Start Making Sense

Jane McAlevey on Amazon Workers’ Next Big Battles and Margo Jefferson on “Constructing a Nervous System”

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The Amazon workers on Staten Island have won a historic victory—but now they must prepare to strike, and to win support for their strike from the community power structure. The Nation’s Strikes Correspondent, Jane McAlevey explains why, and how

Also on this week’s show, we have a conversation with Margo Jefferson about her new memoir, “Constructing a Nervous System.” Her earlier memoir, “Negroland,” won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and before that she won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism for her work as book and arts critic for the New York Times. She’s also written for The Nation.  4-21-2022

Gustavo Arellano on The Sheriff vs. Black L.A., and Michele Goodwin on Ketanji Brown Jackson

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The sheriff of Los Angeles County: he’s got 10,000 deputies, in America’s biggest county, with 10 million people – and he’s become LA’s biggest political problem as he faces reelection. LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano, recently interviewed the LA sheriff, Alex Villanueva, and is on the show to talk about the LAPD’s war on L.A.’s black community.

Also: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson won’t be seated on the Supreme Court until late June, but we’re still thinking about the significance of her confirmation as America’s first Black female supreme court justice and of that horrible confirmation hearing she endured. We have UC Irvine Law professor and Nation contributor, Michele Goodwin on the show to reflect.  4-14-2022

How the Ukraine War Could End: Anatol Lieven; Plus E.J. Dionne & Miles Rapoport: 100% Voting

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How could the war in Ukraine end? Anatol Lieven says Russia could gain control of the entire Donbass region and then declare a cease-fire – but if we want Russia to withdraw, we’ve got to give it incentives to do so. Lieven is a senior fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and a contributor to The Nation.

Also: What if everybody voted? What if voting was a duty, not just a right, an obligation, something like jury duty? E.J. Dionne and Miles Rapoport explain; their new book is 100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting.  4-7-2022

Joan Walsh on Ginni Thomas, and Astra Taylor on Abolishing Student Debt

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Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will be called to testify before the House Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Joan Walsh has our analysis of the text messages she sent supporting the riot, and of their significance for the court — as well as our politics.

Also: Monday April 4 is the Day Of Action to Abolish Student Debt, when thousands of young people will gather in Washington D.C. to say “Pick Up the Pen, Joe” — and abolish student debt via executive action. Astra Taylor will explain; she’s co-founder of the Debt Collective.  3-31-2022

Fighting about the Constitution: Fishkin & Forbath, plus P.E. Moskowitz on antidepressants

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The Senate confirmation hearings for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, have been following a familiar script: opponents look for scandal, and nominees say very little about how they’ll decide cases. Progressives instead should be arguing—inside and outside the hearings—that the Constitution requires protecting our “republican form of government” from becoming a “moneyed aristocracy” or “oligarchy,” Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath explain. Their new book is called The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy.

Also this week, P.E. Moskowitz talks about the dangers and the benefits of antidepressants, from both a scientific and personal perspective. Their piece, Breaking Off My Chemical Romance, is featured in The Nation’s new special issue on drugs.  3-24-2022

What The Media Should Be Doing During Wartime; plus: Comics As Propaganda

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Bhaskar Sunkara, the founder of Jacobin, has become President of The Nation. He joins us to talk about what independent media can and should do during wartime.  Also: Bhaskar on “the Left in Purgatory”– at the end of a period of rapid politicization, settling into either gradual decline or slow advance.

Plus: the changing politics of comic books, from WWII to today: critic J. Hoberman explains how comics served as wartime propaganda in the 1940s, how they were condemned as causing juvenile delinquency in the 1950s, how new kinds of superheroes emerged and then conquered Hollywood, and made billions for the studios–at a time when America was definitely NOT a superhero in the world. Hoberman reviewed the book “Pulp Empire” by Paul S. Hirsch.  3-17-2022

Jamie Raskin: Why It’s Been So Hard to Nail Trump; plus Michael Kazin on the Democrats

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Jamie Raskin, member of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, talks about the committee’s evidence against Trump–and the committee’s future if Republicans prevail in the midterms. He represents Maryland’s 8th District in the House, and was manager of Trump’s second impeachment trial. His new book is “Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy.”

Also: Historian Michael Kazin joins us to explain what the Democrats have done wrong ––and what they’ve done right–– not just in the last week, but in the last century. His new book is “What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party.”  3-10-2022

Putin’s War: What is to be Done? Katrina vanden Heuvel, plus Elie Mystal on the constitution

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Putin’s indefensible invasion of Ukraine has revived the Cold War, and renewed militarism and nuclear threats. We need Russia to negotiate a ceasefire—but we also can’t forget about fighting pandemics and climate change, editorial director Katrina vanden Heuvel says.

Also on this episode, our justice correspondent Elie Mystal talks about his new book, Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution. “Our constitution is not good. It urgently needs to be reimagined if we want justice and equality for all,” Mystal says. You can buy his book here.  3-3-2022

Canadian Truckers: a Working Class Protest? Jeet Heer, plus Amy Wilentz on Paul Farmer

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Now that Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” has come to an end, we’re wondering: was this protest really a working-class movement? As Jeet Heer explains on this week’s episode, the leadership and funding for the protest came from right-wing networks, and the “truckers” were mostly owners of trucking firms rather than drivers. Nevertheless, it was a movement that gained significant support, and something left-wing political activists should pay attention to, Heer says.

Also this week, Amy Wilentz remembers her friend and a hero to many: Paul Farmer. Farmer brought high-quality healthcare to some of the poorest communities in the world, beginning in Haiti. For more, read Wilentz’s obituary of public health hero.  2-24-2022

Will Trump’s candidates lose in November? John Nichols; Hunter S. Thompson: Peter Richardson

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Mitch McConnell thinks Republicans are going to lose the Senate in November if Trump’s candidates and issues dominate the election. Is McConnell right? Our national affairs correspondent John Nichols weighs in.

Also this week, Peter Richardson discusses Hunter S. Thompson, the writer credited for inventing “Gonzo Journalism.” Thompson wrote a classic book about Richard Nixon, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, ‘72. Richardson, author of Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson, explains how he did it.  2-17-2022