Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield: Tech alone can't stop Trump - Axios
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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield: Tech alone can't stop Trump

Slack

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield hasn't shied away from a fight with Donald Trump. He joined a recent effort to support Planned Parenthood and Slack has also opposed the Trump Administration on both the travel ban and on transgender rights. But, he said, it's going to take more than the tech industry to fight Trump.

"It's not up to tech to save the world here," he said in an interview. "All industries, all people have to play a role in this."

While fighting Trump may be necessary, Butterfield said that battling the government is "exhausting" and a "big distraction."

Butterfield made several other points about the Trump effect as part of an interview with Axios. Read below for the full comments on the political scene. For his thoughts on Slack, click here

I know you've expressed concern both individually and as a company about some of President Trump's social policies, I'm curious what you think of his economic priorities and policies now that we've seen his first budget.

It's a strange situation. There's obviously a lot of bombast from the administration but they are not the ones who actually make the call and it is unclear at this point the degree of alignment the House has with the president. In the background, there is just a lot of uncertainty and the uncertainty is definitely not helpful. Whether that comes to trade policy, whether that comes to foreign relations, whether that is about taxation.
There's a big expectation that corporate tax reform will happen and that we are going to have a couple trillion dollars coming home. Were it not for that belief being widespread and buoying everything up, i think the markets would be reacting much more negatively to this sort of uncertainty.

It's been a couple months now on the social side, whether it is the travel ban or immigration or the stuff around LGBT people. Has the tech industry done enough to stand up for its values.

I'm not sure at this point there is that much of a tech industry left, certainly as one coherent thing. If you consider us, Snapchat, AirBnB and PayPal, our businesses just have npothign to do with each other, other than the way we were funded in the early stages. I don't want to be a spokesman for tech any more than I would want to be a spokesman for durable goods or the energy industry. That is a non-answer. I'll give you also an answer. It has been happening. People are generally focused on issues where there is an impact on the business or it is just fundamental human rights that are at stake. It does feel sometimes like the way moderate Muslims are called on to condemn every terrorist attack. It's exhausting being in business these days when there's just this continual stream of things that are very concerning and which you are called on to condemn. It's an interesting balance. It's certainly a big distraction from the business, which is not to suggest that these aren't necessary things that aren't worth being distracted about. But it definitely makes things more difficult. The last thing I would say is that it's not up to tech to save the world here. All industries, all people have to play a role in this.
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Trump's bizarre obsession with the election map

Lee Jin-man / AP

President Trump wanted to celebrate his 100th day in office with an image of the 2016 electoral map displayed on the front page of the Washington Post. "He encouraged me to take it home to my colleagues at the Washington Post and try to run it on the front page of our newspaper," said WaPo's Washington Correspondent Philip Rucker during a MSNBC interview Friday.

Why it matters: It has been five months since the election and 100 days since Trump was sworn in as president, yet he continues to have a bizarre, never-ending obsession with how many electoral votes he received — with copies of the electoral map ready to present to anyone who will listen.

Trump in 2012: "The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy." And then in 2016:

The Electoral College is actually genius.
-Trump

Understanding the origin of his obsession

  • Exactly one week after the election, Trump tweeted: "The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!" (See GIF below for how that played out.)
  • This was seemingly the first time he recognized the EC as another intriguing layer to his hyper-competitive participation in the election — it became a challenge to overcome, something else to win.
  • "I did what was almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College!" He then considered his feat an even greater win, thus strengthening his obsession.
  • Big league accomplishment: "Campaigning to win the Electoral College is much more difficult & sophisticated than the popular vote. Hillary focused on the wrong states!"

Reddit/Giphy

One-track mind

For Trump, there's never a wrong time to cite his electoral college victory:

  • When asked about the rise of anti-Semitism during a February presser with Israeli PM: "Well, I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory we had. 306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220."
  • During a joint presser with Canadian PM Trudeau, he was asked about deporting Syrian refugees and said, "That's what I said I would do. I'm just doing what I said I would do, and we won by a very, very large electoral college vote."
  • In the middle of discussing Chinese President Xi Jinping with three Reuters reporters, Trump handed them three copies of the election map he had printed out that were sitting atop his desk in the Oval Office. "Here, you can take that, that's the final map of the numbers. It's pretty good, right? The red is obviously us."
  • He gave a speech to the NRA yesterday, the first POTUS to do so since Raegan, and spent the first portion of it talking about his electoral college victory. He listed the states he won, touted his 306 (actually 304) EC votes. "Big sports fans said [the election] was the single most exciting event they're ever seen."
  • 5 minutes into his speech at a Louisville rally in March, Trump called Nov. 8 "a beautiful day" adding "they weren't giving us a chance, saying, 'There is no way to 270.' ...And you remember for the Republicans, the Electoral College has been very, very hard to win."
Featured Facts Matter

Why big oil companies are leaving Canada

The issue

Big international oil powerhouses (ConocoPhillips, Statoil, Shell) are pulling out or retreating (ExxonMobil) from their Canadian oil sands investments — a seemingly counterintuitive strategy given that the Canadian oil sands are the third largest reserve of crude oil in the world.

The facts

They're reconsidering to save on costs. The oil sands in Canada have some of the highest operating costs in the world paired with low profits. Plus, Canadian oil sands have greenhouse-intensive sources of crude oil and have limited pipeline access to markets, which leaves little flexibility for oil companies.

Instead, some big oil is seeking out lower-cost and higher-stability operations in the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas, the second largest oil field in the world whose crude production increased in all but three months last year. Crude oil is expected to increase to 2.4 million barrels per day in May, according to the EIA.

ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron (also considering leaving the Canadian oil sands) are already in on these advantages — they invested $10 billion this year in the Permian Basin. ConocoPhillips has legacy acreage in the basin, and is likely to increase production this year, too, per The Motley Fool.

Why it matters

Companies' departure from Canada's oil sands came as a shock on Wall Street, but it is becoming more common.

Plus, this will shift international energy dynamics: Saudi Arabia, which has the largest oil field in the world ahead of the Permian Basin, could be weakened by this competing investment. And many of the Canadian companies now have room to nudge into their own oil sands and consolidate their ownership, giving them a competitive edge.

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How Trump could pay more taxes under his plan

A new NYT analysis of Trump's tax reform plan found the proposed changes would likely benefit high-income earners and could save him tens of millions of dollars in taxes. But, their findings also revealed one way Trump could actually pay more taxes if his reform plan is approved.

More deductibles, more problems: Based on Trump's 2005 tax returns (the only documents available to the public), he could end up paying $3 to $5 million more in taxes for his deductions. That year he claimed more than $17 million in itemized deductibles — likely from his local and state income taxes while living in NYC, per the analysis — but only charity donations, mortgage interest, and retirement contributions would be deductible under his new plan.


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The EPA climate science website has been deleted

Susan Walsh / AP

The Trump administration just gave the Environmental Protection Agency's website a climate-change-skeptic makeover. Several agency websites including detailed information about climate change research and its causes have been deleted, the agency announced late last night.

Why it matters: It's the first time in 20 years these sites have been removed from public view. And it signals the agency's clear partisan shift as they only want to "reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt." This move provides a less comprehensive review of climate science information and how it is affecting the US — something past administrations have provided, even if skeptical of the data.

Why now: It was previously announced that the EPA climate change website would be taken down, but that didn't happen immediately. While it's unclear what inspired the move now, the decision came just hours before thousands participated in a climate march protest against the Trump administration's proposed changes to the EPA.

What they're saying: J.P. Freire, the agency's associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement

to WaPo: "We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we're protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law."

Don't forget: The EPA website experienced similar partisan pulling under George W. Bush, who ordered a temporary freeze on revisions to the climate science sites and asked that the White House review any proposed changes. However, Bush's revisions didn't result in significant changes to the scientific content listed on the sites.

The agency's future: It's led by Scott Pruitt, who made his career as Oklahoma's attorney general by suing the agency 13 times. Pruitt previously said the environment would be just "fine" without it and he approved removed the climate science websites.


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Google, Facebook get scammed

Virginia Mayo / AP

Google and Facebook were subject of a phishing scam worth over $100 million, Fortune reports. The Justice Department mysteriously announced last month that two "multinational tech companies" wired a Lithuanian criminal (since arrested) over $100 million after he forged invoices and corporate stamps that appeared to be from the tech company executives.

What they're saying: In a statement, Facebook told Axios it recovered "the bulk of the funds" shortly after the incident. Google says they detected and reported the fraud and "recouped the funds."

Why it matters: The fact that two of the largest, most sophisticated technology companies can fall victim to a phishing scam of this scale proves that the entire Internet ecosystem has a long way to go in creating a safe and protected environment. Axios recently highlighted some of the cybersecurity risks newsrooms are facing in the Internet age.

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These Twitter trends defined Trump's 100 days

Greg Ruben / Axios

The word "Trump" was used 67 million times on Twitter in the last 30 days, according to Talkwalker, a social media analytics company. That's more than 2 million "Trump" tweets per day.

The top 3 hashtags for tweets about his first 100 days: #100DaysofShame, #TheResistance and #UniteBlue. (#MAGA came in a close fourth.)

The most popular emoji used in tweets about Trump's presidency thus far: 🇺🇸 , 😂 and 🤔

The top emoji used on Twitter reacting to significant events:

  • ⚡ — when Michael Flynn got fired (day 25)
  • 🇺🇸 💥 🚨 — when Trump tweeted his wiretapping allegation (day 44)
  • 😳 — when Trump didn't shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (day 57)
  • 🤔 🙄 😂 — when Sean Spicer compared Bashar al-Assad to Hitler (day 82)

And here's how Trump used Twitter in his first 100 days, as compiled by Twitter:

His most retweeted tweet:

Top 5 tweeted words:

  1. Great
  2. America/American
  3. News/Media
  4. Jobs
  5. Today

Top mentioned @handles

  1. @Whitehouse
  2. @NYTimes & @foxandfriends tie
  3. @FoxNews
  4. @VP
  5. @CNN & @ POTUS tie

Most used hashtags

  1. #MAGA
  2. #AmericaFirst
  3. #ICYMI
  4. #USA
  5. #Obamacare
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Navigating Trump's first 100 days

Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Welcome to day 100 of Trump's presidency. A lot has happened in a short amount of time, so we took a look back to the moments the defined some of the most memorable days.

Photos: Carolyn Kaster, Ryan Kang, David J. Phillip, Win McNamee, Wong Maye-E, Susan Walsh, Andrew Harnik, Kathy Willens / AP; Zhu, VeryBusyPeople / Flickr
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This week in Trumpland: welcome to day 100

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

It's day 100 in Trumpland. This milestone might mark a "ridiculous standard," but POTUS still tried to make a serious push to score a signature win this week. Not all went to plan, but we know that this is hard. So don't worry, Trumpland will push on for the next 100 days — and the 1,261 after.

The Trump tax plan: The White House set out its big tax reform plan, which managed to fit on a single page with some bullet points. It has a "slim-to-none" chance of ever getting through Congress, according to CNN reporter Phil Mattingly.

Nah-FTA: The one big thing to mark day 100 was supposed to come tonight in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: the United States' unilateral withdrawal from NAFTA. Canada and Mexico caught wind of that on Wednesday and called up Trump to get the 411. So did a bunch of big CEOs. So did congressional leaders. Faced with that onslaught, Trump backed down and decided to renegotiate NAFTA instead.

North Korea: Trump's desired course of action is to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically. But it seems the wires are crossed elsewhere in government, too. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson floated the idea of direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea on Thursday before saying that the U.S was willing to take military action in North Korea during a U.N. meeting yesterday.

MMGA: Some exciting news about Trumpland going to Mars — Trump wants to be there by early 2025. There's a whole host of reasons why getting to the Red Planet in 8 years is tough technologically at present, but it seems to be a genuine hope for POTUS. His budget proposal was criticized for its cuts, but it kept NASA's exploration programs largely intact. Getting support for expensive spaceflight is hard these days, but JFK proved that it can be done with political will and a ton of cash. Now we'll see if Trumpland can eclipse Camelot.

Push the button: Perhaps the strangest news out of Trumpland this week is the big red button that POTUS keeps on his desk. And not that button. (Yes, people have asked.) No, per POTUS himself, this button brings him an ice cold Coke. Which also brings us to the biggest controversy of the week — does Trump enjoy Coke or Diet Coke? The jury is still out, but some notable experts are firmly in the Diet Coke camp. And we wonder why we don't have world peace…

Giphy

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Trump's latest executive order targets trade abuse

Andrew Harnik / AP

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters Friday that the Trump Administration — under a new trade executive order — will issue a report aimed at finding the violations and abuses of U.S. trade agreements with other countries, especially those that are covered by the World Trade Organization.

What's next: The review will take place over an 80-day period, at the end of which the U.S. hopes to renegotiate some of its key trade deals. Ross emphasized the word "renegotiate," as withdrawing from WTO and other agreements would be the "last resort."

Why this matters: The White House has tried to skirt around a series of its trade agreements with other countries, as they feel that the deals enable them to treat the U.S. unfairly. The issue has been compounded by the nation's ballooning trade deficit, which is relatively large compared to other countries.

Goals of the order, named "Addressing trade Agreement Violations and Abuses":

  • The order will be aimed at modifying trade agreements, rather than dealing with the behaviors of individual countries.
  • The largest portion of the review will deal with the countries that follow WTO rules, as opposed to countries covered with individual free trade agreement — WTO "doesn't really deal very much with non-tariff trade barriers, and it doesn't deal very effectively with intellectual property rights, or with the whole digital economy," said Ross.
  • "The U.S. is the least protectionist country," and many goods "come in totally free" whereas other countries charge much higher tariffs.
  • Reciprocal tax: Trump is a big proponent of this type of tax. "For countries that have many trade barriers against us, we should logically have similar trade barriers against them," said Ross.
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Another North Korean missile-test fails

Wong Maye-E / AP

South Korea and the U.S. report that North Korea has test-fired yet another missile that has failed. It was fired this time from the western part of the country in Pukchang, which is near Pyongyang, according to the AP. The missile broke apart within minutes of launch over land and did not make it to the Sea of Japan, U.S. Navy Commander Dave Benham told CNN.

The missile was likely a medium-range missile according to a U.S. official. South Korea couldn't confirm whether the missile had exploded minutes after launch.

The context: Earlier today Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for more sanctions on the North and a tightening of existing sanctions, while China said its commitment to the North's denuclearization "rock firm" even though tensions are at a "critical point" in the region.

Trump's reaction: "North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!"