🇺🇸 Good Wednesday morning. It's Juneteenth, the celebration that commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S. Go deeper.
- Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,079 words ... < 5 minutes!
1 big thing: Tech's self-doubt, brutal scrutiny
The tech industry, long accustomed to seizing the spotlight by unveiling innovations, now is consumed by new debate full of doubts and questions about its wares, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried writes from S.F.
Recode's Code Conference, held last week in Scottsdale, is one of the industry's highest-profile gatherings.
- In years past, tech executives announced their latest gadget or service.
- This year, not a single product was launched.
- Instead, speakers from Big Tech companies were pressed on what they were doing to fight hate and misinformation.
The big picture: Tech's conversation is changing in part because more people are participating.
- The dialogue was long dominated by the companies themselves.
- The rest of the world served as consumers.
That's all changing with concerns over privacy breaches, tech's effect on democracy and the impact of smartphones.
- Politicians, pundits and researchers aren't willing to cede the floor to CEOs and tech visionaries.
- The new conversation includes privacy advocates, regulators, elected officials and consumer groups.
The bottom line: Once tech took such a central role in our lives and culture, it was inevitable that it would spark broader debate — and sharper criticism.
2. Why Trump chose Orlando
Two big reasons President Trump's campaign chose Orlando, Fla., for last night's official re-election launch, a source tells Axios' Jonathan Swan:
- They knew they could get an enormous spillover crowd there.
- This is the big one: The Trump campaign has been vacuuming up an extraordinary amount of voter data at its rallies. When you register for a ticket, you hand over basic info. Then when you show up and get your ticket scanned, you tell the campaign more about your intensity and propensity to show up and vote. The source said the campaign is trying to vacuum up as much Florida voter information as early as possible, so that key state can be squared away. These rallies have huge value for Trump’s digital operation, ongoing fundraising — and ultimately for the get out the vote operation.
After asking rally-goers to cheer for two options, Trump — theatrically cupping his ear — officially changed his campaign slogan from "Make America Great Again" to "Keep America Great."
- "I'm sorry, MAGA Country!" Trump said.
3. Trump campaign sees "upside" to impeachment
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, in an interview with CBS News' Major Garrett, when pressed what might happen if Democrats were to convene impeachment hearings: "I think there's political upside."
- Parscale insisted several times that he wouldn't want that: "[T]here's a lot of things that can happen in the world that can be a political upside that you would never want. ... I wouldn't want this, either. This is not good."
- "Dividing our country ... those types of fights are never good," Parscale added. "The president is gonna win ... on the agenda and the message that he wants, and I would never promote anything like that."
Asked about the electoral map, Parscale said he feels "comfortable" about holding Trump's 2016 states, and added this bullish prediction:
- "I think we add New Hampshire, we add New Mexico, and we add Nevada if it was today."
5. Bad air years
After decades of improvement, U.S. air quality slipped the last two years, AP reports:
- There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, a period when America had its fewest number of such days since at least 1980.
P.S. ... Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early, per Reuters:
- "Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, ... in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared."
6. Pentagon unmoored
Army Secretary Mark Esper, a West Point graduate and former Raytheon lobbyist, will become President Trump's acting defense secretary on Monday.
- Why it matters, via the N.Y. Times: This leaves "the Pentagon in transition at a time of escalating tensions with Iran and questions about the role of the military on the border with Mexico."
Patrick Shanahan, the current acting Pentagon chief, withdrew yesterday after news stories detailed "his contentious divorce, including an incident in which his son attacked his ex-wife with a baseball bat," the WashPost reports.
- It's uncertain whether Trump will nominate Esper to keep the job.
Other people being discussed include Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, per the Post.
- "Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has been considered previously, but it’s unclear whether he would leave the Senate for the post."
Go deeper: Read Jonathan Swan's behind-the-scenes account of Shanahan's departure, which led Axios PM.
7. First look: Gender as the ghost of 2016
If voters were convinced a woman could win the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren would poll even higher, according to a new report shown first to Axios by Avalanche, a progressive public-opinion research firm.
- Why it matters: A 2020 key could prove to be voters' perception of gender on the 2016 election.
The findings: When the pollster used a magic wand to wash out "electability" as the top factor, the Dems' 2020 race tightened significantly, putting Warren right up with Joe Biden.
- "[M]any voters may not need to be convinced that female a candidate is more capable — they must be convinced that Americans are capable of electing them," the report says.
Go deeper: Read the report
8. S.F. takes aim at vaping
"The San Francisco Board of Supervisors [yesterday] unanimously voted to approve first-of-its-kind legislation to suspend the sale of e-cigarettes in the city," reports the S.F. Chronicle's Catherine Ho.
- Vaping giant Juul "is collecting signatures for a ballot measure for the November election that would override" the ban.
The company, which employs 1,200 people in the city, is also under threat from the board's "intent to pass a separate measure prohibiting the sale, manufacture and distribution of e-cigarettes on city property," which could prevent it from leasing land there in the future.
9. Giving drops under Trump tax law
"Americans gave less money to charities last year partly because the Republican tax law changes made many people ineligible for tax breaks that can inspire donations," Bloomberg's Laura Davison reports.
- By the numbers: "Total estimated giving, by corporations, foundations, as well as individuals, fell about 1.7%, after inflation, to $427.7 billion."
10. 1 fun thing
"The 40 Most Powerful People in Comedy 2019" ... "The Hollywood Reporter polls industry insiders and mines the data to assemble the second annual list of the artists and executives with the clout to make the world laugh."
A few of this year's selections:
- Kenya Barris: The "Black-ish" creator signed an eight-figure deal with Netflix, where he hopes to deliver "disruptive comedy."
- Mindy Kaling: The "Office" alum "has her eye on movie stardom" — and a new Netflix deal.
- Issa Rae: "The creator and star of HBO's 'Insecure' stretched beyond TV this year with roles in films 'The Hate U Give' and 'Little.'"
- Phoebe Waller-Bridge: "The 33-year-old British playwright turned TV Renaissance woman" is punching up the script for the new Bond movie.