Splitsville

Splitsville

Splitsville

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 8 2000 7:44 AM

Splitsville

Everybody leads with yesterday's order by federal judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that Microsoft should, for at least 10 years, be broken into two companies--one that would make the Windows operating system and one that would make application programs and also include all Microsoft's non-Windows businesses. In this, Jackson was essentially accepting the government remedy proposal in its entirety. Jackson's ruling also imposes restrictions on the company's behavior--which means computer and software manufacturers will have powers of access and choice concerning Windows they've never gotten previously in any deal they've struck with Microsoft. The papers are full of harsh words from both sides, widely quoting Jackson's description of the company as "untrustworthy" and Bill Gates' description of the ruling as an "unwarranted and unjustified intrusion." The New York Times editorial on the remedy says Microsoft reaped "well-deserved consequences."

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The coverage says Microsoft will appeal, preferring to work the case through the appellate court, where it's had some success in a similar matter before, while the government and at least some of the state attorneys general are likely to ask that the matter be sent immediately to the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post fronts an interview with Judge Jackson in which he says he would have much preferred a conduct remedy instead of the structural one he finally arrived at, and in which Jackson reminds that at even at this late date an out-of-court settlement would still be possible and preferable. And contrary to the papers, Jackson says the case is only "momentarily" important. However, he also tells the paper that "whatever the Supreme Court has to say when it ultimately gets the case will in large measure chart the direction of the so-called New Economy." In the Post interview, Jackson says that the company's botched in-court videotape demonstration of decoupling the browser did not reflect poorly on the company's trustworthiness. But for the Wall Street Journal's in-chambers interview, Jackson has a different take on Microsoft's courtroom credibility: "Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus."

Both the NYT and the WP report that a new study conducted by Human Rights Watch purports to show that the war on drugs unfairly targets blacks. The study says that black men are sent to state prisons on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men, even though an HHS survey done in the early '90s shows that five times as many whites as blacks use cocaine. Both stories mention a nonracist fact that could explain a good bit of this disparity: Drug transactions among blacks more often occur in public than do drug transactions among whites, making the former more vulnerable to detection by the police. Also, the NYT adds that drug use among blacks tends to be more chronic and to involve harder drugs such as crack and heroin. The stories don't make clear whether the study compares arrestees with similar criminal histories. If a white with no priors is busted for a drug offense and gets probation while a black with two priors is busted for the same offense and gets jail time, the difference isn't race. A puzzler raised by the Post piece: It says that one of the remedies suggested by HRW is repeal of mandatory sentencing laws for drug offenders. But wait a second--how can a mandatory sentencing law promote racism? Since the variables they operate on don't include race, the opposite is true.

The WSJ reports that the European Union has announced plans to force non-EU companies to levy a value-added tax on services delivered to customers in the EU via the Internet. U.S. businesses, says the paper, are protesting vigorously. The story quotes Andy Grove of Intel as describing the idea as "e-protectionism" and says he has complained about it to the U.S. government.

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Honey, You're Home: The NYT says that the "carnage" in the world of Web-based journalism continued yesterday when Salon.com dismissed 13 employees in an effort to make up an expected $7 million shortfall in its $35 million budget. The Times describes the challenges for Web media like Salon posed by such fierce online competition as Inside.com, the Web sites for Brill's Content, the Industry Standard, Editor & Publisher, and the national newspapers. Somehow left unmentioned is a certain online magazine you're now reading. The Times does mention, however, a measure of how bad things have gotten at Salon: One of the people editor David Talbot had to lay off was his wife.