When a tech company hits the peak of its dominance, it believes it can be all things to all users. Think Microsoft in the ’90s, or Google in the aughts. Today, it’s Facebook’s turn.
This week, Facebook announced that, among all the other roles it now plays in your life — connecting you with friends, delivering your news, processing your text messages, and so forth — it will help you find a job (Kurt Wagner in Recode). Maybe you thought Facebook was supposed to be for your personal profile, and LinkedIn was for your resume? That’s so 2011 of you! Now Facebook wants companies to post job openings on their pages, and the service will pre-populate application forms with the user’s Facebook data before sending it in (via Messenger, of course). Where LinkedIn and Craigslist charge employers for listings, Facebook’s plan is free.
Nordstrom says it dropped Ivanka Trump’s product line because the clothing and shoes weren’t selling. President Trump complained on Twitter that the retailer treated his daughter “so unfairly.” Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway went on TV to, in her words, give Ivanka “a free commercial” and tell Americans to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” (Here’s The Washington Post’s rundown on the whole donnybrook.)
As Josh Marshall points out in Talking Points Memo, we are way beyond the concept of “conflict of interest” here: “President Trump sees the United States and his family businesses as a fully integrated entity … he is the state. He is the business. …Trump is openly using the presidency as the world’s greatest marketing opportunity.”
Friday’s news of Trump’s executive order barring refugees and banning immigration from seven largely-Muslim nations precipitated a weekend-long crisis of conscience in many businesses — mostly but not exclusively in the tech world. As protesters thronged D.C.’s Dulles, New York’s JFK, San Francisco International and other airports across the U.S., executives and employees at a lot of companies realized that they had a new action item demanding immediate attention: Decide where you stand.
The fork in the road lay outside the bounds of normal operations, but this was not a business-as-usual moment. Many companies are framing the issue less as choosing a side in a partisan political battle than as staying true to closely held values and deeply felt identity.
Before his executive order aimed at keeping US Green Card holders and refugees out of the country based on their religion, much of President Trump’s time since being sworn-in has been spent fixated on his popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton. In an early morning tweet last month, Trump called for a “major investigation” into voter fraud, claiming that “millions” of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 General Election. In an interview with FoxNews’ Bill O’Reilly later that week, he confirmed that Vice-President Pence will lead a commission to investigate Trump’s fabricated voter registration concerns. As Trump’s own attorneys have recognized — millions of illegal votes were not cast in the General Election and there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Trump’s concerns about voter fraud are not based on facts. Rather, they are alternative facts — aka lies — meant to confuse voters, signal Republican legislators to ramp up their efforts to enact restrictive voting laws, and provide comfort for vote suppressors.
Let’s start with the “evidence” Trump offers for his false claim: Trump told Congressional leaders that part of the basis for his voter fraud claims is the alleged voting experience of professional golfer and German citizen Bernhard Langer. According to Trump, Langer purportedly told him that he was not allowed to vote in Florida on Election Day, but he witnessed “voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote” — read Hispanic — being allowed to cast provisional ballots. Langer’s daughter has since confirmed that Langer is not an American citizen but, rather, a German citizen with permanent residence status in the U.S. As a German citizen, Langer cannot legally vote in the United States and, if the story is true (which Langer denies), was properly turned away. Thus, Trump’s professed impetus for launching a sweeping investigation into voter fraud proves the exact opposite of his voter fraud claims. Our system is working noncitizen votes are not being cast.
Donald Trump won the presidency with a promise to make great deals and bring business smarts to Washington. He’s not the first to argue that the federal government needs an injection of private-sector management savvy, writes Charles Duhigg (The New York Times). But with his cabinet full of billionaire business honchos and his disdain for the conventions of government, Trump is likely to give the old “President as CEO” concept its most ambitious field-test yet.
Don’t be surprised if it goes awry. As one former business person who served in George W. Bush’s cabinet puts it to Duhigg, “In government, you can’t fire anyone. Your board of directors is 535 people in Congress, and half of them want to see you fail.” Running the government simply demands a different set of management muscles than running a corporation. Former Treasury secretary (and, before that, Goldman Sachs CEO) Henry Paulson explains, “You succeed in Washington by collaborating.”
“We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterized the 19th century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down — at any rate in Great Britain; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us.
I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another…”
John Maynard Keynes, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)
You know all about red states and blue states. But an even sharper divide emerged from last week’s election: urban vs. rural. Republicans control Washington and most state houses today, outside of a handful of places like California and New York. But Democrats hold city hall in 17 out of 20 of the nation’s most populous cities.
As NewCo has been saying ever since it held its first festival five years ago, cities are also where we are inventing a new, more principled economy together. In Quartz, Fordham professor Benjamin Barber makes the case that cities are where Americans opposed to Trump administration policies will band together and have the greatest impact — whether it’s in protecting immigrants from Trump deportation squads, promoting cleaner energy and climate-friendly policies, preserving reproductive rights, or championing diversity and inclusion in business and government.
Don’t like how the election turned out? Let’s secede! American history has a long tradition of threats like that, but people almost never act on them. That’s a good thing — since the one time it happened, we got four years of war, misery, death, and wounds that still haven’t healed a century and a half later.
Still, secession cries are ringing out again, and not from Dixie. Shervin Pishevar, the investor and Hyperloop One founder, has called for California to leave the Union, and he’s picked up some support in Silicon Valley (Fusion).
The model is not the thing itself. The map is not the territory. Our attempts to turn reality into data are inevitably imperfect, and sometimes they’re way off — like they were last night. On Election Night, everything the experts and their algorithms told us was likely to happen came out different.
Trump’s against-all-predictions win doesn’t mean we should give up on the very idea of empiricism. It does mean that each time we inquire into the state of reality, we should begin with humility. We could always be wrong, and we often will be.
Of course you can’t say that and keep your job. Sure, Donald Trump’s recorded comments boasting about sexual predation in crude, callous language are politically toxic. They’re also kryptonite to employment. It’s “hard to believe he could get past the human resources department of a Fortune 500 company,” writes Andrew Ross Sorkin (The New York Times). This issue is no footnote — it’s at the heart of the bitter rancor that marks this election season. Trump’s appeal to his supporters is in part a backlash against socially and legally enforced limits on bad behavior, inadequately and inaccurately lumped together under the label of “political correctness.” It seems that a lot of people still dream of being Lord of Trump Castle and hitting on the powerless wenches. (Sad!) Many Trump fans yearn to turn back the clock to an era when mad men could stalk and abuse their female colleagues, while making tons more money than them, without ever facing consequences. But clocks move in only one direction — away from the indefensible practices of our elders. Trumpism will be swallowed by a tide of younger workers for whom sexual harassment and assault are as plainly over-the-line as other crimes. It’s already happening. This election’s noisy eruptions are the desperate final spasms of a dying belief system.
Science tastes better with Coke. According to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 96 national health organizations — names like the American Diabetes Association and the National Institutes of Health — took funding from Coke and Pepsi between 2011 and 2015 (Time). The soda makers, increasingly under attack for promoting obesity, are struggling to avoid the fate of the tobacco industry by plowing a chunk of their profits toward good relations with the medical establishment. They’re also lobbying hard to resist regulations and taxes on their product. This isn’t a simple story of quid-pro-quo corruption; the health organizations maintain they’re independent and unswayed by the source of their funds. Perhaps they’re turning bad money to a good cause. But when issues are as hotly contested as this one, researchers can’t just assert their integrity; their credibility demands a clean audit trail.