Start Making Sense

Biden’s Disastrous Deportation of Haitians: Amy Wilentz; plus Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce on Occupy Wall Street

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Joe Biden is deporting 15,000 Haitian refugees who crossed the border at Del Rio, Texas, to a country ravaged by assassination, earthquake, poverty, and gang violence—it’s a disastrous move. Amy Wilentz comments; she’s been reporting on Haiti and Haitians for more than two decades.
Also: Ten years ago this week, a small group of young radicals declared “We are the 99 percent” and set up camp in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan’s financial district. Instead of a few people protesting for a few days, the movement exploded; hundreds of thousands of people joined Occupy camps in more than 600 US towns and cities. CUNY professors Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce comment.  9-24-2021

How Mosques Became FBI Targets after 9-11: Ahilan Arulanantham on State Secrets, plus Amy Wilentz on ‘The Chair’

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We’re still thinking about the 20th anniversary of 9/11. After that day, Muslim Americans endured years of racism and discrimination, oftentimes at the hands of the state itself.  The fight against government surveillance of Muslim Americans continues today, as the Supreme Court takes up a challenge to government efforts to conceal FBI abuse of power—in a case dating from 2006, when the FBI in LA hired an informer to infiltrate several mosques in Orange County, California. Ahilan Arulanantham explains—he will be arguing the case at the Supreme Court. He’s a Professor at UCLA Law School and Co-Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy there.
Also: there’s a new comedy on TV about college teachers and campus politics—The Chair, on Netflix, starring Sandra Oh as the first Asian American woman chair of an English department. Amy Wilentz comments—she’s a professor in the English Department at UC Irvine, which has some surprising connections to the show.  9-16-2021

Abortion Politics and Republican Power: Rick Perlstein, plus Eric Foner on Tulsa

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Texas, the Republicans are empowering vigilantes to go after people helping women who seek abortions, turning the state’s citizens as bounty hunters. Rick Perlstein explains the long history of how the GOP adopted abortion as a key issue—Rick’s latest book is Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976-1980, out now in paperback. Also: We’re still thinking about Tulsa, about the massacre of Black people there in 1921, probably the deadliest instance of racial violence in the country’s history. It was covered up for a hundred years—how was that possible? Historian Eric Foner comments.  9-9-2021

What America Owes Afghan Women: Katha Pollitt; P\plus Eric Foner on Black politics and history

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Katha Pollitt reports on Afghan womens’ organizations and what their leaders are saying about support from Americans—starting with the Afghan Women’s Fund, MADRE, and Women for Afghan Women.
Also, Black politics and history, from the 1870s to the 1930s to today: Eric Foner talks bout how our understanding of Black politics and history, starting with Reconstruction, has changed—and about the historian-activists who challenged the prevailing racist historians back in the 1930s, starting with W.E.B. DuBois and James S. Allen—his book Reconstruction: the Battle for Democracy, has just been reissued with a new introduction by Foner.  8-25-2021

The Taliban Triumph: Andrew Bacevich, plus John Powers on Dick Gregory

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Over almost 20 years in Afghanistan, the US lost 2,400 troops and personnel. Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded. The mission cost more than a trillion dollars—including 80 billion dollars to train and arm the Afghan army. But that army didn’t resist the recent Taliban advance and now the Taliban control the country and the last Americans are fleeing. Andrew Bacevich comments; his books include America’s War for the Greater Middle East.
Also: There’s a documentary out now about Dick Gregory, the Black stand-up comedian and political activist of the sixties and after. It’s called The One and Only Dick Gregory, and it’s on Showtime. John Powers comments—he’s critic at large on NPR’s Fresh Air.  8-18-2021

Trump: the Big Loser on the Infrastructure Bill—Joan Walsh, plus Anne Sebba on Ethel Rosenberg

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19 Republican Senators voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Tuesday, after Trump demanded they vote “no.” It took significant concessions by Democrats to win their support for the bill—was that a good idea? Should Democrats help Republicans step away from Trump? Joan Walsh comments.
Also: the life, and death, of Ethel Rosenberg, the accused “atom spy”: who she was, before she was framed by the FBI, before she called their bluff and went to her execution. Anne Sebba has written a really good book about that—it’s called Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy.  8-12-2021

The Democrats’ miserable concessions on infrastructure: John Nichols, plus Art Spiegelman on ‘Street Cop’

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We said it couldn’t be done: a bipartisan bill getting through Congress. Now, however, it looks like the $1 trillion infrastructure bill will get the Republican votes it needs in the Senate to pass. But what miserable compromises did the Democrats make to get ten Republican votes? John Nichols explains.
Also: the great comics artist Art Spiegelman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Maus, has a new book out: Street Cop, illustrations for a story by Robert Coover, published by He talks about working on that during the pandemic, and about his most controversial drawings—some of which only The Nation would publish.  8-4-2021

The Delta Variant: What Joe Biden Needs to Do Now–Gregg Gonsalves, plus John Powers on ‘Summer of Soul’

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Joe Biden needs to do a lot more to stop the global spread of the covid virus and its Delta variant—and to prepare the world for the next pandemics. Gregg Gonsalves explains three key actions that are necessary right now.
Also: the story of a music festival in a park in Harlem in 1969: the documentary about it, “Summer of Soul,” is a powerful and moving contributions to the history of the sixties. And the story it tells was completely unknown; the footage sat in a basement for nearly 50 years, and no one cared. John Powers, critic at large on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” comments.  7-28-2021

Bernie’s Big Deal: John Nichols on the budget, plus Francine Prose on Ethel Rosenberg

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Bernie Sanders recently spoke with our John Nichols about the importance of doing big things in politics–and now Senate Democrats have agreed on a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that would dramatically expand Medicare, provide for paid family leave, subsidize child care, make community college free, and fund some meaningful climate crisis initiatives.  Big things! John Nichols comments.
Also: A comic novel about Ethel and Julius Rosenberg?  Who’d have thought that was possible?   Now Francine Prose has written one:  it’s called “The Vixen,” and it’s terrific.  7-21-2021

Rethinking global security: Katrina vanden Heuvel; Haiti: Amy Wilentz

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World politics after the Biden-Putin Summit: Katrina vanden Heuvel argues that we need to rethink what real security means, and that it can’t mean a new cold war, but joint action with Russia and China on climate change, pandemics, and the threat of nuclear war.
Also: Amy Wilentz comments on Haiti after the assassination of its unloved president—and the necessity of following grassroots progressive civil society groups in finding a path forward towards free and fair elections.  7-14-2021