Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Former Republican majority leader, Eric Cantor, endorses Jeb Bush for president

Eric Cantor endorsed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush Thursday evening.

Cantor tweeted earlier Thursday that he was "AllinforJeb."

Cantor is the former Republican majority leader who lost to David Brat, a Virginia professor - and tea-party backer - in the 2014 Virginia House primaries.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweeted of the Cantor endorsement, "Who wants the endorsement of a guy (@EricCantor) who lost in perhaps the greatest upset in the history of Congress?”

The two presidential candidates have sparred on the issue of immigration. Bush, who is married to a Mexican-American, used the term 'anchor babies' when speaking about illegal immigrants giving birth in America so their children can become citizens.  

He tried 'defending' himself by saying the term didn't apply to Mexicans, but rather Asians (another group who will probably not vote for him, further limiting his chances to become president of the United States).

Bush claims to run his campaign on transparency and is using the Twitter hashtag #JebNoFilter, coinciding with his e-book of the same name that reveals emails he says were sent to constituents while serving as governor of Florida. (Perhaps a stab at the events surrounding emails of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State). 

Thursday's endorsement event was held at Richmond, Virginia's Jefferson Hotel where a modest crowd of supporters attended.  The two met at the same hotel in February of this year, also for a fundraising event.

An attendee said Bush plans to "reach out to young people", offering them "opportunities."

Another attendee called Bush "compassionate", while yet another said Bush, "doesn't lie."

Bush is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser in Virginia Beach on Friday.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Civil rights activist, American icon, Julian Bond dies at 75

Civil rights activist Julian Bond died Saturday in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Reports indicate that Bond died from vascular disease.

Julian Bond.   Getty photo.

Bond was Chairman Emeritus of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).   

“From his days as a young activist to his years as both an elder statesman and NAACP Chairman Emeritus, Julian Bond inspired a generation of civil rights leaders", wrote current NAACP chairman Roslyn M. Brock in a statement Sunday. 

“From my days as a youth board member of the NAACP to my present tenure as NAACP Chairman, like so many of my generation and before, I am yet inspired by the depth and breadth of Chairman Emeritus Bond’s exemplary service: activist, writer, historian, professor, public intellectual, public servant and an unrelentingly eloquent voice for the voiceless. The grateful citizen heirs of the civil and human rights legacy of Julian Bond can neither be counted nor confined to a generation. Many of the most characteristically American freedoms enjoyed by so many Americans today were made real because of the lifelong sacrifice and service of Julian Bond.” 

[See Julian Bond, John Lewis, 1986 article.]

Among his many accolades Bond was also a Georgia state senator and nominee for U.S. Vice President.

"The arc of service of Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond's life extends high and wide over America's social justice landscape", said current NAACP president Cornell William Brooks.

Bond also co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee formed by a group of college students who helped orchestrate sit-ins in the south.  (Think today's Black Lives Matter movement.)

Bond was a fierce advocate for the rights of African Americans and also for the rights of gay and lesbians.

During our interview with him on the eve of the dedication ceremony for the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. Bond shared, among other items, that it was a gay, Bayard Rustin who orchestrated King's March on Washington in the 1960s.

He also shared that King would be "dismayed" at the treatment of gays of lesbians and that all are equal under the law.

Leader of the National Action Network, Reverend Al Sharpton called Bond “a trailblazer for equality and inclusion."

President Obama called Bond "a hero" and "a friend" saying both he and the first lady have benefited from his "example" and "counsel."

"Julian Bond helped change this country for the better", the president said. 

"And what better way to be remembered than that."

Bond was 75.  

He leaves behind his second wife, Pamela Horowitz and four grown children: daughter Phyllis Bond-McMillan, and sons Michael, Horace and Jeffery Bond.

For more, see full NAACP Bond bio.

Updated August 17, 2015.

The Obamas help friend, Vernon Jordan, celebrate his 80th birthday

The White House issued the following pool report as the Obamas continue their vacation on Martha's Vineyard -- helping close friend, Vernon Jordan, celebrate his 80th birthday.

From the White House:

"Tonight, the First Family attended the 80th birthday celebration for Vernon Jordan, Jr. at the Farm Neck Golf Club. There were approximately 200 guests in attendance.

"The President and First Lady have known the Jordans for over twenty years, and were grateful to have sat with Ann and other guests this evening.

"Toasts were offered between courses. Ann Jordan offered the first toast, welcoming guests and honoring her husband. President Obama then toasted Vernon extolling his kindness and generosity.

The President told attendees that Vernon's wisdom and enthusiasm are rare qualities.

"Third and fourth toasts were offered by President Clinton and Vickee Jordan, respectively.

"Other guests tonight included Morgan Freeman, Brian Roberts, Henry Louis Gates, Ken Chenault, Valerie Jarrett, and Capricia Marshall. Tonight's menu included salad, surf and turf, and birthday cake."

The president, as you might have expected, has been playing several rounds of golf and has included the likes of Jordan, Bill Kirk and former president Bill Clinton.

Side bar.  Morgan Freeman's step-granddaughter was found stabbed to death in New York Sunday morning.

Said Freeman, "her star will continue to shine in our hearts, thoughts and prayers."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Voting Rights Act: "We're still trying to build a democracy."

The president commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).


"There are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote."


A candid conversation on the VRA

Entrepreneurs pitch their product, service during White House 'Demo Day'

Demo Day is normally done in the presence of wealthy Venture Capitalists (VCs) where entrepreneurs pitch (or demonstrate) their product or service idea in hopes of receiving funding (and recognition) to take their business idea to the next level.  

On Tuesday, in the first ever Demo Day, entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to the president of the United States.

President Obama with Demo Day entrepreneurs.  Photos/CD Brown.
The event brought together minority and women-owned businesses, a demographic that often faces more barriers receiving funding.

A study revealed that fewer than 3 percent of venture capital-backed companies have a woman as their CEO, while yet another study revealed that fewer than 1 percent have an African American founder. 

"We’ve got to make sure that everybody is getting a fair shot", said President Obama, "not leave more than half the team on the bench."

The president has received commitments from nearly 50 businesses to help level the playing field for minority and women-owned business.  

The administration has also worked with the Small Business Administration in its Startup In A Day campaign to help entrepreneurs with registering and applying for business permits and licenses.

A few businesses on hand during Demo Day included PartPicSword and Plough, and Cocoon Cam.

Demo  Day fast facts:  

§  Announcing 116 winners of two Small Business Administration prizes that promise to unleash entrepreneurship in communities across the country: the Growth Accelerator Fund for startup accelerators, incubators, and other entrepreneurial ecosystems; and the President’s “Startup in a Day” initiative that will empower mayors to cut red tape for local entrepreneurs.
§  Scaling up the National Science Foundation I-Corps program with eight new and expanded Federal agency partnerships, introducing hundreds of entrepreneurial scientist teams across the country to a rigorous process for moving their discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace.
The independent commitments being announced today include, among others:
§  Expanding the response to the President’s TechHire initiative with 10 new cities and states working with employer partners on new ways to recruit and place applicants based on their skills, create more accelerated tech training opportunities, and invest in innovative placement programs to connect trained workers with entrepreneurial opportunities and well-paying jobs.
§  Over 40 leading venture capital firms with over $100 billion under management, including Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and Scale Venture Partners, committing to specific actions that advance opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
§  Institutional investors committing over $11 billion to emerging managers, including CalPERS and the New York City Pension Funds.
§  Over 100 engineering deans committing to attract and retain a diverse student body, building the pipeline for the next generation of American engineers and entrepreneurs.
§  Over a dozen major technology companies announcing new actions to ensure diverse recruitment and hiring, including Amazon, Box, Microsoft, Xerox, and others committing to adopt variations on the “Rooney Rule” to consider diverse candidates for senior executive positions.
For more Demo Day info click here.

"Diplomacy" key to Iran Nuclear Talks

President Obama spoke at American University on Wednesday to make the case for the administration's nuclear war deal recently reached with Iran.

Making the case for the U.S. - Iran nuclear weapons deal: President Obama speaking in the 
Prince Salman Grand Auditorium on the campus of American University. Photo/CD Brown. 
The president said the current deal, one with far-reaching components, was the best offer that could have been made, short of the alternative which he said - could be war.

To the point, and more diplomatically, the agreement stipulates that Iran cannot make a nuclear weapon - ever.

The president explained several other components of the deal, which 90 countries support.

Under the deal, said the president, "The core of its [Iran's] heavy-water reactor at Arak will be pulled out, filled with concrete, and replaced with one that will not produce plutonium for a weapon.  The spent fuel from that reactor will be shipped out of the country, and Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors for at least 15 years."

The deal also stipulates that Iran will not be able to acquire uranium used to manufacture a bomb and that it must rid 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium (enough for nearly 10 nuclear bombs), also for 15 years.

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have access to inspect Iran's uranium mines, mills and centrifuge production facilities for the same time period to ensure compliance.

"Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites", the president said.

"If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious, undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access, even if Iran objects."

IAEA's director, General Yukiya Amano, said Wednesday in a Senate Committee hearing that the U.S., "will have wider access to information and sites."

"We will know much more about the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities", he said.

Opponents of the 'arrangement', with staunch recollection of Iran's history of violating treaties and agreements and Iran's reputation known for state-sponsored terrorism, question the deal's viability.

"Many serious concerns have been raised regarding this deal", said Representative Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), speaking at a more than three-hour long hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

"It remains a serious risk to the national security of the United states, [and] it remains a constant threat to the survival of Israel."

Representative Tim Scott (R-SC) said, "The more I read it, the less I like it."

(See 12 Senators that could sway the Iran deal).

Despite the clear and present reality of those concerns, the arrangement speaks only to nuclear weapons non-proliferation.

The government of Israel has opposed the deal; its Prime Minister has asked U.S. Jews to reject it.

"Because the government of Israel has opposed the deal, that has lead members of Congress to be concerned about it", said American University president Cornelius Kerwin.

"That's a big factor, but I think really, most of it is just politics", Kerwin said.

"There are certain people, no matter what he [President Obama] does, they're going to oppose."

Jake Plevelich of American University's School of International Service (SIS) Masters program said President Obama, "values our country more than previous presidents."

"I'm just very proud that he got this deal, and he fought for it, and he’s standing by it", said Plevelich.

"By him standing by this deal he is a peace maker and he’s standing up for the American people. Obviously, nothing’s ever going to be perfect given the circumstances, but I think this was an excellent deal given the circumstances.    Iran is cut off from making a bomb and that’s the goal.  I think that we have achieved the goal and the next step is just to get the deal approved.”

Congress has more meetings scheduled to discuss the deal before they leave for the Congressional August recess.

For others, no further discussion is needed.

"This deal is trusted and verified", said Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

"For me, this deal is about one thing, and one thing only. That this regime, that does do a lot of terrible things in the region and to its own people, will not have a nuclear weapon that that could further terrorize the world and terrorize the region."

Jake Plevelich and Parsa Ghahramani, American University School of International Service (SIS) students.

What AU millennials are saying about the deal.

Students of American University's School of International Studies (SIS) at American University weigh in on the U.S.- Iran nuclear weapons deal.

"I think it's important for my generation, the millennials, to pay attention to what is going on...  I like the fact that President Obama is bringing a different approach to it other than just war and military action. It's... more diplomatic where we can get more actors involved to find a peaceful solution.
My biggest concern is what happens if Iran goes to an ally and starts building a nuclear program with that country that the United States has not prohibited from developing a nuclear weapon. Is the U.S. always going to be involved in Iran’s foreign policy? Are they always going to have to scatter their experts around the world – having inspectors  follow Iran everywhere the go?"  – Michelle Sumakai, Graduate student; Ethics, Peace and  Global Affairs
 "It's a great thing. There really aren’t any alternatives that are better.   The president embarked on the hard work of diplomacy, which is a lot more difficult than just tough talk, just sounding.    
The overwhelming majority of Iranians support the deal because they realize this is the best that could be done."   Parsa Ghahramani,  2nd year Masters student; School of International Services (SIS)

WATCH: The president speaks at AU | Iran Nuclear Agreement Sanctions Relief  (1:10 mark provides another case against the deal)


 Representative Chuck Schumer (D-NY) opposes deal with Iran.