Start Making Sense

Biden and the Border: Ahilan Arulanantham, plus Amy Wilentz on Haiti

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When Biden took office, progressives looked forward to a dramatic transformation of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies—and Biden’s initial moves were promising. But since then, many people have been disappointed. Ahilan Arulanantham, a professor at UCLA Law School and co-director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy comments on the topic. Before working at UCLA, Arulanantham litigated a number of cases involving immigrants’ rights at the ACLU of Southern California.

Also this week, Amy Wilentz discusses Haiti: a country that should be inaugurating a new president. It has done so every five years on February 7—except for glitches, coups, and postponements—ever since Baby Doc Duvalier fled the island 37 years ago. But not this year. Wilentz explains why it’s struggling to get the new beginning in needs, and how it might make it there.  2-10-2022

The Progressives’ Agenda: What’s Left? Ro Khanna, plus Katha Pollitt on Sex

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The Democrats are not doomed to defeat in the midterms, says Ro Khanna. Politics can turn around in the next few months. Khanna represents Silicon Valley in Congress, where he’s a prominent figure in the Progressive Caucus. His new book is Dignity in a Digital Age: Making Tech Work for All of Us.

Additionally, Katha Pollitt comments on The Right to Sex, a provocative title by the feminist philosopher Amia Srinivasan. Does anyone have a right to sex? Who does? Who doesn’t?  2-3-2022

Our Coronavirus Criminals: John Nichols; plus Eric Foner on Slaveholders in Congress

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Donald Trump is responsible for about 100,000 unnecessary deaths from Covid-19 during his presidency, according to scientists at The Lancet. John Nichols explains who in his administration made which of the deadly decisions, and who made money off of the pandemic: a topic he delves into in his new book, Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers.

This episode also covers slavery and its political legacy in Congress: More than 1,700 congressmen owned Black slaves, according to The Washington Post. Even after the abolition of slavery in 1865, hundreds of men who had owned slaves were senators and members of the House of Representatives. The last senator who had owned slaves served in 1922. Eric Foner comments on the political power of slavery in America’s past.  1-27-2022

California Dems’ Big Moves on Health Care: Sasha Abramsky; Ellen Schrecker on the ’60s

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The paralysis of politics in Congress leads us to turn away from Washington and look at the states: What can the Democrats do when they control a state government? Like California? Democrats there are proposing dramatic changes in health care, expanding coverage to everyone below the federal poverty line–regardless of immigration status. Sasha Abramsky reports on that—and on the more radical proposal, also before the California legislature, to create a single-payer health-care system for all residents of California.

Also: American universities in the ’60s: Was that a golden age destroyed by student radicals who were protesting the war in Vietnam and racism in America? For some answers we turn to historian Ellen Schrecker—her new book is The Lost Promise: American Universities in the 1960s.  1-20-2022

Beto Can Win: Steve Phillips; plus Dave Lindorff on Atom Spies

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Beto O’Rourke’s strategy for winning the governorship of Texas focuses on organizing everywhere to massively boost Democratic voter turnout—the strategy Stacey Abrams has followed in Georgia. Steve Phillips explains how more than a million young voters of color will be eligible to vote in 2022 who were not old enough four years ago—when Beto first ran statewide and came within 214,921 votes of winning.

Also: new discoveries about America’s atom spies. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in June, 1953. We know that Julius did not give ‘the secret of the a-bomb’ to the Russians—that was the work of a couple of other people. And the FBI knew it at the time. So: why did the FBI go after the Rosenbergs, instead of the person they knew was the real spy? His name was Ted Hall—a brilliant young physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project. The FBI investigated him, but never charged him with a crime. Now Dave Lindorff has found out why.  1-13-2022

Omicron: A Kinder, Gentler Covid? Mike Davis, plus John Nichols on Jan. 6

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Is Omicron the kinder and gentler Covid we’ve been waiting for? Less lethal, and more like the flu? Mike Davis comments on the pandemic—and the age of pandemics we are now living in.

Also: On the first anniversary of the insurrection of January 6, John Nichols argues that, to defend democracy, we need the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—which requires changing the filibuster rules in the Senate. Also: proposals to expel members of congress who aided or abetted the insurrectionists.  1-6-2022

Remembering Rennie Davis, Remembering Joan Didion

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For our last podcast of 2021, we want to remember two people who died in the past year, and listen again to our interviews with them. Rennie Davis was probably the New Left’s most talented organizer, best known for the trial of the Chicago 7. He died on February 2 at his home outside Boulder, Colorado. He was 80. We spoke at an event for The Nation magazine in October, 2020.

Also: Joan Didion died December 23—she was 87. She wrote personal essays about California in the sixties and seventies, collected in books like Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The White Album, and then about politics and history, especially her reports in Salvador and Miami. We spoke in October, 2003, at KPFK in Los Angeles, when her book about her family’s California, Where I Was From had just been published.  12-30-2021

Ivanka, Jared, Don Junior, & Eric on Jan. 6: Amy Wilentz on the Insurrection, plus Tom Lutz

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Revelations about the January 6 insurrection include striking new information about the Trump kids that day: Who did what, and also who didn’t do anything. Amy Wilentz reports.

Also: A report from Kwajalein, one of the Marshall islands in the Pacific that’s a major US military base. Tom Lutz says it’s completely paved over, and the only greenery is the golf course. The runway is one foot above sea level. The island will be under water by about 2035. Tom also describes life in some other places—his new book is The Kindness of Strangers. 12-23-2021

Why Trump Won’t Be the Candidate in 2024: David Cay Johnston; Foner & Gates on DuBois

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Trump is going to be indicted for racketeering and fraud, because of his financial crimes, and that will prevent him from being the Republican candidate: that’s what David Cay Johnston says—he’s an award-winning investigative reporter, and his new book is The Big Cheat: How Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family.

Also: Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates talk about W.E.B. DuBois, the Black historian and activist of the first part of the 20th century, and his book Black Reconstruction 1860-1880—published originally in 1935, and out now in a new edition from the Library of America, edited by Foner and Gates.  12-16-2021

U.S. vs. China vs. Climate Change: Alfred McCoy, plus Kristina Wong on Mutual Aid

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How will global warming change the world’s systems of power? Alfred McCoy argues that American global hegemony will end around 2030, replaced by China as world leader, but Chinese hegemony will last only for about 20 years—and that by 2050, climate change will have brought environmental catastrophe to both countries, and the rest of the world, with consequences that are almost unimaginable. His new book is To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.

Also: Mutual aid and racial justice during the year of Covid: Kristina Wong explains how, in the darkest days of the pandemic, she started the Auntie Sewing Squad to make masks for the most vulnerable communities—and how she became, in her words, a sweatshop overlord. Her new co-edited book is The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice.  12-9-2021