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Eyes Wide Shut

Week of July 2, 2002
It's not Dubya's butt what needs a colonscopy - it's the system of justice in the United States of America.

Nowhere: it's taken the justice system of the United States of America over ten years to get exactly this far. Next year, the US is expected to spend $53 billion on IT - a figure that dwarfs the $2 billion Cheney's and Dubya's friends slated for payment to the Taliban for rights to build an Afghan oil pipeline.

No one in their right mind wants to see Bill Gates punished; what they want is to see him stopped.

TP was right. He may have been out of line professionally, but certainly not as a human being. In a better world, he would not have been censored. He was justifiably indignified by the behaviour of Bill Gates and Microsoft Corporation. But in a world where whitebread suits can get hardened criminals off the hook by crippling the wheels of justice with appeal after appeal on ridiculous technicalities, and where the reigning justice system panders to these machinations, popular opinion will be turned and the guilty will get off scot-free.

The Enron scandal is still crashing down around the wannabe cowboys in the White House. Bernie Ebbers is protesting that, despite the $408 million he borrowed from the glutton company he once founded and which last month disowned him, he has done nothing fraudulent.

Belief in justice is at an all-time low. And now, as if on cue, here comes Palladium.

In an article published 27 June, ZD UK staff writer Matt Loney asks if anyone trusts Microsoft, and pens the immediately classic

The words 'Microsoft' and 'trust' only really seem to fit together with the help of an 'anti' somewhere in the middle.

Palladium is not a new idea. Intel tried the same thing years ago, and got hit bluntly on their pointy heads. Web sites and software both were to be able to quiz your computer for its unique baked-in 64-bit ID. The ID is now built into almost every processor Intel builds, starting with the Pentium III, but it's still turned off by default, as the understandable public outrage was more than Intel could bear.

Microsoft wants to turn it back on again.

And whatever Intel's past foibles, they pale by comparison to Microsoft's current plan, code-named Palladium.

Microsoft insist they are trying to build a trusted computer platform, yet they deliberately ignore the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA), which is backed by more than 135 companies. The idea behind the TCPA is to build platforms e-commerce can trust, to provide for authenticity, integrity, and above all privacy - which has nothing to do with Microsoft's Palladium initiative.

Says Loney, Microsoft exposed its motivation for Palladium when, on filing a core patent for the technology, it used the term Digital Rights Management Operating System. Far from providing authenticity, integrity and privacy of data, Microsoft actually wants to police copyright laws.

As if we should be surprised. Says Loney:

Now I have a major problem with this, not least because I don't like the idea of a company that has been found guilty of criminal activity providing technology that will be used to police laws.

The idea behind Palladium is to redefine 'fair use' of digital media from a legal right to a technological grant. Legal rights go right out the window.

Not that there are any left, of course. Backing UCITA with the full force of their palm-greasing experts, Microsoft stand poised to transform computer software from a consumer product liable under current consumer legislation into a no-liability consumer license where nothing applies, unless it's the greed of the company 'selling' it. Where self-help, that dastardly initiative to destroy your computer hardware, yea to burn your house down, is fully protected.

Bill Gates has been clamouring about software piracy all along. He's been on this campaign ever since he first looked over Paul Allen's shoulder to see how real programmers do their job. He's been trying to police the world since all he could afford was a single Porsche to crash around the streets of Albuquerque.

But he's also been one of the most evil forces in modern commerce. And the jury is no longer out on that one - he's already been convicted. But now, with the lackadaisical attitude prevalent in the capital of the US, first they offer the bad man a lucrative compromise, then they let the whole thing squeeze its way high up into the court system where it can go on forever.

It's not Dubya's butt what needs a colonscopy - it's the system of justice in the United States of America.

Gates and Microsoft are defiant - despite the upheld court ruling, despite the corporate and personal arrogance that turned the stomach of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, they will go on, and they don't care what any law anywhere says about what they are doing. They make the 'plumbers' of Richard Milhaus look like Disney characters in comparison.

They've been under investigation for over ten years; they've been found guilty; they've changed nothing. They move not backwards, admitting errors, but forward, usurping more rights, straight in the face of Washington DC, where Dubya tries not to put them where they should be, but to make a 'good old boy' agreement with them (which luckily brave people like Tom Miller refuse to buy).

While Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly deliberates exactly what she wants to do, the juggernaut of Microsoft moves forward, like Nazi tanks on a Polish border. No one is going to stop Bill Gates unless they use the kind of force initially proposed. Bill Gates does not listen to the law. Bill Gates obviously does not respect the law. Bill Gates is totally determined that Bill Gates shall not be stopped, no matter the issue, no matter the price, to himself, to others, to the planet as a whole.

Bill Gates has the upper hand. And the system of justice in the United States of America looks on with eyes wide shut.

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