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Today you'll read about America's ultra-rich are rediscovering their love of Donald Trump, how AI is affecting elections, and a new wave of labor actions.
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THE BIG NEWS
Tech and Finance Elites Prepare to Align Behind Trump
As if there were any doubt, some of the richest and most powerful Americans are now getting over their gently expressed aversion to Donald Trump, who seems on a glidepath to the Republican nomination for president. Some billionaires have been there all along or have claimed whatever passes for political neutrality during a time of incipient fascism. Elon Musk announced months ago that he wouldn't vote for Joe Biden in 2024.
Last year, when asked if he was a Never Trumper, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, responded, with useful candor, "I would never say that. He might be the president, I might have to deal with that." Just last week, Dimon praised Trump, saying that he had been right about some important issues and Democrats should be nicer to him.
Some in the billionaire class are hedging their bets by throwing money at Nikki Haley, but that's all she represents: a hedge against the virtual certainty of Trump. "If she doesn’t get traction in New Hampshire, you don’t throw money down a rat hole," Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, said to the Financial Times. If Haley follows the polling and finishes a solid second today in New Hampshire, the money spigot may be turned off. Until the moment she's deemed no longer useful, Haley represents a reasonable alternative for an ultra-rich class that finds Trump distasteful mostly as a matter of aesthetics, of crude optics. Pouring millions of dollars into a losing Haley campaign is a reasonable business expense for maintaining political influence.
Although Joe Biden might be the most openly pro-labor president in decades, he's still the sort of unquestioning maintainer of the capitalist status quo that should be appealing to big business. At a certain point, Trump's dictatorial ambitions, his utterly chaotic personality, and the Republican desire to strip America for parts to juice corporate profits a few percentage points actually become bad for business. Sure, they might be dead-eyed bean counters, but the country's CEOs probably fear a country riven with deaths of despair and social unrest. Right?
The truth is probably a grim one: the leaders of corporate America simply prefer Trump. They like him and the runaway version of capitalism he embraces. They aren't morally conflicted. They'll grin and bear it through the social opprobrium heaped on them for supporting bad orange man. And when the societal bill comes due, Jamie Dimon and his descendants will have long before left us with the tab.
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Is This Nikki Haley's First and Last Stand?
Today's presidential primary in New Hampshire may be former UN ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's only chance to slow down Trump's march toward a second turn as the Republican nominee. Haley has done the requisite retail politicking in New Hampshire, visiting diners and shaking hands and earning the endorsement of the state's leading newspaper. She's risen in the polls as rivals have dropped out, but she still trails by about 18 points.
Haley is the choice of the rump Republican establishment that hasn't fully suborned itself to Trump. But she remains an essentially unremarkable anti-Trump figure, lacking any particular charisma or selling points of her own, except that she is not Donald Trump. But appeals to morality don't win political races, especially not in 2024.
- Welcome to the AI Election Generative AI, deep fakes, and other imitative technologies are contributing to a flood of fake but convincing synthetic political content. It's affecting elections around the world. It's also become a catchall defense, allowing Donald Trump, for example, to dismiss a video of embarrassing gaffes as artificially generated. via Washington Post and Axios.
- Congressional Reps Concerned About LA Times Labor Situation The labor strife at the Los Angeles Times – which culminated in a one-day walkout on Friday – has caught the attention of California's congressional delegation, which sent a letter to the Times' billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong encouraging him to reach an agreement with the Times Guild. The LAT's labor unrest follows a number of recent walkouts, strikes, and other labor actions at many publications facing layoffs and budget cuts. via Politico.
- Israel Offers a Two-Month Truce For Hostage Exchange Israel and Hamas continue to negotiate through Egyptian and Qatari mediators, with Prime Minister Netanyahu's government reportedly offering a two-month pause in hostilities if Hamas releases all hostages. The multi-phase deal would include a release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. via Axios.
- Soccer Referees Prepare to Strike America's wave of labor militancy has now reached Major League Soccer, where the union representing referees has authorized a strike. The MLS season is set to open next month, but referees say they haven't materially benefitted from the league's growth. via The Atheltic.
That's about how many former employees of Air America may be eligible for pensions and other retirement benefits under a newly proposed bill. The Vietnam War-era airline was secretly owned by the CIA and involved in covert anti-Communist operations, including – allegedly! – facilitating drug trafficking in southeast Asia. Once tinged with scandal, exemplifying some of the CIA's grim Cold War excesses, Air America has apparently been rehabilitated: the legislation has bipartisan support.
DON'T MISS MR CLIPS
More than winning, Trump seems to enjoy watching someone else lose.
Try not to cringe at the embarrassing histrionics as Scott auditions to be Trump's VP pick.
“Each phone is a different account, and each can change its IP address 20 times [a day]. Each phone is technically 20 different phones, so you can see how it scales up.”
-- Photographer Jack Latham speaking about click farms – offices filled with young Asian tech workers who tap away on dozens of phones to boost social-media engagement or manipulate algorithms. These grey-market operations operate quietly around the world, particularly in emerging economies like Vietnam, where they serve customers who might want thousands of fake likes on their government propaganda video or a boost for their latest sales scheme.