By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling on Monday that Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act opens the way to penalties against the software giant at both the federal and state levels. Even before the ruling was announced, Microsoft's stock had dropped nearly 15 percent and the NASDAQ had plunged 7.64 percentthe largest drop in its history. The ruling should be followed by federally mandated steps to reorganize the computer market on a far more equitable basis.
First, Microsoft should be required to license its software to companies that manufacture office equipment. Evidence during the trial revealed that Microsoft sought to pressure such companies to take its products. Second, Microsoft's browser should be spun off as an independent enterprise. Third, as is the case with IBM in Europe, Microsoft should be required to provide sufficient information, including source codes, so that its software can be connected to other systems. These steps won't hurt Microsoft's viability, and over the long run would strengthen the company and the international industry.
After failing to reconstruct an image of himself as a down-home native son, Al Gore could have gone straighti.e., just been himself, a more or less straight guy with eight years of vice-presidential experience who now wants to be president. But seemingly with each move, Gore tries to imitate the first family of con, the Clintons. So it was last week that instead of urging the Cuban exile community in Florida to accept the government's decision to return little Elián Gonzalez to his father in Cuba, Gore pandered to the Cuban American vote by proclaiming that the boy should remain here.
Over the weekend, the lame-duck president lumbered onto center stage again with an off-the-wall defense of Hillary as the victim of a huge right-wing conspiracy attempting to unsettle her senatorial bid. "This is not a complicated deal, and that's why Hillary's opponent can raise a double ton of money besides being mayor and having special relations with a lot of those people who have it in New York," the president said. "And you have the right-wing venom machine all geared up against her again."
Of course, the accusations against the Clintons and Gore cannot all be shrugged off as the work of some right-wing "venom machine." It was the White House that admitted last week that it had misplaced e-mails containing messages to Clinton aides from Monica Lewinsky. The Clinton-Gore 1996 fundraising tactics, which may have included Hillary, are now under scrutiny by the Justice Department. And several weeks ago a federal judge found that Clinton had invaded the privacy of Kathleen Willey.
Last week just as Al Gore, the raw recruit to campaign finance reform, was announcing his grand plans to clean up politics, California's former Republican governor Pete Wilson sprang from out of nowhere with ads disguised as parodies of the TV game show Jeopardy (labeled "Hypocrisy"), which attacked Gore on campaign-finance violations, flip-flops on tobacco, and a tie-breaking vote to cut Medicare funding.
Wilson is the main fundraiser for a group called Shape the Debate, which already has taken in $1.5 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity and AP. The Center says the ads were originated by Wilson political adviser George Gorton, who is in charge of the campaign, which is running on CNN and other cable networks.
Under Section 527 of the IRS Code, there are no limits to how much company, group, individual, or foreign sources can give. Best of all, those who put up money don't have to register with the IRS, so nobody knows who they are. In fact, under IRS and Federal Election Commission rules, groups like Shape the Debate don't even have to report their existence; hence, the name: "black hole" organizations.
The ads carefully stop short of telling viewers to oppose Gore. Instead, according to the group's legal counsel, Chip Nielsen, such an ad "applies pressure" to the candidate. "Shape the Debate will energize and inform citizens about issues and problems that have approached a critical point," Nielsen told the Center.
The first 527 black hole ads aired in 1995. Earlier this year, George W. Bush backer Sam Wyly and a group called Republicans for Clean Air attacked John McCain with such ads during the New York primary.
Working hard to cement the $1.3 billion Colombian aid package in Congress last week were a handful of big corporations that stand to gain from conflict in the region. A consortium called the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership includes companies like Occidental Petroleum, Enron, BP Amoco, and Colgate- Palmolive. "Right now, you see a confluence of interests," Lawrence Meriage, Occidental's VP for public affairs told Legal Times, adding that members of Congress "expressed concern about drugs, and from our perspective here, they are certainly disruptive of any normal business relationship."
Al Gore has been criticized for his family's long-standing ties to Occidental Petroleum. The vice president's father, Senator Albert Gore Sr., sat on Occidental's board, and the company has paid the veep's family $20,000 a year since the 1960s for mineral rights on land the Gores own. According to the Center for Public Integrity, which released details of the Gore-Occidental relationship, Occidental has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gore and the Democratic National Committee.