Start Making Sense

How to Defeat Kyrsten Sinema; Universal Basic Income in L.A.: Steve Phillips on politics, Sasha Abramsky on poverty

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Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona senator who quit the Democratic Party in December, is up for reelection next year, and will be challenged by progressive Democrat Ruben Gallego. Steve Phillips points to evidence that her chances of reelection are poor. His new book, “How We Win the Civil War,” has a chapter on Arizona politics.

Also: What if government provided a basic income to all residents?  Something like $1000 a month? How much could that change inequality and poverty? Sasha Abramsky reports on the experiment in Los Angeles with Universal Basic Income.  1-26-2023

Abortion rights battles return in the 2023 elections; plus wages at Walmart

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Abortion rights voters are reshaping politics in the coming political season—starting with a special election to the Virginia State Senate. Also: the most important election of 2023 is for the open seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. John Nichols explains.

Also: Walmart is the biggest employer in America, and the Walton family, the children of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is the richest family in the world. The company has raised wages and become more socially conscious-but it provides a case study of the limits of socially conscious capitalism. Rick Wartzman will explain – his new book on Walmart and its workers is titled “Still Broke.”  1-19-2023

Fintan O’Toole on the Next Insurrection; Katha Pollitt on “She Said”

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If you were planning a future coup, what could you learn from the failure of Trump’s efforts on January 6? Fintan O’Toole says it would need a better story – not attacking Congress, but “defending democracy.” He teaches at Princeton, and is the author most recently of We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland.

Also: Who’d want to see a movie about Harvey Weinstein? But the film “She Said,” about the two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, is not about Harvey; it’s about the system that protected him. And it’s really good. Katha Pollitt comments.  1-12-2023

Nelson Lichtenstein’s Post-Mortem on the UC Strike and Andrew Bacevich on America’s “Very Long War”

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Teaching Assistants and other grad student employees at the University of California won a historic victory in their strike last month. What does that mean for other universities and other union organizing campaigns? Nelson Lichtenstein joins the show to comment.

Also this week, Andrew Bacevich talks about our “very long war” going back to the sixties, and the relative insignificance of Donald Trump. Bacevich’s new book is On Shedding an Obsolete Past: Bidding Farewell to the American Century.  1-5-2023

Best of 2022: Elie Mystal on the Constitution, plus Kelly Lytle Hernández on “Bad Mexicans”

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For our end-of year show, we are featuring a couple of our favorite book segments from 2022.  First, a Black guy’s guide to the Constitution: Elie Mystal explains why “our constitution is not good.” He’s The Nation’s justice correspondent and author of “Allow Me to Retort”.

Also: “Bad Mexicans”—that’s what the revolutionaries of 1910 were called as they fought on both sides of the US-Mexico border against the robber barons and their political allies. UCLA historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez tells that story and talks about her book on race, empire, and revolution in the borderlands.  12-29-2022

UC Strike Settlement? Nelson Lichtenstein; plus Sean Wilentz on Bob Dylan’s Xmas Album

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The biggest strike in the country this year, and the biggest in the history of American universities, may be over. After five weeks of picketing and protests, the union representing 48,000 graduate student employees at the University of California announced a settlement. The university made an offer, and union members are voting this week. Nelson Lichtenstein has the analysis. He teaches History at UC Santa Barbara, where he directs the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy.

We also have a Christmas music special this week. Bob Dylan fans have been puzzled and troubled by his Christmas album, “Christmas in the Heart,” ever since he released it in 2009. To help figure out what Dylan was doing, we brought on Sean Wilentz. He’s the official historian at, and also teaches American history at Princeton University.  12-22-2022

Steve Phillips on Sinema and Nelson Lichtenstein on the U.C. Strike

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The Democrats triumphed in Arizona this November, electing the governor and the secretary of state, and reelecting senator Mark Kelly –in what used to be a red state. But then Senator Kyrsten Sinema quit the Democratic Party, and Progressives moved towards a primary election to challenge her. On this week’s podcast, Steve Phillips explains how the victories happened, and what’s to be done about Sinema.

Also on this episode of Start Making Sense– the largest strike in the nation entered its fifth week. 36,000 grad student employees of the University of California –including teaching assistants– are not grading final exams. The union agreed to mediation—which seems unlikely to succeed. Nelson Lichtenstein has our update.  12-15-2022

Joan Walsh on the Georgia runoff and Nelson Lichtenstein on the UC strike

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On this episode of the Start Making Sense podcast, Nation correspondent, Joan Walsh, comments on Democratic incumbent, Senator Raphael Warnock beating Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff, and what that means for the future of American politics.

Also on this episode, the largest strike in the country this year, and the largest in the history of higher education, entered its fourth week at the University of California. Historian Nelson Lichtenstein joins the show to discuss. 12-9-2022

Beverly Gage on J. Edgar Hoover, plus Erwin Chemerinsky on Originalism

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We know a lot about the bad things J. Edgar Hoover did, but it turns out there’s a lot we didn’t know. Historian Beverly Gage joins the podcast to explain. Her new book is “G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover & the Making of the American Century.”

Also: Should the Supreme Court base its decision on what it can discern about the original intent of the framers? That’s what the “originalists” say – and they dominate today’s court. Erwin Chemerinsky comments. Chemerinsky is dean of the law school at UC Berkeley and author most recently of “Worse Than Nothing: The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism.”  12-1-2022

The Undocumented Can Work Jobs at the U. of Calif., and Latinas Are Fighting Toxic Pollution

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Hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought here by their undocumented parents since 2007 are not eligible for DACA. But now they may be eligible for jobs–at the University of California. UCLA law professor Ahilan Arulanantham explains.

Also: the fight against pollution in LA’s port communities, where 300,000 people, mostly Latino, live next door to oil refineries, chemical facilities, and one of the largest oilfields in the nation. For decades they’ve been fighting for basic rights and a cleaner environment. Eliza Moreno has that story.  11-24-2022