Microsoft: Waiting for the Storm Troopers?

By Joe Schembrie
web posted May 29, 2000

Don't be surprised if early some weekend morning soon, Attorney General Janet Reno dispatches Justice Department storm troopers on another daring raid to 'rescue' America once again from the tiresome constraints of constitutional law.

But instead of a five-year old Cuban exile, look for the next target of a Justice Department raid to be a forty-four-year old American billionaire named Bill Gates.

You might think such a raid is unnecessary, since the courts are going along with the Clinton regime's anti-trust suit against Bill Gates's company, Microsoft. Having ruled in favor of the Justice Department's case last month, US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is now demanding that Microsoft immediately respond to the government's plan to break the software giant into two and possibly three smaller companies. When Microsoft lawyers pleaded for more time, Jackson refused and even snapped: "This case has been pending for two years now!"

But such haste virtually guarantees that Microsoft will be able to appeal the decision. According to the Associated Press, that's the view of William Kovacic, an antitrust expert at George Washington University's School of Law. "Clearly," Kovacic says, speaking of Jackson, "he has a keen sense to wrap this up, and that he is emphasizing speed over process. But if you step back for a second, this will be one of the two or three most important corporate restructurings in the United States. Isn't it worth taking a couple of months to get it right?"

The answer would obviously be yes -- if your highest priority was to benefit the American consumer. But the Clinton Administration's highest priority is to benefit its political allies. One such ally in the business sector is Netscape, whose internet browser was threatened by Microsoft competition. Netscape has since been bought by AOL, which in turn is merging with TimeWarner. The combined media superconglomerate, AOL-TimeWarner, also controls Time Magazine and CNN -- very powerful allies indeed for the Democratic Party.

Microsoft, in contrast, made the mistake of donating more campaign money to the Republicans than Democrats.

Since the anti-trust suit has such a political taint, it's not surprising that both Microsofties and Clintonistas are anticipating the upcoming presidential election. If George W. Bush wins, the Justice Department will come under the control of Republicans -- who are very likely to lose interest in prosecuting Microsoft any further.

And currently, the polls show that Bush is heading for an election win. Thus Microsoft's appeals could eventually translate into victory, and the Administration is therefore slated to ultimately lose its case.

That's how the law would work under normal conditions -- but this is the Age of Clinton. In that regard, the feigned impatience of Judge Jackson, an ideological sympathizer of the Clinton Administration, is illuminating. Like the Devil in the Book of Revelation, the Clintonistas are full of wrath because they know their time is short. What wouldn't they contemplate, to achieve their ends while they can still do so?

So, why not a police raid against Microsoft?

When the Clinton Administration perceived that it was losing legal battles with the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, it staged a heavily-armed raid to snatch the boy and assert its control over him. If the Clintonistas are willing to use such a brutal tactic against a small child, why not against a big corporation? Okay, so there probably wouldn't be battering rams and machine guns this time around. But the basic idea -- mounting an unconstitutional police action to achieve political objectives -- would be the same.

By prompting Judge Jackson to lay down unreasonable demands and set irrational time limits, the Clintonistas are ensuring that Microsoft at some point must either commit corporate suicide -- or balk at the court's orders. Microsoft has the right to delay, it's called the appeals process. But their balking can be misrepresented by the Clinton Administration and its all-too-willing accomplices in the dominant media (eg, AOL-TimeWarner) as defiance against the very concept of Rule of Law itself. On such a public-relations pretext, Attorney General Janet Reno can once again bypass the Constitution and send in armed US marshals escorting the legal profession's version of storm troopers.

True, Bill Gates probably won't be whisked off to Wye Plantation. Instead, he can stay and watch as federal lawyers rifle through corporate files, scattering his company's trade secrets to the winds, and leaving a mess that will cripple the operations of an enterprise that took decades to create.

Whether the Clintonistas stage such a raid is ultimately up to them. But it is to their political advantage -- and if they do decide to do it, neither the Constitution, nor Congress, nor a few file servers barricaded against the doors, will be enough to protect Microsoft from the vindictive wrath of Reno.

Joe Schembrie is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right.

Current Issue

Archive Main | 2000

Musings - ESR's blog

E-mail ESR


Loading

Send a link to this page!

 


Home

1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.