Start Making Sense

Ivanka, Jared, Don Junior, & Eric on Jan. 6: Amy Wilentz on the Insurrection, plus Tom Lutz

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Revelations about the January 6 insurrection include striking new information about the Trump kids that day: Who did what, and also who didn’t do anything. Amy Wilentz reports.

Also: A report from Kwajalein, one of the Marshall islands in the Pacific that’s a major US military base. Tom Lutz says it’s completely paved over, and the only greenery is the golf course. The runway is one foot above sea level. The island will be under water by about 2035. Tom also describes life in some other places—his new book is The Kindness of Strangers. 12-23-2021

Why Trump Won’t Be the Candidate in 2024: David Cay Johnston; Foner & Gates on DuBois

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Trump is going to be indicted for racketeering and fraud, because of his financial crimes, and that will prevent him from being the Republican candidate: that’s what David Cay Johnston says—he’s an award-winning investigative reporter, and his new book is The Big Cheat: How Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family.

Also: Eric Foner and Henry Louis Gates talk about W.E.B. DuBois, the Black historian and activist of the first part of the 20th century, and his book Black Reconstruction 1860-1880—published originally in 1935, and out now in a new edition from the Library of America, edited by Foner and Gates.  12-16-2021

U.S. vs. China vs. Climate Change: Alfred McCoy, plus Kristina Wong on Mutual Aid

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How will global warming change the world’s systems of power? Alfred McCoy argues that American global hegemony will end around 2030, replaced by China as world leader, but Chinese hegemony will last only for about 20 years—and that by 2050, climate change will have brought environmental catastrophe to both countries, and the rest of the world, with consequences that are almost unimaginable. His new book is To Govern the Globe: World Orders and Catastrophic Change.

Also: Mutual aid and racial justice during the year of Covid: Kristina Wong explains how, in the darkest days of the pandemic, she started the Auntie Sewing Squad to make masks for the most vulnerable communities—and how she became, in her words, a sweatshop overlord. Her new co-edited book is The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice.  12-9-2021

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