A Week in Review: A Window on 2016 and 2017

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Each week TheHill distributes a newsletter called Sunday Show Wrap-Up.

Ahead of this week’s shows, I think that it is instructive to review the headlines and summaries from last week, collectively gathered under the heading “Spotlight Shines on Trump Travel Ban.” Please skim the list, which sets up some extended commentary in the second half of this post:

McConnell: ‘Best to Avoid Criticizing Judges Individually’

By Alexander Bolton

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R­Ky.) on Sunday tacitly criticized President Trump for blasting a federal judge for ruling against an executive order barring visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it is “best to avoid criticizing judges individually.”

GOP Senator: “We Don’t Have Any So­Called Judges”

By Mallory Shelbourne

Sen. Ben Sasse (R­Neb.) on Sunday rejected President Donald Trump’s attack on the federal judge who halted his travel ban, saying there are…

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Lakoff on Selecting Language to Contest Trumpism

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If you have not seen Tavis Smiley’s interview with the linguist George Lakoff, it is very much worth watching. Lakoff offers much insight into how progressives need to frame issues in order to reach the broadest possible spectrum of voters:  http://www.pbs.org/video/2365951602/.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Lakoff’s blog post “Understanding Trump,” written and then updated before Trump was elected president. It provides the baseline for understanding what Lakoff has to say in the interview with Tavis Smiley about what progressives need to do now and going forward:

“There is a lot being written and spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More than half a million people have read my books, and Google…

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Letting Voters Decide, Then Deciding Differently

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We are getting used to seeing this sort of thing in states in which, largely because of gerrymandering, the GOP control of state government is all out of proportion to their actual share of voters.

But, what is significant about this story, reported in the Daily Kos Elections: Voting Rights Roundup newsletter, is that it is occurring in South Dakota, one of the most solidly Republican states in the nation:

On Thursday, South Dakota’s Republican-dominated state government literally declared a “state of emergency” to repeal a voter-approved ethics reform law, in essence saying their burning desire to override the will of the public and trash ethics reform was a crisis equivalent to a hurricane or earthquake. Stunning.

Particularly infuriating is that lawmakers’ use of this emergency provision means that repeal will take effect immediately and is immune to a voter-referendum veto. And it 

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Elizabeth Warren’s Speech to the Progressive Caucus

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The speech was provided by Elizabeth Warren’s office and published below an article written by David Marans for Huffington Post, highlighting her key points [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/elizabeth-warren-congressional-progressives_us_5895e6b5e4b0406131373015?utm].

I’m going to cut to the chase: We’re gathered today in Baltimore during a moment of crisis – for us as progressives, for us as Democrats, for us as Americans.

We’re in a moment of crisis, and I want to talk honestly about it.

Let’s start with a simple fact: Our moment of crisis didn’t begin with the election of Donald Trump.

We were already in crisis.

We were already in crisis because for years and years and years, Washington has worked just great for the rich and the powerful, but far too often, it hasn’t worked for anyone else.

We were already in a moment of crisis because for years and years and years, the economy has worked just great for…

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Visualizing a Billion and a Trillion Dollars

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Any budget number can be made to sound exorbitant if doing so serves a political purpose. But the scope of our governmental budgets, as well as the scope of our economy, has long exceeded the ability of most of us to grasp the numbers—both viscerally and intellectually—in any meaningful way. Given the new administration’s penchant for making large numbers sound negligible and small numbers sound huge, it seems especially important for everyone to appreciate the differences between millions, billions, and trillions of dollars.

For instance the total spending on the NEA and the NEH in 2016 amount to just under $296 million, which sound like an enormous amount of money. But it is just .18% of the $4.1 trillion federal budget (that is, less than one fifth of one percent), and 1.97% to 1.18% of the projected $15 to $25 billion projected cost of constructing a wall along the border…

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Anatomy of a Piece of Domestic American Propaganda

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On January 18, the New York Times published a piece by Scott Shane titled “From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece.”

The piece might have been given the title of this post or “Anatomy of a Piece of Complete Fiction”–with an ironic tip of the hat to the novelist Robert Traver (the pseudonym of Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker) and film director Otto Preminger.

What is remarkable about the story that Shane reports is that it involves no one directly associated with the Trump campaign or administration, but it showcases the very troubling implications of the increasing promulgation of and acceptance of “alternative facts” and “fake news.”

Moreover, it demonstrates how the creation—literally–of such “facts” and “news” can be a way to establish political credentials—and that, at least in the current environment, not even the national exposure of this dubious sort of self-promotion may be professionally damaging in…

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Statistics of the Day: Politics-Related

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What is being lost in the discussion of the loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and our trade deficit with Mexico is that a very large portion of what we are importing from Mexico is made by American corporations:


A very large percentage of the first through third and the sixth categories of goods that we import from Mexico are being manufactured in Mexican plants owned by U.S. corporations.

This movement of U.S. corporations to Mexico is reflected in the investment imbalance between the two nations:


So, the 20% tariff on goods imported into the U.S. from Mexico, which is being floated as a way to force Mexico to pay for the proposed wall along the border, will largely be a tax on goods manufactured by U.S. corporations that will now cost U.S. consumers 20% more if they wish to purchase them.

So, to put this very clearly, the displaced…

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Being Wrong on Being Right

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This short piece titled “Trump Is Right!” has been posted to the libertarian blog Notes on Liberty by Edwin van de Haar:

“It is easy to emphasize all that is bad about the new American President. For sure, I think he is a clown who will do a few bad things to the US and the world at large. His protectionist agenda is of course a libertarian nightmare, which will also make the people who elected him worse off. Still, the US President is not a dictator, so some trust in the institutions and the actors that fill them still seems appropriate.

“Trump is also plainly right on a number of issues. Foremost, his plea (also in yesterday’s inaugural address) for the partners of the USA, especially in NATO, to contribute in equal measure. . . .

“He is also right in pointing out that many US foreign interventions have been a disaster. …

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Journalists Arrested for Covering Inauguration Unrest

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This is an “alert” issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Authorities in Washington D.C. should drop rioting charges against at least three journalists arrested while covering protests on the day of the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Police arrested Evan Engel, a senior producer at the news website Vocativ, and Alex Rubinstein, a reporter with the Russian state-funded broadcaster RT America, near 12th and L streets in downtown Washington the morning of January 20, according to London’s Guardian newspaper. Police also arrested Aaron Cantu, a freelance journalist who has written for The Bafflerthe website Truthout, and Al-Jazeera, according to police reports reviewed by CPJ.

The reporters were among more than 230 people arrested in Washington on Inauguration Day after individuals set fire to a car and broke windows of downtown businesses, according to reports

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Image of the Day: Let the Men Decide

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President Trump has signed an executive order reinstating President Reagan’s so-called “Mexico City Policy.” Writing for Huffington Post, Amanda Terkel summarizes the order as follows: also known as the global gag rule, which was first put in place by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It prohibits giving U.S. funding to international nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on a wide range of family planning and reproductive health options if they include abortion―even if U.S. dollars are not specifically used for abortion-related services.”

The signing ceremony was so male-dominated that in itself it reinforced the charge that women’s interests and women’s rights were being casually dismissed as irrelevant. In fact, I have been able to find only one press photo that includes even a single woman, and she is so on the periphery of the shot that she has been cropped out of many of the published versions of the…

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