Start Making Sense

The Missing Candidate in California: Joe Biden–David Dayen, plus Bruce Shapiro on Assange & Ezra Levin on the Indivisible Pledge

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Joe Biden was the only leading Democratic candidate who did NOT come to the California state Democratic convention last weekend in San Francisco – David Dayen reports on the biggest of the Super Tuesday primaries; he’s the new executive editor of The American Prospect.
Also: The British should extradite Julian Assange to Sweden for the investigation of rape charges against him, but neither the Swedes nor the Brits should extradite him to the US – because the new “espionage” charges against him are a political threat to freedom of the press and to all journalists and publishers—Bruce Shapiro explains.
Plus: Every Democratic primary candidate with more than 1 per cent in the polls has signed the Indivisible Pledge to support the Democratic winner – with one exception: Joe Biden.  Why not?  Ezra Levin comments—he’s co-founder of Indivisible, the nationwide network of grassroots progressive groups.  6/5/19

Daniel Ellsberg: Espionage and Julian Assange; plus Robert Pollin on Medicare for All and Alyssa Battistoni on Climate Politics

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The indictment of Julian Assange on espionage charges is an attack on freedom of the press—that’s what Daniel Ellsberg argues. Ellsberg too was indicted under the Espionage Act – and put on trial by the Nixon Administration in 1972, because he leaked a top secret history of American involvement in Viet Nam to the New York Times and other publications. They called it the Pentagon Papers.
Also: Medicare for All: Opponents say it would be impossibly expensive. Exactly how are we going to pay for it? Robert Pollin of U Mass Amherst explains; he’s one of 219 economists who just signed an open letter to Congress urging passage of Medicare for All.
Plus: the politics of climate change. We know the world is getting hotter and the storms are getting bigger and the seas are rising. What we need to know now is not what climate change will do, but rather what we should do—because, for us, climate change is a political problem. Alyssa Battistoni comments.  5/29/19

The New York Times vs. Bernie: Amy Wilentz on media bias, plus John Nichols on Ilhan Omar and Karen Greenberg on government secrecy

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Bernie is back on Page One of the New York Times, but their report last weekend was not about his new plan to save public schools–the most progressive education program in modern American history–or his proposal to end all subsidies for oil and gas companies.  Instead, it was about a trip he made to Nicaragua in 1985, more than 30 years ago.  They didn’t like it.   How do we explain the New York Times’s coverage of Bernie Sanders?  Amy Wilentz comments.
Also: John Nichols talks about Justin Amash, the first Republican member of Congress to say that Trump has committed impeachable offenses—and also about The Nation’s new podcast, which he hosts – it’s called “Next Left,” and the premiere episode, out now, features Ilhan Omar.
Plus: There are 1,000 redactions in the 448 pages of the Muller report–individual names and entire pages–that we are not allowed to see.  They are part of a larger problem of government secrecy which started long before Trump and which is now threatening to cripple our democracy—Karen Greenberg explains. 5/22/19

What Joe Biden Has In Common with Donald Trump: Harold Meyerson, plus Michael Ames on Bowe Bergdahl & Laila Lalami on ‘The Other Americans’

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Joe Biden has one thing in common with Donald Trump: a campaign promising “restoration” of a lost past, rather than the kind of transformation we need to deal with our current problems– That’s what Harold Meyerson says. Of course the past Biden wants to restore is not the white man’s 1950s, but rather the pre-Trump America of the Clintons and Obama. Harold is Executive Editor of The American Prospect and a regular contributor to the LA Times op-ed page.
Also: during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump often talked about an American soldier in Afghanistan who became the longest-held American POW since Vietnam. Trump said he was “a dirty rotten traitor” who should be shot or thrown from a plane. He was talking about Bowe Bergdahl. Michael Ames explains how the Bergdahl story reveals a lot about why the Afghan war has been a disaster. Ames is co-author of the new book, “American Cypher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan.”
And we’ll also talk about immigrants, with Nation columnist Laila Lalami– her new novel is “The Other Americans,” about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant in a small town in California. it’s a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story.  5/16/19

The New Voters of 2020: Steve Phillips, plus Ben Ehrenreich on Climate and Commerce and Amy Wilentz on Haiti’s Notre Dame

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or the 2020 election, we’ve been focusing mostly on the candidates who want to challenge Trump – but we also need to consider the voters, and the changes in the electorate since 2016. Especially significant: young people of color. Steve Phillips explains – he’s the author of the best-seller “Brown Is the New White: How a Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority.”
Also: climate change and living in the city, where the health effects of hyrdocarbon production and global trade are felt most intensely. Ben Ehrenreich reports on local organizing in the city of Commerce, California, a transit point for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Plus: Paris isn’t the only place where a cathedral of Notre Dame is in ruins and awaiting rebuilding – there’s another Notre Dame in Haiti, destroyed in the earthquake of 2010. Amy Wilentz has a modest proposal about a source for the money: reparations — from France.  5/9/19

Bill McKibben: ‘We’re Capable of Doing Remarkable Things to Combat Climate Change’ Plus: Richard J. Evans on Eric Hobsbawm.

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What can we do to reduce the speed of climate change? Bill McKibben argues that we’re at a bleak moment in human history—and we’ll either confront that bleakness, or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away. Bill was one of the first people to warn of the dangers of global warming 30 years ago with his book The End of Nature. Then he founded the environmental organization 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change. Today it offers some possible ways out of the trap. His new book is FALTER: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Also: Eric Hobsbawm was everybody’s favorite Marxist historian. His books, especially The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire, and The Age of Extremes, have been translated into 50 languages and sold millions of copies. He was also a lifelong member of the British Communist Party, and his fight against Stalinist orthodoxy in the party shaped his understanding of the past. Richard J. Evans explains—he’s the author of the new biography Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History. 4/24/19

Trump’s Tax Returns: Why We Will See Them, and What We Will Find: David Cay Johnston; plus Zoe Carpenter and Laurie Winer

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The chair of the House Ways and Means Committee formally requested six years of Trump’s personal & business tax returns earlier this month. Trump has said he won’t do it—and that the law is “100 per cent” on his side. He’s 100 per cent wrong about that. David Cay Johnston explains why the IRS Director is required to hand over the returns—or face 5 years in jail—and also what we’re likely to find in Trump’s tax returns—about his tax cheating and his money laundering for Russian oligarchs. David is a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter who is founder and editor of DCReport.org.
Also: Plastics and pollution: the problem isn’t just all the plastic in the oceans; it’s the manufacturing of plastics, a toxic petro-chemical. The Nation’s Zoe Carpenter reports from the Texas and Louisana gulf coasts.
Plus: In Trump’s latest blowup over immigration, Stephen Miller has played the central role — goading him to close the border, warning him of the dangers of looking weak, and encouraging his sudden purge of his homeland security team. But who is this Stephen Miller? He grew up in liberal Santa Monica– what happened? What went wrong? Laurie Winer will report—she wrote about Stephen Miller for LA Magazine.  4/17/19

Kirsten Gillibrand’s Journey to the Left: Joan Walsh, plus Eric Foner on Reconstruction & Amy Wilentz on Jared Kushner

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Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren are the women in the Senate who have announced campaigns for the Democratic nomination—and Gillibrand is running on Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. She started out in Congress as more of a centrist Democrat—how authentic has her transformation been? Joan Walsh reports.
Also: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War—that’s the new four-hour PBS documentary premiering this week. Produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the show explores the years after the Civil War, when the defeated South faced revolutionary social change—the world’s first interracial democracy. Eric Foner comments—he was chief historical adviser on the documentary.
Plus: We’re still waiting for the text of the report of special counsel Robert Muller, but in the meantime we’ve been told he did not recommend bringing charges against Jared Kushner  in connection with Russian interference in the 2016 election. But that does not mean Jared is innocent of everything. Amy Wilentz explains. 4/11/19

Stacey Abrams: How We Fight for the Right to Vote; Plus Harold Meyerson on the trouble with Beto

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When Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia last November as the first African-American and the first woman candidate, she got more votes than any Democrat in Georgia history, including Obama and Hillary Clinton. She tripled Latino turnout; she increased the youth turnout by 139 per cent and black turnout by 40 percent. But because of Republican vote suppression she was not elected. In 2020 she could run for the Senate, or even for president. Her new book is Leading From Outside. In our interview, she talks about her campaign strategy and the centrality of the fight for the right to vote.
Also: The Trouble with Beto—he’s got a huge following, but what exactly does he stand for? And what does his narrow defeat in the Texas senate race last year tell us about what kind of campaign he would run if he won the Democratic nomination for president? Harold Meyerson comments—he’s executive editor of The American Prospect.  4/3/19

Don’t Trust Barr on the Mueller Report: John Nichols; Plus Greg Grandin on Trump’s Wall and Adam Hochschild on Woodrow Wilson

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Nobody should be satisfied with Attorney General William Barr’s account of the Mueller report, says John Nichols. We had assumed that the independent counsel’s investigation into obstruction of justice would conclude one way or the other. Instead we have Barr making exactly the kind of political decision by a Trump appointee that the independent counsel’s office was created to prevent. There’s no substitute for seeing the full Mueller report, Nichols concludes.
Also: In the wake of the Barr letter, Trump is calling his opponents “treasonous.” He’s vowing to pursue and punish those responsible for the Russia investigation. What would it be like if he got his way, if there were no way to restrain him? Historian Adam Hochschild says it would be like the three-year period of censorship, mass imprisonment, and deportations during World War I, under Woodrow Wilson. His new book is “Lessons from a Dark Time.”
Plus: Trump’s Wall has become a powerful symbol of a radically new idea about what America stands for—replacing the myth of the frontier as a place of possibility, rebirth, and freedom. Historian Greg Grandin talks about the wall, the border, and the frontier–his new book is “The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America.”  3/27/19