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On the Defensive
Put yourself in the shoes of the top leadership at Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. (Those shoes are Allbirds, perhaps, or Rollerblades.) They were probably excited when the U.S. Defense Department hired Google’s cloud-computing division to work on Project Maven, an ambitious effort aimed at allowing drones to think and see. One of Google’s co-founders – no pushover on moral leadership – said that working with the world’s militaries could be good for peace.
Then thousands of Google employees signed a petition urging the company to reconsider. Some quit. (Google employees had fewer moral objections, apparently, about creepy YouTube videos aimed at children, or their digital hangouts hosting conspiracy theories about mass murder.) Google recently said it would wind down its work on Project Maven.
Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg L.P., said it is the job of senior management at any company to “do the right thing, even if it provokes criticism.” Alphabet’s leaders failed, he argues, by caving rather than pursuing a project that could help U.S. national security and limit civilian casualties .
This won’t be last time U.S. technology companies are going to face decisions on potentially unpopular work with government organizations. Decades ago, the U.S. government – especially the military – was where many important technologies originated. Now, however, the development of crucial technology such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and autonomous transportation likely will be spearheaded by commercial technology firms.
That means they decide which customers – government or commercial – should be permitted to buy their goodies. And they have to be ready to take the heat if bad publicity collides with good values.
Can You Hold Your Breath Until November?
Democrats had a good week in U.S. primary elections ahead of the big ballot in November, writes Al Hunt. The big fear in the crucial state of California was that Democrats would split the vote in that state’s unique primary on Tuesday, leaving only Republicans to compete this fall in crucial House of Representatives races. That didn't happen, but Republicans still have a shot at at holding onto their House majority.
Shocking allegations of physical abuse and inappropriate behavior alone were enough to cost Jonathan Bush his job as chief executive of Athenahealth Inc. (Yes, he’s from that Bush family.) But the health-care technology firm also needs fresh leadership that can face facts: Athenahealth requires a deep rethinking of its entire strategy. It shouldn’t even be a public company anymore, write Brooke Sutherland and Max Nisen. Oh, and former General Electric CEO/private plane fan Jeff Immelt has found himself tending another tire fire as Athenahealth's new executive chairman.
Pick Your Unflattering Comparison
A truly terrible parlor game is to compare today’s incompetent, sick or corrupt banks to those of a decade ago when – as you and your blood pressure surely remember—the financial world came apart.
Aaron Brown writes that the incompetent and sick Deutsche Bank is 2018’s version of Fannie Mae, which is not a good thing but also...different than being another Lehman Brothers (R.I.P.) Like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage lending behemoths that required a U.S. government bailout a decade ago, Deutsche Bank would likely collapse in slow motion. And that would require Germany to bail it out – setting yet another terrible precedent for governments coming to the rescue of poorly managed banks.
European central bankers must tread very carefully and not end prematurely all of that government bond-buying that has juiced the region’s economy. Marcus Ashworth explains that unstable countries – including Italy and our old, dysfunctional friend Greece – still need ECB bond-buying to keep yields low and give them political breathing room.
Mutual fund titan Franklin Resources Inc. has suffered from being late to hop aboard the low-fee fund bandwagon and from making wagers on risky markets like Puerto Rico, writes Brian Chappatta.
U.S. policy makers should focus on boosting employment and earnings of people who aren’t rich. – Michael R. Strain
Chinese restrictions on imported recycling are self-defeating for the world’s second-largest economy. – Adam Minter
Republican policies to choke the Ex-Im Bank are hurting small businesses they used to champion. – Joe Nocera
Note: I'm pinch-hitting for regular newsletter scribe Mark Gongloff. Please send comments and (especially) gripes and cat GIFs to email@example.com.
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