Start Making Sense

Trump’s Tax Returns: Why We Will See Them, and What We Will Find: David Cay Johnston; plus Zoe Carpenter and Laurie Winer

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The chair of the House Ways and Means Committee formally requested six years of Trump’s personal & business tax returns earlier this month. Trump has said he won’t do it—and that the law is “100 per cent” on his side. He’s 100 per cent wrong about that. David Cay Johnston explains why the IRS Director is required to hand over the returns—or face 5 years in jail—and also what we’re likely to find in Trump’s tax returns—about his tax cheating and his money laundering for Russian oligarchs. David is a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter who is founder and editor of
Also: Plastics and pollution: the problem isn’t just all the plastic in the oceans; it’s the manufacturing of plastics, a toxic petro-chemical. The Nation’s Zoe Carpenter reports from the Texas and Louisana gulf coasts.
Plus: In Trump’s latest blowup over immigration, Stephen Miller has played the central role — goading him to close the border, warning him of the dangers of looking weak, and encouraging his sudden purge of his homeland security team. But who is this Stephen Miller? He grew up in liberal Santa Monica– what happened? What went wrong? Laurie Winer will report—she wrote about Stephen Miller for LA Magazine.  4/17/19

Kirsten Gillibrand’s Journey to the Left: Joan Walsh, plus Eric Foner on Reconstruction & Amy Wilentz on Jared Kushner

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Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren are the women in the Senate who have announced campaigns for the Democratic nomination—and Gillibrand is running on Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. She started out in Congress as more of a centrist Democrat—how authentic has her transformation been? Joan Walsh reports.
Also: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War—that’s the new four-hour PBS documentary premiering this week. Produced and hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the show explores the years after the Civil War, when the defeated South faced revolutionary social change—the world’s first interracial democracy. Eric Foner comments—he was chief historical adviser on the documentary.
Plus: We’re still waiting for the text of the report of special counsel Robert Muller, but in the meantime we’ve been told he did not recommend bringing charges against Jared Kushner  in connection with Russian interference in the 2016 election. But that does not mean Jared is innocent of everything. Amy Wilentz explains. 4/11/19

Stacey Abrams: How We Fight for the Right to Vote; Plus Harold Meyerson on the trouble with Beto

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When Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia last November as the first African-American and the first woman candidate, she got more votes than any Democrat in Georgia history, including Obama and Hillary Clinton. She tripled Latino turnout; she increased the youth turnout by 139 per cent and black turnout by 40 percent. But because of Republican vote suppression she was not elected. In 2020 she could run for the Senate, or even for president. Her new book is Leading From Outside. In our interview, she talks about her campaign strategy and the centrality of the fight for the right to vote.
Also: The Trouble with Beto—he’s got a huge following, but what exactly does he stand for? And what does his narrow defeat in the Texas senate race last year tell us about what kind of campaign he would run if he won the Democratic nomination for president? Harold Meyerson comments—he’s executive editor of The American Prospect.  4/3/19

Don’t Trust Barr on the Mueller Report: John Nichols; Plus Greg Grandin on Trump’s Wall and Adam Hochschild on Woodrow Wilson

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Nobody should be satisfied with Attorney General William Barr’s account of the Mueller report, says John Nichols. We had assumed that the independent counsel’s investigation into obstruction of justice would conclude one way or the other. Instead we have Barr making exactly the kind of political decision by a Trump appointee that the independent counsel’s office was created to prevent. There’s no substitute for seeing the full Mueller report, Nichols concludes.
Also: In the wake of the Barr letter, Trump is calling his opponents “treasonous.” He’s vowing to pursue and punish those responsible for the Russia investigation. What would it be like if he got his way, if there were no way to restrain him? Historian Adam Hochschild says it would be like the three-year period of censorship, mass imprisonment, and deportations during World War I, under Woodrow Wilson. His new book is “Lessons from a Dark Time.”
Plus: Trump’s Wall has become a powerful symbol of a radically new idea about what America stands for—replacing the myth of the frontier as a place of possibility, rebirth, and freedom. Historian Greg Grandin talks about the wall, the border, and the frontier–his new book is “The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America.”  3/27/19

How to Beat Trump in 2020: John Nichols on Strategy, Michael Kazin on Southern Democrats, and Katha Pollitt on Women

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The Democrats’ picking Milwaukee for their convention in 2020 indicates how that Wisconsin is a key battleground the party must win in order to recapture the White House.  John Nichols talks about what it going to take for the Democrats to carry Wisconsin—and Michigan and Pennsylvania—and about the far-reaching tasks that face the party after four years of Trump.
Also: southern Democrats were an all-white party before the voting rights act of 1965; and then, as LBJ predicted, its members all became Republicans.  And yet throughout the 20th century Southern Democrats in Congress supported Progressive legislation—as long as it didn’t help black people.  Historian Michael Kazin comments—and talks about the party in the South now, where Stacey Abrams and Betto O’Rourke are building something new.
Plus: Halfway through Trump’s term, and the week after International Women’s Day, it’s a good time to look at the big picture of where women stand in the US and in the world—where the US ranks in terms of women’s political representation, legal equality, and recent reports of discrimination and violence.  Katha Pollitt surveys the good news, and the bad news. 3/14/19

Bill McKibben: From Coal and Gas to Wind and Sun; plus Maia Szalavitz on the Opioid Epidemic and Sean Wilentz on Impeachment

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To replace coal and oil, do we need nuclear power?  Is switching from coal powered electric plants to natural gas a step in the right direction?  And what lessons can we draw from the recent victories—and setbacks–for the climate movement in California?  Bill McKibben has some answers–and some ideas about how to get to a Green New Deal.  Bill’s new book, “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?”, will be published on April 16.
Plus: The House Judiciary Committee is moving toward impeachment proceedings, and asking what kind of precedents—and what kind of lessons–can be found in the Republican effort to impeach Bill Clinton 20 years ago.  Sean Wilentz comments–he’s an award-winning historian who teaches at Princeton.  He writes for the New York Times, the New Republic, Rolling Stone, and the New York Review, where he wrote recently about the Clinton impeachment.
Also: what can we do to reduce the death toll in the current epidemic of opioid overdoses?  Maia Szalavitz suggests our focus should be on harm reduction, and especially on the creation of safe injection sites—Philadelphia may be the first US city to follow the example of Vancouver and many West European cities.  3/7/19

Michelle Goldberg: Trump marks the end of the Reagan era; plus George Zornick on Elizabeth Warren & Michael Walzer on Movement Organizing

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The time is right for a Green New Deal, . Trump’s presidency is not the end of Democracy, says New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg.  Despite what some of our friends have suggested, what we are seeing the end of a political cycle, the one that began in 1980 with Reagan. And now, it’s time for something new.  that means the time is right for a Green New Deal.
Also: For years Elizabeth Warren has been talking about how the political system is rigged by the rich and powerful. But suddenly her position seems almost mainstream among Democrats–almost every contender for the Democratic nomination is rejecting corporate PAC money. George Zornick has our report.
And we’ll talk about movement politics with Michael Walzer–about strategies and tactics and issues and candidates. His new book is “Political Action: A Practical Guide to Movement Politics.”  3-7-19

Michelle Goldberg: The Time is Right for a Green New Deal; plus George Zornick on Elizabeth Warren and Michael Walzer on Movement Politics

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Trump’s presidency is not the end of Democracy, as some of our friends have suggested.  Instead we are seeing the end of a political cycle, the one that began in 1980 with Reagan.  And now, it’s time for something new—and that could be a Green New Deal.  New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg comments.
Also: For years Elizabeth Warren has been talking about how the political system is rigged by the rich and powerful.  But suddenly her position seems almost mainstream among Democrats–almost every contender for the Democratic nomination is rejecting corporate PAC money.  George Zornick has our report.
And we’ll talk about movement politics with Michael Walzer–about strategies and tactics and issues and candidates.  His new book is “Political Action: A Practical Guide to Movement Politics.” 2/28/19

Naomi Klein: To Fight Climate Change, We Have to Radically Rethink What Is Possible; plus Dahlia Lithwick and Manuel Pastor

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Naomi Klein says the Green New Deal needs to follow the example of the New Deal of the 1930s, when nothing would have happened without “massive pressure from social movements” that “changed the calculus of what was possible.” Naomi is a contributing editor at The Nation and author of several number one bestsellers, including “This Changes Everything.”
Plus Dahlia Lithwick talks about the national challenge to Trump’s “national emergency”—the constitutional issues, the political issues, and the dangers of treating as normal his rambling, fact-free, egomaniacal performance in the Rose Garden announcing his “emergency.” Dahlia writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast ‘Amicus.’
And we’ll also look at California’s resistance to Donald Trump: Manuel Pastor will explain the past, the present, and the future of the fights over climate justice and immigration between the biggest state and the worst president. Manuel’s new book is “State of Resistance.” 2/20/19

Child Care for All belongs on the Progressive Agenda: Katha Pollitt, plus David Klion on Bernie’s foreign policy and Antony Loewenstein on Afghanistan

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Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage – and how about adding Child care for all to the Progressive agenda?  That’s Katha Pollitt’s proposal—she argues it will help huge numbers of people.
Also: Bernie’s foreign policy: in 2016 he ran on domestic issues almost exclusively. This time around, if he runs—and it looks like he will–he’s going to say more about foreign policy—a lot more. David Klion explains; he’s profiled Bernie’s foreign policy advisor, Matt Duss.
Plus: Peace in Afghanistan?  Trump says it’s close – and Antony Loewenstein says it will bring massive corruption around mining the minerals of that country—and do nothing to help local communities.  2/13/19