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Opinion

A review of Joe Biden's book

Daily Point

Biden book and the governors Cuomo

Next up in The Point’s presidential contender reading list is Joe Biden’s offering, “Promise Me, Dad,” which stands out from many of the other drab candidate books. 

If you were going to have a beer with one of the campaign tomes, it would be this one. The setup is key: Biden (with his writing team) focuses on the sickness and death by cancer of his politically promising son, Beau, in 2015. So there is pathos aplenty. Good luck trying not to tear up over Biden’s diary entry upon Beau’s death: “My God, my boy. My beloved boy.” 

The narrative structure allows Biden to do what he does best: tell stories. About trips to Nantucket and politicians like Rep. Peter King (“reasonable and dedicated,” though they also had disagreements). About Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who Biden says reminded him of Beau and who encouraged Biden to think carefully about declining to seek the presidency, given the lesson of his father, Mario Cuomo. About comforting the father of NYPD officer Wenjian Liu, murdered in 2014. Liu’s father later returns the favor and attends Beau’s wake. 

Rambling old-fashioned storytelling (at least when Biden sticks to the facts) is one of Biden’s calling cards for 2020. The argument for his candidacy is that the guy knows how to connect. This 2017 book showcases that ability, while also shrewdly laying the groundwork for a 2020 run. It follows Biden as he runs around the globe putting out President Barack Obama’s diplomatic fires. It underscores their apparently deep friendship, to the point that the president offers to lend the Bidens money if needed. It glosses Biden’s 2016 decision not to run by conveniently laying out all the ways his campaign would have been populist and of-the-moment. 

It even covers, multiple times, the good intentions behind Biden’s proclivity to hug people, sometimes awkwardly. “Please, hug me for a minute,” he remembers one woman who lost a daughter saying to him. 

It’s about comfort and connection and the reassuring presence of someone who has seen some things, which Biden 2020 surely hopes will be enough to finally gain the top spot. 

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Nobody does it better

The Hong Kong protesters are looking to New Yorkers for inspiration.

“Be water,” protesters in Hong Kong are telling each other. Originally a famous saying by Hong Kong-American martial arts star Bruce Lee, the line has been adopted by demonstrators seeking to stay ahead of police by being flexible and unpredictable in their tactics. But disobeying the rules is still a new phenomenon.

The Hong Kong protests, which have gone on for months now, have no clear leader and most communication among participants has relied on word of mouth or social media, sometimes in advance and other times in the spur of the moment. When confronting police, protesters describe themselves as being strong and hard like ice; to stretch police resources and impact many parts of the city on a given night, they invoke the fluid nature of H2O; to avoid arrests, they scatter like mist. 

Most recently, the flexibility at the core of this philosophy has taken on the form of forgoing subway fares via jumping over the turnstiles in metro stations, a common sight in New York City but virtually unheard of in Hong Kong, after the city’s metro service shut down stations close to where demonstrations were scheduled two weekends ago. 

The closures came only two days after an op-ed in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, accused Hong Kong’s metro system of being an “accomplice to rioters” by providing special trains to allow the protesters to “escape” late at night. 

The Mass Transit Railway denied that the station closures are a result of pressure from China, but some protesters -- dubbing the MTR “Communist Party Rail” because of its seeming bend to China’s will -- have taken to jumping the turnstiles out of an act of civil disobedience. 

However, a source told The Point that because doing so is rare in the city, there are forums and tutorials online advising people how to best carry out this act. “Be like Liu Xiang [a famous Chinese Olympic champion] and jump the hurdle!” one instructional post reads. Another says: “Jump together [in a group]! 👏👏👏”

- Yeji Jesse Lee @jesse_yeji

Pencil Point

Roots run deep

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Final Point

Bidding farewell to a founding father

The Riders Alliance has become a staple of New York transit politics, blasting out statements about subway or LIRR service and lugging around a cardboard cutout of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as a reminder that it’s #cuomosmta. 

But the organization was only founded in 2012 and it started with just one staffer: John Raskin, the founding executive director. 

After a big year for transit watchers that included the passage of a congestion-pricing scheme to help fund the mass-transit system, Raskin is leaving the group and the spunky gadfly organization will continue on its own. 

The Point caught up with Raskin in Manhattan recently to talk about the group’s future and New York transit politics. 

Raskin, who was previously chief of staff for State Sen. Daniel Squadron, hasn’t disclosed his personal plans but says it’s a good time to leave as the organization is “in a strong place.” 

He says it was never meant to be a platform for any one individual: “It was to build power for the transit rider in the long term.”

One aspect that differentiated Riders Alliance from some other transit groups is its focus on turning transit riders “into a voting constituency,” says Raskin. Now the group has 10 staffers and around 1,000 members who contribute monthly or participate in meetings or events. That base has helped nudge politicians. 

The Riders Alliance is planning interviews for new leader candidates this fall. Next up for the group is making sure politicians follow through on their recent MTA promises — the Fair Fares program to subsidize MetroCards for those who need it, the rollout of congestion pricing to make sure the money is used to invest well in signal and accessibility upgrades, and other improvements. 

What’s next for Raskin? There’s one thing the 38-year-old new father is ruling out for now. 

“I can say with great confidence that I am not running for office anytime in the near future with a 10-month-old baby.”

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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