Episode #12, “The Lobbying-Industrial Complex” examines influence peddling in Washington: the lobbying firms and the people who pay huge sums for access to policy makers. It’s a pernicious business that undermines democratic policy making. I look at three areas of lobbying: social media, voting rights, and foreign policy. The written version of this podcast, with sources, can be found at Mel’s blog at melgurtov.com.
Episode #11, “Brazil, Beyond Bolsonaro”
This is an interview July 23 with Prof. James N. Green, the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Professor of Latin American History at Brown University. He’s an expert on Brazil where, under the rightwing government of Jair Bolsonaro, over a half million people have died from the pandemic, democracy has been set back, and the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous people have suffered immensely. Green, author and co-editor of 11 books on Brazil and Latin America in English and six in Portuguese, is the National Co-coordinator of the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil.
Episode #10, “Intervention in Haiti?” Foreign meddling in Haiti’s latest political crisis is the last thing the Haitian people need. Nor is an immediate election for a new president a useful answer to a population with a multitude of human security problems. There are civil society groups with a grassroots agenda that should be consulted and relied upon to address Haitians’ real needs while sidelining self-interested politicians.
Episode #9, “Reining in Presidential Warmaking.” I critically examine presidential authority to use force, an authority that has consistently been granted by Congress. Recent Authorizations to Use Military Force (AUMF) have provided blank checks for warfare, whereas the 1993 War Powers Bill has been systematically ignored or slighted. Thus both Congress and presidents are responsible for an abuse of power, and only a redefinition of US national security, with emphasis on diplomacy over use of force, can remedy the situation.
Episode #8, “Return of the Nuclear Peril,” examines the new global threat posed by “modernization” of nuclear weapons arsenals in the US, Russia, and China. What the major nuclear-weapon states should be doing is further reducing nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and signing the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Episode #7, “Saving the Iran Nuclear Deal,” urges swift action by the Biden administration to begin dismantling sanctions on Iran in advance of a new, hard-line president taking office in Tehran. Renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal is in the best interests of the US and the Middle East.
Episode #6, “The Pentagon’s Untouchable Budget,” delineates the 8-point narrative used by all administrations to justify excessive military spending. Biden could draw from the $752 billion proposed FY2022 Pentagon budget to help finance his economic recovery proposals, but he won’t touch it. Listen at
Episode #5 emphasizes the threat to America’s democracy posed by the far-right Republican leadership, and urges Pres. Biden to act decisively on voting rights. The consequences of failure will be severe for the conduct of US foreign policy and for the country’s democratic system. Listen at
Episodes #3 and 4 address US-China relations at a time of increasing friction. #3 raises questions about Biden’s China policy, which seems to be heavy on criticism of China (some of it well-deserved) but light on engagement for mutual benefit. Listen at https://www.podserve.fm/episodes/31753/bidens-puzzling-china-policy.m4a. #4 focuses on the dangerous escalation of tensions over Taiwan, with a look back at a US-China crisis in 1958 that almost led to US use of nuclear weapons. Each side’s misreading of the other’s intentions then could be repeated, with catastrophic consequences. Listen at https://www.podserve.fm/episodes/32051/is-a-us-china-war-over-taiwan-possible.m4a
Episodes #1 and 2, concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict, are available at: