🍟 Happy Friday! Tomorrow, Feb. 9, is Fall Off the Wagon Day — the day fast-food visits since Jan. 1 intersect with gym visits, per Foursquare data cited by USA Today.
1 big thing ... Trump's lifeline: Democrats' socialism surge
Democrats are flirting with socialism in ways they carefully and clearly ran away from in the past, handing President Trump a new way to unify Republicans — and to club his opponents.
- It started with Democrats sitting silently as he railed against socialism in his State of the Union speech.
- It intensified with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's release of a Green New Deal, a vague policy manifesto loaded with big-government policies.
- The surge is unlikely to abate: Young, Twitter- and social-savvy Democrats favor socialism over capitalism. And no Democrat in politics today plays the social media game with more savvy than AOC.
The White House, the Trump campaign — and the outside political advisers in Trump’s orbit — seem to be universally excited by the Green New Deal and many Democrats' embrace of socialism, per Jonathan Swan:
- They've been far more optimistic about Trump's re-election chances this week than Swan has heard since the early days of Trump’s presidency.
- And they're thrilled that so many of Trump’s potential 2020 opponents are endorsing the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal calls for a World War II-level mobilization to put the U.S. on an aggressive pathway toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, Axios' Ben Geman reports.
- "Upgrading all existing buildings in the U.S. and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency."'
- Working with farmers and ranchers "to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions ... as much as is technologically feasible."
- "Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States."
Andy Surabian, Republican strategist and former White House official, told Axios' Alayna Treene: "I think you’re gonna see Republicans start pointing out that the people who will be affected by this plan won’t be billionaires or rich people. It’s the middle, lower classes and poverty stricken areas of America."
- "The only people who can afford to be environmentalists are billionaires."
Global warming, however, punishes the world's poorest — "hotter, drier and hungrier," as the N.Y. Times puts it.
Amy Harder asked Ocasio-Cortez whether her proposal feeds into Trump's claims about socialism. AOC replied:
- "I find this hilarious, because this president seeks to expand government into the bodies of women. They seek to expand government to spontaneously generate detention centers all along our southern border."
- "So this is not about who's expanding government. It’s about who we're working for, and we're choosing to work for the people of the United States."
Marty Obst, senior political adviser to Vice President Pence, told Alayna: "While the President and Vice President support the Venezuelan people's struggle for freedom, the Democratic Party continues its lurch toward socialism."
- "I would envision that the campaign will highlight the stark differences between the two parties on this policy among many others."
Be smart: Obst's quote is a signal that Pence and the political operation that surrounds him — which will play an important role in the Trump re-elect — plan to make Democratic socialism one of their main lines of attack.
Go deeper: The fight Trump and AOC both want in 2020
2. Bezos alleges blackmail: "The everything story"
A line in Jeff Bezos' stunning Medium post exposing a potentially illegal squeeze play by the National Enquirer makes him seem relatable, even amid some of the most un-relatable of circumstances:
- "Any personal embarrassment AMI [American Media Inc., the Enquirer's parent] could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"
Under the headline "No thank you, Mr. Pecker" (AMI CEO David Pecker), Bezos posted the full text of emails from AMI — including the cell numbers of two AMI executives — that he said constitute "extortion and blackmail."
- From the AMI email: "In addition to the 'below the belt selfie' ... The Enquirer obtained a further nine images" that could embarrass Bezos.
Bezos' blog post encapsulates this cultural-political moment, The Atlantic's Robinson Meyer writes:
In a little more than 2,000 words, Bezos seemed to rip every headline out of the newspaper and bind them in an eternal neon braid: the mighty power of billionaires, the immiseration of American journalism, the thin smudge of porniness that smartphones have layered onto reality — all of that, and President Donald Trump (who is a close friend of David Pecker, AMI’s chief executive), and the corruption and journalist-murdering malice of the Saudi government, which Bezos alleges is wrapped up in his story "for reasons still to be better understood."
Bezos once founded the Everything Store; now he has given us the Everything Story.
3. Self-driving cars are watching you
Autonomous vehicles don't just use cameras to help steer themselves.
To keep improving, they're also capturing and storing images of everything that surrounds them — which means they might catch you on camera if you're in the vicinity, Axios' Joann Muller reports from Detroit.
- Why it matters: This is a big issue that privacy experts are just starting to think about.
- It's not clear who else might see those images — and without concrete rules on how data collected outside the vehicle may be used, bystanders' privacy could be at risk.
Connected vehicles pose all sorts of potential privacy issues for car owners:
- Your car's navigation system needs to know where you are to give directions.
- To enable hands-free dialing, you may sync your phone's contacts to the car.
- When you use Apple CarPlay or Google's Android Auto, you may be exposing data from your car to third-party app providers.
4. Crisis could put Virginia in play for 2020
"The political crisis in Virginia threatens to turn a state that has trended Democratic back into a battleground, a development that could complicate the party's effort to defeat President Trump next year," AP's Bill Barrow reports.
- "Virginia's increasingly diverse and urban population has fueled Democratic victories at the state and presidential level for a decade. But Democrats are anxious that the dizzying developments could suddenly halt their progress."
The lead story of today's WashPost ... "Pressure to oust Northam is easing":
- "Party leaders have urged elected Democrats to stay off television, say as little as possible publicly and wait to try to regroup until the situation becomes clearer."
- "While they continue to call publicly for Northam to resign, most Democrats now want the governor to stay in office at least until there is clarity on the issues involving" the lieutenant governor and attorney general, both Ds.
- "Because the line of succession goes from the governor to lieutenant governor to attorney general, keeping [attorney general Mark] Herring in office is a backstop against handing the Executive Mansion to the third in line, the House Speaker [Kirk Cox], who is a Republican.
5. Coming soon: One of the world's wealthiest nations
A massive oil trove off Guyana, on the South American coast, could make the impoverished former British colony one of the world's wealthiest nations — in the league of petrostates like Qatar, Axios future editor Steve LeVine writes.
- What's new: Since 2016, Exxon has made a dozen discoveries in Guyana that now total more than 5 billion barrels of recoverable reserves.
- Why it matters: Guyana seems wholly unprepared for the avalanche of cash coming its way. It's in political turmoil, with no plan in place for how to marshal and distribute the money among a population of just 780,000 people.
6. 🎬 Movie, book, TV deals add to Silicon Valley scrutiny
A reported seven-figure book deal for two N.Y. Times journalists, based on an investigation of Facebook's privacy scandals, heralds a new era of brutal scrutiny for Silicon Valley's giants, Axios' David McCabe and Kia Kokalitcheva write.
- Why it matters: The intense focus on tech companies' troubles comes not just from policymakers and investigative reporters, but also from our culture's storytellers in New York and Hollywood — book publishers, TV producers, and movie directors.
- And unlike their past infatuations with the tech world, this time they're taking a much tougher view.
- Go deeper: Silicon Valley, get ready for your closeup
As part of a New Republic cover package on the growing divide between Silicon Valley employees and management, Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff argue that tech is growing away from its liberal and libertarian origins:
- "These members of the new tech worker movement don't sound like the 'hippie yuppies' of the Californian Ideology. They are embracing a more collective, worker-driven politics — one that owes less to Ayn Rand than it does to Eugene Debs."
7. "This, too, will be fixed"
Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, responds to a Twitter storm accusing her of rampant plagiarism and sloppy errors in her book on the media business that came out this week, "Merchants of Truth":
- She acknowledges that the source notes in the back of the book "don’t match up with the right pages in a few cases and this was unintentional and will be promptly corrected. The language is too close in some cases and should have been cited as quotations in the text. This, too, will be fixed."
8. Nation's longest-serving congressman
"Former U.S. Rep. John David Dingell Jr., who was one of the U.S. House’s most powerful chairmen and helped write and pass some of the most consequential legislation in the nation's history," died yesterday at 92, the Detroit Free Press's Todd Spangler writes.
- "Dingell, of Dearborn, served nearly 60 years in the House, making him the longest-serving member in Congress' history."
- His wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who now holds his seat, confirmed his death. "He was my love," she said, beginning to cry.
Dingell "helped write or otherwise played a role in passing the most significant measures of the era, including Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, the Endangered Species Act and more."
9. Retiring the jersey
"Frank Robinson, a trailblazing figure who was Major League Baseball's first African-American manager and one of its greatest players during a career that spanned 21 seasons," died yesterday at 83, MLB.com's Richard Justice writes.
- "Robinson hit 586 home runs and was a 14-time All-Star and the only player to win Most Valuable Player Awards in both leagues — 1961 for the Reds in the National League, '66 for the Orioles in the American League."
"Just as Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's color barrier in 1947 ... opened doors for Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and many others to play in the Major Leagues, it was Frank Robinson [as player-manager for the Cleveland Indians in 1975] who paved the way for every minority manager."
10. 1 pot thing
Scoop: Former House Speaker John Boehner this morning will announce the National Cannabis Roundtable, an industry-funded group to lobby for cannabis reform, including changes affecting medical research, banking and taxes.
- "As the cannabis industry grows and matures, it’s vital that we work together for a common-sense legal framework for cannabis policy,” Boehner says in a forthcoming release.
The group has seven founding companies, including Acreage Holdings, where he's on the board.