Inside Bar (Bearish)
|Bid||40.31 x 1200|
|Ask||43.34 x 800|
|Day's Range||40.78 - 42.06|
|52 Week Range||26.13 - 42.06|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||1.12|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||48.80|
|Earnings Date||Aug 05, 2020 - Aug 10, 2020|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||0.24 (0.59%)|
|Ex-Dividend Date||Apr 07, 2020|
|1y Target Est||33.10|
(Bloomberg) -- The nationwide protests against police brutality and the killing of black people have sent Americans in search of movies, books and podcasts that deal with race.Demand for Netflix Inc.’s series “Dear White People” has surged 329%, research firm Parrot Analytics found. Interest in “When They See Us,” a 2019 series about the Central Park Five, has grown 147%, according to the firm, which gauges the popularity of shows based on social media, fan ratings and other measures.Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” a 2018 song about race and violence in the U.S., reentered the top 50 on Spotify Technology SA’s service, which has promoted a hub for black history all week.Several books that discuss race relations in the U.S. have sold enough copies this week to be out of stock on Amazon.com Inc.’s site, including “How to Be an Antiracist,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” and Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns.” “Invisible Man,” a novel that explores what it meant to be black in the middle of the 20th century, was published in 1952.The killing of George Floyd while in police custody -- and the subsequent protests against racial injustice -- have brought introspection. In between debates about police reform, news outlets, activists and media companies have shared lists of edifying books and movies.The swell of interest has also extended to podcasts. Three series about race -- the New York Times’ “1619,” National Public Radio’s “Code Switch” and Crooked Media’s “Pod Save the People” -- rank among the five most popular shows on Apple Inc.’s podcast app.(A previous version of the story corrected the title in the second deck headline. Updates with more on protest coverage.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
New York Times (NYT) reported earnings 30 days ago. What's next for the stock? We take a look at earnings estimates for some clues.
The New York Times admitted Thursday it erred in publishing an op-ed column by Sen. Tom Cotton calling for the military to quell protests. The hawkish, one-sided column published Wednesday outraged many, including staff members, many of whom tweeted in solidarity : "Running this puts black @nytimes staff in danger." In a statement late Thursday, the Times said Cotton's piece did not meet its standards, though it did not explain exactly why it was published. "We've examined the piece and the process leading up to its publication. This review made clear that a rushed editorial process led to the publication of an Op-Ed that did not meet our standards. As a result, we're planning to examine both short term and long term changes, to include expanding our fact checking operation and reducing the number of Op-Eds we publish." A separate report by the Times late Thursday said opinion-page editor James Bennet had not read the column before publication.
(Bloomberg) -- Rajeev Fernando, a medical doctor and first responder working in New York, told U.K. lawmakers that one of the biggest challenges he’d faced is public belief in conspiracy theories and bogus cures about Covid-19.“I’ve also heard too many patients say Covid-19 is just like the flu; this misinformation has kept many at home thinking this will disappear,” Fernando said. “By the time some people are hospitalized, they’re already in multi-organ failure and death is inevitable.”Executives from Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google were interviewed by British lawmakers on Thursday about how their companies handled the spread of medical misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic.The parliamentary committee leading the investigation published a selection of evidence it had gathered in advance of the questioning from front-line medical professionals. It was strongly worded, centering around how the public has suffered as a direct result of misinformation via social media.Read more: Twitter Will Add Labels to Some Misleading Covid-19 TweetsThomas Knowles, a medical doctor in the U.K., said in his written evidence that he’d taken a call from a woman whose symptoms made him “strongly suspect that she was experiencing a heart attack,” he said.Knowles said the woman told him she wouldn’t allow emergency medics in her home to take her to hospital because her doctor had informed her that she had to shield herself because of her other health conditions, and that she’d read on Facebook that it meant she’d definitely die if she went to hospital and caught it.“I was forced to accept her right to decline treatment, and she received no specific care that I’m aware of,” he said.Read more: Google Helps Place Ads on Sites Amplifying Covid ConspiraciesFacebook ResponseMonika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy and counterterrorism, was also questioned about the company’s response to an aggressive post made by U.S. President Donald Trump concerning his response to the civil unrest that has swept across the country. Bickert said she wasn’t aware of an open letter published by the New York Times from dozens of former Facebook employees this week. The employees were angry the social network hadn’t followed Twitter’s example of removing the post made by Trump.“It’s a shocking indictment from a number of quite senior former employees,” lawmaker Kevin Brennan told Bickert in the hearing. “To me, it feels like there’s something rotten in the state of Facebook, but am I wrong?”“I haven’t seen the letter,” Bickert said, but added that Facebook’s decision not to remove the President’s message was because it “did not violate” the company’s “long-standing policies.”Deleted PostsGoogle, Twitter and Facebook have all said in the past that tackling the spread of misinformation on their platforms was a priority. Twitter, for instance, has hidden or deleted posts that contain what it determined potentially harmful information. Google includes links to the World Health Organization at the top of search results for information about the virus.Part of the research by the U.K. committee highlighted a statement from Duncan Maru, an epidemiologist and physician based in Nepal, who said his colleagues had treated patients suffering from consuming disinfectants “after reading online that this was a way to cure Covid-19. We can’t be fighting lies and saving lives at the same time.” Read more: 5G Virus Conspiracy Theory Drives Phone Mast Attacks in U.K.And Meenakshi Bewtra, an assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, concluded similarly: “It is extremely difficult to be fighting both the global pandemic and the infodemic on social media,” she said. “I have personally been contacted by people who have spent money they do not have on ‘remedies’ or engaged in various practices that have no efficacy whatsoever.”The written statements, published by the U.K.’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee on Thursday, will inform the questions the lawmakers ask tech companies at the hearing. It follows a similar hearing in April that followed the spread of a widely discredited conspiracy theory that 5G wireless technology is contributing to the Covid-19 pandemic.(Updated with additional context throughout.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) outperformed a rallying stock market last month. Shares rose 11% in May compared to a 4.5% increase in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Euphemisms allow us to avoid confronting the cold, hard truth. Their ambiguity makes the terrible seem merely bad and the bad seem almost OK. It is a softening of subjective reality that allows us to happily live in deluded denial. This isn't a great strategy for relationships, for careers and, especially, for investors.Consider that we no longer have car crashes that kill more than 40,000 Americans a year. Instead, we have “accidents” caused by inattentive, reckless or -- to use a euphemism --impaired drivers. Companies don’t fire thousands of employees at a time, driving the unemployment rate higher; they downsize or, even worse, right-size. Even the word euphemism is itself a euphemism. It is a lie designed to hide an ugly truth from ourselves. “Banana” was an infamous economic euphemism during the 1970s. Alfred Kahn, then chairman of the Council on Wage and Price Stability, was told never to use the word “depression” or even "recession" when speaking at the White House or in public. To warn of potential economic trouble, he discussed "the worst banana you ever saw."As it turns out, refusing to use the word “recession” was a poor political strategy for Kahn’s boss, President Jimmy Carter. He lost his re-election bid in a landslide. Or perhaps it goes down easier to note that Carter “came in second” due to a “kumquat.”(1)Euphemisms don't help us make better decisions or confront challenges directly. As reported by Bloomberg News and the New York Times, the skyrocketing use of the word “unprecedented” during quarterly earnings conference calls serves as a reminder. We all understand the extent of lockdown orders, with second-quarter gross domestic product cut in half. But here's the issue: Investors don't expect management to be clairvoyant, but they do expect them to have plans for when disaster strikes and to execute that plan when necessary. This leads to three basic questions investors should ask corporate management:No. 1. What did you do to prepare for this sort of event?No. 2. How are you managing in the crisis?No. 3. What are your plans for the post-pandemic future?Some companies are much better situated by dint of their business model than others. Netflix Inc. is a natural winner in an era of sheltering at home. But entertainment giant Walt Disney Co., with its theme parks and theatrical films, was badly hit by the pandemic. It also had the foresight to diversify from those “live” businesses, with new services such as the Disney+ streaming service, which now has more than 55 million paying subscribers. Unprecedented events did not derail it from planning for home entertainment and executing that plan. Other live entertainment companies such as Live Nation Entertainment Inc., Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. or Six Flags Entertainment Corp. were not as prescient. Consider retail companies such as Amazon.com Inc., Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. -- all have done an excellent job executing a so-called last-mile strategy. Other retailers selling essentials to the same customers have not. Investors judge these managements, in part, by how they respond to a crisis like Covid-19. This particular event never happened before, but shareholders still want to know how corporate chiefs plan on managing it.The overemphasis on "unprecedented" deserves attention because it's so trite. Novel, first-time events occur with startling regularity. The normal state of human affairs has been persistent and unprecedented change. It isn't just the global health risks of this moment; it is true in every sphere of human endeavor. The default setting of humanity is to create new ideas, innovations, concepts, business models, technologies and solutions.Under the best of circumstances, we have limited “visibility” -- another euphemism -- about almost everything. Consider corporate revenues and profits. Look how often companies update, amend and revise quarterly earnings “guidance” -- one more euphemism, this one for "forecast." Yes, these forecasts become more accurate as the end of a quarter approaches, but that's only because more hard data has accumulated. In the end, it only comes down to informed guesswork.These may be unprecedented times, but they are not really out of the ordinary. Uncertainty always rules, and no one ever knows the future. For that reasons, no one really knows or even has a good sense of when the economy will recover, how many will die and when the pandemic will be over. Pretending otherwise with euphemisms does not make it any less so.Just remember that there is exactly the same amount of uncertainty now about the future as there always is. During times of crisis, you simply lose the ability to fool yourself about it.(1) When the United Fruit Co., a large banana producer, objected to the use of the word “banana,” Kahn shifted his choice of euphemism to "kumquat.” Really.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas launched his 2024 presidential campaign yesterday. His op-ed in the New York Times has created a blizzard of protest both within the nation’s most elite liberal newspaper (for publishing it) and beyond (for what it says). Both debates are valid. However, his column is best understood as a marker: Cotton is laying down a stake on a future debate, not one in the present. Titled “Send In the Troops,” the column does indeed say that “it’s past time to support local law enforcement with federal authority.” Federal troops are necessary to crack down on the “anarchy” unleashed by “cadres of left-wing radicals,” Cotton writes. (No, he doesn’t bother with the nuisance of proving such “cadres” exist.) Only military force can smash the looters and rampaging criminals, who include “the thrill-seeking rich as well as other criminal elements.”The essay is a demagogic hash, as greasy as the bacon Senator Ted Cruz once cooked on the muzzle of an AR-15. But if you’re a precocious right-wing senator with a strong attachment to personal advancement and a weak one to pluralistic democracy, then you might view Cotton’s piece as pretty smart. If President Donald Trump is re-elected in November, or somehow manages to retain power without the benefit of election, Cotton’s hysterics will be completely forgotten. No harm, no foul. But if Trump is defeated, the battle for the 2024 nomination will begin immediately, and Cotton will have a message that resonates across the plains and valleys of racial and cultural resentment that define the Republican base: “Who lost Washington?”This is not a new or original message. It hearkens all the way back to the communist hysteria of “Who Lost China?” after World War II. But it’s a crowd-pleaser, especially among Republican base voters who find Trump’s destruction of democratic norms and constitutional niceties one of his most appealing traits. The party’s core voters chose Trump because they want someone to smite their enemies, not cooperate with them. Polls show Republican voters are not interested in compromise. Study after study documents the racial and cultural resentments that power this lust for political and cultural conquest.If you’re tired of the “feckless” politicians of urban America and the “elites” who “have excused this orgy of violence in the spirit of radical chic,” Cotton is offering you a blueprint to own the libs once and for all. He won’t merely send officers deploying rubber bullets, batons, flash-bangs and pepper balls (tear gas) to disperse a peaceful crowd exercising its First Amendment rights of assembly and petition, as U.S. Attorney General William Barr did this week in Washington. Cotton will impose a hostile occupation of cosmopolitan America. More important, Cotton is first to brand the assault as his idea. Whether Cotton actually believes his authoritarian dream is practical (let alone necessary) is beside the point. It’s the message that matters, and the message, circa 2021, goes something like this: If only we’d cracked down harder on those liberal cities — and the omnipresent Antifa that you’ve heard so much about on Fox News — then we could’ve saved America from the horrors of Democratic rule.Donald Trump, in the end, may simply prove too weak to meet the threat posed by a diversifying country. Republican voters may discover that a merely thuggish president is not sufficient for the task they have in mind. They need a competently thuggish one, someone willing to go even further than Trump, yet without the flailing and chaos that has undermined the MAGA cause. Tom Cotton just made a pitch for their votes in 2024. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Francis Wilkinson writes editorials on politics and U.S. domestic policy for Bloomberg Opinion. He was executive editor of the Week. He was previously a writer for Rolling Stone, a communications consultant and a political media strategist.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The New York Times was facing a sharp backlash from staffers Wednesday after publishing a hawkish op-ed column by Sen. Tom Cotton calling for the military to quell protests across the nation.
(Bloomberg) -- Snap Inc. is no longer promoting U.S. President Donald Trump’s content in the news section of its Snapchat app, citing his posts on Twitter that threatened violence against protesters. The move prompted a sharp rebuke from Trump’s re-election campaign.“We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover,” Snap said Wednesday in a statement. “Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”Trump’s Snapchat account remains publicly available, but the decision will affect his reach on the platform. While the president has 1.5 million followers, he received the most attention when Snapchat would display his posts in the Discover section, potentially reaching hundreds of millions of people who use the social-networking app. Snapchat will be particularly important for reaching young and first-time voters ahead of the 2020 election, with schools and other gathering places potentially closed.“Snapchat is trying to rig the 2020 election,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Snapchat hates that so many of their users watch the President’s content and so they are actively engaging in voter suppression. If you’re a conservative, they do not want to hear from you, they do not want you to vote. They view you as a deplorable and they do not want you to exist on their platform.” Snap shares fell as much as 4.3% on Wednesday. Trump recently posted messages on Twitter and Facebook that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd. That prompted tech companies to weigh if the president broke their rules about inciting violence. It has also sparked a heated debate about how social media rules should be applied to world leaders versus regular users.Twitter Inc. put a warning label on Trump’s post, while Facebook Inc. did nothing, standing by its decision even after employees protested publicly.Snap’s move was based on another Trump tweet from May 30 in which he warned that if protesters came close to breaching the White House fence “they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs and ominous weapons.” The president frequently reposts his tweets to Snapchat, though the warning about the dogs was not reposted.Snap decided that, unlike Twitter and Facebook, it’s not attempting to be a neutral town square. The Discover page uses a mix of manual and algorithmic curation, while Twitter and Facebook rely on automation based on data about viral sharing and other measures of popularity. Snap’s decision was reported earlier by the New York Times.(Updates with Trump campaign comment in fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The financial regulations require hedge funds and wealthy investors that exceeded the $100 million equity holdings threshold to file a report that shows their positions at the end of every quarter. Even though it isn't the intention, these filings to a certain extent level the playing field for ordinary investors. The latest round of 13F […]
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting social media companies was challenged in court by a non-profit group that claims the edict violates free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.The Center for Democracy and Technology sued in Washington federal court Tuesday, claiming the order is an unconstitutional retaliation against Twitter and that it seeks to discourage other companies and individuals from disagreeing with the government.Trump’s order, issued on Thursday, is intended to undermine the legal protections enjoyed by social media companies including Twitter and Facebook. He asked federal regulators to look at provisions, contained in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, that insulate the companies from liability for content posted by users.The order followed on the heels of Twitter’s decision to add fact-check labels to two of Trump’s tweets. Twitter also restricted a post by the president suggesting that protesters who engaged in looting would be met with violence. Legal observers have said Trump lacks the power to modify Section 230 by executive order.The Center for Democracy and Technology asked the judge to find the order violates the First Amendment and to issue an order blocking government officials from following it.The Justice Department declined to comment, according to spokeswoman Brianna Herlihy.The case is Center for Democracy and Technology v. Trump, 20-cv-01456, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).(Adds Justice Department no comment)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Tensions between Twitter Inc. and Donald Trump soared after the social-media platform warned users that the president broke its rules against violent speech, prompting critics to accuse the company of unfairly censoring one of its most prominent users.On Friday Twitter slapped a rule-violation notice on a Trump tweet warning protesters in Minnesota that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Earlier this week Twitter added a fact-check label to two Trump posts that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting. Infuriated, Trump responded with an executive order Thursday that aims to curb some of the legal protections social media sites have regarding content on their sites.Twitter has long faced calls to both clean up the toxic culture on its site and to remove Trump, who has tweeted falsehoods and misleading information to his 80 million followers. After years of largely staying on the sidelines, the company has recently become more active in policing commentary from public officials.The shift has inevitably outraged many of Trump’s supporters, who claim the site is biased against conservative voices. Twitter’s crackdown also opens it up to charges that its fact-checking is inconsistent. On Friday, just hours after Trump’s Minnesota tweet was flagged, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission challenged Twitter over a bellicose posting from Iran’s top leader asking if it also violated the company’s rules.“Serious question for @Twitter: Do these tweets from Supreme Leader of Iran@khamenei_ir violate ‘Twitter Rules about glorifying violence?’” Ajit Pai said in a tweet. He attached screen shots of May 22 tweets from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei predicting the eventual elimination of Israel.Some of Twitter’s initial flags on officials’ posts were related to misinformation about Covid-19 that the company deemed potentially harmful. Racial violence is another area open to abuse on the site and a topic Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey has taken personally. In 2014 he marched in protests and documented rising tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of an unarmed black man.Trump’s tweet early Friday referred to increasingly violent protests in Minneapolis over the killing in police custody of George Floyd, who was black. The authorities on Friday charged police officer Derek Chauvin with Floyd’s murder, according to the Associated Press.The president used Twitter to assail Minneapolis’s mayor, Jacob Frey, as weak and said he had told Minnesota Governor Tim Walz that “the military is with him all the way, ” and that if there was any difficulty, “we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”Twitter obscured the offending message on Trump’s profile with the following warning: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”The official White House Twitter account later retweeted Trump’s post about looting and shooting. It also was marked with a warning.“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts,” Twitter said in a statement on its @TwitterComms account. It said the company had kept Trump’s tweet live “because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”The president’s tweets about the situation in Minneapolis prompted a strong response from other Twitter users, but those replies have since been hidden or removed by the company. The options to reply and like the tweet have also been disabled, while the retweet and quote-tweet functions have been left active.VIOLENCE SPREADSThe Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. called Twitter’s move “perhaps the bravest and riskiest thing that any tech giant has ever done.”Following up from his executive order, Trump on Friday morning called on lawmakers on Capitol Hill to revoke Twitter’s liability shield under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which allows companies like Twitter and Facebook Inc. to display content that’s controversial, offensive and libelous without fear of lawsuits.Dorsey this year survived a skirmish with activist investor Elliott Management Corp., partly with an agreement to appoint Elliott representative Jesse Cohn and Egon Durban of the private equity firm Silver Lake to its board. He also agreed to meet certain performance-improvement metrics. Paul Singer, who founded Elliott in 1977, is often described as a megadonor to the Republican party.As part of the agreement, Cohn and Durban said they would recuse themselves of any direct or indirect influence on the content of the Twitter platform, including its policies, rules or enforcement decisions. The company said in a statement at the time that both Elliott and Silver Lake said they were doing so to emphasize the importance of maintaining the independence and impartiality of the Twitter platform and its rules and enforcement.Protests have been gathering force across the country following the death of Floyd, who died when a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck in an encounter that was captured on video. The event set off scattered looting and demonstrations in Minneapolis, culminating in the burning of a police station on Friday. Demonstrators have gathered in cities from New York to Los Angeles, to Memphis, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky, to call attention to the killings of black men and women at the hands of police. Some of the gatherings were peaceful, but others were marked by violence, including in Columbus, Ohio, where crowds surged up the steps of the State Capitol and broke windows, according to the New York Times.Trump’s shooting and looting tweet echoed remarks in the late 1960s by the controversial and tough-talking Miami Police Chief Walter Headley. “We haven’t had any serious problems with civil uprising and looting because I’ve let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Headley said in 1967.Trump later attempted to explain the earlier tweet, saying on Twitter, “looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night.” He continued in another tweet, “It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media.”The spreading violence was another sign of simmering tensions in the U.S., where much of the country has been on lockdown for more than two months and unemployment has reached historic highs. Some see Trump’s reaction to Twitter as a tactic to deflect attention from the country’s woes in the months leading up to the presidential election this fall.“This is a fight he wants. Not only on Twitter, but on mail-in ballots,” said California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, speaking on The View Friday morning. “It’s a deflecting tool, but it’s also a mobilizing tool for his base. We have to walk through this next process of how we respond with those eyes wide open and that in mind.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Stocks were supposed to be mired in a bear market after they plunged in March as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered business and sent U.S. unemployment to its highest rate since the Great Depression.Even a 62% recovery by the S&P 500 Index by the middle of May failed to comfort experts like billionaire money managers Stan Druckenmiller and David Tepper , who characterized stocks as the worst investments of their careers. They weren't alone; amid an estimated 47% collapse in gross domestic product, fewer than a quarter of respondents to an Evercore ISI survey said they expected the next 10% move in the market to be higher.So far, though, stocks have held their own as economic indicators sagged, regaining 37% of their value from the low point in mid-March. “The stock market looks increasingly divorced from economic reality,” a New York Times article on the phenomenon proclaimed.Or maybe not — not if you think of it as the Microsoft market. No company has defied the pessimism more than Microsoft Corp., and for a lot of sensible reasons. The Seattle-based maker of global business and consumer software led all publicly traded companies most of the year with a $1.4 trillion market valuation, exceeded only by Saudi Arabian Oil Co. which isn't yet freely traded.Unlike the largest fossil fuel company, which lost 13% since its December $1.9 trillion initial public offering, Microsoft is within 5% of its Feb. 11 record high and appreciated $947 billion since 2015, more than any of the 10 largest companies, including Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. The gap between Microsoft and Aramco narrowed to $229 billion from $840 billion, a trend likely to continue amid weak global growth in the months ahead.That's because Microsoft, unlike Aramco, is a mainstay of the global economy, developing and supplying 75% of the operating systems used by computers and servers worldwide, according to the market-analysis company IDC.Microsoft's vast infrastructure and productivity applications enable companies, governments and individuals to navigate increasing social and workforce disruption caused by the pandemic and other disasters stoked by global warming and climate change.As one of the anchors of the Nasdaq 100 Index (more than 80% are technology firms) Microsoft signifies the growing dependence of the economy on these companies, which this year outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average by the most since 2000 (Nasdaq 100 gained 8% as the DJIA lost 10%), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.“Microsoft could emerge stronger than most of its rivals once the Covid-19 crisis subsides, in our view, as enterprises spend more to upgrade their infrastructure and applications, translating into above-consensus, double-digit sales growth from fiscal 2022-2021,” said Anurag Rana, a senior analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence in a May 15 report. “Its deep portfolio of cloud products, client relationships and security spending are differentiators.”Such confidence is prompted by the past five quarters, when Microsoft earnings for the first time exceeded forecasts by at least 10% after beating the average of analyst estimates in all but one of the 23 quarters since 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Unlike its five more glamorous peers — Facebook Inc., Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (Alphabet) — Microsoft has an uninterrupted growth rate with the least volatility, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.To be sure, the Faang companies and similar technology marvels retained much of their value during the Coronavirus pandemic. Netflix has gained 28% since the end of 2019; Amazon is up 30%, Apple 9%, Facebook 10%. Tesla Inc., the maker of electric, battery-powered vehicles, rallied 93% since the end of 2019 and is worth just $59 billion less than No. 1 Toyota Motor Corp.Tesla anticipated the remotely engaged economy by selling its vehicles online and improving the customer experience with periodic, automatic software upgrades. The traditional auto companies haven't fared well. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, is down 24% since the end of 2019 and General Motors Co., the largest U.S. auto maker, declined 28% and is worth only 26% of Tesla's current market capitalization of $149 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.That's why the Dow, once the benchmark of corporate America, is a shadow of its former self as industrial companies represent just 9% of the average, down from 16% in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.“Microsoft already had a great relationship with Fortune 2000 tech departments because of its dominance in Windows and Office software products,” said Bloomberg's Rana in a recent interview. “As these legacy companies look to invest more digitally transforming their business post Covid-19, Microsoft should get its fair share of work” — lifting the stock market as it helps transform the economy.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Matthew Winkler, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg News, writes about markets.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. flagged one of Donald Trump’s posts for violating its rules against glorifying violence, escalating a clash with the U.S. president after he signed an executive order that seeks to limit liability protections for social-media companies.Early Friday, the social media company obscured the president’s comments about protests in Minneapolis with a warning that the tweet “violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”Trump’s executive order came after Twitter began selective fact checks of his posts on the platform. Under current law, companies like Twitter and Facebook Inc. are protected for users’ posts. Trump told reporters that his order “calls for new regulations under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield.”Twitter earlier this week labeled two of his posts about mail-in voting “potentially misleading” and provided links to news coverage of his comments. The president responded with outrage, accusing the social media company of censorship and election interference and threatening to possibly shut down the service.“I’m signing an executive order to protect and uphold the free speech rights of the American people,” Trump said. “Currently, social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they’re a neutral platform, which they’re not.”Trump said he expected the order or the regulations it produces to be challenged in court. If it were legal for him to shut down Twitter, Trump said, “I would do it.”In the clash Friday over protests in Minnesota after the death of a man in police custody, Trump’s comments, concluding with the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” incited a strong response from other Twitter users. Those replies have since been hidden or removed by the company. The options to reply and like the tweet have also been disabled, while the retweet and quote-tweet functions have been left active.Twitter rose less than 1% in late trading Thursday after the signing was announced. That followed a 4.4% decline in the regular session, the most in four weeks.Order TextThe order said the protections against lawsuits should only apply when companies act in “good faith” to take down or limit the visibility of content.Any removal or restriction made in a manner that is “deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service” would not qualify as being in good faith, nor would a move without “adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard.”Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association trade group, called the order “unconstitutional and ill-considered.”“America’s internet companies lead the world and it is incredible that our own political leaders would seek to censor them for political purposes,” Shapiro said in a statement.In a tweeted statement, Twitter called the executive order “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law,” adding, “attempts to unilaterally erode it threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”A Facebook spokesperson said exposing companies to liability would penalize those that allow controversial speech and “encourage platforms to censor anything that might offend anyone.”YouTube Chief Executive Officer Susan Wojcicki, in an interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg Television while the order was being prepared, said, “we have worked extraordinarily hard to make sure that all of our policies and systems are built in a fair and neutral and consistent way.”The Department of Commerce, in consultation with the attorney general, would be responsible for petitioning the Federal Communications Commission within 60 days to craft the new regulation.“This debate is an important one,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “The Federal Communications Commission will carefully review any petition for rulemaking filed by the Department of Commerce.”Industry and civil liberties groups who denounced the order as an illegal end-run around free-speech protections and said it gave the FCC powers it does not actually have.Twitter has been an essential tool for Trump as both a politician and as president, dating back to his false allegations that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Trump has observed himself that the social media platform allows him to dodge the press and speak directly to his 80 million followers. It has also afforded him the unfettered opportunity to assail political opponents and to promulgate conspiracy theories and other misinformation.Attorney General William Barr, who joined Trump for his remarks, said the order would not repeal Section 230, which provides social-media companies their liability protection.“But it’s been stretched and I don’t know of anyone in Capitol Hill who doesn’t agree that it’s been stretched beyond its original intention,” he said. “I think this will help get back to the right balance.”Trump and Barr also said they were reviewing possibilities to seek legislation further curbing Section 230 protections. Barr said the government may also bring litigation.“One of the things we may do, Bill, is just remove or totally change 230,” Trump said. “What I think we can say is we’re going to regulate it.”Roth CriticismEarlier Thursday, Trump called out a single Twitter employee, head of site integrity Yoel Roth, in a tweet complaining that the platform’s decision to fact-check his tweets on voting by mail could “taint” the U.S. election.White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany criticized Roth for political tweets, including one that said “actual Nazis” inhabit Trump’s White House.“Twitter’s head of site integrity has tweeted that there are quote, ‘actual Nazis,’ in the White House and no fact-check label was ever applied to this actually outrageous and false claim made against the White House and its employees,” she said.White House officials complained that Twitter did not originally append fact checks to China Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lijan Zhao, who without evidence wrote that “it might be” the U.S. military that brought the coronavirus to China. Twitter has since added the fact-check link to his tweets.Democrats have largely applauded the effort to fact-check the president. But they questioned why Twitter didn’t similarly add links to recent tweets by the president that baselessly accused MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murdering a former staffer who died while at work in one of his congressional offices nearly two decades ago.“Yes we like Twitter to put up their fact check of the president, but it seems to be very selective,“ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.The executive order is the latest in a years-long campaign by the president and his allies against social media companies. The companies say they have more aggressively sought to combat disinformation and foreign interference campaigns after the federal government found that Russia and other state operatives used U.S. social media to influence the 2016 election.Bias AllegationsRepublicans have alleged that Twitter and Facebook are politically biased in the way they display posts and block certain material deemed offensive, and objected to Twitter’s decision to ban certain political advertising. Last May, the administration set up a website asking Americans to submit instances of alleged political bias on social media.“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”The president has complained about Twitter’s efforts to combat manipulative and abusive content by deleting fake profiles -- leading to a decline of hundreds of thousands of users in his follower count.The websites have denied their actions are politically motivated, and Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey said then he also lost around 200,000 followers in the purge. In 2018 congressional testimony, Dorsey said there were technical explanations for cases of alleged bias raised by Republican lawmakers.Still, the debate has exposed a rift among Silicon Valley tech giants, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticizing Twitter’s decision in an interview with Fox News.“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.“Dorsey fired back in a tweet posted Wednesday night, saying the fact-check was designed to make sure people didn’t misunderstand the president’s tweet and believe they didn’t need to register to vote in order to receive an absentee ballot.(Updates with latest Twitter-Trump clash in sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Twitter Inc. has started fact-checking Donald Trump. The U.S. President didn’t take it lightly.Following years of criticism that the social network let the president spread misinformation, on Tuesday a pair of Trump’s tweets that made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting were appended with links reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”The labels take readers to a page with a collection of stories and reporters’ tweets about the president’s claims, as well as an item apparently authored by Twitter staff titled “What you need to know” that rebuts Trump.It’s the first time Twitter has taken action on Trump’s posts for being misleading, and the president responded shortly afterward, tweeting that the company was interfering with the 2020 election.“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” Trump posted to his 80 million followers.On Wednesday morning, Trump came back to the subject, writing in a tweet that “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservative voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”Twitter shares fell 1.65% in early trading in New York after Trump’s tweet.The labels are part of a policy Twitter expanded earlier this month when it started labeling misinformation related to Covid-19. Posting misinformation is not against the company’s rules, but Twitter is adding links providing more information to tweets “where people may still be confused or misled,” it said at the time. Twitter has expanded that policy to include tweets about voting, according to a spokesperson, who declined to share if this policy included other topics.“Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘a Rigged Election,’” the Twitter-authored item reads. “However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.”Twitter confirmed it had added the fact-checking links to Trump’s tweets.Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said the label was an effort to impede the president’s efforts to get his message to voters. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility,” Parscale said in a statement.Trump shared the same post about mail-in ballots on Tuesday to his Facebook page, where he has more than 29 million followers. That post is still up and doesn’t include any warning or label. Facebook Inc. didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Twitter was under pressure earlier in the day to remove other Trump tweets -- just not the ones focused on mail-in ballots. The New York Times published a letter written by a man whose wife died in former Representative Joe Scarborough’s office, asking Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to remove tweets Trump posted encouraging a baseless conspiracy theory that Scarborough murdered the woman, Lori Klausutis.Twitter issued a statement apologizing for the pain Trump’s tweets caused Klausutis’s family but did not say whether the tweets would be removed. They are still visible on the president’s Twitter account and on his Facebook page.(Updates with Trump tweet on social media in sixth paragraph, shares in seventh)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
While coronavirus has battered most news media groups, a handful of premium publishers are holding their ground through the tempest. Backed by a subscription model built over the past decade, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have so far decided against the mass lay-offs and pay cuts that have wracked the majority of their peers, and are even still looking to hire. Will Lewis, another Brit who earlier this month stepped down as chief executive of Dow Jones, the publisher of the WSJ, told the FT that the group was “on a tear” and enjoying an uplift in subscribers that “shows no signs of abating”.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The work-from-home movement is gaining steam in Silicon Valley as a flurry of companies – big and small – are embracing remote-working policies beyond the pandemic. But even as some executives extol its virtues, other tech leaders aren’t so sure, opening a growing divide inside the industry over the future of work. It’s a worthy debate.On Thursday, Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his company will start allowing some existing employees to work from home permanently. He said Facebook will also “aggressively open up remote hiring” for engineering talent in areas it doesn’t have an office, saying as much as 50% of the company’s employees could eventually work remotely within 10 years. In similar fashion, Shopify Inc. CEO Tobi Lutke said his e-commerce software company will allow its employees to work from home indefinitely, adding he expects that most of his staff will work remotely going forward. The days of “office centricity is over,” the executive posted on social media. The two companies join Twitter Inc., which said last week it will let employees work from home as standard practice as well.Not everyone in technology is on board. Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. CEO Strauss Zelnick said on an investor call this week that he believes sustained strong productivity will get more difficult the longer people are forced to work from home, adding that “there is no substitute for in-person collaboration and connection.” That follows comments from Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella, who expressed concern in an interview with the New York Times last week that early positive remote-work productivity metrics may mask underlying deficiencies, in terms of managing and mentoring employees. He also raised worries about potential burnout and mental-health issues. “Maybe we are burning some of the social capital we built up in this phase where we are all working remote. What’s the measure for that?,” he asked.There’s something to be said for this pushback. Sure, there are many pluses to offering off-site work flexibility – including better employee retention and the ability to hire from a more diverse talent base in other geographies – but corporations should realize the work-from-home trend isn’t a panacea. In fact, there are significant drawbacks and challenges that shouldn’t be overlooked. As Zelnick pointed out, there are unquantifiable benefits derived from being in the same physical location. Scheduled videoconferencing meetings don’t engender the same spontaneous creativity compared to the many back-and-forth brief conversations during a typical day at an office. And nothing beats face-to-face interactions for building the relationships and trust required to persuade your colleagues on big decisions.It’s notable that even as Facebook projects confidence and forward-looking thought leadership in its charge toward its new work-from-home culture, it is implementing the change slowly. Zuckerberg said only the company’s senior engineers with strong performance reviews will be initially allowed to apply for remote-work flexibility, adding it will be a measured transition before extending the policy to non-engineers.To be frank, it wouldn’t surprise me to see many of these companies slow down their transitions to remote working. After all, the world is only a few months into this massive remote-work experiment. The initial productivity benefits may dissipate and significant negative consequences may well appear over time. Best not to rush into any drastic decisions.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron's, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
In the spirit of harmony and coming together during these divided times, the New York Times gives us an opinion piece we can all agree on: “The end of meat is here.” Just kidding.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- My junior and senior years in high school were 1968 and 1969; five decades later, I can still remember some of the main events of that era: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the bombing of Cambodia, the Apollo 8 spaceflight that orbited the moon, and Woodstock, which I pleaded with my parents to let me attend. (They said no.)In my personal life, I remember playing on the basketball team, buying my first car, working in my family’s corner grocery store and wishing I had the nerve to ask certain girls out on a date. Here’s what I don’t remember: the pandemic of 1968-1969.And yet there was one. It was called the H3N2 virus — less formally, the Hong Kong flu — and it took a significant toll. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 1 million people died worldwide, 100,000 in the U.S. Conditions in large U.S. cities sound similar to what they’re going through now, with overwhelmed hospital workers, millions of people getting sick and the elderly most likely to die.When I first read about this pandemic, I could scarcely believe I had missed it. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the virus wreaked havoc in Europe, with French manufacturers suffering severe disruptions and West German garbage collectors burying the dead because there weren’t enough undertakers. In the U.S., the New York Times reported, the Citadel had to suspend classes because 165 cadets came down with the virus. Absenteeism in Los Angeles schools rose as high as 25%. In Boston, where I would soon be headed to college, university infirmaries were said to be filled with ill students. Tallulah Bankhead was a prominent victim of the virus.A quick search confirms that the Times(1) had covered the pandemic at the time. But I didn’t read the Times when I was in high school, and even if I had, I might well have missed the coverage. Every article was buried well inside the paper.I did read the Boston Globe, but it wasn’t exactly trumpeting the news either. I found a humor piece by Art Buchwald (“For pretty young ladies, the HKF can be your protection from drunken bosses at Christmas parties”). The news that the virus was officially an epidemic ran in a short wire-service article on Page 5. On New Year’s Eve, the Globe predicted that the flu might keep people indoors. Or maybe not: “Flu or not, there are many who won’t let anything stand in the way of celebrating the holiday.”From our current perspective, with shelter-in-place rules in much of the country, the most striking thing about the contemporaneous accounts was the absence of any discussion of lockdowns or even social distancing. I saw a few photos of nurses and office workers wearing masks, but that apparently wasn’t mandated either.Even the occasional school closings were one-offs; not a single state ordered that schools or businesses be closed en masse. The virus swept across the world, causing tens of millions of people to become sick — and killing nearly three times the number of people who have died so far of Covid-19 — and the world’s chief mitigation effort was to race to make a vaccine. By the time one was ready, the pandemic had largely fizzled out.This pandemic, of course, will be indelibly seared in the memory of those who lived through it. It is the biggest story since 9/11, with the ever-rising number of cases and deaths dominating the news. Children who are now wearing masks, doing schoolwork online and staying indoors will never forget it.They’ll also no doubt remember the economic aftermath, which is likely to be horrific, with deflation and even a depression a possibility. On Tuesday, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that “there is a risk of permanent damage” to the economy if the country remained locked down much longer.All of which raises a question that has so far been relegated to a small handful of coronavirus contrarians: with all the businesses that are going to fail, and the tens of millions of people who will be unemployed — and the other negative consequences that come with forcing people to stay at home — will the lockdown have been worth it? Or would we have been better off doing something closer to what the country did in 1968 — yes, taking precautions like wearing masks, washing hands and protecting the elderly, but allowing businesses and schools to stay open while people went about their lives?There are two issues here. The first is that quarantining an entire population is not some set-in-stone technique that has been used for decades to stem the spread of a virus. It was first proposed in 2006 by two government doctors — neither of them infectious disease specialists — after President George W. Bush asked for a plan to combat pandemics.Soon afterward, a paper was published calling for a national policy of sheltering-in-place. It swayed Bush. But four scientists who were infectious disease specialists also wrote a paper about the idea — a devastating critique. There was no science to support the notion that a national quarantine would halt the spread of infection, they wrote. It could increase the risk of infection for people living in close quarters. Closing theaters, malls, restaurants, stores and bars — not to mention church services and athletic events — would have “serious disruptive consequences.” Closing schools was not only impractical “but carries the possibility of a seriously adverse outcome.” And so on.The scientists concluded:Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.The second issue is that there is surprisingly little evidence that lockdowns work. Last week, a statistician named William M. Briggs, who is solidly in the anti-lockdown camp, wrote a blog post comparing countries that locked down with countries that didn’t. As of May 12, the U.S. had 237 deaths per million people. Taiwan, a no-lockdown country, had 0.3 deaths per million. (The country has had a total of seven deaths.)No-lockdown Sweden has had 347 deaths per million; lockdown Belgium, with a similar population, has had 763 deaths per million. Ethiopia, with a population of 109 million, had no lockdown — and a death rate of 0.04 per million.“Death rates were more than highly variable; they were all over the place,” Briggs wrote of the data he had collected. “If lockdowns worked as advertised, we would not see such enormous variability in the death rates.”“What should we conclude?” he added. “Strike that. What can we conclude? Only one thing: We cannot conclude that lockdowns worked.”Let me point out one other fact about the pandemic of the late 1960s. Like many coronaviruses, the H3N2 virus came in waves. The last one began in the fall of 1969 and ended in early 1970. Assuming this coronavirus fades in the summer, there is a high likelihood that it will return with a vengeance in the fall and winter. If that happens, are you truly ready to lock down again?I didn’t think so.(1) “The Hong Kong Flu Began in Red China,” was the headline of an AP story the Times ran in mid-December1968. Plus ca change.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Joe Nocera is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He has written business columns for Esquire, GQ and the New York Times, and is the former editorial director of Fortune. His latest project is the Bloomberg-Wondery podcast "The Shrink Next Door."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Weak presidents are not safe for democracy.Bright Line Watch, a project of political scientists worried about the erosion of democratic institutions, has found increasing concern by experts about the state of U.S. democracy since 2017. That’s despite the well-documented case that Donald Trump has been an unusually weak president. He often defers to Republican Party regulars on policy questions; when he doesn’t, he’s usually rolled by members of Congress, the executive branch, governors and business leaders. He often appears more interested in announcing policy wins than in actually doing the work to make those victories real.Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist who understands Trump’s weakness, made the case on Tuesday that if the president was really a threat to democracy, he would have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to seize more power. Douthat argued that Trump isn’t interested in that kind of authority but rather craves only attention, rendering him helpless to effectively subvert democratic rule.Douthat misses, however, a big part of what Trump does appear to care about. Beyond the compulsion to be in the spotlight, Trump also seems to care a lot about squashing negative attention. He has astonishingly thin skin, and a shockingly broad interpretation of what counts as personal criticism. Douthat wrongly asserts that Trump’s “only impulse that related to real power and its uses” has been to duck responsibility for the coronavirus response by sending authority back to the states, missing the bullying of executive-branch experts, governors, the media and anyone else who dared suggest that Trump’s leadership was anything less than perfect. Indeed, Trump’s aversion to criticism is so strong that he tends to take even basic factual information as personal attacks, as when he claims that studies of potential coronavirus cures that don’t conform to his own hopes must have been the work of his enemies.Presidential weakness isn’t insurance against harm. The real nature of presidential power, as political scientist Richard Neustadt explained long ago, is a function of bargaining skill, mastery at gathering and processing information, understanding of the political and other incentives of those a president deals with, and thorough knowledge of the political system. Trump has none of those things. Indeed, that makes his influence minimal. But presidents who can’t manipulate the system to realize their visions of what the country needs try instead to work around the system, even if that means bending or breaking the rules. It usually doesn’t work, but along the way they can do all sorts of damage.Take Trump’s tweets Wednesday morning falsely accusing Michigan and Nevada of voter fraud and threatening to withhold federal funds if they proceeded with legitimate absentee-voter plans. It was a classic display of Trump weakness — he got his facts wrong, and he almost certainly can’t follow through on his threat. As with most Trump orders and proposals, legitimate and illicit, it will probably be ignored.And yet that’s not the whole story. Each time a president advocates something illegal, it harms the rule of law in small ways, even without efforts to follow up. Most party actors from the president’s party are reluctant to contradict their own president because weakening him weakens the party overall. Some will just ignore such things, but some will try to jump on the bandwagon, further harming the republic. And it doesn’t just stop with rhetoric. White House staff and political appointees within the bureaucracy at least partially take their lead from the president. They might undermine constitutional government in their effort to fulfill his wishes even if he’s too inept to know how to get things done. They also may just follow his example and ignore legal and ethical restraints for their own self-interest. A lawless president encourages lawlessness. And the damage isn’t limited to the president’s party. Once the out-of-power party comes to believe that a president and his party are not constrained by law, they may feel pressure to do likewise to compete. Douthat worries about what he used to call Caesarism when Barack Obama was president. But Neustadt understood that the presidential quest for power isn’t a problem, because the kinds of things that produce true presidential influence require the proper use of the political system. The successful ambition for power paradoxically constrains presidents, because they have to avoid doing the things that alienate political actors and voters. To take one example, properly ambitious presidents cultivate a reputation for honesty because it helps them bargain successfully with political actors to get what they want. But that means they actually have to do the things that make their word mean something. Trump doesn’t have that constraint, but also doesn’t get the benefits that go with it. Democracy and the rule of law are a continuum. One violation doesn’t destroy the republic. But Trump’s constant lawlessness has already taken a toll on the strength of U.S. democracy, and continues to do so — in large part because he isn’t interested in real power and doesn’t understand what it is.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- We all have aspects of the old normal that we miss. For me, it's bookstores.Barnes and Noble will end the shutdown with fewer stores than before the pandemic, and the company will be implementing restrictions that are sure to discourage browsing. Other booksellers have no idea when they will be ready to welcome customers again. The New York Times reported recently that although the number of indies has increased by nearly 900 over the past decade, the current emergency “threatens to wipe out those gains.”You might respond that bookstores don’t matter. If you want a book, you can order it online. You can download it to your Kindle. What difference does it make if physical stores are in trouble? Aren’t they an endangered species anyway?Maybe so — but they’re the kind of endangered species we should be eager to preserve. Brick-and-mortar bookstores matter because browsing is important. Browsing is important not only because it is a pleasure, but also because it underscores the forgotten role of the physical book.Browsing is a voyage of constant discovery. You run your fingers along the spines of the history section only to learn that the volume you’re looking for isn’t in stock. No matter. You find a fascinating book you’ve never heard of and know nothing about, a treasure upon which you happened only because you were looking for another. You pick it up, you leaf through it, you decide to buy. (Especially — no kidding! — if the smell of chocolate is in the air.) No matter how many screens you glance at online, you won’t duplicate the number and variety of volumes you can swiftly take in by spending even a few minutes in a bookstore aisle.So much for all that. To begin with, a lot of people will understandably be uneasy about browsing because browsing means more time in the store, and they won't want to chance infection by another customer. So maybe it makes sense that Barnes and Noble plans to remove those comfy chairs and benches where people used to sit and read. But browsing is also tactile, testing a book's heft and weight even as you leaf through the pages. That's going to be harder than ever, given that the chain has also announced plans to quarantine for five days every volume a customer handles. With booksellers nowadays often displaying only a copy or two of all but the most popular titles, the book quarantine will have many buyers ordering on their phones instead.One obvious question, then, is whether the five-day quarantine is necessary. I appreciate the need for the stores to limit potential liability, and to disinfect a physical book could ruin it. (Try to picture a volume that’s been treated with Lysol.) And, certainly, a business must plan around the fears consumers are experiencing. But where books are concerned, maybe we should be less afraid. A few years ago, experts were assuring the public that books were highly unlikely transmitters of disease. Has Covid-19 changed the calculus? The evidence so far seems to be against the proposition that the coronavirus can survive on paper for more than a few hours. This would be consistent with what we learned from similar viruses in the past.(1)We’ve been through a scare about books and germs before, during the smallpox epidemic of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and one result was a serious crippling of public libraries. The widespread belief that picking up a book could make a person sick was part of what Priscilla Wald of Duke University has labeled “a litany of hitherto unseen dangers.” I’m not insisting that studies suggesting the possibility of a longer life on paper are wrong. But we should approach them with care. This recent article, cited for the proposition that the novel coronavirus might survive on paper for up to five days, is a review of existing literature. The article makes the five-day assertion for only one strain of SARS, known as CoV-P9, recovered from a single patient. The source of the assertion is this 2003 study, which was actually about ways to kill SARS, and in which the paper was infected with an unusually high concentration of virus (105 infective doses per millileter). For other strains, at similar doses, the review showed the SARS virus surviving on paper for 5 minutes to 3 hours, or, at an even higher doses, for just 24 hours.And this is assuming the virus will remain on the surface of the page not just in the right concentration to infect us, but also in a sufficient amount. Certainly it’s possible — but is it really plausible? Even researchers who consider contaminated surfaces an important risk in viral transmission concede that the extant studies are difficult to evaluate.None of this matters, however, unless physical books matter. A detailed argument on this could fill, well, a book, but here it is in brief: Books fill a vital niche in a democracy, presenting a different way of looking at both stories and arguments. They provide a reminder that there exist valuable and complex ideas that can’t be squeezed into a handful of words and fascinating tales that don’t fit on the screen. The solidity of the printed word is a symbol of permanence. And the book in any form, digital or physical, is an escape from the quotidian, a chance to lose yourself in history few people know much about, or to discover brilliantly transportive fiction you might have missed.Browsing bookstores reminds us of this value, which is why we so enjoy it, particularly when we’re browsing used and antiquarian volumes in cramped venues with narrow stairways and bulging shelves and books heaped everywhere because there’s simply no more space — the sort of places where the dust motes seem to have seen more of life and literature than you ever will.Which is perhaps another way of saying that if bookstores fall victim to the pandemic, we will lose remarkable treasures impossible to replace.(1) Experts quoted in the press suggest that newspapers cannot spread the virus.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot has found herself in the middle of a public health and political maelstrom.Primarily responsible for managing the Covid-19 pandemic that has paralyzed the most populous U.S. city, Barbot was passed over when Mayor Bill de Blasio last week gave control of the city’s immense diagnostic testing and tracing effort to Mitchell Katz, head of the public hospital system. Barbot was absent Friday from a City Council hearing called to scrutinize the move.“It is unclear exactly why it was decided that Health & Hospitals would lead such an immense effort,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “What is clear is the serious dysfunction playing out behind the scenes at a time when New Yorkers desperately need to have confidence in their city government.”New York’s health department has been at the forefront of urban public health policy. The New York Times reported Friday that the mayor disregarded Barbot’s push to close schools and businesses in early March, while taking Katz’s advice to oppose such a move -- until the virus forced a statewide shutdown a week later. Public health professionals, including Katz, now say with hindsight the delay caused many people to die.Barbot, whose agency has conducted contact tracing in outbreaks of tuberculosis, AIDS, Ebola and measles, has avoided directly speaking about her relationship with the mayor and his choice for leading lead the test-and-trace effort. “We are committed to applying that world-class expertise to bringing this epidemic to an end,” she told a reporter May 10 at the mayor’s news conference. “And we are committed to ongoing collaboration with all of our sister agencies.”Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for Barbot, said she was unavailable to comment.City Council members initially backed Barbot. This week, her political position became more fraught after the New York Post reported she had refused a police demand for 500,000 surgical masks because she was saving them for hospital workers. She offered the department 50,000 in early March as the city faced a shortage, the Post reported.De Blasio has said he appointed Katz -- a former public health director in San Francisco and Los Angeles -- to lead the effort after the city’s system of 11 public hospitals more than doubled their intensive-care capacity to handle thousands of critically ill New Yorkers. As a public corporation not hampered by rules applying to government agencies, Katz can oversee the fast hiring of thousands of tracers, who would remain city employees, the mayor said.The hospital system also has more operational expertise to isolate infected patients and their contacts in hotel rooms if they live in crowded households where they might spread the virus, the mayor has said.The mayor last spoke with his health commissioner “a couple of days ago” and intends to talk with her this weekend, he said during a press conference Friday. He said he hadn’t been informed about the NYPD incident until this week.Katz told council members Friday that health department experts would be intensely involved in training tracers and setting policies on quarantine and isolation, and would continue to analyze hospital testing data. The city’s testing effort, located at sites connected to its public hospitals, has a goal of increasing four-fold to about 50,000 a day by mid-summer.Katz said he last spoke with Barbot three days ago, and that she reaffirmed her support for the effort to contain the virus, no matter who leads it.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Bloomberg Opinion will be running a series of features by our columnists that consider the long-term consequences of the crisis. This column is part of a package envisioning the future of work. For more, see Sarah Green Carmichael on the resilience of open offices, Justin Fox on what jobs will and won't change and Stephen Mihm on worker protests.It is well established by now that the deadly coronavirus is anything but a “great equalizer.” Instead, large swaths of the population are confronting threats — both to their physical and their financial well-being — that if left unchecked could deepen existing divides.Take the gender gap. Before the pandemic struck, women already faced a century-long wait to reach parity with men, a daunting prospect that now risks becoming further out of reach if the economic disparities unleashed by the crisis are ignored. As the health emergency abates, governments, big business and investors have the opportunity to refocus their attention on previous goals, such as aiming to reach gender equality.Women are particularly exposed to this crisis. They are on the frontlines of the fight against the virus itself, making up 70% of global healthcare workers and as much as 95% of long-term care workers, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But not only are women putting their lives at risk to save others — they also make up the majority of employees in parts of the economy that have been hardest hit by lockdowns. From leisure to hospitality to retail, entire industries in which women make up a greater share of the workforce have been brought to a halt. Women are also more likely to hold temporary and part-time positions, the types of jobs employers are most likely to cut first in a downturn. Across the U.S., the cost to female jobs is already visible. The latest unemployment figures show that women held 55% of the 20.5 million jobs lost last month. Women’s share of all unemployment claims filed between March and April 11 ranged from 53% in Wyoming to as high as 67% in Alabama, according to nonprofit journalism organization The Fuller Project. In Canada, too, women have made up the bulk of the layoffs.If recent history is any guide, the deepest recession of our lifetimes could hurt women’s economic prospects for many years to come. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, men bore the brunt of the job losses in Europe and the U.S., leading some to dub the economic contraction the “man-cession.” Male-dominated manufacturing and construction industries suffered the biggest blows.But as Aliya Hamid Rao, a sociology professor at Singapore Management University, has found, women took longer to return to work after the last downturn. That’s partly because crises tend to reinforce the idea that men are responsible for putting bread on the table whereas women take care of the family, she has said. So women typically take on a greater share of the unpaid housework, further hampering their return to, and progress in, paid employment. Rao’s study of professionals showed that even when men were unemployed and their female partners were the ones working full time, men still would not shoulder a greater portion of household chores.Early indications on the divisions of household labor in the pandemic era show not much is changing. According to a survey of 2,200 Americans, carried out during the April lockdown for the New York Times, 70% percent of women said they are now either solely or mostly responsible for housework, and 66% said they are handling childcare, in line with analysis from before the pandemic. Though men in the recent survey disagreed — only 20% said their partners are mostly responsible for the unpaid household labor — research has shown women typically report these estimates more accurately.Governments so far have been rightly preoccupied by tending to the immediate health needs of their populations and their financial survival. From household checks to loans and grants to companies, the scale of the fiscal responses we’re seeing around the world are without precedent. Companies too have mostly sought to shield their employees from unnecessary exposure to the virus, with the majority of office jobs relocating to homes and some firms also pledging not to cut staff.But as countries begin planning their exits from lockdown, both policymakers and corporate leaders have to acknowledge and address the economic struggles women face.To begin with, there should be a simple but effective re-evaluation of how we value female-dominated healthcare work, beyond calls to show our appreciation with rounds of hand-clapping. The financial conditions of health and social workers in some countries are in need of improvement. In Portugal and Spain, pay for nurses fell after the sovereign debt crises of the early 2000s and have only slowly recovered, according to the latest OECD data. The same study shows that pay for nurses in the U.K. rose just 5% between 2010 and 2017, while inflation rose about 15%. The industry needs higher pay. For instance, the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank, argues U.K. health employees should receive Covid-19 bonuses, as well as better statutory sick pay and a higher real living wage. As governments shift from handing out financial lifelines to restarting and rethinking their economies, they could tie aid to goals of sustainability, such as improving the balance of women in companies’ leadership.Notwithstanding the clear benefits of having diverse leadership, women in the U.S. and the U.K. still make up fewer than 30% of board members and 10% of CEOs among the biggest companies. At a time in which inequity threatens to undermine societies, closing the leadership gender gap is more important than ever. And gender-diverse boards are more likely to steer their firms to look after stakeholders, not just shareholders.Financial support to firms could also be tied to improving the conditions of precarious workers, such as temporary employees and freelancers, who can slip through the cracks of social security and are less likely to receive on-the-job training. Women make up about 40% of the total wage employment but 57% of part-time employees, according to the International Labour Organization.Governments could also partner with investors to channel funds into small- and medium-sized companies led by women — which struggle at the best of times to secure financing. In some of the world’s biggest economies, the U.K. and Germany for example, women lead fewer than one in five SMEs. Supporting women in running their own businesses would help enable more of them to work and lift the quality of their employment. Leaders will have to invest in retraining as well, to create more opportunities for women. Many who lost their jobs in this crisis might not be able to return to a similar role. The retail sector is already being decimated, and the continuing shift to automation will hurt factory workers and salespeople alike. Offering training in digital skills, and encouraging studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, will empower women across the employment spectrum. Women account for only 30% of the tech workforce on average across the Group of Seven countries, and representation in leadership roles is even thinner.At the very least, policymakers should ensure that women are equally represented in their decision-making. In Italy, one of the European countries that has been hardest hit by the pandemic, the government has faced pressure to add more women to its committees of experts that advise on the health crisis and reopening the economy. The most powerful group, the government’s technical and scientific committee, for months consisted of just men before the government announced on Tuesday it would add women to the 20-strong committee.CEOs of large corporations, for their part, have the chance to show that they actually mean what they say when they wax lyrical about their companies’ broader purpose in society, beyond making money for their shareholders. As they plan how to return to office life, there will be fresh opportunities to root out existing gender biases. For example, work cultures demanding face time and long, rigid hours can disproportionately derail women’s career advancement and earnings. Flexible working hours, the ability to work from home and more malleable career paths would help to narrow the gender gap as we emerge from the pandemic — and allow women to produce more than we did before.Opportunities to make a difference abound. If farsighted leaders are willing to view their responses to the pandemic through a gender-tinted lens, they have the chance to transform a massive disruption into a truly equalizing force.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Elisa Martinuzzi is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering finance. She is a former managing editor for European finance at Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.