Firing Back at Bill

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WASHINGTON: The legal tennis continues. The Justice Department fired back at Bill Gates Wednesday with a familiar request filed in D.C.'s U.S. District Court: Hold Microsoft in contempt, this time for evading the unbundling order. "Microsoft's naked attempt to defeat the purpose of the court order and to further its litigation strategy is an affront to the court's authority," the government asserted in papers. Trustbuster Joel Klein went on: "Microsoft has gone from tying its products to tying the hands of its vendors," he said. "The more Microsoft continues this practice, the more consumers are harmed."

Microsoft, of course, saw it precisely the other way in a pugnaciously-worded appeal, filed Tuesday, in which the Redmond giant's lawyers essentially claim that Justice's legal crusade is spoiling everything for America's computer-lovers.

What Gates may want to be more concerned about, though, is Wednesday’s New York Times report that state attorneys general have been meeting in secret to consider their own antitrust lawsuits. Throw in government investigations in Europe and a possible Senate hearing, and you have a similar scenario to the one that bled the tobacco giants. Did somebody say "timber?"