Today's Papers

Microsoft’s Macrodrama

The Washington Post’s lead reports that local HMOs are planning to dramatically hike Medicare recipients’ co-payments and premiums. Tens of thousands of elderly will be impacted. The New York Times leads with Gov. George Pataki’s decision to impose vehicle emission standards that are stricter than federal requirements. The new statewide standards, which will be phased in beginning with the 2004 model year, would require automakers to halve the amount of pollution emitted by the cars that are currently being manufactured. California has promulgated identical standards and Massachusetts is expected to follow the megastates’ lead. The concerted actions will encourage manufacturers to produce vehicles which satisfy the strictest state requirements.

All papers devote front-page space to analyzing the impact of the Microsoft antitrust trial’s findings of fact. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found that Microsoft was a bullying monopolist whose business tactics hurt consumers and suppressed innovation. (Consult Slate’s MSDispatches for a colorful bow-by-blow of the trial.) The Los Angeles Times lead claims that the findings will compound problems that are already eroding Microsoft’s dominance of the software industry, including: the defection of top talent; the emergence of new computing platforms; and the evolution of Web-based applications.

In a front-page analysis, the Post agrees that “Microsoft seems vulnerable,” noting that Windows 2000 is two years behind schedule. But the WP argues that with $19 billion in cash, the software giant (which publishes Slate) should be able to adapt to technological shifts. Another Post piece explores the legal aftermath of Friday’s findings. Before the judge renders his verdict, both sides will submit briefs on how antitrust law should apply to the facts. Microsoft might appeal, and the next president could order the Justice Department to abandon the case.

A NYT front-pager quotes an analyst’s prediction that Microsoft stock might decline in value by as much as 10 percent, a drop which would erase $47 billion in shareholder wealth. Another front-page piece chronicles Microsoft’s belated efforts to win friends in Washington. In 1998, the company’s political contributions shot up to $1.3 million and its lobbying budget doubled to $3.74 million. Microsoft’s lobbyists include former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour, whose firm received $600,000 from the company last year. The article suggests that Microsoft might have already received a return on its investment: Last June company officials met with Republican leaders. Eight days later, the GOP leadership introduced a list of legislative initiatives which adopted Microsoft’s view of antitrust law.

Accompanied by a picture of Pope John Paul II at Mohandas Gandhi’s gravesite, the LAT fronts the pontiff’s “call to conversion” during his visit to India. The pope issued a proclamation, expressing the hope that “a great harvest of faith will be reaped on this vast and vital continent” and arguing that “Asia is thirsting for the living water that Jesus alone can give.” Hindu activists recently called for a halt to what they perceive as “forced conversions.” Both Timeses report that police officers beat and arrested three demonstrators who dared to chant: “No conversions.” A WP account notes that the visit comes in the midst of a Hindu festival.

The NYT Op-Ed page publishes a two-fronted assault on George W. Bush’s inability to name the leaders of India, Pakistan, and Chechnya. Maureen Dowd writes: “His intensive foreign affairs coaching … supposedly began last winter, yet the gaffes keep coming.” Thomas Friedman suggests a makeup exam. A WP editorial argues that Bush exhibited a worrisome attitude towards democracy when he stated that the Pakistani coup was “good news for the subcontinent.” The Post reports that Bill Bradley refused to answer when asked who the leader of North Korea is. Bradley objected to the question on principle, arguing that “politicians have to draw the line.”

A Post piece on the leading candidate for Guatemala’s presidency provides perspective on the frailties of American leaders. Alfonso Portillo is running on a law-and-order platform. His television ads proudly proclaim: “A man who can defend his own life can defend yours.” The slogan refers to the fact that 17 years ago the frontrunner fatally shot two men during a barroom brawl. Portillo leads by twelve points in the polls–compelling evidence that voters prefer alpha males.