Last month, an English cabbie was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for attempting to stick up a gas station with a cucumber. Apparently, the perpetrator was short of cash and hoped to remedy his situation by robbing a petrol parlour. Unable or unwilling to use a gun and, one suspects, lacking […]
Last month, an English cabbie was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for attempting to stick up a gas station with a cucumber. Apparently, the perpetrator was short of cash and hoped to remedy his situation by robbing a petrol parlour. Unable or unwilling to use a gun and, one suspects, lacking confidence in his gifts for unarmed physical intimidation or cajoling, the brigand foolishly turned to his cultural roots. London is unquestionably the world capital of good inexpensive theatre and every resident of that fair burg has a bit of thespian talent. Unfortunately, in this case, the protagonist didn’t have quite enough. After purchasing the cuke, perhaps with his last good pair of pence, the chauffeur drove into the emporium of presumed opportunity and approached the manager. Brandishing the purported weapon in a bag, he proceeded with his attempted crime. Meanwhile, other motorists kept tooling into the gas station. When the highway robber attempted to exit the scene, he found his hackney surrounded by other cars, which was particularly vexatious and frustrating. Armed only with the kirby, however, there wasn’t much the vandal could do to disperse the honking and resistant legion of motorists. By the time he figured this out, it was far too late to cheese it: the cops had arrived. When the convicted felon finally sews his last mail bag and returns to the streets, he will undoubtedly have a new outlook but not necessarily a changed attitude toward the underlying concept that led to his incarceration. While he might choose a life of public service, he could also turn out to be a recidivist only creative enough to attempt another felony. We would not want to tempt him with a carrot, stalk of celery or any other edible means of aggression.
According to The Shadow, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Now we also know about the fruit of crime. But what we cannot truly conclude from this isolated incident is the value of a good bluff. For it is only when the bluff is called that one can truly see the difference between what has been alleged or implied and what was. If we are bluffed and we fold, the nature of the bluff forever remains a secret. Court battles often contain an element of bluffery. Litigation is, by its very nature, a risky undertaking. The perversity of the courts is exhaustively documented, as often the source of cheer as it is the wellspring of grave injustice. It is no wonder, then, that the adversaries in the antitrust case brought by technical services company Allen-Myland Inc against IBM and the subsequent countersuit have made both partisans edgy. Nor is it unreasonable to discover that outsiders whose interests are aligned with those of Allen-Myland have undertaken a course of creative meddling on Allen-Myland’s behalf. –
By Hesh Wiener
To date, no outside party has pitched in on the side of IBM, which is widely regarded as a company that knows full well how to take care of itself. Apparently, IBM has begun to feel somewhat lonely and isolated. As we reported (CI No 1,582), the company is seeking a soul mate in the form of the US Department of Justice. This development is intriguing. The antitrust division at Justice has been IBM’s adversary in bygone days and may prove to be one yet again. But, in the interest of what it views as fair play, IBM has petitioned the Department of Justice to do for free what Allen-Myland’s ally, Computer Dealers & Lessors Association, paid a law firm to do. IBM wants the Justice Department to intercede on its behalf – to support its contention that a respected judge’s understanding of an old antitrust case settlement has no place in the conflict of the moment. IBM’s obsession with the 1956 consent decree is understandable. The agreement created rules for IBM that do not apply to its smaller competitors. They make IBM work harder than it otherwise might have to. An outsider can easily assert that this is good for the company, while an insider could maintain that IBM would work very hard anyway. Most of the arguments one could make for either viewpoin
t depend on observations of markets other than the mainframe arena. The lower the price tag on a general-purpose computer, the smaller IBM’s market share seems to be. One explanation is the greater ease with which competitors can enter the field as capital requirements diminish. Another is the customer’s perception of risk: it is easier to live with the cost of a PC bought by mistake than that of a mainframe. But IBM has shown that it can, for a while at least, hold sway over a market in inexpensive products. For years, IBM was the master of the typewriter business. IBM’s eventual departure from that trade stemmed not from any tendency toward decadence within IBM. The PC obviated the need for many typewriters, particularly in the corporate offices that were IBM’s base. Even as IBM attempts to wield its influence behind the closed doors of the Justice Department, the Computer Dealers & Lessors Association has coincidentally mounted its own effort to sneak one by IBM with the advice and consent of the very same government body. The way IBM and the CDLA seem to be bumping into each other as they tiptoe around the halls of power is nothing less than slapstick… but for one consideration. The process of courtroom justice, the nature of antitrust law and its enforcement, the welfare of a public that is not represented in the lawsuit and the economic interests of a nation are affected by this conduct. The willingness of both sides to engage in their behaviours is, by itself, ominous. It betrays nervousness about if not outright distrust of the court system. It threatens to make a sham out of a sincere effort by a competent judge to analyse a very complex case. It also makes one imagine that somewhere in the cases presented by each side lies a brazen bluff that just might get called. Can it be that both sides’ soldiers are armed only with cucumbers? We find ourselves deeply annoyed by the surreptitious activities that threaten to take over where a public process ought to reign.
Shame on all these people and what they have stooped to! Their activities belittle the greater public interest that was held in high regard at the inception of the core issue: the litigation that resulted in the 1956 consent decree circumscribing IBM’s activities in certain areas. We can understand each party’s going before the antitrust division to voice its views. But that process should be carried on in sunlight, it should take the form of a public hearing, not behind closed doors. The public interest might inadvertently be sacrificed in a star chamber proceeding and only later would the loss become apparent. Unquestionably, a public process would be grossly time-consuming and inefficient. But even if it is in some ways wasteful, the time and energy of the government’s own legal department is rightfully that of the citizenry. We think politics and sausage should list their ingredients. Even if our sentiment – a direct outgrowth of our life in the business of putting things before the public – is extreme, another point, we feel, should be considered, particularly by CDLA and the most public-spirited souls at Justice. If justice comes down to a matter of persuasion and influence, one ought not do battle with IBM. One might as well try to rob a gas station with a cucumber – and no paper bag.(C) 1991 Technology News of America Co