Wednesday Reads: Mr. Sandman

Happy St. Patrick’s Day…

Last night:

I believe they have since released the information that it is 6 Asian women, 1 white woman and 1 man.

In other news…

Some updates:

You may remember I posted a link to part one of these series…

Here are a few more for you to catch up with…

Make two more points…

And,

Here’s to better times….

Take it easy today.


Wednesday Reads: Me worry?

And good morning to you…

Some hard hits there…as usual, the political comics bringing the point home.

First tweet I saw when I started to write this post:

This is one of my favorite pictures…please click on that link and read more about Raymond Cauchetier.

Now for some news updates:

And one last thing…

#FuckBernieSanders

( And #FuckJoeManchin too!)

Ugh…

Try and stay safe today…


Tuesday Reads: Two Valuable New Books on Trump and Russia

Good Morning!!

The Trump books just keep on coming. This week and next week we’re getting two very significant releases. A new book by Tim Weiner came out today. Weiner is a historian of both the FBI and CIA. His latest is The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945–2020. The Washington Post published an op-ed by Weiner yesterday: The unanswered question of our time: Is Trump an agent of Russia?

The FBI faced a national security nightmare three years ago: It suspected that the new president of the United States was, in some unknown way, in the sway of Russia.

Was an agent of a foreign power in the White House? Should they investigate Donald Trump? “I can’t tell you how ominous and stressful those days were,” Peter Strzok, then the No. 2 man in FBI counterintelligence, told me. “Similar to the Cuban missile crisis, in a domestic counterintelligence sense.”

But the Cuban missile crisis lasted only 13 days — and it had a happy ending. This crisis has no end in sight. Despite the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, despite the work of congressional intelligence committees and inspectors general — and despite impeachment — we still don’t know why the president kowtows to Vladimir Putin, broadcasts Russian disinformation, bends foreign policy to suit the Kremlin and brushes off reports of Russians bounty-hunting American soldiers. We still don’t know whether Putin has something on him. And we need to know the answers — urgently. Knowing could be devastating. Not knowing is far worse. Not knowing is a threat to a functioning democracy.

Tim Weiner

The FBI’s counterintelligence agents wondered: Why did Trump invite the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister into the Oval Office on the day after he keelhauled FBI Director James B. Comey — and brag about it? “I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told them in confidence. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Like the rest of America, the FBI learned about that conversation only from a Russian government readout. But then Trump went on television and said he had fired Comey over the FBI’s probe into ties between Team Trump and Team Putin during and after the 2016 election.

Unfortunately the counterintelligence investigation seems to have been short-circuited by the firing of Andrew McCabe and the failure of Robert Mueller to seriously investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. Here’s Weiner’s chilling conclusion:

There’s a classic story about an American agent of influence that predates the Cold War — and might presage the strange case of Donald Trump, if these questions about his relationship with Russia go dormant. Samuel Dickstein was a member of Congress from Manhattan, elected in 1922, and chairman of the House Immigration and Naturalization Committee in the 1930s. He walked into the Soviet Embassy in 1937 and offered the ambassador his services for $25,000 a year — three times his congressional salary. In exchange, he sold fake passports to Soviet spies. And he held headline-grabbing public hearings investigating Joseph Stalin’s enemies in the United States. Dickstein served 11 terms in Congress. His file lay locked up in the KGB archives for 60 years. Today, if you go down to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to the intersection of Pitt and Grand streets, you’ll be standing in Samuel Dickstein Plaza. He got away with it.

A related opinion piece from today’s Washington Post by Josh Rogin: Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded, according to two sources who reviewed it.

On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in the November election in an internal, highly classified report called the CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review, the sources said. CIA analysts compiled the assessment with input from the National Security Agency and the FBI, based on several dozen pieces of information gleaned from public, unclassified and classified intelligence sources. The assessment includes details of the CIA’s analysis of the activities of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach to disseminate disparaging information about Biden inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.

Andriy Derkach

“We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November,” the first line of the document says, according to the sources.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Treasury Department have identified Derkach as a Russian agent, but it has not been publicly reported that the CIA, NSA and FBI believed Putin may be personally directing the campaign. Derkach has denied working on behalf of Moscow.

The CIA assessment described Derkach’s efforts in detail and said that his activities have included working through lobbyists, members of Congress and U.S. media organizations to disseminate and amplify his anti-Biden information. Though it refers to Derkach’s interactions with a “prominent” person connected to the Trump campaign, the analysis does not identify the person. Giuliani, who has been working with Derkach publicly for several months, is not named in the assessment.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Another book that is getting much more attention than Weiner’s is Andrew Weissmann’s inside account of the Mueller investigation, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The book will be released next Tuesday.

George Packer interviewed Weissmann at The Atlantic: The Inside Story of the Mueller Probe’s Mistakes.

Andrew Weissmann was one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the special counsel’s investigation of the 2016 election, and he’s about to publish the first insider account, called Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The title comes from an adapted quote by the philosopher John Locke that’s inscribed on the façade of the Justice Department building in Washington, D.C.: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”

Weissmann offers a damning indictment of a “lawless” president and his knowing accomplices—Attorney General William Barr (portrayed as a cynical liar), congressional Republicans, criminal flunkies, Fox News. Donald Trump, he writes, is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong.” But in telling the story of the investigation and its fallout, Weissmann reserves his most painful words for the Special Counsel’s Office itself. Where Law Ends portrays a group of talented, dedicated professionals beset with internal divisions and led by a man whose code of integrity allowed their target to defy them and escape accountability.

“There’s no question I was frustrated at the time,” Weissmann told me in a recent interview. “There was more that could be done that we didn’t do.” He pointed out that the special counsel’s report never arrived at the clear legal conclusions expected from an internal Justice Department document. At the same time, it lacked the explanatory power of last month’s bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election. “Even with 1,000 pages, it was better,” Weissmann said of the Senate report. “It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, ‘You could say this and you could say that.’”

Andrew Weissmann

The Mueller inquiry was the greatest potential check on Trump’s abuse of power. The press gives the president fits, but almost half the country chooses not to believe the news. Congress will protect Trump as long as his party controls at least one chamber. Local prosecutors and civil plaintiffs are severely limited in pursuing justice against a sitting president. Public opinion is immovably split and powerless until the next election. Only the Special Counsel’s Office—burrowing into the criminal matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and the president’s subsequent attempts to block an investigation—offered the prospect of accountability for Trump. Mueller couldn’t try the president in court, let alone send him to prison, but he could fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing for a future prosecutor, using the enforceable power of a grand jury subpoena. The whole constitutional superstructure of checks and balances rested on Mueller and his team. As their work dragged on through 2017 and 2018, with flurries of indictments and plea deals but otherwise in utter silence, many Americans invested the inquiry with the outsized expectation that it would somehow bring Trump down.

Read the rest at the Atlantic link.

Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Mueller’s Team Should Have Done More to Investigate Trump-Russia Links, Top Aide Says.

The team led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, failed to do everything it could to determine what happened in the 2016 election, shying away from steps like subpoenaing President Trump and scrutinizing his finances out of fear he would fire them, one of Mr. Mueller’s top lieutenants argued in the first insider account of the inquiry.

“Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” wrote the former prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, in a new book, adding, “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more.”

The team took elaborate steps to protect its files of evidence from the risk that the Justice Department might destroy them if Mr. Trump fired them and worked to keep reporters and the public from learning what they were up to, Mr. Weissmann wrote in “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation,” which Random House will publish next week.

While he speaks reverently of Mr. Mueller, he also says his boss’s diffidence made him ill-suited for aspects of shepherding the politically charged investigation. He saw Mr. Mueller and his deputy, Aaron M. Zebley, as overly cautious.

Mr. Weissmann also defended against accusations by the president and his allies that he and other investigators were politically biased “angry Democrats”; Mr. Weissmann said his personal views had no bearing on the crimes that Russian operatives and Trump aides committed.

And he elevates particular details — for example, emphasizing that the same business account that sent hush payments to an adult film star who alleged an extramarital affair with Mr. Trump had also received “payments linked to a Russian oligarch.” The president has denied the affair; his former lawyer Michael D. Cohen controlled the account. Mr. Mueller transferred the Cohen matter to prosecutors in New York.

More Reads, links only:

The Washington Post: Mueller prosecutor says special counsel ‘could have done more’ to hold Trump accountable.

Book review by Jennifer Szalai at The New York Times: A Prosecutor’s Backstage Tour of the Mueller Investigation.

The American Independent: Trump says coronavirus ‘affects virtually nobody’ as death toll reaches 200,000.

The Washington Post: Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor.

NBC News: ‘He’s not actually looking out for you’: Ex-Pence aide Olivia Troye assails Trump’s coronavirus response.

The New York Times: Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time.

Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: A Young Kennedy, in Kushnerland, Turned Whistle-Blower.

CNBC: Powell pledges the Fed’s economic aid ‘for as long as it takes.’

Brian Karem at The Bulwark: The Absentee President. Donald Trump rarely shows up to the West Wing—and when he does, he is too incompetent to effectively fulfill his oath of office.

 


Thursday Reads: Trump, Barr, and Russia vs. American Democracy

Anna Sahlstén

Good Morning!!

Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats spoke out about Trump in Bob Woodward’s new book Rage; now he’s authored an op-ed in The Washington Post about the 2020 election: What’s at Stake in This Election? The American Democratic Experiment.

We hear often that the November election is the most consequential in our lifetime. But the importance of the election is not just which candidate or which party wins. Voters also face the question of whether the American democratic experiment, one of the boldest political innovations in human history, will survive.

Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace.

If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome. Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh.

The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.

Coats argues that Congress should form a bipartisan commission to protect voting and ensure that Americans will see the results of the election as legitimate. Unfortunately, there’s almost no chance that Congressional Republicans would go along with such a project. They clearly support Trump’s goal of a “rigged” election.

Delphin Enjolras. Woman Reading at the Window woman reading at the window

At Vanity Fair, Chris Smith reports on Joe Biden’s preparations for dealing with election interference by Trump and his personal attorney Bill Barr: “We’re Not Going To Let Donald Trump Steal This Election”: Democrats Are Strategizing For All-Out Warfare.

Donald Trump, true to form, is stoking chaos, trying to undermine faith in the accuracy of November’s election. He has floated stationing armed guards at the 2020 polls and maintained a steady stream of lies about “rigged” mail-in ballots. Joe Biden’s counteroffensive is shaping up to be equally in character: It relies on his trust in rational process and in projecting calm. It’s a strategy that makes a great deal of sense—and also feels quaint considering Trump’s evil genius for asymmetrical warfare.

Biden has solicited the help of two former solicitors general, one former attorney general, and a small army of attorneys, building up its own law firm to beat back Trump’s attempts at voter suppression both before and after Election Day. Those lawyers are assisting in the legal battles already playing out in courts across the country that will shape the rules about whose votes get counted—in the words of Democratic strategist Brian Fallon, the “mini Bush v. Gores.” The lawyers and the vast voter-protection program being rolled out by the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee are designed to do two things: ensure that all legitimate votes are counted, and bolster Democratic turnout by raising confidence that their votes will be counted. Biden’s second tactic is more subtle, and riskier: By not engaging directly and loudly with Trump’s claims of rampant fraud, Team Biden believes it will reduce the potency of the president’s frenetic disinformation.

We’ll see. We all remember how the Supreme Court installed George W. Bush in 2000.

When Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor and a cofounder of the Transition Integrity Project, brought together dozens of party veterans, pollsters, and media players to simulate outcomes, only one scenario—a Biden landslide—led to a fairly orderly transfer of power. The rest devolved into a constitutional crisis mixed with street violence. “The Democratic elites, God bless them, have had a lot of faith, historically, in institutions and the law,” Brooks says. “But our exercises underscored the tremendous advantage the first mover has in a disputed election, and the tremendous structural advantage of incumbency….The president can have Bill Barr initiate a politically motivated investigation. And I think we can expect all kinds of efforts, legal and extralegal, to stop the counting and to challenge mail-in ballots.”

The Biden campaign and the DNC certainly see all the potential for Trumpian mischief—and Ron Klain, one of Biden’s longtime senior advisers, was a senior adviser to Gore in 2000. So the campaign has constructed “the largest election-protection program in presidential campaign history,” a Biden strategist says. Biden allies have met with major media executives, urging them to be cautious in calling states on election night when millions of mail-in ballots will have yet to be processed. Another hopeful sign is that the Biden campaign is leaning on the expertise of Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh-Wargo, who managed Abrams’s 2018 run for Georgia governor and now runs Fair Fight, the group Abrams founded to push for, well, fairness in elections.

Read the whole thing at Vanity Fair.

Woman Reading, Henri Lebasque

Meanwhile, Bill Barr has come out as a full-on fascist. He seems to be working overtime to out-Trump Trump. Remember how Barr helped clear Lafayette Square so that Trump could have a photo-op with a bible? The Washington Post reveals more details about that episode: Federal officials stockpiled munitions, sought ‘heat ray’ device before clearing Lafayette Square, whistleblower says.

Hours before law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in early June amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd, federal officials began to stockpile ammunition and sces that could emit deafening sounds and make anyone within range feel like their skin is on fire, according to an Army National Guard major who was there.

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco told lawmakers that defense officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones and had authorized the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory as protests against police use of force and racial injustice roiled Washington.

In sworn testimony, shared this week with The Washington Post, DeMarco provided his account as part of an ongoing investigation into law enforcement and military officers’ use of force against D.C. protesters….

DeMarco’s account contradicts the administration’s claims that protesters were violent, tear gas was never used and demonstrators were given ample warning to disperse — a legal requirement before police move to clear a crowd. His testimony also offers a glimpse into the equipment and weaponry federal forces had — and others that they sought — during the early days of protests that have continued for more than 100 days in the nation’s capital.

DeMarco, who provided his account as a whistleblower, was the senior-most D.C. National Guard officer on the ground that day and served as a liaison between the National Guard and U.S. Park Police.

[Emphasis added.] Recall that Barr was seen inspecting the protests before officers attacked the crowd. Now Barr wants to charge protesters with trying to overthrow the government and actually suggested criminally charging the mayor of Seattle. The New York Times: Barr Told Prosecutors to Consider Sedition Charges for Protest Violence.

Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.

The Artist’s Wife, Henry Lamb, 1933

The highly unusual suggestion to charge people with insurrection against lawful authority alarmed some on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country, said the people, who described Mr. Barr’s comments on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The attorney general has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown for weeks this summer, according to two people briefed on those discussions. Late Wednesday, a department spokesman said that Mr. Barr did not direct the civil rights division to explore this idea….

During a speech on Wednesday night, Mr. Barr noted that the Supreme Court had determined that the executive branch had “virtually unchecked discretion” in deciding whether to prosecute cases. He did not mention Ms. Durkan or the sedition statute.

“The power to execute and enforce the law is an executive function altogether,” Mr. Barr said in remarks at an event in suburban Washington celebrating the Constitution. “That means discretion is invested in the executive to determine when to exercise the prosecutorial power.”

More stories on Bill Barr’s latest crazy rantings:

CNN: Barr says calls for coronavirus lockdown are the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ other than slavery in US history.

Fox News: Barr claims anti-Trump element in DC working to ‘thwart’ administration.

Bloomberg: Barr Says ‘Black Lives Matter’ Doesn’t Care About Black Lives.

The New York Times: In an interview, Barr warned of the U.S. going down ‘the socialist path’ if Trump is not re-elected.

Steve Benen at MSNBC: AG Bill Barr’s election deceptions go from bad to worse.

The Washington Post: Barr accuses Justice Department of headhunting and meddling with politics.

Raw Story: Trump and Barr are creating a perfect storm for post-election violence: British journalist.

A couple more related stories:

Maria Karalyos, Woman reading a book

Neal Kaytal and Joshua Geltzer at The New York Times: This Is How Bad It’s Gotten at the Justice Department.

In his time as the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has alienated many federal prosecutors. The latest appears to be Nora Dannehy, a longtime prosecutor who has resigned from the department, where she was part of a team looking into the Russia investigation.

We don’t know for sure exactly what happened; she isn’t talking, nor is Mr. Barr. But The Hartford Courant, which broke the story, reported that Ms. Dannehy’s colleagues said that she departed because of Mr. Barr’s politicization — in particular, because Mr. Barr is evidently eager to break drastically with past practice and issue an incomplete report intended to help President Trump in his re-election efforts.

Her resignation looks like part of an extremely troubling pattern. Earlier this year, highly respected prosecutors in the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases dramatically resigned or withdrew. One of them testified to Congress that the Justice Department under Mr. Barr was treating Mr. Stone “differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president.” The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation.

When civil servants resign, skeptics often ask what difference one person really can make by leaving. The answer is simple: a lot. Ms. Dannehy’s departure isn’t just likely a major assertion of integrity by her; it’s also a big problem for Mr. Barr — and therefore for Mr. Trump.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Julia Davis at The Daily Beast: Russian Media Is Rooting for Civil War in America: ‘The Worse, the Better.’

State-controlled media’s slant is a telling indicator of the Kremlin’s leanings. To imagine the relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his massive media apparatus, one may reference the coziness between Sean Hannity and Trump—and magnify that intensity tenfold, with directives flowing only from the top down. Obsessed with retaining his dominance and fully realizing the power of propaganda, Putin leaves nothing to chance….

Gari Melchers, Woman Reading by a Window

Russian lawmakers, state media experts and pundits on tightly-choreographed TV shows openly reveal that the Kremlin is still rooting for Trump. But Moscow has a growing concern that this time around, their preferred candidate might lose. Appearing on a state TV show The Right To Know, Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of the Kremlin-funded propaganda networks RT and Sputnik, said about Trump’s chances of re-election: “I think Trump will lose, but then I think there will be a major blow-up from the standpoint of accepting or not accepting the outcome of the election. They’ll be battling over that for a long time, who knows how it might end.”

Having openly wished for Trump to drive the United States into civil war, Russian state media figures are now relishing that idea with renewed enthusiasm. They believe it would destabilize America to such an extent as to undermine its very sovereignty, thereby untying the Kremlin’s hands to wreak even more havoc upon the Western world. Appearing on Russia’s state TV show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky explained his belief that U.S. elections “can be considered America’s internal affairs only up to the point when an actual civil war starts there.” The idea of a coup d’état seems all but inevitable, Drobnitsky argued: “The loser in this election would be an idiot to accept the outcome.”

Russian state media repeatedly echoed Trump, who is doing the Kremlin’s bidding by attacking the legitimacy of the 2020 elections, falsely suggesting that mail-in voting is completely fraudulent, and that Democrats are rigging the process to falsify the outcome. There is no doubt that the Kremlin would align with Trump in case of a contested election, as the groundwork for accusing the Democrats of fraud has been laid in advance.

Russian state media analysts also make no secret as to the Kremlin’s preferred candidate. Writing for the newspaper Kommersant, Dmitry Kosyrev, political columnist for state media outlet RIA Novosti, pondered: “Is Trump ours?” This popular refrain can be interpreted in one of several ways: to signify Russia’s hold over the American president, to express that Trump’s position is in perfect alignment with that of the Kremlin—meaning, “he is on our side”—or to signal Russia’s preference: “He is the one we choose.”

Things are getting really scary. Unbelievably, this year’s election will likely be much worse than 2016. I don’t know what more to say. I guess we just have to take it one day at a time, and hope that Biden and the Democrats have the guts to stand up for democracy.

Take care, Sky Dancers!


Surrealist Caturday Reads

Painting by Remedios Varo

Good Morning!!

The virtual Democratic National Convention turned out to be pretty inspiring. One of the nicest moments came when 13-year-old Brayden Harrington spoke about how Joe Biden helped him with his stuttering. Here’s the video of their first meeting.

Biden followed through and shared with Braden he overcame his own difficulties with stuttering. John Hendrickson wrote about Biden’s story in The Atlantic early this year. Hendrickson himself  also struggles with stuttering.

Hendrickson wrote about Braden at The Atlantic yesterday: Stuttering Through It. How a 13-year-old boy delivered the best speech of the Democratic National Convention.

You could hear the stutter in Brayden’s lungs, all those heavy inhalations, his search for sounds that wouldn’t come. The 13-year-old stared into a stationary camera and told the world about his problem, the affliction he shares with 3 million Americans, one of whom is now the Democratic nominee for president.

“Without Joe Biden, I wouldn’t be talking with you today,” Brayden began. A big smile revealed braces. “About a few … months ago I met him in New Hampshire. He told me that we were members of the same club: Wuh-w-we

… sssssss … sssssstutter.”

That last word—the S-word—took the air out of American living rooms tonight.

It’s one thing to wake up every morning with a neurological disability and face your classmates. It’s another to address a national audience when you know what’s going to happen—that a particular letter or sound is coming down the line, that it’ll all fall apart.

You probably first noticed Brayden’s disfluency on the w and s sounds. Purse your lips and say we as you read this sentence. Do you feel that tension around your mouth? That contraction of your jaw? Now say the word stutter, but hold the s for a few seconds before getting to the t. Do you feel that pressure? That twinge in your chest? Odds are you’re lucky, and you could finish those words on demand. Now imagine you can’t. Imagine it’s not just w and s, but j and l and m and at least a dozen more. The h sound is notoriously difficult, as in here—the thing you’re required to say each morning at the start of school. Many stutterers have trouble with b, as in Biden. Or Brayden.

By Leonor Fini

Consider the emotional maturity it takes at Brayden’s age to talk about his personal struggle—especially when that personal struggle is talking, when it’s hard to talk at all, when it hurts to speak….

He stood up and delivered his speech, and stuttered through it, and said all the words he wanted to say. He told a powerful story in just over two minutes, which is more than some other DNC speakers can claim.

NBC News: Brayden Harrington says DNC appearance boosted his confidence, wants to help others who stutter.

Brayden Harrington, the teen who shared his story on the final night of the Democratic National Convention about how Joe Biden helped him with his stutter, told NBC News Friday it has boosted his confidence and is pushing him to help other kids like him.

“It will change my future,” Harrington, 13, told Nightly News’ Lester Holt in an appearance that will air Friday night. “And I have this thought going around my head that I kind of want to be a therapist when I grow up to help other children in need and other people in need. And that just really is heartwarming to me because some people really need some help with what’s going on.”

He added, “They’ve been hit mentally, too, sometimes with some people mocking them. And it’s just really nice to know that I have that thought in my mind that I want to be a therapist and help these people.”

Harrington, who said he’s been made fun of for his stutter, met Biden in New Hampshire earlier this year and he said he was moved to know that someone of the former vice president’s stature struggled with it as well.

By Leonora Carrington

“I knew that I wasn’t alone and someone knew what I was going through,” Harrington said, describing his relationship with Biden as “a tiny little friendship.” [….]

Harrington said after his appearance he received an outpouring of support and well wishes on social media, mostly from parents whose children also stutter. The teen said he sees himself as a hero to other kids.

“And that just made me feel really nice about how I made that address and how that’s impacted a bunch of children’s lives,” he told Nightly News.

Try to imagine Trump helped someone like that and inspiring that person to help others. You can’t. Trump would make fun of the kid and of Biden for trying to help him.

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Joe Biden, America’s Un-Trump.

Biden is not running for President to reform American health care, or to rebuild our infrastructure, or to restore our overseas alliances, although he hopes to do all those things. He is running to be the un-Trump. This is what Biden began his campaign with a year and a half ago, and it is undoubtedly what he will end it with, seventy-five days from now. In his rousing, emotional, and surprisingly effective acceptance speech to the all-virtual Democratic National Convention, on Thursday night, it took Biden barely a sentence before he got to the point. “The current President has cloaked America in darkness for much too long,” he said, staring directly into the camera, a wall of sixteen American flags behind him. “Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.”

For the next twenty-four minutes or so, the former Vice-President talked of character and decency, of the “soul of America” and the wrenching test that it now faces. It’s a message that has changed very little—except in its urgency—since the spring of 2019, when Biden announced his campaign in a video in which he called Trump a “threat to this nation . . . unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime” and warned that the 2020 election would be a “battle for the soul of the nation.” “Everything that has made America America is at stake,” Biden said then, and that was before a deadly pandemic and its resulting economic crisis, before a wave of national protest over racial injustice that Trump has exploited as no President before him.

By Alice Rahon

On Thursday night, Biden was even clearer and more assertive: Trump, he said, is a “President who takes no responsibility, refuses to lead, blames others, cozies up to dictators, and fans the flames of hate and division.” Trump believes “the job is all about him, never about you,” Biden said, and he has brought America to an “inflection point,” a “life-changing election” from which there is no turning away.

Without this clarity, Biden would not be the Democratic nominee….

Now seventy-seven and a two-time loser in Presidential politics, Biden has finally won the nomination that he first sought nearly four decades ago. And, on Thursday, he showed how he plans to run against Trump this fall, by making the case against him in simple, factual, devastating terms: five million Americans infected with covid-19, more than a hundred and seventy thousand dead, fifty million unemployed—and “the President still does not have a plan.” Biden signalled that he will make it a choice not between Republicans and Democrats but between Trump and not-Trump.

How will Trump and the Republicans who still support him respond to Biden’s and the Democrats’ message during their convention next week? Even they aren’t sure what they’ll do.

USA Today: ‘Not an easy task’: GOP scrambles to finalize plans for convention amid COVID-19, venue changes, Trump input.

The Republican National Convention opens in just two days, but planners have yet to provide a final schedule or other key details about what will take place during the gathering that will culminate in the nomination of President Donald Trump for a second term.

Officials have confirmed the identities of a dozen or so convention speakers, but not when they will be speaking, where they will be, or what they will be talking about….

Homebody, by Daniel Ryan

Even aides to the Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, seemed confused about whether he would have a convention speaking role. McConnell’s re-election campaign said Thursday he would be campaigning in his home state and would not be speaking at the event. Hours later, a campaign source said there had been “a miscommunication” and that the senator would submit taped remarks to be played at the convention….

There are many reasons for seeming chaos, officials said, including Trump’s insistence on approving most decisions and the egos of people who want prime-time speaking slots.

“You’ve got many senior Republicans who have higher approval ratings than Trump, and so that’s playing into who wants to be seen at the convention and who doesn’t,” Eberhart said.

The event, which opens Monday and closes Thursday night with Trump’s acceptance speech at the White House, will be a far cry from the glitz of conventions past, primarily because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The convention is expected to be a mostly virtual affair, although small crowds are expected at some events.

I expect the GOP virtual gathering will be the opposite of the DNC production–filled with negativity and Trump’s gross, egotistical babbling.

More stories to check out today:

By Alice Rahon

Raw Story: A giant group of ex-Republican officials slams Trump and endorses Biden for president.

Lincoln Journal-Star: McCollister endorses Biden, invites other Nebraska Republicans to join.

The New York Times: Ex-Green Beret Charged With Spying for Russia in Elaborate Scheme.

CNN: Trump remains largely silent on reported poisoning of Russian dissident as Europe, US lawmakers offer support.

Vladimir Kara-Murza at The Washington Post: The world must pay attention to the suspected poisoning of Alexei Navalny. My own case shows why.

The Washington Post: Ex-CIA director John Brennan questioned for 8 hours in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe, a Brennan adviser says.

Politico: ‘It was great’: In leaked audio, Trump hailed low Black turnout in 2016.

CNN: Appeals court sets September 1 hearing on deadline for Trump’s financial records subpoena.

CNN: Court orders Donald Trump to pay legal fees in Stormy Daniels suit.

KFile at CNN: Kris Kobach claimed he spoke with ‘enthusiastic’ Trump three times about border wall project at center of fraud investigation.

CNN: Covid-19 cases tied to the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota have reached across state lines.

New York Times: Trump Holds a Rare White House Funeral for His Younger Brother, Robert.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! Please check in if you have time and inclination.