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(07 Aug) 170701 Madawi Al-Rasheed - Saudi Arabia: History and Politics

Saudi Arabia is a quixotic ally of the U.S., to say the least. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were from the desert kingdom. In the wake of the attack, the U.S. flew Saudi elites out of the country and then preceded to invade Afghanistan, through no Afghans were involved in 9/11. You figure it out. Saudi Arabia has supported extremist jihadi groups from Pakistan to Syria. In the 1980s it bankrolled the mujahideen in Afghanistan who later morphed into the Taliban. When the latter seized power in the 1990s, Saudi Arabia was quick to recognize the new rulers in Kabul. Torture, hangings and an atrocious human rights record has required Washington to engage in verbal acrobatics to justify its backing of the oil-rich Riyadh regime. Saudi Arabia is a feudal and closed system. How long can it last?

Madawi Al-Rasheed is a leading scholar on Saudi Arabia, and a Visiting Professor at the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. She was Professor of Anthropology and Religion at King's College, London, between 1994 and 2013. She is the author of A History of Saudi Arabia, Muted Modernists: The Struggle over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia and A Most Masculine State.

(14 Aug) 170702 Max Blumenthal - Palestine: 50 Years of Occupation

Fifty Years have passed since Israel's victory in the Six-Day War resulting in the longest military occupation in modern times. And on the ground there has been a radical shift in demographics because of the settlements. What began as a few scattered outposts has now mushroomed into vast sub-divisions and cities with Jewish only road networks connecting them make it difficult for Palestinians to travel. About 600,000 Israelis now live beyond the country's 1967 borders. The Palestinians are being squeezed into ever smaller and smaller enclaves, isolated and without sufficient water. The settlements, illegal under international law, are a key obstacle to the resolution of the conflict. But Israel continues to expand them. Each new house makes the possibility of a just peace more remote. And Washington makes it all possible with its ongoing economic, military and diplomatic support for Israel.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and The 51-Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. He is a senior writer for Alternet, and his articles have appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, The New York Times, and other newspapers and journals.

(21 Aug) 170703 Thomas Frank - The Country That Voted For Trump

The election of Donald Trump was a stunning political upset. His victory defied the predictions of almost every pundit and pollster. Though he received about 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, the antiquarian Electoral College system in the U.S. gave him the presidency. The New York real estate mogul, TV celebrity and billionaire ran as a self-proclaimed outsider against what he portrayed as entrenched and corrupt political elites. He would "drain the swamp" in Washington. Despite a well-documented list of jaw dropping gaffes and serial prevarications he was able to convince enough working class people that he would reverse the neoliberal economic policies that had so adversely affected them. And the Democrats? Well, what can you say? Facing one of the weakest candidates in history, they lost not only the White House but also most of the state houses.

Thomas Frank is a prominent political commentator and the founding editor of The Baffler magazine. He is the author of many books including One Market Under God, What's the Matter with Kansas?, The Wrecking Crew, Pity the Billionaire and Listen, Liberal.

(28 Aug) 170704 Camille Paglia - Free Women! Free Men!

The feminist movement, in its various forms, posed a genuine challenge to patriarchy, male domination. Privilege among most men was seen as a right, the way things were. Within the feminist movement there were different currents and tendencies. Its accomplishments were myriad but there is still much work to be done. Misogyny, hostility, sexual commodification, harassment and violence against women persist. There is still a gender wage gap. Women working full time in nearly every single occupation earn only 80% of what men do. Gender categories and sexual orientations and the stereotypes embedded in them have undergone a radical shift in recent years. Feminism and the women's movement are still seen as a threat by some, particularly among more conservative religious minded people. Tearing down the old ways of thinking and behavior sometimes leads to confusion, tension and cultural conflict.

Camille Paglia is the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She is a regular contributor to Salon.com and the author of Glittering Images, Break, Blow, Burn, Sexual Personae, Sex, Art, and American Culture, Vamps & Tramps and Free Women, Free Men.

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