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Business Technology: Perry, Clarity, And Closure

Where's Perry Mason when we really need him? For those of you 35 or younger, "Perry Mason" was a 1960s black-and-white TV show about a slick lawyer who NEVER lost a case. When the trial arrived at that critical juncture all TV trials get to--will the real perp, caged in the witness box, be buffaloed and/or tricked into singing like a canary, or will he/she stay cool and live to perp another day?--Perry Mason would jackhammer the questions, voice rising and hand pounding the railing until the witness would blurt out, "YES! I DID IT! I DID IT!" And Perry would turn off the venom, pucker his lips together a bit and give a sage nod to the jury and go back to his seat, passing the utterly clueless nitwit of a DA whose record against the Perrymeister was worse than the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters.

What we had then, courtroom-drama fans, was clarity. Clean, precise, unequivocal clarity, razor-sharp and comfortable and bankable. There were no appeals. Perry always--always--not only got his client's name cleared completely but also obtained rock-solid confessions from the actual bad guy. Everyone left the courtroom knowing that whether they liked the verdict or not, it was dead-center perfectly clear.

And clarity yields--dare I say it?--closure. You know, closure--that nirvana-esque end state for which so many of us strive these days because our dysfunctional lives are wracked by so much dysfunction in our personalities and our families and our jobs and our schools and our friends. In fact, I have begun to wonder if, since it seems that more than 93% of all people are dysfunctional, isn't it actually we dysfuncts who are NORMAL since 93% of us are this way and only 7% are the other way? Perry Mason, I'm sure, would make the judge rule that the labels be switched.

But where was I ... oh yes, clarity and closure. Instead, what we have today is litigatory muddle and mushiness, pushy-shovy, and foggy indecisiveness.

"HP's Fiorina Irritated By Lawyer's Questioning," says an AP headline from April 24 (informationweek.com/885/fiorina.htm).

"Sighing several times in exasperation, Fiorina said [opposing lawyer] Neal was drawing the wrong conclusions because the charts were taken out of context, as if someone looked at selected snapshots instead of 'the whole thing,'" said the AP story. And how about this exchange: "Fiorina responded, 'Sir, you are accusing the CEO of a publicly traded company of lying.' 'I'm only asking you questions right now,' Neal replied." My guess? It would've taken Perry about 3-1/2 minutes to have that Neal fellow crying into his habeas corpus.

And a little ways south of that nonsense---Fiorina, by the way, will come out of this wasted exercise looking like a brilliant visionary and leader, and she will rightly deserve that acclaim for what she's been through and will have achieved--Bill Gates parried and thrust with a lawyer for nine states that want to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate Microsoft. (By the way, Perry NEVER parried or parlayed--he cleaved, he hacked, he rent things asunder.) "Gates battled with lawyer Steven Kuney about matters large and small, raising his voice and occasionally showing frustration. ... Gates has portrayed the state penalties as Draconian and warned he might be forced to pull Microsoft's flagship Windows software from the market if they are enacted," said another AP story. 'Microsoft (R&D) would at best go into a 10-year period of hibernation,' Gates said. Gates continually sparred with Kuney, frequently turning single questions into 30-minute discussions." ("Gates Ends Testimony In Microsoft Antitrust Trial," (April 24, informationweek.com/885/gates.htm).

Thirty minutes on a single question? Man, in half an hour, Perry would've had Gates outta there and on his way back to being a chief software architect, and he would surely also have had those nine states, plus Sore Loser of the Century Walter Hewlett, wishing they'd just left well enough alone. Ah, clarity and closure. Perry, where are you??


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Bob Evans's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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