How To Apologize Properly

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(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to Bloomberg Opinion Today, an afternoon roundup of our opinions on business, politics, markets, technology and more. New subscribers can sign up here

ICYMI

Stocks recovered, bonds didn't. President Donald Trump said “we’ll have to see" about North Korea talks. Peter Navarro is out of China trade talks.

Mistakes Are Made

More than ever, it helps to know how to properly apologize. And yet so many people still don’t have the hang of it. 

Take Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He has apologized so many times now, you'd think he'd be great at it. But as Faye Flam points out, his latest one, about sharing data with Cambridge Analytica, is weak: “I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

That sounds pretty contrite, but did you catch that "what happens here" part? That, Faye notes, is a technique known as the "middle voice," which deflects true blame. An editor might call it the passive voice. "Oh, well, stuff happens at Facebook sometimes," it basically says. It's analogous to "mistakes were made,” the pseudo-apology wielded by presidents from Grant to Nixon to Clinton.

Faye studies several other inadequate apologies, including that of geneticist Eric Lander, who kinda sorta apologized this weekend for praising James Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA who has said many controversial things about race.

Of course, you could always go the route of not apologizing at all. But if you want to avoid long-term public scorn, you’d be better served by what Faye calls the four Rs of a good apology: Remorse, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Recompense.

If you don't learn them, you've got only yourself to blame.

The Bloomberg View

At some point, Congress apparently forgot its constitutional right to declare war, ceding its power to the president. Fortunately, lawmakers are increasingly interested in reasserting that privilege. But a new effort from Bob Corker and Tim Kaine isn’t nearly assertive enough, write Bloomberg’s editors.

Chinese telecom firm ZTE is a perennial bad actor and should be punished, not used as a bargaining chip in China trade talks, Bloomberg’s editors write.

Freedom of Misinformation

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the online journalism business is basically garbage. To survive it, media companies (including Bloomberg) are turning to paywalls. These could save many outlets from starving on ever-thinner advertising gruel.

But as legitimate publications build paywalls, bad information remains free. Leonid Bershidsky offers the cautionary tale of what happened to journalism after Vladimir Putin took power in Russia. Kremlin-critical publications scared off advertisers. Many built paywalls to survive. That kept them publishing, but it also left most of the playing field open to Putin-friendly propaganda.

Something similar is happening here. While mainstream news organizations build paywalls, skewed outlets proliferate free of charge. We may not be in Putin territory yet. But this is thickening the media bubbles in which many of us live.

Time for the Euro to Divorce Italy

Shocker: Italy’s populists want out of the euro. It’s time to give them what they want, writes Mark Gilbert:

“The unpalatable truth is that both Italy and Greece cheated to get into the euro, using the swaps market to mask their true debt and deficit ratios. And their continued membership poses an existential threat to the project that erupts with such regularity [it’s] becoming predictable.”

Tesla Needs Carloads of Money

Tesla built up a massive stock-market valuation through the sheer power of belief. That faith may be starting to crack, writes Liam Denning, as a previously bullish Wall Street analyst has turned squishy. Tesla’s problem is that it keeps burning cash, and not even $3 billion in fresh capital will help.

Roll Over, Socrates

A new opinion section needs a new video series, and ideally a new way of thinking about the many controversies at which people throw opinions. Noah Feldman’s series covers both. He uses the Socratic method to frame issues, helping you figure out your own position. The first topic: Is a North Korean peace deal even possible? Noah’s video helped me realize I am a miserable cynic, so I say no. You may get a different result.   

Chart Attack

Investors are still suffering after activist investor Elliott Management Corp. won its proxy war with Arconic Inc., writes Brooke Sutherland – but don’t blame Elliott just yet.

The Chinese apple market just went bananas. You may scoff at such wild moves, but Chinese commodity markets keep making skeptics look foolish, writes David Fickling.

Speaking of defying skeptics: Macy’s isn’t quite dead yet, writes Sarah Halzack.

Speed Round

Voters miss President Barack Obama because they miss his integrity. – Al Hunt

America’s social safety net is a lot bigger and stronger than you realize. – Noah Smith

Want educated immigrants? Let in more Africans. – Justin Fox

Don't tell the Black Sox, but betting on baseball isn’t the end of the world. – Stephen Carter

Kicker

Yanny vs. Laurel is the new “the dress” meme. (And the correct answer is “Laurel.” I will take no questions.)

Note: Please send laurels, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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