Thursday Reads

Girl with Sunflowers, 1941 (oil on masonite), Diego Rivera (1886-1957)

Good Morning!!

As usual, there is way too much news this morning. How have we survived nearly four years of this? The U.S. is leading the world in cases and deaths during a historic global pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans. The U.S. economy is a raging dumpster fire that has been a disaster for all but the wealthiest Americans.

The so-called “president” couldn’t care less about the death and destruction that his neglect of his duties has caused. He’s far too busy trying to steal the 2020 election and achieve his goal of becoming a dictator.

More evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia and his idol Vladimir Putin has emerged in recent days, and it really looks as if he has been getting lessons from Putin in how do to the U.S. what Putin did to Russia. Meanwhile Putin appears to have poisoned his primary political opponent. Is he telling Trump how to do that too?

Today is the fourth day of the virtual Democratic National Convention. Last night was pretty dramatic. Kamala Harris accepted the nomination for Vice President. She is first woman of color and the first Asian-American to do so. Before Harris spoke, former President Obama gave a merciless critique of Trump’s failed leadership and issued a dire warning about the future of our democracy. Tonight Joe Biden will accept the nomination for President.

On the breaking news from Russia

The Daily Beast: Putin Critic Alexey Navalny Allegedly Poisoned by Toxin in His Tea.

Edvard Munch, The Sun

MOSCOW—Vladimir Putin’s nemesis, corruption fighter Aleksey Navalny, is fighting for his life in a Siberian hospital after allegedly being poisoned at an airport while travelling to Moscow.

Navalny’s closest aide, Kira Yarmysh, said Navalny was poisoned after drinking a cup of tea at Tomsk airport early Thursday morning. He then boarded a flight to the Russian capital but fell violently ill en route. Taken from the aircraft on a stretcher after it was diverted to the city of Omsk, the opposition leader is in intensive care, relying on a respirator to breathe.

A Russian DJ who was on the same flight recorded a video that showed medical help arriving after the plane landed in Omsk. Navalny’s screams could be heard in the background.

Yarmysh said she knew immediately what had happened to her colleague: “A year ago, when Aleksey was in a detention center, he was poisoned. Obviously, now they’ve done the same thing to him again,” she wrote on Twitter.

Navalny’s friend, former lawmaker Dmitry Gudkov is convinced this was yet another assassination attempt on an opponent of Putin. “Ever since Boris Nemtsov was murdered by the wall of the Kremlin, all of us knew who was going to be their next target—but Aleksey and I avoided talking about that,” Gudkov told The Daily Beast.

Read more at BBC News: Alexei Navalny: Russian opposition leader ‘poisoned’

On the Democratic National Convention

DECLARING “LET’S fight with conviction, let’s fight with hope, let’s fight with confidence,” Kamala D. Harris made history on Wednesday night in accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for vice president. The California senator’s address was the nation’s first broad introduction to the first Black woman ever on a major party presidential ticket.

Impression, Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1872

The daughter of immigrants, she described her family’s only-in-America story. She also highlighted racial inequities that continue to plague American society, including the disproportionate suffering communities of color have endured during the covid-19 pandemic. But Ms. Harris, who has won several elections in the nation’s most populous state and boasts an impressive record as a prosecutor, state attorney general and U.S. senator, did not serve merely as an avatar of one demographic group or another. The vision she offered was of universal values — and the need to restore them after the presidency of Donald Trump. She lamented that “the constant chaos leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone.” She offered an alternative in which “we may not agree on every detail, but we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.”

In other elections, such sentiments might feel trite. In this one, they draw a clear distinction with the incumbent president. Former president Barack Obama drove that point home before Ms. Harris spoke. “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” he said. “The consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead; millions of jobs, gone, while those at the top take in more than ever; our worst impulses unleashed; our proud reputation around the world badly diminished.”

Politico: ‘Our worst impulses unleashed’: Obama assails Trump as a threat to democracy.

Former President Barack Obama delivered his sharpest broadside yet against President Donald Trump, blasting his successor as unserious and self-centered and cautioning that core democratic institutions have been imperiled by the Trump presidency.

“I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies,” Obama said in his remarks at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. “I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously. But he never did.”

Alexander Calder, Sunrise on Pyramids, 1070

“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama continued. “And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.”

Obama portrayed the president as a catastrophically ineffective leader who has used the office only to benefit himself and his friends and spoke with an urgency not often seen from a man who has largely declined to weigh in on the Trump outrage du jour. Trump, he said, views the presidency as no more than a “reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

He dismissed Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, asserting that “our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up.”

Also see Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Obama’s Convention Speech Is the First Time I Have Seen Him Scared.

On the Senate Intelligence Committee’s latest report on Trump and Russia

Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: Russiagate Was Not a Hoax.

Rereading the Mueller report more than a year after its publication is an exercise in disappointment. One gets the feeling that Robert Mueller didn’t press his inquiry to its end. Instead of settling the questions that haunt the 2016 campaign, he left them dangling, publishing a stilted document riddled with insinuation and lacunae. He rushed his work, closing up shop before finishing his assignment.

While Mueller received all the hype, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence kept its head down. Yesterday, having avoided cable speculation almost entirely, the SSCI released the fifth and final volume of a report on Russia’s attempt to sway the last election in Donald Trump’s favor. It finally delivered what Mueller either could not or would not: a comprehensive presentation of the evidence in the matter of “collusion.” The report confirms that Russiagate is no hoax. Whether or not the Trump campaign illegally coordinated with the Kremlin, Trump has no grounds for proclaiming vindication, much less that he’s the victim of a witch hunt….

The Wheat Field, Sunrise, Vincent Van Gogh

Mueller’s team referred to Manafort’s Kyiv-based aide-de-camp, Konstantin Kilimnik, as an active Russian agent. Manafort had clearly spoken with Kilimnik during the campaign, and had even passed confidential campaign information to him, with the understanding that the documents would ultimately arrive in the hands of oligarchs close to the Kremlin….

The committee…reports that Manafort and Kilimnik talked almost daily during the campaign. They communicated through encrypted technologies set to automatically erase their correspondence; they spoke using code words and shared access to an email account. It’s worth pausing on these facts: The chairman of the Trump campaign was in daily contact with a Russian agent, constantly sharing confidential information with him. That alone makes for one of the worst scandals in American political history.

The significant revelation of the document is that Kilimnik was likely a participant in the Kremlin scheme to hack and leak Clinton campaign emails. Furthermore, Kilimnik kept in close contact with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a former client of Manafort’s. The report also indicates that Deripaska was connected to his government’s hacking efforts. This fact is especially suggestive: Deripaska had accused Manafort of stealing money from him, and Manafort hoped to repair his relationship with the oligarch. Was Manafort passing information to him, through Kilimnik, for the sake of currying favor with an old patron?

Also see The New York Times Editorial Board: The Trump Campaign Accepted Russian Help to Win in 2016. Case Closed. Too bad the NYT can’t admit how wrong they were in 2016 and issue a long-needed apology to Hillary Clinton and the American people.

On Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election:

Joanne Lipman and Edward B. Foley at The Washington Post: If we don’t dispel the falsehood of an election ‘delay’ now, we risk chaos in November.

Leonid Afremov, The Sweetness of the Sun

President Trump is ramping up his attacks on mail-in voting by insisting election results “must” be known on election night. “No more big election night answers?” he tweeted last month. “Ridiculous! Just a formula for RIGGING an Election . . .”

The news media have pushed back on his baseless claims of fraud. But they agree with him on one point: There is likely to be a “delay” in election results because of a surge in mail-in votes.

But that’s wrong. If results aren’t known on election night, that doesn’t mean there’s a delay. The fact is, there are never official results on election night. There never have been.

Predictions of a delay rest on a misunderstanding of the vote-counting process — a misunderstanding that is both dangerous and hugely consequential. If election-night results are considered the norm, and what happens this year is described as a “delay,” it will be easy to paint the result as problematic — and for Trump to continue to spread suspicions about the entire process.

Concerns about a supposed delay stem from a coronavirus-fueled interest in absentee and mail-in ballots. In a July survey of more than 19,000 Americans, 41 percent of those who plan to vote said they were “very likely” to vote by mail this year, and another 23 percent said they would be “somewhat likely” to do so. That compares with 21 percent who voted by mail in 2016, “which itself was a historic high,” the survey, conducted by a consortium of universities, noted. Counting those ballots could potentially take days or weeks, which means projecting a winner on election night may not be possible.

Yet even if counting takes several weeks, that wouldn’t constitute a delay — because by law, election results aren’t official until more than a month after the election.

I will highlight more important stories in the comment thread.

Take care of yourselves today Sky Dancers! We will survive because we must. Take care of yourselves and those you love today and every day.

39 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Chauncey DeVega at Raw Story: The Apprentice: Putin’s prize pupil is almost ready — and Trump’s final test in authoritarianism is the 2020 election.

    Donald Trump has been called Vladimir Putin’s puppet, but he is more than that. He is Putin’s willing and eager apprentice.As Election Day approaches, Trump is rapidly escalating his assaults on American democracy, freedom, the rule of law and the country’s political and social institutions, as well as the American people themselves. In all, Donald Trump is following through on every lesson from the authoritarian’s playbook with speed and enthusiasm.The evidence for a teacher-student mentoring relationship between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump is overwhelming. As senior Democratic adviser Simon Rosenberg told me recently in a Salon interview:

    I believe that 20 years from now [Mick] Mulvaney and [Mark] Meadows and the other chiefs of staff and senior Trump officials are going to acknowledge that they believe that Putin was Trump’s coach. He has checked every play in the authoritarian playbook — and done it very fast. Donald Trump is not very smart. He is likely being coached by Putin and other authoritarians. They are giving him ideas and pushing him in certain directions. We know that Trump has spoken to Putin seven times in the last few months, in a time when he has ratcheted up his attacks on democracy and started the beginnings of a domestic crackdown here in the United States.

    Moreover, teaching takes place in many ways. Children imitate their parents and other role models. It is a rare occasion when a parent explicitly says to a child “I am going to teach you today.” In that sense, Vladimir Putin is the father and Donald Trump is his fawning, admiring child.

    Read the rest at Raw Story.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Axios: Rand Paul: No incentive to open economy “if you soften the amount of suffering”

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Fox News Wednesday that he opposes Congress passing more stimulus funding because “if you give people money and you make it less painful to be in a recession,” governors “will not have an incentive” to reopen the economy.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    CREW: Mnuchin Pushed DeJoy Appointment, USPS Pricing Changes.

    Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin met with the United States Postal Service Board of Governors in February to discuss the search for a new Postmaster General as part of his larger campaign to exert influence over the USPS, according to documents obtained by CREW.

    On December 10, 2019, Mnuchin met with the Chairman and CEO of UPS, David Abney, who also happens to be a major Trump donor. Less than two weeks later on December 23, Mnuchin wrote the USPS Board of Governors, asking to be “kept apprised of the progress” on the search for a new Postmaster General. On March 31, Robert Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors (who runs a pro-Trump super PAC) replied to Mnuchin saying that the board met him on February 6 about the search, and confirmed that they were hiring a firm to evaluate postal service pricing.

    In Mnuchin’s letter to the board of governors, he had requested an analysis of USPS’s “pricing structure in the e-commerce ground package delivery market.” He mentioned that FedEx experienced a decline in operating results because of the competitive pricing environment. It seems that Mnuchin was angling for higher USPS prices, not just to keep the agency solvent but also to give a boost to UPS and FedEx, companies with close ties to the Trump administration.

  4. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Looks who else is involved in that:

      Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) Tweeted:
      Kris Kobach is the general counsel of the Build the Wall PAC that Steve Bannon was just arrested for being involved in as chairman. The advisory board includes Erik Prince, former CO congressman Tom Tancredo, Sheriff Dave Clarke and former pitcher Curt Schilling.

  5. dakinikat says:

    I couldn’t make it through Obama’s speech. I was sobbing by the time Hillary did her thing. It’s almost unbearable to remember when this country could actually do one thing right.

    • jslat says:

      Hillary appearance announcement. Last night on the 8pm ET preconception coverage on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow announced that Hillary Clinton would be joining her and Nicole Wallace and Joy Reid during the 8-9pm show tonight, Thursday.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      I thought this was well done:

      • MsMass says:

        Yeah, that part was really good! As was Gabby Gifford and of course Hillary. I still saw Obama as smirking- I am unable to see him without that smirk. Must be my bias against him.

        • jslat says:

          I wanted to put my arms around Gabby Gifford! How brave! It was a good thing that she was able to speak to us without any distraction from an audience. I understand she has worked for months to give that speech.

        • quixote says:

          The thing I keep smashing into with Obama is he knew all this in 2016. He had access to all the classified info. He was in a position to declassify it. But he definitely did give an excellent speech.

          Good for Giffords! The strength of both her and her husband awes me.

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. Pat Johnson says:

    I truly believe that Trump is taking his marching orders from Putin for whatever reason. He certainly has acted in his favor the last 4 years.

    And Putin’s rival was poisoned yesterday and is in critical condition having been poisoned by drinking a cup of tea.

    Should Trump pull out another dubious “win” is this something he too may resort to starting with journalists he claims to hate? And who will stop him? Answer: NOBODY!

    This is what we are facing if we fail to rid ourselves of this Russian cabal currently occupying the Oval Office.

    Unimaginable? Quite possible.

    • dakinikat says:

      So here’s my theory. Ballots by mail basically leave a paper trail. I’m pretty sure the Russians hacked a few key elections in 2016 and my guess is he’s begging Putin to hack them again bigly.

  8. I am going to do what I can to make Biden/Harris happen and I’ve been loving the convention. Still, I came away with some uneasiness from last night, despite loving some of these segments and speeches and being glad to see Obama finally coming out about the danger of Trump. First, I couldn’t exult in all the high praise for Biden without feeling sad that as a country we aren’t willing to give that to a woman, and seeing Hillary and hearing her speak so darn well as always, highlighted this for me. And then with all the celebration of women and women of color, I couldn’t help but remember Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas hearings. Sure, different time. But that hearing and her treatment affected me very deeply at the time and I think, affected decisions I made in my life–not as the only factor, but watching her at that hearing is seared in my mind. So my celebratory good feeling had some shadows last night. It won’t keep me from stopping Trump and hoping that the promise of a big tent will actually happen, with influence from some really great choices we had for our presidential nominee. But the desire to get along with everyone, while it could be really important and helpful, has another side, and I’m hoping that we don’t squander another opportunity, should we sweep both houses and the presidency. Harris’ presence helps me with that. She could well be president at some point in the next four years. I don’t know as much about her as I’d like to know (despite paying some attention), but I guess that will come with time. I’m still positive but not quite as thrilled as I was after the first two nights.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I agree totally. I’m voting for Biden because there’s just no other choice. It does help that Harris will be there to nudge him if he needs it.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Info on two of the grifters arrested with Bannon:

  10. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

  11. bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      • dakinikat says:

        The Republican Party and its attendant operations personify Eric Hoffer’s admonition that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” In that sense, the president who bilked unwary customers with Trump University, whose charitable foundation was shut down and who paid hush money to women with whom he cheated on his wife is the perfect person to head this party. Trump has used the office as another profit-making scheme, shepherding foreigners and political allies to frequent his properties and allowing his daughter and son-in-law to make millions while nominally serving in office.

        The reason Republicans turned their party over to Trump and feel no compunction about reversing one position after another should be obvious: Many of them do not believe in much of anything other than getting rich and maintaining their grip on power. The party has become a smash-and-grab operation — smash democratic norms and institutions, and grab the limelight and cash for however long they can.

  12. dakinikat says: