[Slate] Bork Borks Microsoft

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From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 15:57:20 PDT

gNo, the subject doesn't refer to the swedish chef muppet. I'm a little
surprised I thought two Slate articles on the same day were FoRKable.
Actually, I'm a little surprised that I've been FoRKing so much lately.
Gnutella, gNapster, iMesh, Freenet, FreeIM, and its ilk have suddenly
all converged into an interesting brew where the munchkin vision I once
cynically thought impossible in our lifetime gnow seems closer than it
has ever been. 'gNuff said, I don't want Rohit to guillotine my gnuts.

[I'm having one of those "Gee" days, forgive me. :]

Anyway, this is a Slate opinion piece in response to Bork's WSJ Op-Ed
piece. It's interesting to me that almost everyone who's calling for
Microsoft's head on a platter ain't so innocent themselves. Or, to put
it in Tomwhore parlance, "If you know who someone is, then you probably
shouldn't root for him." Root for the underdog you don't know, because
anyone who portrays himself as an underdog probably isn't...


> Bork Borks Microsoft
> By Jack Shafer
> Posted Tuesday, May 2, 2000, at 1:43 p.m. PT
> In his May 1 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed arguing for the dismemberment of
> Microsoft, Judge Robert H. Bork rips the software company for the
> lobbying campaign it has waged against the government's antitrust case.
> He writes:
> | "[Microsoft] is working assiduously for a political reversal of its
> | legal loss. It is hard to walk through the Capitol without tripping
> | over Microsoft's lobbyists -- or to read magazines and newspapers
> | without finding vehement columns in its defense from public-interest
> | groups, often with undisclosed financial support from the company.
> | There is so much Microsoft money flowing through the system that the
> | danger for nonpoliticized law is very real.
> Bork's diatribe against the politicization of the law by corporate money
> should be required reading for ... the Project to Promote Competition
> and Innovation in the Digital Age -- ProComp -- the organization identified
> in Judge Bork's Journal Op-Ed as his employer.
> What is ProComp? It's an industry group whose director, Mitchell Pettit,
> offered this mission statement in 1998 when it was founded: "Our goal is
> to get Justice to file an antitrust lawsuit and win it." That sounds
> suspiciously like politicizing the law, doesn't it?
> Who is Mitchell Pettit? Pettit, a former Bob Dole aide, is a Washington
> lawyer who has lobbied for both Netscape and Sun Microsystems.
> Who is ProComp? Netscape, Sun Microsystems, and Oracle were founding
> supporters of ProComp. (Bork's bio note also mentions the judge's
> history as a Netscape consultant.) ProComp's Web site also lists these
> supporters: American Airlines, American Society of Travel Agents,
> Computer and Communications Industry Association, Corel, Preview Travel,
> Software Publishers Associations, the Air Transport Association, the
> SABRE Group, Sybase, and worldweb.net. In other words, Microsoft's main
> competitors minus IBM.
> Who else is ProComp? Sorry, they'd rather not say. From the Web site:
> "There are a number of companies and associations involved, some of whom
> prefer to remain anonymous. This speaks volumes about the power of
> Microsoft. People are very concerned about how the power wielded by a
> single company could dramatically impact their businesses, now and in
> the future." Is this an example of the sort of stealth lobbying Judge
> Bork abhors?
> What does ProComp do? From the ProComp Web site again: "Our focus right
> now is on education. We are actively working to educate the public and
> policymakers on the importance of maintaining competition and consumer
> choice in the electronic marketplace." One possible translation: What
> ProComp does is pay writers such as Judge Bork to compose vehement
> anti-Microsoft columns and place them in influential magazines and
> newspapers such as the Journal. Another: It hires lobbyists to beat up
> on Microsoft. According to the Washington Post, some ProComp supporters
> pay dues of $250,000 a year and its lobbyists briefed members of
> Congress with a slide show urging them to encourage the Justice
> Department to file an antitrust suit against Microsoft.
> How much have ProComp and its members spent on lobbying? According to
> the Post, ProComp spent $700,000 in 1998, and Netscape, Sun
> Microsystems, Oracle, and American Online spent a combined total of $5.1
> million that year. Microsoft spent $3.7 million.
> What else does ProComp do? It recruits new members on this Web page and
> encourages them to write letters to the Justice Department and Congress
> in support of ProComp's goals.
> Who else works for ProComp? The firm of McGuiness & Holch registered as
> lobbyists for ProComp in 1998, according to Legal Times.
> What do lobbyists do? They loiter the halls of Congress and trip
> lawmakers.
> What do members of ProComp do in their spare time? According to the
> Washington Post, "Netscape, Sun Microsystems and Oracle, three of
> Microsoft's biggest competitors, spend heavily on lobbying and campaign
> contributions. ..." In other words, they send enough money flowing
> through the system to politicize the law.
> Inspired by Judge Bork's paean to transparency and the evils of
> politicizing the law, let me provide this full disclosure. I am deputy
> editor of Slate, a Webzine that attempts to influence politicians, the
> legal establishment, and even voters on matters of public policy but
> almost never succeeds. Finally, Microsoft owns Slate and I am long in
> Microsoft stock. Way long. Way way long.


Time eventually humiliates us all, but no one suffers at the hands of time more than prognosticators. Trying to guess the future is a game we nearly always lose. Where, for example, are our aluminum, two-ton, Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion homes, built in factories and delivered gently as snowflakes by dirigible direct to prepared foundations? Or forget the Dymaxion homes: Where are the dirigibles? -- Robert X. Cringely, March 9, 2000

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