Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2002-01-25 Entry: "Missed A Spot"

I noticed yesterday that I couldn't actually receive any mail... I finally tracked the problem down this morning - the permissions on my Inbox were such that the mail software couldn't write to it. I've no idea how long the problem has been in existence. It may just have been since I accidentally overwrote everything, or it could have been a problem for much longer than that...

Anyway, my mail is back and alive again (or at least, I can send myself something, which is half the battle - I'm waiting on the outgoing mail test, but I think this is a delay at the Phone Company end rather than the Cultural Wilderness end).

Much of the computing news sites I've looked at over the last few days have been urging people to get their comments in on the Microsoft settlement; the public comment period ends on Monday or thereabouts. As they're required to take into account the opinions of all US citizens in the decision this is almost an example of democracy at work. Of course, Microsoft can pay large numbers of people to submit positive comments about the settlement, but that's just corruption at work, and you don't appear to be able to have a modern democracy without corruption.

As I'm not a US citizen (and, until at least April, I'm not even living there), my opinion on the matter is irrelevant, even if the decision may have an impact on me. My personal opinion is that they should have stuck to their guns and enforced the structural change. As far as I can tell, the only reason they haven't is that the Bush administration caved to those who funded them. The judge who originally proposed the breakup was found to be biased and therefore his proposed penalty was waived. However, everything else about his judgement was upheld (so, yes, Microsoft are a monopoly, and they've done bad things to extend this monopoly to other areas). The company have also shown no inclination in the past to adhere to behavioral penalties.

Everyone's worried about the economy. Giving a strong penalty to the Redmond giant will cause their stocks to fall which will harm the economy. However, they've broken the law, so they should be suitably penalized. Also, by imposing a sentence that actually has an impact, their monopoly is broken, competition is fostered, and the economy is benefitted.

But politics only works short term. Looking at policies that only have an effect beyond the next election is suicide in todays political climate. People want to see results now. Because of this the politicians take the solution that gives a small return now, rather than the one that may cause pain or see no return now, but will reap huge rewards in ten years.

When the European Union finally get around to charging Microsoft, based upon previous cases, they're likely to impose a fairly hefty fine - they've imposed fines in the millions on airlines that have abused routes that only earn millions, so we could see a few billion dollars taken out of the Microsoft kitty and fairly redistributed amongs the EU. I'm sure that'll go down well with the US administration!

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