Start Making Sense

Bill McKibben: Power to the People in Maine, plus Clinton’s ‘Fabulous Failure’

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Voters in Maine will decide next month whether to turn the state’s private utilities public. If that happens, it would be a huge step toward dealing with the climate crisis, and a model for other states. Bill McKibben explains — of course he’s an author and environmentalist and co-founder of, currently working with the new environmental group Third Act, for people over 60.

Also: Our politics today is haunted by the failures of Bill Clinton—the “centrist” who “triangulated” with Republicans, lost on healthcare, and proclaimed that “The era of big government is over.”  Nelson Lichtenstein explains Clinton’s turn to the right, and the lessons for today’s Democrats – his new book on Clinton is “A Fabulous Failure.”  10-5-2023

Dahlia Lithwick on Voting Rights, plus Katha Pollitt on ‘The Forgotten Girls”

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The right-wing super-majority on the Supreme Court has returned to a case about racial gerrymandering in Alabama, where Republicans have defied the Court’s order. Dahlia Lithwick will comment about that, and about her book “Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America”—it’s out now in paperback.

Also: Two girls grew up in the 1980s and ’90s in a small town in Arkansas. One made it out and became a successful journalist and writer; her best friend, who had been super smart as a kid, fell into drugs, getting pregnant too young, and petty crime. How did their lives turn out so different? Katha Pollitt talks about the new memoir by Monica Potts, “The Forgotten Girls.”

Transcript HERE  9-28-2023

Trump and the Auto Strike, plus the Politics of Insecurity: Nelson Lichtenstein plus Astra Taylor

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Trump and the UAW strike, plus ‘manufactured insecurity’: Nelson Lichenstein plus Astra Taylor

The UAW strike against Detroit’s Big Three is rapidly becoming a major political battle as Donald Trump speaks to auto workers in Detroit, challenging Biden’s massive initiatives for America’s transition to electric vehicles. Nelson Lichtenstein provides historical perspective on what’s at stake.

Also: there are two kinds of insecurity in our lives today, Astra Taylor argues: existential insecurity, the unavoidable issues of life and death, and manufactured insecurity—intended to make workers more submissive to authority. Communal action can do a lot to reduce that. Her new book is “The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together As Things Fall Apart.”

Transcript HERE  9-21-2023

Gary Younge: from Mandela to Black Lives Matter; plus Amy Wilentz on Haiti in September

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Gary Younge, the award-winning former columnist for The Guardian, talks about Black writing and Black writers—and his own writing about Mandela, Obama, Trayvon Martin, and Claudette Colvin.

Also on this episode of Start Making Sense, the news from Haiti, where the UN, with US support, is authorizing a new security force. Made up of mostly Kenyan troops, it’s supposed to restore “law and order” in Port-au-Prince. The Nation’s Amy Wilentz is on the podcast to report.

Transcript HERE  9-15-2023

Heather Cox Richardson on ‘Our Authoritarian Experiment,’ Plus Chile Since Allende

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Every night, more than a million people read Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter about the day’s political events. Now she has a new book out, “Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America.” It’s about the history of Americans’ fight for equality—about which she remains optimistic, despite Trump’s current polling.

Also on this episode of Start Making Sense: September 11th is the 50th anniversary of the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile, ending 150 years of democracy there and putting the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Power. Marc Cooper wrote about Chile since the coup for He joins the show to discuss the legacy of that coup and the deep divisions in Chile today, both economic and political.

Transcript HERE  9-7-2023

Our Hot Labor Summer, Plus Melania, Ivanka, and Those 91 Felony Charges

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Our hot labor summer continues. Harold Meyerson, editor at large of The American Prospect, comes on the Start Making Sense podcast to discuss the coming auto strike, the continuing Hollywood strikes, the Teamsters’ big victory, and a historic action by the NLRB which will make union organizing possible again.

Also on this episode: Melania and Ivanka Trump have been mostly absent from the former president’s side as he rages against the 91 felony charges brought against him in four different trials. Amy Wilentz comments on the news, the rumors, and the photos.

Transcript HERE  8-31-2023

Drew Faust Remembers the Sixties, plus Erwin Chemerinsky on Trump and Georgia

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Drew Faust grew up in Virginia in the ’50’s, in the segregated south, in a family that was part of the white elite—and went on to make “necessary trouble” as a college student and activist in the ’60’s. The first woman to serve as president of Harvard University, Faust comes on the Start Making Sense podcast to talk about her memoir, “Necessary Trouble: Growing up at Midcentury.”

Also on this episode: If it was a good strategy for Special Prosecutor Jack Smith to charge Trump with four felonies, is it also a good idea for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to charge Trump and 18 other people with a total of 41 felonies? Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at UC Berkeley, is on the show to discuss.

Transcript HERE  8-24-2023

Right-Wing Attacks on Small-Town Libraries—Plus, The Snow Leopard

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Public Libraries are often wonderful places, but they have become targets of right-wing attack in the culture war. On this episode of the Start Making Sense podcast, Sasha Abramsky talks about his reporting on the battle in one small town in Washington state.

Also on this episode: Peter Matthiessen’s exploration of suffering, impermanence, and beauty in his book “The Snow Leopard,” an account of his trek in the Himalayas. Pico Iyer, who wrote the introduction to the Penguin Classics paperback edition, is on the show to talk about the book. The conversation with Iyer was recorded in 2008.

Transcript HERE  8-17-2023

Erwin Chemerinsky on the Trump Indictment, Plus Katha Pollitt on Barbie

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Should Trump have been charged with incitement of insurrection, or at least violence? What’s the line between free speech and incitement? If Trump sincerely believed he’d won the election, can he still be prosecuted for conspiracy? Erwin Chemerinsky explains – he’s dean of the law school at UC Berkeley.

Also: What’s bad about Barbie the doll, and what’s good about “Barbie” the movie—Katha Pollitt comments.

Transcript HERE  8-10-2023



Trump’s Trials, plus Barbie and Oppie

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This month, Donald Trump will be facing four indictments in four different jurisdictions at the same time, each for multiple felonies. Yet, Republicans still want him as their candidate. On this episode of the Start Making Sense podcast, Joan Walsh comments on the former President’s latest legal developments, and the latest poll numbers.

Also on this episode: Barbie is one of the most feminist blockbuster films ever made, and it grossed $774 million worldwide in its first ten days. In the same period, Oppenheimer made $400 million worldwide. John Powers joins the podcast to discuss this summer’s two big Hollywood hits. He’s Critic at Large on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Transcript HERE  8-3-2023