Start Making Sense

Abortion Politics and Republican Power: Rick Perlstein, plus Eric Foner on Tulsa

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Texas, the Republicans are empowering vigilantes to go after people helping women who seek abortions, turning the state’s citizens as bounty hunters. Rick Perlstein explains the long history of how the GOP adopted abortion as a key issue—Rick’s latest book is Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980, out now in paperback. Also: We’re still thinking about Tulsa, about the massacre of Black people there in 1921, probably the deadliest instance of racial violence in the country’s history. It was covered up for a hundred years—how was that possible? Historian Eric Foner comments.  9-9-2021

What America Owes Afghan Women: Katha Pollitt; P\plus Eric Foner on Black politics and history

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Katha Pollitt reports on Afghan womens’ organizations and what their leaders are saying about support from Americans—starting with the Afghan Women’s Fund, MADRE, and Women for Afghan Women.
Also, Black politics and history, from the 1870s to the 1930s to today: Eric Foner talks bout how our understanding of Black politics and history, starting with Reconstruction, has changed—and about the historian-activists who challenged the prevailing racist historians back in the 1930s, starting with W.E.B. DuBois and James S. Allen—his book Reconstruction: the Battle for Democracy, has just been reissued with a new introduction by Foner.  8-25-2021

The Taliban Triumph: Andrew Bacevich, plus John Powers on Dick Gregory

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Over almost 20 years in Afghanistan, the US lost 2,400 troops and personnel. Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded. The mission cost more than a trillion dollars—including 80 billion dollars to train and arm the Afghan army. But that army didn’t resist the recent Taliban advance and now the Taliban control the country and the last Americans are fleeing. Andrew Bacevich comments; his books include America’s War for the Greater Middle East.
Also: There’s a documentary out now about Dick Gregory, the Black stand-up comedian and political activist of the sixties and after. It’s called The One and Only Dick Gregory, and it’s on Showtime. John Powers comments—he’s critic at large on NPR’s Fresh Air.  8-18-2021

Trump: the Big Loser on the Infrastructure Bill—Joan Walsh, plus Anne Sebba on Ethel Rosenberg

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19 Republican Senators voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Tuesday, after Trump demanded they vote “no.” It took significant concessions by Democrats to win their support for the bill—was that a good idea? Should Democrats help Republicans step away from Trump? Joan Walsh comments.
Also: the life, and death, of Ethel Rosenberg, the accused “atom spy”: who she was, before she was framed by the FBI, before she called their bluff and went to her execution. Anne Sebba has written a really good book about that—it’s called Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy.  8-12-2021

The Democrats’ miserable concessions on infrastructure: John Nichols, plus Art Spiegelman on ‘Street Cop’

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We said it couldn’t be done: a bipartisan bill getting through Congress. Now, however, it looks like the $1 trillion infrastructure bill will get the Republican votes it needs in the Senate to pass. But what miserable compromises did the Democrats make to get ten Republican votes? John Nichols explains.
Also: the great comics artist Art Spiegelman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Maus, has a new book out: Street Cop, illustrations for a story by Robert Coover, published by He talks about working on that during the pandemic, and about his most controversial drawings—some of which only The Nation would publish.  8-4-2021

The Delta Variant: What Joe Biden Needs to Do Now–Gregg Gonsalves, plus John Powers on ‘Summer of Soul’

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Joe Biden needs to do a lot more to stop the global spread of the covid virus and its Delta variant—and to prepare the world for the next pandemics. Gregg Gonsalves explains three key actions that are necessary right now.
Also: the story of a music festival in a park in Harlem in 1969: the documentary about it, “Summer of Soul,” is a powerful and moving contributions to the history of the sixties. And the story it tells was completely unknown; the footage sat in a basement for nearly 50 years, and no one cared. John Powers, critic at large on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” comments.  7-28-2021

Bernie’s Big Deal: John Nichols on the budget, plus Francine Prose on Ethel Rosenberg

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Bernie Sanders recently spoke with our John Nichols about the importance of doing big things in politics–and now Senate Democrats have agreed on a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that would dramatically expand Medicare, provide for paid family leave, subsidize child care, make community college free, and fund some meaningful climate crisis initiatives.  Big things! John Nichols comments.
Also: A comic novel about Ethel and Julius Rosenberg?  Who’d have thought that was possible?   Now Francine Prose has written one:  it’s called “The Vixen,” and it’s terrific.  7-21-2021

Rethinking global security: Katrina vanden Heuvel; Haiti: Amy Wilentz

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World politics after the Biden-Putin Summit: Katrina vanden Heuvel argues that we need to rethink what real security means, and that it can’t mean a new cold war, but joint action with Russia and China on climate change, pandemics, and the threat of nuclear war.
Also: Amy Wilentz comments on Haiti after the assassination of its unloved president—and the necessity of following grassroots progressive civil society groups in finding a path forward towards free and fair elections.  7-14-2021

Why We Need the Utopian Imagination: Jeet Heer; LA’s Boyle Heights: George Sanchez

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“Utopian” has been a term of abuse in politics for a long time now, synonymous with “irrational” and “impossible.” Instead, we are told, we should focus on realistic plans to improve things. But The Nation is publishing a special issue in defense of utopia. Jeet Heer explains how the dreams of a good society keep hope alive and expose the inadequacy of present structures.
Also: the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights is known today as the heartland of Chicano culture. Historian George Sanchez explains how its multicultural, interracial past made it a bastion of progressive democracy. His new book is Boyle Heights.  7-8-2021

The Attack on “Critical Race Theory”: Kimberlé Crenshaw; The Sixties: David and Margaret Talbot

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“Critical Race Theory” has been attacked on Fox News nearly 1300 times.  It’s being banned from public schools and colleges in something like 15 Republican states.  But what IS “critical race theory”?  And why is this happening now?  Kimberlé Crenshaw explains; she teaches law at Columbia and UCLA, and she’s probably the most prominent figure associated with critical race theory—she coined the term 30 years ago.  She’s also creator of the concept “intersectionality.”
Also: there’s a new book about the sixties–about the heroism, and the disasters, of the movements of that decade.  The authors are the brother and sister team David Talbot and Margaret Talbot–David is the founder of, and Margaret writes for the New Yorker. 7/1/2021