Here's part of Maureen Dowd's interesting and moving column in tomorrow's New York Times on Joe Biden:
When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk.
“Of course, honey,” the vice president replied.
At the table, Beau told his dad he was worried about him.
My kid’s dying, an anguished Joe Biden thought to himself, and he’s making sure I’m O.K.
“Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money,” Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.
Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.
Hunter also pushed his father, telling him, “Dad, it’s who you are.”
Read the whole thing, as they say. And read the accompanying Times news article, reporting that Joe Biden is seriously considering a presidential bid.
But then stop for a minute. Ask this question: Who gave Maureen Down the details of the conversations between Joe Biden and his sons? The details are, after all, pretty ... detailed: There are direct quotations from Beau, Hunter, and Joe; a sentence capturing the thought process of Joe; a brief description of Beau's physical state. It's great reporting, and it's a story well-told; but we can ask, how did Maureen Dowd know this? Who was willing and able to give her this level of detail?
Surely not a political aide or associate. Surely not a normal family friend. Perhaps there's a very close family friend or two in whom Joe Biden (or Jill, or Hunter) would have confided these conversations—but surely such a friend wouldn't have spoken to Maureen Dowd without Joe Biden's okay.
So Joe Biden may have authorized a friend to speak to Maureen Dowd. Or Joe Biden may have spoke to her himself. Or perhaps Jill or Hunter Biden spoke with her. Who knows the details and circumstances? One can easily imagine, for example, one of the Bidens telling a sympathetic Dowd the story, off-the-record, of their beloved son and brother's last wishes—and then, a few weeks later perhaps, yielding to Dowd's request that she be able to report at least some of what she was told in print.
Let me be clear: I'm not criticizing either the Bidens or Dowd. I'm simply pointing out that when you think about who could be the source of Dowd's extraordinary account—you'd have to be crazy to think Joe Biden isn't awfully serious about running for president.
A September 1989, feature in New York magazine by Edwin Diamond, titled “Trump vs. Stern: The Unmaking of a Documentary” closed with this line:
"A close associate of Stern's says, 'Trump may be tough, but so is Leonard. He's living a good life now, and he doesn't need this. But somewhere down the road, he'll be heard from."
Two and a half decades later, Leonard Stern, a real estate competitor of Trump's, has a late-blooming investment that is finally airing, even though he hasn't had anything to do with the project since the Reagan administration. This, thanks to a producer he once employed named Libby Handros.
Just yesterday, Trumpthemovie.com went online with a hilarious teaser trailer that shot around the web. The documentary film,Trump: What's the Deal? was the subject of Diamond's 1989 feature story. Funded by Stern, the documentary was never broadcast over the airwaves.
Recounted to Diamond, the documentary was intended to be the first of a few Stern-funded documentaries on “men whose persona took on a life of its own,” according to Stern's wife Allison, a former television producer. People like George Steinbrenner, Donald Trump, Ross Perot, and Lee Iococca, the article suggests.
Narrated by a Robin Leach-sounding British man, allegedly Peter Foges, the trailer teases the documentary by comparing The Donald of the late 1980's to The Donald of today.
The trailer claims, “the new Trump and the old Trump, are the same Trump.”
Back when the documentary was made in the 1980's, it was a critical, but seriously reported work produced by Ned Schnurman, a long-time PBS man and creator of Inside Story. Joining him were Al Levin, also of PBS, and Libby Handros, who joined Schnurman right out of college.
The production, created by Schnurman's independent firm “The Deadline Company,” was hired by Leonard Stern, a billionaire, who also owned the Village Voice, a weekly called 7 Days, and “several publishing interests.” Stern claimed, "I have nothing to do with the editorial side at the Voice or 7 Days, and I have the same rule for television."
Hurry up and wait. Hurry to the announcement by the Federal Reserve Board’s monetary policy committee, and then wait for the next one. After 2,417 days of keeping its key interest rate at zero, on Wednesday of last week the Fed policy team decided that a few more weeks or months at that level might be a good idea. The Fed knows that zero is not a sustainable level for interest rates, but also wants to be certain it doesn’t abort the none-too-robust recovery. My guess is that Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen knows she has to move soon, but figured that doing so right before key data releases in the next few days and next week just wasn’t worth the risk of announcing an increase and then wishing she hadn’t. She was quickly proved right.
The day after the Fed announcement the Commerce Department reported – preliminary, to be revised -- that the economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in the second quarter, and that its first-quarter estimate of a 0.2 percent decline had been revised to a positive 0.6 percent. The good news is that consumers have returned to the shops and the malls to share with some of their savings from lower petrol prices with retailers. In part this consumer bonanza is the result of falling energy prices due to the fracking revolution and the return of Iran to the oil market as a major seller offering discounts in order to regain market share from its sworn enemy, Saudi Arabia.
The less good news, and more important from the point of view of the Fed, is that business spending on equipment and on structures remains weak, falling at annual rates of 4.1 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. Most economists do not believe that consumers alone, even though they account for about 70 percent of GDP, can propel the economy forward at an annual rate much above, or even at 2 percent if business spending continues to weaken. Even if consumers continue to spend, and even if the economy continues to grow at the rate of 2.3 percent for the final two quarters, the year will come in at a bit below 1.9 percent, not exactly a boom calling for interest rate increases to avoid impending inflation.
Then came more bad news for the Fed, which had trumpeted “solid job gains” as a sign the labour market was sufficiently improved to support a rise in rates. Not so fast. On Friday the Labor Department reported that wages and salaries had increased a mere 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the smallest increase since these data were first recorded 33 years ago. “The numbers … are atrocious”, commented Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities. The Fed will know more on Friday when the latest jobs report is published, but if wage growth is one of the indicators of a robust labour market, Yellen will have some difficulty using conditions in that market as a basis for a rate increase this year.
ISIS strives to create a new Caliphate. It is the fundamental reason for its existence. But the vision does not stop there. As USA Today reports:
An apparent Islamic State recruitment document found in Pakistan’s lawless tribal lands reveals that the extremist group has grand ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and triggering a war in India to provoke an Armageddon-like “end of the world.”
The document goes into specifics, to include:
… a never-before-seen history of the Islamic State, details chilling future battle plans, urges al-Qaeda to join the group and says the Islamic State's leader should be recognized as the sole ruler of the world’s 1 billion Muslims under a religious empire called a “caliphate.
And it certainly does not sugar coat things. Proclaiming that the world must:
"Accept the fact that this caliphate will survive and prosper until it takes over the entire world and beheads every last person that rebels against Allah. This is the bitter truth, swallow it.”
And warning that:
… “preparations” for an attack in India are underway and predicts that an attack will provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with America: “Even if the U.S tries to attack with all its allies, which undoubtedly it will, the ummah will be united, resulting in the final battle.”
According to the USA Today article: “Retired Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn ... reviewed the document” and:
… said it “represents the Islamic State’s campaign plan and is something, as an intelligence officer, I would not only want to capture, but fully exploit. It lays out their intent, their goals and objectives, a red flag to which we must pay attention.”
Bill Clinton is fighting to rid the world of AIDS. The former president, and husband to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, outlines his hard work in a blog post for Medium.
"Today, we are well on our way to ending AIDS, but much more work remains," Clinton writes.
"Ending the AIDS epidemic is primarily a logistical challenge now, and until scientists discover a cure, the most effective tool we have is to provide treatment for all who need it — and to provide it as early as possible. The evidence is strong that early treatment goes a long way towards preventing new infections and helping people live long, productive lives. This means starting by ending mother-to-child transmission, an initiative that has shown great promise and early success. Treatment for both adults and children is far cheaper than it was even a few years ago — in fact, we are already spending more money on HIV every year than it would cost to treat every single individual who carries the virus — so over the next five years we should strive to achieve universal treatment. We can afford to be ambitious. Not to be will actually cost more, in lives and money.
"To achieve this goal, we need to help countries reach the millions of people within their borders who may not know they are infected by providing higher-quality, lower-cost diagnostics and helping to build efficient health systems that can deliver them where they are most needed. This will be particularly important — and particularly challenging — in big countries like Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will also be important in countries with lower burdens, where HIV is ignored or where the epidemic persists among members of marginalized groups. It can be done. For example, in Mozambique, with the support of the national government and CHAI, laboratory technicians now set out across lakes in canoes visiting rural communities with point-of-care devices that can help increase rates of antiretroviral therapy initiation and better monitor patients’ viral loads across a lifetime of care."Most important, we need to support developing countries in their efforts to manage and finance their own responses. AIDS is a global challenge, but it is also an inherently local one. Donors must give a high priority to helping ministries of health around the world put in place the qualified community health workers and effective health systems necessary to develop and sustain national treatment programmes. Good systems will also empower them to limit the impact of other problems, including a reappearance of Ebola, diarrhoea and, in Haiti, the persistence of cholera.
"As we work to meet the new UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets, it’s worth remembering where we started and how far we’ve come. Going forward, we must use the lessons of the past to inform the efforts of the future. If we remember what is possible when we all work together, we will be able to overcome the challenge much sooner than many people think and enjoy a future where AIDS is a thing of the past."
You know what Hillary Clinton is? I’ll tell you what she is. She’s a fighter. And Scott Walker? The same. How about Bernie Sanders? And Chris Christie—and Martin O’Malley? Fighter, fighter, fighter, every one of them. They’re all candidates for president too, of course, but they’re running for the office, to hear them tell it, because they have a particular gift for beating the living daylights out of…whom? That part isn’t always clear.
Presidential politics has become alarmingly pugilistic. The best evidence we have that our candidates are built for combat is their own testimony. “Right now,” Mr. O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, told CNN, “our country’s in a fight for the very future of the American dream, and I am drawn to that fight.” So dukes up, whoever you are! Mr. Christie—another fightin’ governor—is ready too. Uneasily courting a conservative convention earlier this year, he tripled down: “I care about fighting the fight worth fighting.”
So does that make Mr. Christie the fightin-est governor in the land? He will have to fight Wisconsin Gov. Walker for the title. Mr. Walker does not look like a fighter. But stand him up in front of a crowd, and he sounds like Sonny Liston.
By my count, he used the word “fight” or “fighter” 14 times during his announcement speech, delivered in his hometown of Waukesha.
Human trafficking is a crime that not only breaks the law but basic human rights. The United States recently released its annual Trafficking in Persons report. Countries are ranked on a scale from Tier 1 to Tier 3. These rankings asses the country’s ability to 1) enact laws and practices that prohibit and prevent human trafficking, 2) enforce and implement these laws, 3) punish the criminals, 4) identify the victims, and 5) provide government assistance to the victims.
The annual release of this report occurred in the wake of giant human trafficking scandal in Thailand. Only days before the report was released, 72 Thais were indicted on charges of international human trafficking. The accused included local government officials, senior police officers, and military officials including Thai Lieutenant General Manas Kongpan. Kongpan’s arrest raises questions if he acted alone. Human rights groups say no, putting the Thai government in a difficult position. This is especially true for Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the Thai prime minister who handed Manas his promotion. Not surprisingly, the country’s ranking has plummeted over the past few years, going from a Tier 2 in 2008 to the Tier 2 Watch List in 2010 and finally to Tier 3 in 2014.
Other countries remaining at Tier 3 include North Korea, Iran, and Zimbabwe. Joining them this year are Belarus, Belize, Burundi, Comoros, and South Sudan. However, two countries have risen from Tier 3 to the Tier 2 Watch List. The moves have sparked major controversy.
Cuba received its promotion after twelve years on the Tier 3 blacklist. What caused the change? The shift occurred just after the U.S. embassy re-opened in Havana and relations between Cuba and the United States were re-established after nearly fifty years of tension. Though some, such as Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat of Cuban extraction, claim that there are political motives behind this decision, the State Department vehemently denies the claim. Instead, State cites the increased collaboration between Washington and Havana in combatting trafficking. According to the report:
The Government of Cuba does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. For the second consecutive year, the government reported efforts to address sex trafficking.
The Army and the Navy cannot do what they once could and might soon be required to do again. They don’t have enough soldiers and enough ships. Even reduced to the lowest force levels in years, the Army, as USA Today reports:
... is nearly 14% short of the recruits it will need to fill its ranks, marking the first time in six years — and only the third in the last 20 — that it may fall short of its recruiting goal for the year.
And the Navy does not have enough aircraft carriers to keep one on station in the Persian Gulf. As Navy Times reports:
When the carrier Theodore Roosevelt leaves the Persian Gulf this fall, U.S. Central Command will be without a flattop for as long as two months even as airstrikes continue against the so-called Islamic State militants.
And those militants of the “so-called Islamic State” are not the only threat out there. Russia and China must be accounted for. Plus the unanticipated humanitarian mission. The U.S. military is famous for its “can do” culture. But there is a limit to what you can do if you don’t have the weapons and the personnel.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, as well as Martin O'Malley and Ben Carson, will speak today at the National Urban League Conference in Florida.
"The candidates will share their visions for saving our cities on Friday, July 31, during a session entitled 'Off To The Races: The 2016 Presidential Candidates’ Plenary,'" a press release reads.
“As we convene in Florida to deliberate solutions to the economic and social challenges our cities are facing, it’s vital that those contending for the highest office in the land be part of that conversation,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said.
The candidates’ plenary will take place on the second full day of the Conference themed “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice.”
“Our focus was inspired was by a year that saw little accountability for law enforcement responsible for killing unarmed Black men, teenagers and children; a continual assault on voting rights; widening economic inequality gaps; and an increasingly partisan education debate far more rooted in political agendas than in putting our children first,” Morial said.
Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reports, "For Mrs. Clinton, the event is an opportunity to highlight a passionate speechabout race that she gave last month in the wake of the shooting that killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C. ... Mr. Bush, who seemed to roll his eyes at the Black Lives Matter movement recently, has often talked about the need for the party to expand its tent. This speech is another opportunity."
The Jeb Bush campaign announced today that the candidate's son, George P. Bush, will file his father's S.C. presidential paperwork.
"George P. Bush, Governor Jeb Bush’s son, will visit South Carolina TODAY on behalf of his Dad’s campaign for President of the United States. George P. will attend a Young Professionals reception in Columbia this morning. He will then visit the South Carolina Republican Party’s headquarters to file Governor Bush’s South Carolina primary paperwork, accompanied by members of the Jeb! 2016 South Carolina campaign leadership team. George P. will end the day with a meet and greet at Lizard’s Thicket in Lexington," reads the email from Bush spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger.
George P. Bush has 3 public campaign stops set for South Carolina. Two in Columbia and one in Lexington.
The young Bush has gone into the family business himself. George P. Bush is the Texas land commissioner.
A top Democratic believes President Obama may break the law to implement the Iran deal. The Democrat is Brad Sherman, a congressman from California, who made the comments after meeting with Obama personally about the Iran deal.
“The main meat of what he said is, ‘If Congress overrides my veto, you do not get a U.S. foreign policy that reflects that vote. What you get is you pass this law and I, as president, will do everything possible to go in the other direction,’” Sherman told reporters after meeting with Obama.
“He’s with the deal — he’s not with Congress ... At least to the fullest extent allowed by law, and possibly beyond what’s allowed by law.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who has been one of the more skeptical Democrats on the agreement, said that Obama appeared ready to ignore Congress, even if lawmakers vote to kill the deal and then marshal the two-thirds majorities to override a White House veto.
“The main meat of what he said is, ‘If Congress overrides my veto, you do not get a U.S. foreign policy that reflects that vote. What you get is you pass this law and I, as president, will do everything possible to go in the other direction,’” Sherman told reporters off the House floor after the meeting.
“He’s with the deal — he’s not with Congress,” Sherman added. “At least to the fullest extent allowed by law, and possibly beyond what’s allowed by law.”
Sherman suggested that Obama could refuse to enforce the law and could actively seek to undermine congressional action in other countries, if Capitol Hill insists on stymieing the plan.
Over the decades, Donald Trump has been involved in a handful of businesses ventures -- some lucrative (game shows). Others, like steak sold at the Sharper Image, have been more of a flop.
Now that The Donald is running for the highest office in the land, it seemed appropriate to review his 1989 Milton Bradley board game -- appropriately titled "Trump: The Game" -- to see what insights could be gleaned about the man.
The game cost $11 on eBay, the author being a very good negotiator... Very successful.
I grabbed a few interns and asked them to join me for a very special project: playing a round of Trump: The Game.
The Donald has two taglines for the game. The first is, "It's like no other game you've ever played." That is a bit of an exaggeration, as it's pretty much an accelerated version of Monopoly and for half of its eight maximum players.
The second appears on the front of the box above the title: "It's not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!" Suffice it to say, this also might be a slogan adopted by Mr. Trump should he not win the GOP presidential nomination and run as a third party candidate.
Opening the rule book, you're greeted with a letter from Trump himself:
Now that you are about to play my game, I invite you to live the fantasy! Feel the power! And make the deals!
The object of the game is to make the most money. I'm talking about hundres of millions of dollars. If you are clever, aggressive and lucky, you could end up with a billion or more!
Start by bidding against opponents for eight different properties on the board. Play it smart and stack up huge profits! Pay too much and you could lose your shirt!
When all of the properties have been purchased, the deal-making starts!
Here's where shrewdness really pays off! Just about anything in the game can be bought, sold or traded! Millions of dollars can be won or lost in seconds.
When the dealing's done, count up your cash! The player with the most money wins!
Now, read the rules. Have fun -- and remember, it's not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!
Donald J. Trump
The game is certainly about making deals. Players are dealt "Trump Cards" and pick them up throughout phase one: the buying phase. The cards all play a central role, though only a few can be used during phase one.
Players move their pawns -- yes, we are all but pawns in Trump's game -- around the board, having to pay money to a property, become the broker for a sale of a property, or have the opportunity to win money on a dice throw.