Start Making Sense

Omicron and Inequality: Gregg Gonsalves, plus Gary Younge on Josephine Baker

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The new Omicron variant of Covid-19: Gregg Gonsalves argues that it serves as a reminder of how little we’re doing on pandemic prevention. We need government action to address the inequalities in power, resources, and information that leave some people at far greater risk. Meanwhile, Republicans are describing Omicron as a Democratic plot to bring back mail-in voting.

Also: being Black in America, and being Black in France: Gary Younge talks about Josephine Baker, the Black American dancer who went to Paris in the twenties and later renounced her American citizenship. She’s being interred at the Pantheon, alongside Voltaire and Rousseau, this week.  12-2-2021

White Vigilantes and Black Protest: John Nichols on Kyle Rittenhouse, plus Eric Foner on Racism and Housing

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We’re still thinking about the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict in Kenosha, where Republicans have been celebrating the “not guilty” verdict in the trial of a 17-year-old who shot three people, killing two, during the street protests over the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake. John Nichols comments on the threat from white vigilantes to Black protest, and on the broader anti-democratic moves by Republicans in Wisconsin and nationally.

Also: Racism in America for decades led to strict housing segregation. But historians are now showing that that wasn’t simply the result of white people refusing to live near Blacks—segregated housing was the result of a carefully organized, long-term effort to establish a legal basis for systematic racial discrimination. And the groups that succeeded were not the KKK or White Power groups. It was realtors’ organizations. Eric Foner reviews that history.  11-24-2021

Why Republicans Want to Ban the 1619 Project: Martha Jones, plus Gregory Boyle on gangs

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Republicans continue to work to ban teaching about Black Americans’ place in our history – their legislation, proposed in 27 states, would prohibit teaching the 1619 Project, which has just published a book offering what the authors call “a new origin story” about the United States. Martha Jones, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, and one of the contributors, talks about the battle, the book, and the larger project.

Plus: Father Greg Boyle is the founder of Homebody Industries, the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program on the planet. He’s got a new book out now, it’s about “the power of extravagant tenderness” and it’s called “The Whole Language.”  11-18-2021

Trump Will be a Lousy Candidate in 2024: John Nichols, plus Rebecca Solnit on George Orwell

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The Democrats need to do big things fast if they want to have a chance of winning in 2022 and 2024. John Nichols says that Trump will be a “lousy candidate” then—but he will still pose an even greater threat to American democracy than he did in 2020.

Plus: Rebecca Solnit talks about politics and pleasure, about knowing your enemies, and about joy as an act of resistance to authoritarianism—on the right, and on the left. Her new book is Orwell’s Roses.  11-11-2021

Cancel Bail Debt, Abolish Student Debt: Astra Taylor; plus Adam Shatz on John Coltrane

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The Debt Collective has a new project: Cancelling probation debt of formerly incarcerated people. They’re actually doing it, for tens of thousands of people—and setting out to abolish bail debt completely in California. Astra Taylor explains how they’re going about it, and reports on the continuing campaign to get Joe Biden to use executive action to cancel student debt.                                                                   Plus: John Coltrane was the tenor player who started out with Miles Davis in the fifties and then in the mid-sixties set out to pursue music as a quest for spiritual enlightenment. His most popular work was “A Love Supreme.” Now, a live performance from 1965 has been discovered and released—and Coltrane people are calling it “nothing short of a revelation.” We’ll talk about Coltrane’s place in Black culture with Adam Shatz.  11-4-2021

The Politics of Kidnapping in Haiti: Amy Wilentz; plus Dave Zirin on ‘The Kaepernick Effect”

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Who really runs Haiti—the government, or the gangs? The kidnappings suggest it’s the gangs – and the leader of the gang that kidnapped 16 Americans has openly expressed political ambitions. Amy Wilentz explains.

Plus: Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest, taking a knee, became the symbol of resistance to racial injustice in America. Dave Zirin talks about how that political movement has swept through college and high school sports. His new book is  “The Kaepernick Effect.”  10-28-2021

How Dems Can Turn Texas Blue John Nichols on politics, plus Adam Shatz on Richard Wright

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A recent poll found that only 42 per cent of registered voters in Texas say Republican Governor Gregg Abbott deserves to be re-elected in 2022. Biden lost Texas by only 630,000 votes, and millions of young people and people of color didn’t vote. John Nichols reports on how the biggest Republican state could elect a Democratic governor next year.

Also: Richard Wright was America’s most famous Black writer in the 1940s and 50s – with his novel ‘Native Son’ and his character Bigger Thomas. But his place on the throne was shakier than he imagined. Adam Shatz talks Black American writing, and Black America, at mid-century.  10-21-2021

 

Winning in 2022: John Nichols, plus Melina Abdullah on the LAPD and Ray Suarez on “Going for Broke”

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Some pundits say the only way Democrats can hold the House and Senate in 2022 is by appealing to swing voters in Republican states by talking about economic issues—and NOT talking about climate change, immigration reform, or policing. John Nichols challenges that argument.

Also: The co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA, Melina Abdullah, talks about the LAPD, and how they showed up, in force, at her house twice in the week since she filed a lawsuit over a similar incident last year. We call it “SWATting,” and we also call it retaliation.

And The Nation and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project are launching a new podcast: “Going for Broke,” personal stories about how the pandemic made it a lot harder for working class people to pay the rent, stay in their homes, or find a new job. Host Ray Suarez provides a preview—he’s best known for his work on NPR and PBS.  10-14-2021

 

America’s Lunatics: Katha Pollitt; plus John Powers on Percival Everett’s Emmett Till novel

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Are we a nation of lunatics? Katha Pollitt has been thinking about that—about the millions of people who say that Satan-worshipping pedophiles control American politics and media, or that, if you’ve come down with Covid-19, you should pick up some Ivermectin at the local feed store.

Plus: The murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 is probably the most famous lynching in American history. Now, there’s a novel about it that’s wild and funny. The author is Percival Everett—it’s called The Trees. And it’s really good. How is it possible to write a comic novel about a lynching? John Powers explains—he’s critic at large on NPR’s Fresh Air.  10-7-2021

Controlling the Police: What is to be Done? Erwin Chemerinsky, plus Eyal Press on Dirty Work

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Many proposals to reform the police were made after the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer the largest protest movement in American history. But the problem, Erwin Chemerinsky argues, is not just the police; the Supreme Court has empowered the police and subverted civil rights. Erwin is Dean of the law school at UC Berkeley, and author of many books—most recently Presumed Guilty.  Also: dirty work—and the people who do it: the low-income workers who do our most ethically troubled jobs. Eyal Press will explain—his new book is Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America.  9-30-2021