Start Making Sense

Black history banned in Florida; “The Crown” and the Royal Family: Robin Kelley on Ron DeSantis, plus Gary Younge on the monarchy

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Black history, banned in Florida—and excluded from the College Board’s recommended AP Black Studies course. UCLA professor Robin Kelley will comment on that – he’s one of the historians whose work has been targeted. Also: “The 1619 Project” on Hulu.

Also: the Royal Family and “The Crown”– you know, Queen Elizabeth and Charles and Diana, and the Netflix series about them. Gary Younge explains why he loathes the monarchy in Britain, but loved “The Crown” on Netflix.  2-16-2023

QAnon & the Republicans, Ireland & the Irish: Chris Lehmann on politics, plus Fintan O’Toole on his ‘personal history’

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“The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation”—that’s QAnon’s crazy idea, and 30 million Americans say they mostly agree. Chris Lehmann comments.

Also: Fintan O’Toole’s personal history of Ireland since the fifties: how a country dominated by a corrupt Catholic church came to legalize gay marriage and abortion — by referendum. His much-honored ‘personal history’ of Ireland, titled “We Don’t Know Ourselves,” is out now in paperback.  2-9-2023

The Constitutional Solution to the Debt Limit Crisis, plus Victor Navasky Remembered


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House Republicans are refusing to raise the debt limit, threatening that the US will default on its bond payments. But the Constitution has the solution for President Biden — that’s what historian Eric Foner says. He joins the podcast to shed light on a little-known section of the 14th Amendment.

Also on this episode, we’re still thinking about Victor Navasky, who died on Jan. 23. He was editor or publisher of The Nation for 27 years, starting in 1978, and author of several books, including one about his life in magazines, titled “A Matter of Opinion.” We’ll listen to our conversation about that book, recorded in 2006.  2-2-2023

How to Defeat Kyrsten Sinema; Universal Basic Income in L.A.: Steve Phillips on politics, Sasha Abramsky on poverty

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Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona senator who quit the Democratic Party in December, is up for reelection next year, and will be challenged by progressive Democrat Ruben Gallego. Steve Phillips points to evidence that her chances of reelection are poor. His new book, “How We Win the Civil War,” has a chapter on Arizona politics.

Also: What if government provided a basic income to all residents?  Something like $1000 a month? How much could that change inequality and poverty? Sasha Abramsky reports on the experiment in Los Angeles with Universal Basic Income.  1-26-2023

Abortion rights battles return in the 2023 elections; plus wages at Walmart

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Abortion rights voters are reshaping politics in the coming political season—starting with a special election to the Virginia State Senate. Also: the most important election of 2023 is for the open seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. John Nichols explains.

Also: Walmart is the biggest employer in America, and the Walton family, the children of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is the richest family in the world. The company has raised wages and become more socially conscious-but it provides a case study of the limits of socially conscious capitalism. Rick Wartzman will explain – his new book on Walmart and its workers is titled “Still Broke.”  1-19-2023

Fintan O’Toole on the Next Insurrection; Katha Pollitt on “She Said”

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If you were planning a future coup, what could you learn from the failure of Trump’s efforts on January 6? Fintan O’Toole says it would need a better story – not attacking Congress, but “defending democracy.” He teaches at Princeton, and is the author most recently of We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland.

Also: Who’d want to see a movie about Harvey Weinstein? But the film “She Said,” about the two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, is not about Harvey; it’s about the system that protected him. And it’s really good. Katha Pollitt comments.  1-12-2023

Nelson Lichtenstein’s Post-Mortem on the UC Strike and Andrew Bacevich on America’s “Very Long War”

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Teaching Assistants and other grad student employees at the University of California won a historic victory in their strike last month. What does that mean for other universities and other union organizing campaigns? Nelson Lichtenstein joins the show to comment.

Also this week, Andrew Bacevich talks about our “very long war” going back to the sixties, and the relative insignificance of Donald Trump. Bacevich’s new book is On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century.  1-5-2023

Best of 2022: Elie Mystal on the Constitution, plus Kelly Lytle Hernández on “Bad Mexicans”

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For our end-of year show, we are featuring a couple of our favorite book segments from 2022.  First, a Black guy’s guide to the Constitution: Elie Mystal explains why “our constitution is not good.” He’s The Nation’s justice correspondent and author of “Allow Me to Retort”.

Also: “Bad Mexicans”—that’s what the revolutionaries of 1910 were called as they fought on both sides of the US-Mexico border against the robber barons and their political allies. UCLA historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez tells that story and talks about her book on race, empire, and revolution in the borderlands.  12-29-2022

UC Strike Settlement? Nelson Lichtenstein; plus Sean Wilentz on Bob Dylan’s Xmas Album

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The biggest strike in the country this year, and the biggest in the history of American universities, may be over. After five weeks of picketing and protests, the union representing 48,000 graduate student employees at the University of California announced a settlement. The university made an offer, and union members are voting this week. Nelson Lichtenstein has the analysis. He teaches History at UC Santa Barbara, where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy.

We also have a Christmas music special this week. Bob Dylan fans have been puzzled and troubled by his Christmas album, “Christmas in the Heart,” ever since he released it in 2009. To help figure out what Dylan was doing, we brought on Sean Wilentz. He’s the official historian at, and also teaches American history at Princeton University.  12-22-2022

Steve Phillips on Sinema and Nelson Lichtenstein on the U.C. Strike

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The Democrats triumphed in Arizona this November, electing the governor and the secretary of state, and reelecting senator Mark Kelly –in what used to be a red state. But then Senator Kyrsten Sinema quit the Democratic Party, and Progressives moved towards a primary election to challenge her. On this week’s podcast, Steve Phillips explains how the victories happened, and what’s to be done about Sinema.

Also on this episode of Start Making Sense– the largest strike in the nation entered its fifth week. 36,000 grad student employees of the University of California –including teaching assistants– are not grading final exams. The union agreed to mediation—which seems unlikely to succeed. Nelson Lichtenstein has our update.  12-15-2022