Start Making Sense

Putin’s War: What is to be Done? Katrina vanden Heuvel, plus Elie Mystal on the constitution

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Putin’s indefensible invasion of Ukraine has revived the Cold War, and renewed militarism and nuclear threats. We need Russia to negotiate a ceasefire—but we also can’t forget about fighting pandemics and climate change, editorial director Katrina vanden Heuvel says.

Also on this episode, our justice correspondent Elie Mystal talks about his new book, Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution. “Our constitution is not good. It urgently needs to be reimagined if we want justice and equality for all,” Mystal says. You can buy his book here.  3-3-2022

Canadian Truckers: a Working Class Protest? Jeet Heer, plus Amy Wilentz on Paul Farmer

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Now that Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” has come to an end, we’re wondering: was this protest really a working-class movement? As Jeet Heer explains on this week’s episode, the leadership and funding for the protest came from right-wing networks, and the “truckers” were mostly owners of trucking firms rather than drivers. Nevertheless, it was a movement that gained significant support, and something left-wing political activists should pay attention to, Heer says.

Also this week, Amy Wilentz remembers her friend and a hero to many: Paul Farmer. Farmer brought high-quality healthcare to some of the poorest communities in the world, beginning in Haiti. For more, read Wilentz’s obituary of public health hero.  2-24-2022

Will Trump’s candidates lose in November? John Nichols; Hunter S. Thompson: Peter Richardson

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Mitch McConnell thinks Republicans are going to lose the Senate in November if Trump’s candidates and issues dominate the election. Is McConnell right? Our national affairs correspondent John Nichols weighs in.

Also this week, Peter Richardson discusses Hunter S. Thompson, the writer credited for inventing “Gonzo Journalism.” Thompson wrote a classic book about Richard Nixon, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, ‘72. Richardson, author of Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson, explains how he did it.  2-17-2022

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