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Jul 17, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Saturday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,470 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Gigi Sukin.

1 big thing: Elites' "new orthodoxy"

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

This may be hard for some of you to stomach, but it's worth grappling with — it captures a rising dynamic in American politics.

Andrew Sullivan, once influential but now on an island, writes in his Substack newsletter, "The Weekly Dish," of a "sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites" — a "moral panic," he calls it.

  • Democrats, this Trump opponent argues, have taken "a sudden, giant swerve" left from their own recent past — "the left's war on liberalism."

Sullivan, 57, made a "A (Conservative) Case for Gay Marriage" in The New Republic in 1989 (32 years ag0), then was booted from New York Magazine last summer for what he calls "unacceptable politics." He writes that he keeps getting asked on Twitter: "What happened to you?"

  • "It’s trolling, mainly," he says. "And it’s a weapon for some in the elite to wield against others in the kind of emotional blackmail spiral that was first pioneered on elite college campuses."
  • Sullivan, an early supporter of Barack Obama, claims to have "exactly the same principles and support most of the same policies" that he did then: "In fact, I've moved left on economic and foreign policy."

"The real question," Sullivan continues, "is: what happened to you?"

  • "We all know it’s happened. The elites [are] increasingly sequestered within one political party and one media monoculture, educated by colleges and private schools that have become hermetically sealed against any non-left dissent."
  • "There is no neutrality. No space for skepticism. No room for debate. No space even for staying silent."

Sullivan's bottom line: "[L]iberalism is no longer enough."

  • Go deeper: "Rise of the anti-'woke' Democrat."
2. Olympics' crumbling economics

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An Olympic gold medal remains the athletic pinnacle, but the economics supporting the podium are crumbling, Axios Capital author Felix Salmon writes:

  • Why it matters: For the Summer Games opening Friday in Tokyo, the location is more of a liability than ever. The postponed Games risk spreading COVID in a country with a very low vaccination rate — while bringing no tourists, since spectators are banned from all events.

What's happening: The Olympics haven't made financial sense in decades. Host cities spend billions, and inevitably suffer massive cost overruns, with a lasting legacy of buildings ill-suited to any other use.

The big picture: Olympic ideals — amateurism, fair play, noble competition — have been marred by countless corruption scandals.

  • What remains is an increasingly lopsided spectacle: The medal table is dominated by countries willing to shell out for state-of-the-art training and youth development facilities.

The Tokyo Olympics will cost about $28 billion (3 trillion yen), the newspapers Nikkei and Asahi estimate, far exceeding organizers' claims.

Broadcast rights constitute the lion's share of Olympic revenues. The IOC locked in a multibillion-dollar revenue stream from Comcast through 2032.

  • That's the year in which Brisbane, Australia, will host the Summer Games because there were no other bidders. (The IOC will make it official on Wednesday.)
  • U.S. television rights are more valuable than those of every other country in the world combined. But five years ago, the Rio Olympics — in pretty much a perfect time zone for the U.S. market — had disappointing ratings.
  • The Tokyo Olympics have no live audience, and are in a terrible time zone for American viewing.

What we're watching: Potential reputational risks to brands that sponsor the Games in Beijing, which hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics.

3. "Blaring siren" for Dems after ruling halts DACA

Vice President Harris speaks June 15 at an event marking the ninth anniversary of DACA. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Immigrants and advocates urged Democrats and President Biden to quickly act to protect young immigrants after a federal judge in Texas yesterday barred new applicants to the Obama-era program that prevents the deportation of "Dreamers," AP's Astrid Galvan reports.

  • U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal — barring the government from approving new applications, but leaving the program intact for existing recipients.

Speaker Pelosi vowed that Democrats will keep pushing the DREAM Act, which would give permanent protection to DACA beneficiaries.

4. Wall Street rushes to travel

Photo: Getty Images

Wall Street moguls are urging their bankers to get off Zoom and visit corporate clients before others do, The Wall Street Journal reports in an A-hed (subscription):

  • Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon asked "bankers if they had clients he should visit while he was making trips ... on his corporate jet. This prompted senior bankers, many of whom had been holed up in the Hamptons and Palm Beach, to hit the pavement."

JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon began pushing private jets on managing directors, saying: "If you need to use a plane to go see a client, use it. There are no excuses," The Journal reported.

  • "The effort intensified when Fernando Rivas, JPMorgan’s head of North America investment banking, set up a contest to get bankers on the road again. The game, which ran during the month of June, awarded senior bankers 10 points for proper face time with CEOs outside their offices, seven for attending board meetings in-person, five for visiting CEOs in their offices, three for CFOs and one for other senior executives such as heads of corporate development."
5. 🐦 Climate Twitter's perfect storm
German soldiers work today on a flooded car in Erftstadt, Germany. Photo: Michael Probst/AP

Axios' Andrew Freedman tells me that Climate Twitter is sobering these days, with scientists and activists comforting one another on Europe, Western fires and the unrelenting heat.

  • All clear manifestations of a warming world. All at once. 

Why it matters: Human-caused climate change increases the odds of extreme precipitation events — one of the more robust conclusions of studies. 

Via Twitter

A well-known German activist:

Via Twitter
Drone's-eye view of damage in Erfstadt, Germany, southwest of Cologne. Photo: David Young/dpa via Getty Images

⚡ The latest: Rescuers are searching flood-ravaged Germany and Belgium for survivors after burst rivers and flash floods collapsed houses and towns, claiming 150+ lives. Rebuilding will cost billions. (Reuters)

6. Milley warned Trump: "You're gonna have a f-----g war"
President Trump with Gen. Mark Milley on Oct. 7, 2019. Photo: Ron Sachs/CNP via Getty Images

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, feared President Trump might provoke war with Iran as he tried to cling to power, Susan Glasser writes in The New Yorker.

  • Iran was repeatedly raised in White House meetings with Trump in the months after the election, and Milley repeatedly argued against a strike, Glasser reports:
Milley ... was worried that Trump might set in motion a full-scale conflict that was not justified. Trump had a circle of Iran hawks around him and was close with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also urging the Administration to act against Iran after it was clear that Trump had lost the election. "If you do this, you’re gonna have a f-----g war," Milley would say.

Between the lines: It's stunning that Milley is allowing these detailed accounts of his thinking to be reported while he's still in the job.

  • The WashPost's Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker report in their book, "I Alone Can Fix It," out Tuesday, that Milley saw Trump's post-election behavior as a "Reichstag moment ... The gospel of the Führer."

Milley considered resigning after the Lafayette Square photo op on June 1, 2020, and told his aides that was "prepared to be fired, or even court-martialed," Glasser reports.

  • Two days later, in the Pentagon briefing room, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced that he didn't support invoking the Insurrection Act against protesters, and said he tried to "stay apolitical."

Soon after, Glasser writes, "Esper, Milley, and the Centcom commander, Frank Mackenzie, were scheduled to attend a White House meeting on Afghanistan."

Trump, enraged, lit into Esper before Milley could even sit down. The President went "apes---t" on Esper, Milley told associates, one of the worst such reamings-out he had ever seen. Trump would go on to fire Esper days after he lost the 2020 election.

Keep reading.

7. Rising tech hubs: Miami youth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Miami's startup funding surge has been largely concentrated at the earliest stages — signaling that the city is still a young hub that's mainly adding brand new companies, Kia Kokalitcheva writes in her own hot startup, a weekend edition of Axios Pro Rata.

  • There's an uptick in VCs from Silicon Valley and other hubs taking trips to Miami to meet with local startups and network. Investors from the #Angels group, Freestyle and GV (among many others) have been in town recently — and are inking deals.

A number of previously successful founders are setting up their new startups in Miami, says Atomic managing partner (and early transplant) Jack Abraham.

  • The arrival of investors from established VC firms like Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, and SoftBank’s commitment to investing $100 million in local startups, has sent strong signals about Miami’s viability as a hub.

Keep reading.

8. 1 film thing: "Indiana Jones" sneak peek
Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Glasgow City Centre in Scotland was turned into a movie set circa 1969 Manhattan yesterday for the filming of the fifth "Indiana Jones" film, starring Harrison Ford.

Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images

Above: A car is moved into position for a parade scene.

Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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