China, protectionism, globalism, Silicon Valley, the military-intelligence complex and more. There’s a bonus question for patrons about whether we are now in a Cold War with China, the prospect of a hot war between US and China and if that did happen, what would the war look like. Episode 179EXTRA War between US and China.
Carl Zha is an engineer, historian, podcaster, and a Caltech Alum. His podcast, Silk and Steel, is about China, US-China Great Power competition and the history of Empires, past and present.
Recorded on August 27, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Ben Norton. We talk about the latest developments in Bolivia, life in Nicaragua, the new Cold War with Russia and China and we wrapped up with a discussion about big picture geopolitics.
Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal.
Recorded on August 20, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Doug Valentine. Doug talks about his latest book, “TDY” based on a story told to him by a veteran of the Vietnam war who was sent on a covert mission related to the CIA and military involvement in trafficking. There is also a bonus segment about how and why the CIA uses trafficking for funding of covert operations Ep 177EXTRA TDY and War Trafficking.
From the book description:
“This novel by Douglas Valentine, author of the nonfiction bestseller The CIA as Organized Crime, is based on a true story, one told to him by a Vietnam veteran, and barely, yet grippingly, fictionalized here.
“In early 1967, a bored, adventurous photojournalist on an Air Force base in Texas is offered a Temporary Duty (TDY) assignment somewhere overseas. The mission is steeped in secrecy, but Pete is promised a large bonus and hazardous duty pay. The mission that unfolds is terrifying beyond anything Pete ever imagined.”
Here’s what Oliver Stone said about the book: “I read it in suspense and found the last revelations after the mission even more disturbing.”
Douglas Valentine is an author, investigator, journalist and poet. He’s the author of many other books, including “The Phoenix Program: America’s Use of Terror in Vietnam,” and “The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World.” He is well known for his extensive research and interviews of numerous CIA officers, former CIA director William Colby and others involved in the Phoenix Program. The Phoenix Program was a large operation that involved kidnapping, torture, and assassination. Its goal was the destruction of the Viet Cong insurgency, a political and paramilitary movement that worked against the United States and the US-backed South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam war.
Recorded on August 20, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Ehsani. We talk about the financial crisis that has been building for years and the structural problems in Lebanon’s economy and banking system that has been in place since the 1990’s. The Beirut explosion and widespread damage brought the broader crisis to a head and exposed how the system is broken. We also talk about the political issues, protests and external interference. There is a bonus question for patrons at the end of the interview on whether this is a push for regime change and which external forces are behind it.
Ehsani is a Syrian American, born in Lebanon and raised in Aleppo. He has a solid background in finance. Find his analysis and discussion on Twitter at @ehsani22. He has also written for the Syria Comment blog under the pseudonym, “Ehsani”.
FOLLOW Ehsani on Twitter at @EHSANI22
Recorded on August 18, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Elijah Magnier. We talk about the August 4, 2020 explosion in the Beirut port, details of what happened, political implications, cui bono and more. Elijah has gathered information from Beirut and provided some of that information for the first time in this interview as an exclusive. There is also a bonus question for patrons, Ep 175EXTRA Beirut Explosion and Political Implications where we talk about the possibility of the faction aligned with Trump, Netanyahu and Salman wanting to escalate while they can in anticipation of Trump and Netanyahu being out of power in the near future.
Recorded on August 6, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Tom Luongo. We talk about factional wars among the powers that be, the Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein case, the Southern District of New York (SDNY) federal prosecutor’s office and Brexit (meaning the larger battle between the EU and the US/UK). We attempt to analyze how these things are related and could provide a higher level understanding of some of the scandals and chaos we are witnessing in the run up to the 2020 election and Brexit and the chaos that has escalated to more extreme and public levels since the 2016 election. There is also a bonus episode for patrons (Ep 174BONUS Getting Started With Crypto & Gold) on getting started with investment in cryptocurrency and gold for those who might be considering alternative investments in periods of instability.
Tom Luongo is an analyst, writer and a former research chemist. His specialty is markets analysis informed by geopolitics. He is a libertarian and Austrian economist who publishes a blog Gold Goats ‘n Guns and a monthly investment letter. He contributes at Newsmax Media and is published by and does commentary for many other media outlets.
Note: Tom and I are very different politically but we believe in finding common ground especially on war/foreign policy and also on some other very basic things. No doubt his listeners will be aggravated with me and mine with him to some extent but common ground is more important than ever and I also want to provide a variety of voices on this podcast. We already have too many echo chambers and hyperpartisanship, in my view, which are doing more harm than good.
Another note: I have to apologize for the audio quality in this interview. I think we both had some internet issues that caused some audio issues which I fixed as best I could. We had to stop and start a couple times. I edited a lot of the worst problems and hopefully it’s fairly easy to listen to now despite the problems.
FOLLOW Tom at @TFL1728. Find his work at Gold, Goats ‘n Guns Also find his work at Patreon, Youtube and DLive.
Recorded on July 8, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Giorgio Cafiero. We discuss the civil war and complicated foreign intervention in Libya. We first do a review of what has happened in Libya since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and then we sort out the situation in Libya right now. There is an extra (bonus question) for patrons only (Ep 173EXTRA) about the outlook for Libya going forward, whether it’s likely to split and/or be used as a battlefield by larger powers.
Giorgio Cafiero is the CEO and founder of Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consultancy based in Washington, DC. His research interests include geopolitical and security trends in the Arabian Peninsula and the broader Middle East. He is a regular contributor to the Middle East Institute, Al Monitor, LobeLog, Inside Arabia, and New Arab and he frequently appears as a commentator on various media networks. He is also an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project, an affiliate at the Mena Center and an analyst at London-based advisory Rosa & Roubini Associates.
Recorded on June 28, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Margaret Kimberley. We talk about Margaret’s new book: Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents and about the current Black Lives Matter protest movement. Here is Dr. Cornel West’s comment about the book: "Margaret Kimberley gives us an intellectual gem or prophetic fire about all the U.S. presidents and their deep roots in the vicious legacy of white supremacy and predatory capitalism. Such truths seem more than most Americans can bear, though we ignore her words at our own peril!"
There is an extra (bonus question) for patrons only (Ep 172EXTRA) where we get Margaret’s advice for people who strongly support anti-racism, strongly oppose police brutality, discrimination and the militarization of police but who prefer peaceful protests and are uncomfortable with random violence and political exploitation of these issues by disingenuous politicians and others who are actually part of the problem themselves.
Margaret Kimberley is an author and she’s the co-founder and Editor and Senior Columnist for Black Agenda Report (BAR). Her Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She is from New York City and her work has appeared in numerous publications and sites. She also writes on her own FreedomRider blog.
Recorded on June 20, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Joanne Leon and Dan Wright do another quarantine episode while on newly reduced lockdown in New Jersey in a conversation about the pandemic, protests, the movement to defund police, the hypocrisy of politicians, and Governor Murphy the Friendly Cartoonish Dictator. We also talk about majoritarianism, Turchin’s theory on stability, inequality and the overproduction of elites, and more. This episode is for patrons only and may be unlocked for the public at a later date.
FOLLOW Dan on Twitter @DanSWright
Recorded on June 18, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Whitney Webb. We discuss Whitney’s three-part series titled Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech Industrial Complex, which she and Raul Diego wrote during the past few months.
Quoting from the first article in the series:
“This investigative series, entitled ‘Engineering Contagion: Amerithrax, Coronavirus and the Rise of the Biotech-Industrial Complex,’ will examine these disturbing parallels between the 2001 anthrax attacks and the current scandals and “solutions” of the Covid-19 crisis as well as the simulations that eerily preceded both events. By tracing key actors in Dark Winter from 2001 to the present, it is also possible to trace the corruption that has lurked behind U.S. “biodefense” and pandemic preparedness efforts for decades and which now is rearing its ugly head as pandemic panic distracts the American and global public from the fundamentally untrustworthy, and frankly dangerous, individuals who are in control of the U.S. government’s and corporate America’s response.
Given their involvement in Dark Winter and, more recently, Event 201 and Crimson Contagion, this series seeks to explore the possibility that, just like the 2001 anthrax attacks, government insiders had foreknowledge of the Covid-19 crisis on a scale that, thus far, has gone unreported and that those same insiders are now manipulating the government’s response and public panic in order to reap record profits and gain unprecedented power for themselves and control over people’s lives.”
Whitney Webb is a writer and research and soon to be author. She has made numerous radio, television and video appearances on a variety of programs across the political spectrum. Her work aims to highlight under-reported issues and find common ground between people of different political persuasions regarding corruption, government overreach, the lack of accountability for militaries and intelligence agencies and the military-industrial complex. She publishes at The Last American Vagabond and on her website Unlimited Hangout and she is the host of a new podcast, also titled Unlimited Hangout. She was formerly a staff writer at MintPress News.
Recorded on June 9, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Elijah Magnier. Eventually, sanctioned countries collaborate with each other. In the age of decline of the Anglo-American empire, every tool in the toolbox has been pulled out and weaponized and deployed to maintain dominance and for much longer than is normally effective. Elijah explains how Russia, Venezuela and the axis of resistance in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen) with assistance from China are collaborating to overcome and get around both long standing and ever increasing sanctions by the US and allied countries and also finding ways to be more self sufficient to the point where the sanctions have much less impact and in some ways destructive for those doing the sanctioning. We also talk about the latest developments in Syria and the reconstruction dilemma.
There’s an extra/bonus segment for patrons. Given that this seems like a turning point for the US and the world, I ask Elijah for insights on whether there are parallels in history and for his views on how things are likely to play out. You can find that on Patreon, Episode 169 EXTRA.
Elijah Magnier is a veteran war correspondent and political analyst with over 35 years of experience covering the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
FOLLOW Elijah Magnier @ejmalrai. Read and support his work at ejmagnier.com
Recorded on June 5, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Danny Sjursen. Swapcast: Around the Empire’s Joanne Leon and Foreign Policy Focus host Kyle Anzalone. We discuss Danny’s experience on the ground at the protests in Kansas City and the broader protest movement, whether this is an insurrection, the idea of calling in the military to act as a police force or worse, and the parallels between current policing practices and counterinsurgency missions.
Major Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army strategist, West Point grad and former history instructor at West Point. He served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War titled: Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge and a new book available for pre-order now: Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War. His articles are published by numerous media outlets: antiwar.com, The American Conservative, Truthdig, TomDispatch and others. He is the co-host of the Fortress on a Hill podcast.
Recorded on June 5, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Sam Husseini. The origins of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus are not yet clear but the possibility of it being the result of bioweapon engineering research or gain-of-function experimentation that makes viruses more deadly or some other scenario have largely been dismissed, from early on, by officials and some scientists and to a large extent suppressed by the corporate media. Regardless of the origin of this pandemic, there needs to be more discussion and airing of different views on this subject and on the topic of the global biological arms race that is very real and happening largely outside of the public view.
There’s an extra/bonus segment for patrons on the question of privatized and/or covert biowarfare research, a short discussion with Sam and some additional information that I later added, reading from some articles and adding some commentary to expand a little and for important context. You can find that at Patreon, Episode 167 EXTRA.
Sam Husseini, a writer and artist living in Maryland. He has been published in The Nation, Consortium News, CounterPunch and elsewhere. He is senior analyst for the Institute for Public Accuracy. He's also founder of VotePact.org -- which helps break out of the two party bind.
FOLLOW @SamHusseini. Find his work at husseini.org.
Recorded on May 22, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Aaron Maté. Key allegations from the Russiagate conspiracy have now officially collapsed with the release of transcripts from witness interviews that were conducted over the past three years. Now the walls are truly closing in and not in the way the Trump-Russia obsessed media presented it in the past. Key Obama administration officials, under oath, said they had no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Perhaps the biggest blow was delivered by Crowdstrike, the private cybersecurity firm that served as a critical source on the Russian hacking claim. We now know that Crowdstrike’s president told Congress more than two years ago that it had no real evidence that Russian hackers exfiltrated emails and passed them to Wikileaks. Aaron notes, in an understated manner, that this “raises new questions about whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller, intelligence officials and Democrats misled the public.” At the end of the interview, there’s an extra/bonus segment for patrons on the question of which forces were driving the Russiagate conspiracy. You can find that at Patreon, Episode 166 EXTRA.
Recorded on May 21, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Yasha Levine. We talk about his new series on Substack, titled Immigrants as a Weapon. Yasha refers to this as an “investigative newsletter” about “weaponized immigrants, oligarchs, and the twisted politics of American power”. He refers to himself as “a Soviet immigrant living in an era of American decline” and it speaks for itself as to why his perspective is so perfect for this fascinating topic. At the end of the discussion, there’s an extra segment on surveillance and contact tracing. It’s a separate bonus extra for patrons titled Episode 165 EXTRA Surveillance and Contact Tracing in the Pandemic Era.
Yasha Levine is an investigative journalist and author. Born in Leningrad, he grew up in San Francisco, and just moved back to California. He has reported from all over the world — with a focus on America and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of Surveillance Valley:The Secret Military History of the Internet, a book about the forgotten counterinsurgency origins of the Internet. He’s also working on some documentary projects, including one about California’s Oligarch Valley.
Swapcast: Around the Empire’s Joanne Leon and Dan Wright and Foreign Policy Focus host Kyle Anzalone discuss the origins of Russiagate. For three years, we have been fighting to debunk the fake news created about the imagined Russian conspiracy to help Trump beat Hillary. Now, the fake news and false allegations have run dry and some of the faces behind it are being exposed. We discuss the unmaskings and why it is so important.
Recorded on May 14, 2020.
Joanne and Dan Wright spend another afternoon while on quarantine / lockdown in New Jersey in a long conversation about the pandemic, civil rights, protests, religious rights, so called philanthropists and oligarchs, and the breaking news on the Flynn case and Russiagate. This episode is for patrons only and may be unlocked for the public at a later date.
Recorded on May 8, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Joanne and Dan Wright spend another evening while on quarantine / lockdown in New Jersey in a long conversation about Coronavirus, the reopening of states, “contact tracing”, Trump, the Clintons, Anthony Fauci, information from skeptics like RFK, Jr., and we also talk about the Kim Jong Un mystery. This episode is for patrons only but will be unlocked later for the public.
Recorded on April 27, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Dave DeCamp. We talk about the way that China hawks are exploiting the pandemic and global crisis to influence the opinion of a fearful public. There are legitimate issues with China but some of the same bad actors who were involved in the post 9/11 push for war in the Middle East and others seem to be using this crisis to advance their own great power competition agenda, for political and financial reasons and for the evergreen goal of preserving the empire. If there was ever a time to avoid conflict, it’s now, while the country is in pretty dire straits. Big crises can result in big changes and profiteers who don’t have our best interests at heart know that better than anyone. Dave has written two articles on the topic, filled with great examples and context and we talk about those today.
Recorded on May 1, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Joanne and Dan Wright spend an evening over the weekend while on quarantine / lockdown in New Jersey in a long conversation about Coronavirus, the theories about it and the response to this pandemic. We discuss the use of technology for surveillance measures, the hybrid war with China. We then spent some time talking about the “pandemic primary”, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. This episode is for patrons only but might be unlocked later for the public. .
Recorded on April 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Gareth Porter. Both in 1918 and 2020 pandemics forced the US military to make changes in their operations but the Pentagon has also revealed a resistance to stand down even when it’s necessary to protect troops. We talk about the similarities and differences between the situations in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic and World War I and today’s Coronavirus pandemic during never ending imperial wars. We also talk about the kinds of movements, changes and consequences that might be catalyzed by this latest crisis.
Gareth Porter is an independent Investigative historian and journalist on the national security state. He is the author of numerous books including Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (2005) and Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (2014).and the co-author with John Kiriakou of his latest book The CIA Insider's Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War. Gareth is the winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism
FOLLOW Gareth on Twitter at @GarethPorter. Find his work at The American Conservative, Truthdig, Antiwar.com, Middle East Eye and other media outlets. He’s also now at The Grayzone. Read his new book: The CIA Insider's Guide to the Iran Crisis: From CIA Coup to the Brink of War.
Recorded on April 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.
Guest: Mark Sleboda. We talk about the recent conflicts between Russia and Turkey in Syria. Negotiations resulted in a Sochi 2.0 Agreement, also called the Moscow Memorandum which settled the issue for the time being but none of the underlying problems were solved so it’s likely a temporary solution. We also discussed the overall situation in Syria and Turkish President Erdogan’s predicament and predictions for his future.
Mark is an International Affairs & Security Analyst, a US Navy veteran, a university lecturer and a foreign policy realist.
Recorded on March 10, 2020. Music by Fluorescent Grey.