Apr 15, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy April 15. A quirk: Tax Day this year is on Tuesday, April 18. Usually when April 15 falls on a weekend, filers have a reprieve until Monday. But AP's Stephen Ohlemacher notes that because Monday is a holiday in D.C. (Emancipation Day, the day in 1862 in which 3,100 slaves living in Washington were freed), all states get an extra day.

1 big thing: War drums

North Korean leader Kim Kim Jong-un looks like he wants a war — meaning that this weekend's provocative posturing is much more worrisome than in the past.

Taunting Trump, Pyongyang today showed off a "Frankenmissile" — a new type of ICBM that had not been seen before.

Get smart fast as we begin this tense weekend of geopolitical risk:

  • The lead of BBC News is the stark "North Korea 'ready for nuclear attack'": "The comments came as North Korea marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding president, Kim Il-sung. ... 'We're prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war,' said Choe Ryong-hae, believed to be the country's second most powerful official."
  • The Guardian: "On a sunny Saturday morning in Pyongyang, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung Square as a band played rousing military music."
  • WSJ's Jonathan Cheng in Seoul: "The weaponry on show, which appeared to include a newly-modified intercontinental ballistic missile and two types of large launchers with never-before-seen missile canisters, is likely to trigger fresh concerns about the speed with which Pyongyang's missile program has advanced."
  • "[A]n expert on North Korean weapons said the new hardware appeared to be far more advanced than expected."
  • China warns of "storm clouds" N.Y. Times: "China warned ... that tensions on the Korean Peninsula could spin out of control, as North Korea said it could test a nuclear weapon at any time and a United States naval group neared the peninsula — an American effort to sow doubt in Pyongyang over how President Trump might respond."

Pulling back the camera ... "World power whiplash: Trump reverses views on Russia, China," by AP's Josh Lederman: "Once soft on Russia and hard on China, ... Trump rapidly reversed course in the last weeks, concluding there's more business to be done with Beijing than with Moscow."

Why it matters: "Trump's evolving views ... have brought the U.S. back into alignment with former President Barack Obama's pattern of 'great power' politics."

2. Tweet du jour

Breaking ... ''Mother of all bombs' killed 94 ISIS fighters, Afghan official says."

Bonus Tweet du Jour ... @MaggieNYT: "Despite BANNON criticism internally, two officials also describe him as 'one of the only grownups' there."

Graphic du jour ... "The Shifting Alliances and Rival Factions Inside Trump's West Wing," with four sectors: Friends and Family ... Wall Street ... Anti-Establishment ... Republican Establishment.

3. We feel better than we spend

A challenge to euphoria ... The Wall Street Journal's lead story is "Economy Stumbles Despite Optimism," by Eric Morath:

"Uneven retail spending stands in sharp contrast to soaring measures of consumer confidence. The University of Michigan's consumer-sentiment measure ... is near the highest level in more than a decade."

4. Trump revives Ex-Im bank — but turns knife

"Trump's Choice to Run U.S. Export-Import Bank Is Vocal Critic," by Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein: "Trump, who as a candidate said he didn't think the bank needed to exist, named former New Jersey Representative Scott Garrett ... to be the bank's chairman and president. He tapped former Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus for a seat on the bank's board of directors."

  • "Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg is said to have been particularly influential in changing the president's view of the agency. Boeing is by far the largest exporter beneficiary of the bank, to the tune of several billion dollars annually, followed by General Electric Co."
  • WSJ's Nick Timiraos: "Garrett voted in 2012 and in 2015 against renewing the charter of the Ex-Im Bank, which guarantees loans for companies that export U.S. products.

P.S. Miami Herald, top of column 1, "GOP foreign policy experts welcome Trump's reversals."

5. "Grave national security risks and privacy concerns"

N.Y. Times, top of front page, "White House Won't Disclose List of Visitors," by Julie Davis in West Palm Beach: "The announcement came on a day when Mr. Trump spent his morning and early afternoon out of sight of reporters at his golf club in West Palm Beach; White House aides declined, as has become their standard practice, to say what the president was doing or who he was with during his four hours at the club."

  • "Obama also went golfing with regularity during his presidency, but the White House routinely acknowledged when he was playing and gave the names of his golf partners."
  • "The decision [to cut off public access to visitor logs, breaking with the Obama administration's practice] — which White House officials said was necessary for reasons of national security ... effectively bars the public from knowing which activists, lobbyists, political donors and others are gaining access to the president and his aides on a daily basis.
  • @EricLiptonNYT: "As a reporter who writes abt ethics & lobbyists, not having WhiteHouse logs is a very big deal. A major rollback."
6. Big ideas: Supply-side economics, but for liberals

Just posted by Neil Irwin of N.Y. Times' Upshot: "Certain social welfare policies [such as child-care subsidies], according to an emerging body of research, may actually encourage more people to work and enable them to do so more productively. ... It amounts to a liberal version of 'supply-side economics,' an approach to economics often associated with the conservatives of the Reagan era."

  • Why it matters: "The United States and other advanced nations are struggling to emerge from a pattern of persistently low growth, an era when many prime-age people aren't in the labor force at all and productivity gains have been weak for years. Supplementing low-end wages through the tax code and ensuring that children have the food and education to become productive adults just may help."
7. Apple's ambitions

Apple gets permit to test self-driving cars in California ... San Jose Mercury News' Ethan Baron: "In the first official confirmation of Apple's automotive ambitions, the secretive Cupertino company on Friday received a permit to test self-driving vehicles on California roads."

  • The backstory: "With major Silicon Valley tech firms and U.S. carmakers jumping into the frenzy to bring the technology to the market, the possibility that Apple will join the fray has fascinated the valley. The company has long been rumored to be working on a mysterious 'Project Titan' connected to vehicles."
  • Sorry! "Apple is probably not building its own car, however, and Project Titan may just be a code word for the firm's work on vehicle technology."

P.S. "Uber, Lifting Financial Veil, Says Sales Growth Outpaces Losses," by Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer: "more than doubled gross bookings in 2016 to $20 billion ... Net revenue was $6.5 billion, while adjusted net losses were $2.8 billion, excluding the China business, which it sold last summer."

8. The lessons of United

Shot ... Cover of tomorrow's WashPost Outlook section, "The 'empowered consumer' doesn't get much say: United shows that companies are still boss," writes author Jacob Silverman: "Air travel is the most concentrated version of an essentially authoritarian experience that can be found throughout today's economy.

"We live, work, shop, and travel under a system of grossly asymmetric power relationships, in which consumers sign away most of their rights just by purchasing a ticket and companies deputize themselves to enforce contracts with hired goons."

Chaser ... "Phones and social media turn consumers into whistleblowers," by AP's Mae Anderson: "Employees need to be ready to react when a situation gets dramatic — and companies should emphasize that anything employees do could be recorded. ... On-site employees need to be given more power to respond to avoid escalating an incident, especially one that might be recorded."

How it's done ... "Delta can now offer up to $9,950 to passengers willing to give up seats."

9. Media trends: Adapting to Trump's America

"Hiring Anti-Trump Conservative [Bret Stephens] Is Part Of New York Times' Effort To Expand Opinion," by HuffPost's Michael Calderone and Nick Baumann:

Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet said there "are many shades of conservatism and many shades of liberalism," and the Times owes it to readers to "capture a wide range."

"On Friday afternoon, the Times announced another Wall Street Journal writer and editor, [associate book review editor] Bari Weiss, would be joining the opinion section."

10. 1 fun thing: "Luke who's talking"

"Stars Wars: The Last Jedi" won't arrive in our galaxy until Dec. 15, but a trailer that dropped yesterday (16 million views just of the official YouTube, with copies all over the web) provided more online excitement and debate than most actual moves.

Entertainment Weekly calls the clip "our first glimpse into the galaxy after civil war was reignited in The Force Awakens."

Han Solo is gone. Luke Skywalker has been found. And although General Leia Organa's Resistance has knocked back the First Order, those Imperial wannabes remain a volatile threat under the command of General Hux, and the enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke.

Wired's Brian Raftery: "[P]erhaps what's most notable is that no one is having any fun. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is trying to learn the Force from a cranky, Hoth-cold Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who tells her, "I only know one truth: It's time for the Jedi to end.'"

Thanks for reading! To send your thoughts, tips or gripes, just reply to this email — it'll go straight to my real in-box.

And as we head into Easter weekend, Norah O'Donnell wishes "Happy 50th" to Bob and Pat Schieffer.

Mike Allen