Friday, August 24, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Lance Armstrong has thrown in the towel in the wake of a court ruling that his cycling contracts were valid and that he had to abide by the processes therein, sort of like how you and I have to abide by our cell phone contracts and go to our providers "independent" arbitrator if there's a dispute. So he's given up his fight.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he declared he was finished fighting the drug charges that threaten his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.

Travis Tygart, USADA's chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban on Friday.

Still to be heard from was the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong's legal challenge to USADA's authority.

It's that last graf that holds a pertinent bit of information and one I suspect means it ain't over, even if the witch hunt is.

Armstrong stood no chance of a fair hearing in front of the USADA, which is basing its claims on hearsay evidence. The prosecution said they had ten eyewitnesses lined up to testify to Armstrong use and distribution of steroids.

Seventeen years ago.

Armstrong denies those allegations and raises the point that he is the single most tested athlete in history-- both in and out of competitions-- and has never failed any of over five hundred drug tests. And it's true: there has never been factual evidence to support any claim that he used steroids. Too, the USADA...well, let Lance tell it in his own words:

I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own 8-year limitation. As respected organizations such as UCI and USA Cycling have made clear, USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges. The international bodies governing cycling have ordered USADA to stop, have given notice that no one should participate in USADA’s improper proceedings, and have made it clear the pronouncements by USADA that it has banned people for life or stripped them of their accomplishments are made without authority. And as many others, including USADA’s own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honor its obligations.

Y'know, we have war crimes on our hands that get less investigation than these clowns have performed.

In effect, the USADA have decided to convict Armstrong, perhaps the most celebrated international athlete ever, without proof. I don't toss about phrases like "witch hunt" lightly. This smacks of McCarthyism. Who knows what pressure was brought to bear on these witnesses, some of whom, like Floyd Landis, have a personal agenda that extends past the investigation.

Landis, you may recall, had his own Tour de France title stripped when he tested positive for steroids in the year after Armstrong first retired from the sport.

Now, I agree, the circumstantial evidence that suggests that Armstrong doped is strong, even excluding the testimony of fellow riders. After all, nearly everyone he beat out for those seven titles has been suspended at one time or other for the use (or suspected use) of performance-enhancing drugs and it would be foolish to think that through some miracle, the guy who was better than the cheaters didn't keep a card up his sleeve as well.

But then Lance also beat a testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain and lungs, so if anyone could perform that kind of miracle on a bicycle, we'd expect it from someone who came back from the dead.

But that ace-in-his-sleeve that he now carries and may be about to play might be the card to save his reputation. The UCI can object to the USADA actions, and appeal the decision to the impartial Court of Sport Arbitration in Switzerland, far from Travis Tygart, far from the clearly biased investigations, and a more balanced and fair venue to have a trial, so to speak.

Which is what Armstrong wanted in the first place. You'll note he never ran away from the fight, he just stopped fighting a fight he could not win, the witch hunt.

See, Travis, the problem with a witch hunt is that there must a witch to burn at the end. Sometimes, tho, the witch isn't who you expect it to be.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Raw Story Really Needs To Shut Up

Prima facie evidence this is bullshit?
These two "perfessers" would have quit decades ago and opened up a lucrative consulting business.
This "model" is not a prediction. It has never been used to predict outcomes and has a zero percent accuracy rate on future events. It was form-fitted to the elections of the past thirty years, meaning the data is useless, the information meaningless and the headline is a scare tactic.

Interesting Numbers

And by "interesting," I mean in the Chinese curse way.
Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.
First, I want to disconnect my emotional analysis of these numbers and focus on the figures themselves. I'll get back to the implications shortly.
Summing up the study: in 1971, 61% of Americans could economically identify as the midle class (roughly $40,000 to $120,000 in income for a family of four in 2011 dollars). By 2011, that had dropped to 51%, and likely is continuing to fall as the 2011 numbers are based on 2010 Census data. Long-term unemployment has to be factored in, along with the cut-off of benefits. Let's say it's under 50% by now.
As late as 2000, this percentage was 56%. Median income for Americans peaked in 2000 at roughly $80,000 (not average income, median) and dropped more than $10,000 in one decade. Worse, the drop in median net worth-- wealth, if you will-- peaked in the mid-2000s at roughly $150,000 but now hovers around $90,000, the lowest its been since the first Bush administration.
I mean, HW, not W: 1992.
The discouraging numbers continue: nearly 85% of middle class Americans believe it is harder to maintain a middle class lifestyle, the highest that number has been since, well, the Great Depression.
Now, there's some good news for President Obama in this: he ranks low on the list of factors people attribute this income and wealth destruction to.
Congress receives high marks for fucking this nation up: 91% of respondents blame them for at least a portion of this disaster, 62% "credit" them with being one of the primary factors. Big Banks clock in at 86% at least partial blame, 54% primary blame. Large corporations come in third, 80%/47%.
Obama comes in somewhere in the mid-60s range, with about a third of the know, the goober third...blaming him primarily for our problems.
This is a recipe for liberals to come front and center in the national economic dialogue and helps explain why Occupy Wall Street was so effective last year (their silence so far this summer, I think, comes from playing a waiting game.)
Too, Obama gets some of his blame from the egregious TARP program, which was both too big and misplaced. In retrospect, it seems clear from this poll that the stimulus money really needed to be pushed further down the food chain, partially to regional banks who wouldn't dare pay their presidents billion dollar bonuses but would be free to lend money again, bypassing the money center banks who control their purse strings, and to homeowners and consumers themselves.
Which brings me to the emotional context of this post: fear.
Yoda was not wrong when he talked about  fear leading to anger in Star Wars. When we are afraid, we tend to make bad decisions because we stop thinking and start groping in panic, and that never works.
It never works because it is at that moment, our very weakest, that we are most vulnerable to predations and manipulations.
You know, like the Romney folks are engaging in. Lie, cheat, steal, all to take that little bit of power and influence each of us has, our vote, for themselves.
People are scared. Again, look at the numbers. 43% believe their children will have it better than they do (and this is after the Bush economic collapse, who by the way scored even higher than Obama: 79%/44%), down from 51% just a decade ago.
Too, "hard work will get you ahead," the quintessence of the American dream, is at its lowest point since the 40s, with just two-thirds of Americans believing that. This number peaked under Bill Clinton at 74%.
Obama scores well with the middle class, with 52% believing his policies are better for them than Romney's, but Romney still manages to squeak into the 40% range, so he's not completely out of it, and as I said earlier, scared people are manipulable people.
Here's the last number I'll throw at you, because it is the single most encouraging sign for liberals in the entire study:

Asked to compare their financial situation now with what it was 10 years ago, the evaluations of the middle class are more evenly divided. Some 44% say they are more financially secure than they had been, and 42% say less. (An additional 12% volunteered that it’s about the same.)

Over the longer term, the evaluations grow more positive. Six-in-ten (60%) say their standard of living is better than that of their parents at the same age, 24% say it is the same and just 13% say it is worse. However, these evaluations were even rosier four years ago, when 67% said they were doing better than their parents at the same age.

Why do I say this is good news for liberals? It means that thirty years of lying about tax cuts and trickle-down economics and creating bugbears of unions can no longer push back the inherent dread that things are decaying around the middle classes. The rich are doing even better in this recession than the middle class or poor, and the middle class is scratching its collective head.

The time has come, my fellow liberals, to start pushing our agenda. 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dead Man Walking

You may recall that phrase from any number of movies where an inmate is under a death penalty and is about to be executed.
Politically, that's what Todd Akin (I think I spelled his name Atkins yesterday. I'm thinking about dieting.) is: a dead campaign walking.
Apology or no, Akin is pretty much at a standstill: if he continues his Senate run, there's no assistance to be found from establishment know, the money guys. If he quits, he winnows away into nothingness, which is an appropriate punishment for an ignorant obstusicle.
I did a little research yesterday to try to fathom what a "legitimate rape" constitutes. The best I could come up with was, well, disturbing: its an excuse to force women to keep babies even if they were impregnated against their will.
In a nutshell, there's a specious line of thinking that says a woman cannot get pregnant if she doesn't have an orgasm, that the ovaries will not release the egg for insemination.
This is what conservatives believe!
So if a woman is "really raped," she won't orgasm, so there will be no pregnancy, so no abortion. if she gets pregnant, it means she had an orgasm, therefore enjoyed the sex and probably invited it.
"The slut had it coming," in other words, quite literally. It doesn't matter that her husband battered her, breaking bones and clawing flesh. It doesn't matter that she was drunk in a bar (think of that Jodie Foster movie) and was trying to say no to her boyfriend. None of that matters if she gets pregnant.
Now, people can believe that (personally, I do not) but if you are going to believe it, then do us all a favor and don't sugarcoat it to make yourself feel better. If you really want to have no more abortions, even in the case of what you consider "not rape," then just say that and then suffer the consequences of being thought monstrous.
Because you are a monster. You are an inhuman freak and you deserve the condemnation and damnation of every person you come in contact with. But please, have the courage of your convictions and be honest with yourself first.
We in Blogtopia (© Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) focused on ridiculing the abortion stance here, but we get a window into something far deeper, far more disturbing about American society with this incident.
When a woman claims she is raped, her claims are discounted: her sexual past is thrown in her face, the amount of alcohol she imbibed is taken into account, how she dressed, her makeup and hair.
Are you starting to see what this line of thinking has wrought? If she's in sneakers and loose jeans and a sweatshirt, wearing a baseball cap and walking down a dark alley when a provable stranger rapes her, that's about the only time she'll ever truly stand a chance of pressing a claim and then there will still be these egregious defenses thrown at her character.
Any variance on that theme only ramps up the horror show, the terrorism of our society. And mind you, this is a mainstream thought process which either engendered Akin's misinformation or was a direct descendant, a bastard child, thereof.
It's disgusting and deserves the full airing it probably will not get. But I will not let it go unnoticed. I hope you won't, either.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Doubling Down on Stupidity

While I was away last week, Mitt Romney set out the vision and tone his campaign will take in announcing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential choice.
Good luck with that.
Mitt Romney has surveyed the electoral map and realized he doesn't stand a ghost of a chance of winning the independent vote in battleground states like Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and (suddenly) New Hampshire.
So his campaign will take a two-prong approach: energize the base and block moderate and liberal votes through intimidation, fear, and negative campaigning.
This will not be pretty.
Ryan is a lightening rod for Teabaggers: he will attract them like moths to a candle (snuffing them out in the process, which of course will go unmentioned by Rom-yan, or Darth M-aul, if you prefer.) He is a hard-line fiscal conservative AND a hard-line social conservative.
Part of why Romney realizes his is a lost cause in the independent column is happening in Virginia: Virgil Goode.
If Goode pulls two percent from Romney, Obama wins the state and the national election hands down. Goode polls at nine percent currently, a comfortable margin for Obama is almost a certainty. Goode isn't even officially on the ballot in Virginia yet, so even as a write-in, he damages Romney. He is on the ballot in 17 states and is aiming for 40. He polls at less than a percent anyplace else.
If this was a novel by Joe Klein, Virgil Goode would be a made-up character, and a sleeper cell unto himself: a former Democrat turned independent turned conservative Republican, he is going to make trouble for Romney in Virginia. Sounds almost like a Howard Dean plant.
Back to Darth M-aul and the campaign style that's shaping up. In case you were wondering why Mitt was less than authoritative about the comments from Congressman Todd Atkin yesterday, that's why and that's the wonder of this strategy.
See, Atkin speaks to a lot of social conservatives when he says dumb stuff like "legitimate rape." I don't really understand what he means by that, but I suspect he means anytime a white woman is forcibly penetrated by a minority against her will, plus a few other exceptional circumstances. Apart from that, the slut had it coming, so to speak.
And of course, sperm are smarter than Atkin and know when it's ok to impregnate and when they should respect the rape victim's uterus, right?
When I heard his comment, the first thing that popped into my head was the time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boldly stated there were no homosexuals in Iran. It was that ignorant.  
Here's the thing: by not forcefully repudiating Atkin's base and ignorant comment, Romney puts himself in a quandary. A lot of independents who might have been attracted to him as "anyone but Obama" will be scared off. They'll hear the Obama rhetoric about Mitt's history of dismantling jobs and Ryan's proposed dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, then remember how, when they had the chance to show a little human decency, they couldn't muster it, and wonder how on earth these jackanapes would handle a real crisis like a Katrina or a drought.
You know, where a government really needs to step in and help? When even ultraconservatives go hat in hand to the Federal coffers?
I'd love to see Ryan take that one on. I hope someone on the trail asks him. The trouble with a hard-line is it's an easy answer to a tough problem, which means it traps you in its rigidity.