Start Making Sense

Rapists, Misogynists, Creeps, and their Books: Katha Pollitt on Blake Bailey, plus Louis Menand on Cold War Culture

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Blake Bailey’s new book about Philip Roth was taken out of print by the publisher after Bailey was accused of rape and attempted rape and “grooming” his teenage students for sex with him when they reached 18. Nation columnist Katha Pollitt argues that, while she believes the women—Bailey probably was a rapist, as well as a misogynist and a creep—readers should nevertheless have the chance to buy the book and come to their own conclusions.
Also: Literature, art, and the idea of ‘freedom’ during the Cold War, from George Orwell to James Baldwin to The Family of Man: Louis Menand has been thinking about all of this. His new book is The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War. Menand teaches at Harvard and writes for The New Yorker.  5-5-2021

Mazie Hirono: Reform the Filibuster! plus Tim Schwab on Bill Gates, and Katha Pollitt on Dr. Seuss

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Mazie Hirono, Senator from Hawaii: She’s the only immigrant currently serving in the Senate, and she was the first Asian American woman elected to that office, starting in 2013. She talks about the need for filibuster reform and Supreme Court reform, about the storming of the capitol on January 6, and about her vote on Amy Coney Barrett: “Hell No.” Her new autobiography is Heart of Fire: An Immigrant Daughter’s Story.
Also: Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world, has spent the last 20 years giving away his money—through a $50 billion foundation. But who exactly has he been giving that money to? Tim Schwab has some answers—his three reports in The Nation on the Gates Foundation just won this year’s Izzy Award, named after I.F. Stone and awarded by the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College “for outstanding achievement in independent media” during 2020.
Plus: We’re still thinking about how Dr. Seuss Enterprises took six of his books out of print because they contained racist drawings. Right-wing media were pushing this story nonstop; according to a recent poll, more Republicans said they’d heard “a lot” about the move to withdraw some Dr. Seuss books than said the same about Biden’s huge Covid-19 relief bill. Katha Pollitt comments.  4-28-2021

The Chauvin Verdicts and the Movement That Made Them Possible: Jody Armour on Minneapolis, plus Mark Hertsgaard on Earth Day

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Guilty, guilty, guilty! The verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis made history—and came only after millions of people took to the streets, for months, in hundreds of cities across America; and only after a decade of sustained organizing by Black Lives Matter. Jody Armour comments—he’s the Roy Crocker Professor of Law at the University of Southern California, and author of N*gga Theory: Race, Language, Unequal Justice, and the Law.
Also: Earth Day 2021 is the world’s largest civic event—three days of climate action by millions of people around the world, including Joe Biden hosting a global climate summit on April 22: and pledging to take bold action to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the US in the next ten years. Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation’s environmental correspondent, says that for starters we need to start using the term “climate emergency” rather than “climate issue” or “climate crisis.”  4-21-2021

Organizing at Amazon: What Went Wrong? Jane McAlevey, plus Amy Wilentz on Hunter Biden

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The union organizing campaign at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, was defeated by a vote of 1798 against and 738 in favor. Jane McAlevey argues that the biggest factor in the vote was the laws that give tremendous advantages to the corporate side—but the union itself made a series of tactical and strategic errors. Jane is The Nation’s strikes correspondent.
Also: Hunter Biden was the target of a massive Republican attack campaign for more than a year leading up to the election; at the same time, the gossip pages seized on his disastrous private life. They made the most of his decades of alcohol addiction and drug abuse, and his subsequent affair with the widow of his brother. Now he’s written a book—it’s called Beautiful Things: A Memoir. Amy Wilentz comments.  4-14-2021

The Fight Against Voter Suppression: Dale Ho on Georgia, plus Karen Greenberg on Ending our Forever Wars

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There’s one political prediction that always comes true: record turnout in one election will be followed by a tidal wave of voter suppression efforts before the next one. So it’s not surprising that, after 2020 had record turnout, 2021 is seeing voting rights under attack nationwide by Republican-controlled state legislatures. Georgia has taken the lead—and Georgia is being challenged in court by the ACLU, along with the LDF and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dale Ho comments: he’s Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
Also: Joe Biden and Congress should end our forever wars–and they can–by starting with three key steps: Karen Greenberg explains. She is director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School and author, most recently, of Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State. 4-7-2021

Global Corporate Taxes: Harold Meyerson; LA’s Homeless: Ananya Roy; “Man Who Sold His Skin”: Ella Taylor

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For nearly half a century, America’s leading corporations have offshored work — to lands where labor is cheap, and they’ve also offshored profits — to lands where taxes are low. Now Joe Biden and the Democrats are trying to do something about that. Harold Meyerson explains.
Also: Protest continues to grow over the recent displacement by the LAPD of the homeless encampment at Echo Park Lake, which the mayor declared a success. Ananya Roy comments–she’s a professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography at UCLA, and is director of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy.
Plus: Critic Ella Taylor reviews “The Man Who Sold His Skin,” the Tunisian film about a refugee that’s been nominated for an Oscar, and the British film “Moffie.”  4-8-2021

How Kyrsten Sinema Sold Out: Aída Chávez; Breyer Should Retire: Joan Walsh

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The political transformation of Kyrsten Sinema, the new senator from Arizona: She’s one of the two most conservative Democrats in the Senate—but Aida Chavez explains that she started out to the left of the Party.
Also: Should Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer retire? He’s 82, and apparently healthy and competent—but his retirement would give Biden a chance to nominate a younger person—he’s promised a Black woman—while the Democrats control the Senate. Joan Walsh comments.  3-31-21

Covid Vaccines: Big Pharma Profits while the Global South Waits–Gregg Gonsalves; John Nichols on Ron Johnson

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The arrival of multiple vaccines against Covid-19 in less than a year after the virus’s emergence is sort of a miracle—but there’s nothing miraculous about the failure of donor nations, along with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, to prepare for, and mount, a global vaccination campaign. Gregg Gonsalves comments.
Also: now that Trump is gone, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has become the leading Republican voice of conspiracy theories and the leading defender of the attack on the capitol on January 6. But will he run for reelection next year? John Nichols explains.  3-24-21

How the Democrats can Win in Ohio: Steve Phillips, plus Carol Sobel on Black Lives Matter and the LAPD

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One of the senate seats being abandoned by a Republican incumbent is in Ohio.  Can Democrats win that seat?  It’s going to be hard  For the last decade Ohio has elected only one Democrat to statewide office–one of our heroes, Senator Sherrod Brown.  Steve Phillips thinks they can send a second Democrat to the Senate from Ohio next year—by following the Georgia playbook and focusing on turning out voters of color.
Also: Black Lives Matter versus the LAPD: a new official report in Los Angeles says the police in LA violated the law by attacking and arresting BLM marchers in last summer’s protests. Civil rights attorney Carol Sobel explains.  3-18-21

Mike Davis: ‘Beware the light at the end of the covid tunnel’; plus Amy Wilentz on Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’

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It’s been almost exactly a year since the covid lockdown began – 220 million Americans have died of Covid-19, and now 90 million Americans have gotten at least one shot of the covid vaccine.  We could have herd immunity in July. But Mike Davis points to the proliferation of variants of the virus and says “beware the light at the end of the covid tunnel.”
Also:  Michelle Obama’s memoir is out now in paperback – It’s called “Becoming,” and it has sold more than 14 million copies worldwide in hardcover, and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times, NPR, and a dozen other places.  But the book avoids politics—which seems strange for the person the New York Times called “the most outspoken first lady in modern history.”  Amy Wilentz comments.  (originally broadcast in November 2018)   3-10-21