Start Making Sense

“Renters are the sleeping giants of LA politics,” plus the Hidden History of AIDS

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A political battle is underway in Los Angeles, where landlords, multi-millionaires, and the police are trying to defeat the leading progressive on the city council. Their key issues are protection for renters and new taxes on mansions.

Also on this episode of Start Making Sense: A new podcast brings us stories from the early days of HIV & AIDS. It’s about how the epidemic decimated poor communities of color and the people who refused to stay out of sight. WNYC’s Kai Wright and The Nation’s Lizzy Ratner are behind the new show, Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows.

Transcript HERE 2-22-2024

The Families that Made Fortunes Selling Opium, plus the News from Haiti

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The blue-blood families that made fortunes in the opium trade: Amitav Ghosh recounts the origins of much of the wealth for the 19th century New England elite on this episode of the Start Making Sense podcast. He wrote the cover story for The Nation’s latest print issue. His new book is called Smoke and Ashes.

Also on this episode: The latest US moves in Haiti are framed in democratic rhetoric but are deeply anti-democratic in their effect. Amy Wilentz is on the podcast to explain. She’s written two books about Haiti, most recently the award-winning Farewell Fred Voodoo.  2-15-2024

Jeff Merkley on a Ceasefire in Gaza, Sean Wilentz on Disqualifying Trump

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Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is one of our leading progressives, and one of 5 Senators to call for a cease-fire in Gaza. He’s on this episode of the Start Making Sense podcast to explain why, and to discuss his new book, “Filibustered! How to Fix the Broken Senate and Save America.”

Also on this episode: the case for disqualifying Trump as a candidate, based on the 14th Amendment banning those who have engaged in insurrection from holding public office. That case goes before the Supreme Court this week. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz has our analysis.

Transcript HERE 2-8-2024

Heroes of the Left, Plus Healthcare for the Undocumented

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The Nation’s annual Progressive Honor Roll features movement leaders who provide hope for 2024. John Nichols tells their stories.

Also: California moved one step closer to universal healthcare on January 1, when it expanded coverage to all low-income residents, regardless of immigration status. Sasha Abramsky reports.

Transcript HERE 2-1-2024

New Hampshire Left And Right, Plus Frantz Fanon Today

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On this episode of Start Making Sense, John Nichols has our analysis on the New Hampshire primary – Biden’s big win, and Trump’s furious victory speech.

Also: Adam Shatz talks about Franz Fanon, whose books “Wretched of the Earth” and “Black Skin, White Masks” made him a huge figure on the left, not just in the ’60s when they were published, but in the era of Black Lives Matter when his shadow looms larger than ever. Now he’s the subject of Adam’s new book, “The Rebel’s Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon.” Adam is the US editor of the London Review of Books, and former Literary Editor of The Nation.  1-25-2024

Reasons for Hope from the Iowa GOP, plus “American Fiction”

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John Nichols reports on Monday’s Republican caucuses in Iowa, and explains why Iowa is the state with the biggest shift from blue to red between Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2020.

Also: The new film “American Fiction,” starring Jeffrey Wright, takes up the question, do Black writers have to “write Black”? The film is based on the novel “Erasure” by Percival Everett, which is considerably wilder and more uncompromising than the film. John Powers comments—he’s critic at Large on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Transcript HERE  1-18-2024

Only Joe Biden Can Stop the War in Gaza, plus ‘Corporate Bullsh*t’

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Israel’s war in Gaza has been going on now for three months, and the IDF said over the weekend they plan to keep the war going for another year. Amy Wilentz talks about Netanhayu’s use of the war to hold on to power.

Also: the lies that protect profit, power and wealth in America: they are documented, and dealt with, in a wonderful new book co-authored by Joan Walsh. It’s called Corporate Bullsh*t.

Transcript HERE  1-11-2024

Reasons for Hope in 2024: John Nichols, plus the Bill Gates Problem: Tim Schwab

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Hope is different from optimism – it’s an embrace of uncertainty, and a basis for action. The polls look bad for Joe Biden, but Democrats’ chances are much brighter in the House, and perhaps the Senate. John Nichols talks about reasons for hope in 2024, starting in the tipping point state of 2020, Wisconsin.

Also: Bill Gates is now the 6th richest man in the world, with 104 billion dollars. He’s spent the last 20 years giving away some of his money – the Gates Foundation gave away $7 billion in 2022. But with the money comes a host of problems. Tim Schwab will explain; his new book has a great title: “The Bill Gates Problem: Reckoning with the Myth of the Good Billionaire.”

Transcript HERE  01-04-2023

Katha Pollitt’s End-of-Year Giving List, plus Bob Dylan’s Xmas Album

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Our holiday giving list: Katha Pollitt presents her list of groups that need—and deserve—our support: Gaza aid, abortion assistance, and organizing against Trump.

Also: Bob Dylan fans have been puzzled and troubled by his Christmas album ever since he released it in 2009. To help figure out what Dylan was doing, we turned to Sean Wilentz. He’s the official historian at, and he also teaches history at Princeton.

Transcript HERE  12-28-2023

Feminists and rape: the case of Hamas; plus Moms for Liberty

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Why have American feminist groups been slow to condemn rapes of Israeli women and girls by Hamas? That’s the question posed by Katha Pollitt, The Nation’s award-winning columnist.

Also: They call it “the parents’ rights movement.” We call it a culture war against public education. It failed as a Republican election strategy in 2023, but what about 2024? Randi Weingarten has our analysis – she’s president of the AFT.

Transcript HERE  12-21-2023