Get Well, Mr. Mayor

In an era of spin and fabricated authenticity, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is demonstrating that old-fashioned courage and candor have not disappeared from the political landscape. His announcement that he is suffering from prostate cancer, and his straightforward, even jocular, references to his condition, stand in admirable contrast to today’s sappy culture of self-pity and victimization.

The Mayor deserves credit for his honesty on matters medical and political. He has told us even more than we need to know about the disease, and he has been more than frank about the impact his condition may have on his political ambitions. Quite rightly, he told voters that he simply doesn’t know how the upcoming round of treatment will affect his ability to wage a campaign. That answer revealed that the Mayor understands, even if the press and pundits do not, that a U.S. Senate campaign can look mighty insignificant when compared with, well, life itself. “Running is something that I would like to do,” he said. But … “being alive and healthy is more important.”

Since making his startling announcement, Mr. Giuliani has shown a side of himself that we haven’t seen in several years. He is not, contrary to the stereotypes written by his political enemies, insensitive and unfeeling, devoid of humanity. In fact, he is thoughtful and introspective, a man capable of genuine warmth, decency and courage. His actions of the last few days demonstrate that he understands what’s important in life.

We wish him the best. He has been a terrific Mayor, and he will make an outstanding candidate if he decides, as we hope he will, to continue his Senate campaign. Only he can decide what comes next. In the meantime, he will be in the thoughts and prayers of rivals and allies alike.

VeGates!

There is something absurd about the way the U.S. government is vigorously pursuing a breakup of Microsoft. After all, has anyone ever seriously doubted that Microsoft is a monopoly? When a company has 90 percent of the business, and its profit margins are 90 percent, well, that’s a monopoly! Who are we kidding?

So now what? Is it going to do the consumer, or the country, any good to break up Microsoft and turn it into something else? Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who paved the way to the recent government action when he ruled weeks ago that Microsoft was a “predatory” monopoly, and who now holds the immediate fate of Bill Gates’ empire in his hands, is reminiscent of the overzealous judge who broke up Ma Bell in 1984. In that case, as in the current situation, you had a judge who didn’t know anything about the business, and ended up creating 10 bureaucracies instead of one. The consumer lost, and has been left on hold ever since. Try calling the company that delivers your phone signal and telling them you’ve got a buzzing noise on your line; they’ll tell you the problem is in your phone’s hardware. Then when you call the phone manufacturer, they’ll tell you the problem is in your phone line. Now, do we really want a bunch of mini-Microsofts making life difficult?

One solution might be to keep Microsoft intact, but regulate it like a utility, such as a gas or electric company, which are legal monopolies. The excessive profit margins would be returned to the consumer; Microsoft would be allowed to earn a certain return-open to negotiation-on its capital investment, and all this could be accomplished with a stroke of the pen by Congress. It may not be the best answer, but at least it acknowledges reality: that Windows is it when it comes to how people interact with their computers, thanks to a terrific job by Bill Gates and his executives.

In any case, Microsoft and its Windows operating system are not going away. After the breakup, Windows will still dominate the business, but not in a way that does anyone much good. The current ancillary benefits to the consumer of a unified and powerful Windows will be lost; innovation will crumble as layers of bureaucracy are added. The consumer will likely end up with fewer options, not more.

Now, we don’t know enough about the techie business to even know what the other stuff is that Microsoft is doing; but we can surmise that, without the support of their core Windows business, they won’t be able to do it. Maybe all monopolies aren’t so bad.

Bring on the Heat!

New Yorkers who tuned in as the New York Knicks swept the Toronto Raptors somewhere up in Canada were privileged to be watching a team transformed. The catalyst? Latrell Sprewell and the power of redemption. Where once Patrick Ewing led the Knicks, now Sprewell sets the pace, with Ewing as a looming, and still dangerous, icon of greatness. Sprewell’s stunning comeback from N.B.A. pariah to graceful Knick team leader has brought a new finesse and hunger to players such as Allan Houston, Marcus Camby and Larry Johnson. They have become a riveting team to watch. And coach Jeff Van Gundy is again proving himself to be one of the best things to happen to the Knicks in a very long time. Having once been regarded as a temporary fill-in for a marquee coach, Van Gundy is now a marquee coach himself.

Now the Knicks head to Miami to face their former big-name coach, Pat Riley and his Miami Heat, a team they have eliminated in two of their last three playoff meetings. Where Van Gundy is dignified, Riley is petty. He has forbidden his players to talk to the press, and says he will flout the N.B.A. rule that requires teams to report their injuries. All this bluster conceals what is surely his awareness that the Knicks are even more formidable than they were last year. Now it so happens that Jeff Van Gundy’s brother, Stan Van Gundy, is assistant coach for the Miami Heat. It’s hard not to wonder if, going into this series, the owners of the Heat are wishing that they, too, had a Van Gundy at the helm.