The Absurd Apple Antitrust Lawsuit

“As far as consumer complaints go, of course, there’s nothing wrong with some of the DOJ’s concerns. We might wish that every product we owned was compatible with every other product we owned and that they worked in perfect tandem. We might wish we never had to consider tradeoffs between price, function, design, compatibility, etc.
Where this gets crazy is the federal government saying: Consumers being able to choose whether to use a product is not good enough. We’re going to step in and say that this business has to make a competitor’s products more accessible. It has a legal duty to undermine its own business interests to help outside—and many would argue inferior—products compete.

In the vein of other recent antitrust actions against tech companies, particularly under the Biden administration, the Apple suit relies on an absurd conception of how the law should work. And it’s a conception that could seriously harm innovation, weaken the position of U.S. tech companies, and mess with products many people like.

And many people really, really love Apple products, including iPhones.

The bottom line: Nobody has to use an iPhone, and no developer has to distribute its app through the App Store. There are other ways to communicate, other smartphone options, and other ways to distribute apps (including other ways to distribute apps to iPhone users). That many people still carry iPhones and distribute their apps through the App Store speaks to the fact that many people find the phone’s upsides and the App Store’s upsides stronger than any downsides.”

How Boeing put profits over planes

“Experts say that the root of Boeing’s present troubles is a longstanding culture issue. Over the years, the company’s top decision-makers went from detail-oriented engineers to slick suits with MBAs.
“You’ve got a management team that doesn’t seem terribly concerned with their core business in building aircraft,” says Aboulafia.

There’s one name that keeps popping up when people talk about Boeing’s cultural downslide: Jack Welch, the legendary — and infamous — executive who helmed the conglomerate General Electric from 1981 to 2001. Welch was known for ushering in a sea change of “lean” management that ruthlessly made cuts in both manufacturing processes and the workforce, all in the service of pumping up stock prices. His leadership style included firing the worst-performing 10 percent of GE staff every year; he reportedly laid off over 250,000 people during his tenure. He inspired an entire generation of business leaders, and this Welchian GE philosophy was eventually brought over to Boeing.

Historically, Boeing was renowned for its boundary-pushing innovations in aviation, which helped put commercial air travel on the map. But in 1997, Boeing bought a rival plane maker called McDonnell Douglas; instead of Boeing culture influencing McDonnell, however, the opposite happened. The engineer-focused company got a heavy dose of the cutthroat GE ethos as McDonnell’s CEO — a Welch disciple — became the president and chief operating officer, and later CEO, of the merged company. Other Boeing leaders, including James McNerney and current CEO David Calhoun, have also had stints at GE.

In Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing, journalist Peter Robison describes an environment where safety concerns were concealed or downplayed, in part to be faster and cheaper than Airbus, the former underdog that overtook Boeing as the biggest commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world in 2019.

The company began relying more on subcontractors; It had its own fuselage plant until 2005, when it sold it to a private equity firm — that entity became Spirit AeroSystems. Today, Boeing only completes the final assembly of a plane after it sources parts from thousands of suppliers. Outsourcing is cheaper — but using so many suppliers reduces the fine-tune control and oversight a company has over the parts that make up their product, according to aviation experts.

While lean management was the name of the game for Boeing’s rank-and-file, in the past decade the company’s executives spent over $43 billion buying back their own stocks and paying out nearly $22 billion in profits to shareholders. By buying back shares and removing them from the public market, the individual value of a share automatically rises even though nothing about the company’s operations has changed.

Those billions represent cash that could have been reinvested in developing the next line of Boeing planes or hiring more quality inspectors. Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who led the company during the deadly Max crashes, reportedly received an exit package of $62 million.

After the merger, there was also “an open labor war between the unions and the management,” says Hamilton.

In 2000, feeling demoralized and disrespected by the leadership shift, over 22,000 Boeing engineers went on strike. One of the chants heard during the strike: “No nerds, no birds.” As in, if Boeing doesn’t let engineers do their jobs properly, with adequate pay, there would be no airplanes. The engineers got the extra money they asked for, but not the ideological win. Boeing bled about $750 million due to the strike, according to Robison, and kept on with its cost-cutting drive while Boeing’s workers have kept sounding the alarm with every mass layoff.

In 2019, the company said it could cut as many as 900 inspectors — the people who make sure the plane is ready to fly. In 2020, it laid off about 16,000 people. Some were offered buyouts, a move that the company might have regretted when it had to go on a hiring spree after the pandemic, and after the 737 Max was cleared to fly again. “So you have a lot of inexperienced workers who now have their hands on the airplane rather than the mature, highly experienced workers who were laid off or took early retirement,” says Hamilton.

Despite the regular rounds of mass layoffs, last summer, Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun said he would love to ramp up the production of 737 planes from 50 to 60 per month, which would further elevate the pace of work for Boeing workers who already felt pressured to meet unrealistic quotas. A 2019 New York Times report interviewed over a dozen people about their experience working at Boeing, who said they saw many safety hazards during assembly — like debris left on planes — and claimed that they were fired for raising potential problems.

Boeing’s treatment of its 10,000-plus subcontractors has come under scrutiny, too, as the company has demanded ever-lower prices. “They treated their suppliers the way they treated their workers — as a disposable commodity,” says Aboulafia.

Boeing’s strategy to continually shrink costs doesn’t appear to have paid off. The company hasn’t turned an annual profit in the past five years. Airbus is selling more planes, and recent headlines about Boeing are putting a halo over Airbus’s comparative reputation. In January alone, Boeing lost $35 billion in market value as its stock price fell.”

Have all the beers gone woke? An investigation.

“First, Bud Light sent a few beers to a transgender influencer in early April. Then, Miller Lite ran an ad celebrating female brewers and offering up a lighthearted mea culpa over all the beer ads over the years featuring women in bikinis. Actually, the Miller Lite thing happened before the Bud Light thing, back in March for Women’s History Month, but most people didn’t see the Miller Lite thing before now. So now some on the right are mad about both of these major beer brands over what they see as selling out and taking progressive positions in supporting trans people and women.
It’s not like beers are totally progressive now though, either. The customers these campaigns were aimed at might be upset to notice that Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev hasn’t exactly stuck to its guns on Dylan Mulvaney, the trans influencer in question, and neither company’s political donations are super aligned with left-leaning causes.”

“In April, Bud Light sent trans influencer and activist Mulvaney some cans of beer and Mulvaney posted about it on social media, presumably as part of a pretty run-of-the-mill paid sponsorship deal. It sparked outrage on the right as part of the ongoing backlash toward trans rights and visibility, with some conservative beer-drinkers feeling like it represented a betrayal and calling for a boycott. Kid Rock shot some beers, Travis Tritt said he was axing the brand from his tour. Indeed, Bud Light sales have declined in the wake of the backlash, though as with any boycott, it’s hard to know how long the impact will last. (Vox has a full explainer on the Bud Light situation here.)

In May, apparently in search of another target, conservatives decided that Miller Lite was bad, too, and overly woke. People dug up an ad from March and are now mad about that. In said ad, actress and comedian Ilana Glazer talks about an initiative at the company — titled “Bad $#!T to Good $#!T” — to create fertilizer from old, sexist beer advertising (read: featuring scantily clad women). The fertilizer was supposed to be used to grow hops for female brewers.”

“This is emblematic of the broader controversy — a lot of people have lost the plot on what exactly happened with Bud Light, to the extent they ever knew it. Some consumers incorrectly believe the company undertook a broad-based marketing campaign with Mulvaney, that beer cans featuring her image are for sale to the public, or that AB InBev is marketing cans with pronouns on them in the US. None of those things are true. Anheuser-Busch CEO Michel Doukeris got at the issue in the company’s most recent earnings call, pointing out that “misinformation and confusion” still exists around what even happened. “We will need to continue to clarify the fact that this was one can, one influencer, one post, and not a campaign, and repeat this message for some time,” he said.”

“Bud Light didn’t send beer to Mulvaney because it wants to become a champion of trans rights, it did so because the brand is struggling and it thought LGBTQ consumers were a potential avenue for expansion. Miller Lite’s leaders aren’t lying in bed at night sick over all of those sexist ads over the years. They know women have money to spend, and they would like them to spend it on their beers.”

Yes, Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Trump is political

“the core violation here is, basically, that the Trump Organization logged hush money repayments improperly. The more small-scale charges like this after a long investigation seem, the more they suggest prosecutors landed on them because they tried to make a bigger case that didn’t pan out.
Does it resemble previous prosecutions? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Business records charges are common in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The New York Times called this charge “the bread and butter” of the office’s white-collar practice, pointing out that during Bragg’s tenure of a little over a year, 29 individuals and companies were charged with such offenses before Trump. “The charge of creating false financial records is constantly brought,” Agnifilo and Eisen write.

Still, there is some dispute about how the charge is being applied in this case. Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman points out that these false records were just internal company documents, and that Bragg has not yet specifically alleged they were used to deceive anyone. Shugerman asked whether there’s ever been a conviction in such a case. Various former prosecutors in the Manhattan DA’s office have argued that they can and did file such charges based on internal documents, but it’s unclear whether the legality of that theory has been directly tested in court.”

GOP killed Big Business. Biden buries the corpse.

“President Joe Biden ditched Trump’s brawling style. But he is keeping some of the former president’s key policies in place that are disliked by CEOs — including tariffs on imports from China and the EU and pressure on U.S. companies to cut their vast overseas supply chains to manufacture in America.

Biden has also stocked key agencies with people who have dedicated their careers to antitrust enforcement — including Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission and Jonathan Kanter at the Justice Department. In the last week alone, regulators have moved to blow up both a proposed airline merger and a major Wall Street deal, while attacking lucrative fees slapped on consumers by banks, cable providers and myriad other businesses.”