Monthly Archives: August 2012

Putin’s Russia

While watching the RNC acceptance speech by Mitt Romney, which I thought was delivered very well, there was one statement that got my attention more than anything else Mitt talked about. That was the comment toward current Russian President Putin and having a bit less flexibility and more backbone. This was interesting, as I am not certain how calling Putin out nationally gives us any headway there.

I know why they have issues with Russia – the support of regimes like Syria and Iran through trade with them undermine US efforts. Since Putin has returned to presidential power (as he still pulled the strings when he was Prime Minister), he has certainly taken on more of a dictator role in opposition suppression. While the prison sentences for the members of Pussy Riot got international headlines, they are the tip of the suppression machine Putin oversees. He has seen that political supporters of his past campaign have been economically punished since his re-election.  This includes arresting business owners that donated to his political opponents as well as denying access to products for re-sale.

However, this is not the Russia of Gorbachev that realized an arms race with the US would bankrupt the nation. Russia since the end of the Cold War has tapped into its vast oil reserves and has built more refineries than any other nation on the planet. Russia –  not Saudi, Iraq, Venezuela, or India is the dominant supplier of crude oil to the world. Europe and China are its 2 greatest clients and that makes todays Russia more powerful and influential, and dangerous, than it ever was in its communist height.

The Republic of Georgia has controlled a part of the BTC pipeline since its inception in 2006. That pipeline was designed to sell oil to western clients from former Soviet bloc nations that were now free. Two years ago, Russia made a land grab for part of the pipeline. This move was part of Putin’s plan (he was Prime Minister then) to keep control on Caspian Sea energy reserves. In short, Russia has more economic clout than either the US or China with regards to energy supply. What that means to you and me is that the Russians have the cash to do whatever they darn well please and there is not much we can do about it.

The one thing Putin likes more than power is money and not in rubles or yuan, but good ole US Dollars. Russian crude products have traded in the Euro and Dollar for quite some time, but the potential collapse of the Euro has the Dollar looking very good to Comrade Putin. Maybe we can use that want to lure this big fish to the table to keep the Russians on the capitalist side of the world trade.

Otherwise, we have a real problem brewing in Mother Russia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Livestrong

Amid the global financial market fears, news of the Fed making a profit on AIG assets sold, and the slugfest on the airwaves between Romney and Obama – a smaller tragedy played out against legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong. The man who had become synonymous with fighting and never giving up finally gave up on the witch hunt to bring him down that had been pursuing him since 1999. Friday, Armstrong stated he would not enter court for arbitration against the US Anti Doping Association (USADA) as he felt the process already had a predicted outcome.

Of course, the media whores quickly perched to crow about Armstrong’s guilt by not taking on the arbitration case. Today, Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour De France Titles and has received a lifetime ban from the sport.

So, is Armstrong guilty of using performance enhancing drugs as has been touted? Well, lets look at those pesky things called facts:
         1. Armstrong passed over 500 drug tests throughout his career 
         2. His 1999 test during the Tour De France was questioned over corticosteroids. Armstrong produced a doctor prescription for the drug to treat saddle sore.
         3. The evidence the USADA was to use against Armstrong was a change in his blood content over a number of years.
         4. The biggest evidence the USADA had against Armstrong was witness testimony from former teammates.

The USADA’s claim of “bloodboosting” by Armstrong goes back to 1999 when the French wanted to go after Armstrong and asked a Swiss lab to perform a new blood test. That Swiss lab declined in 1999, as the testing did not meet protocols in place for testing. In 2001, the International Cycling Union (UCI) sent notice to Armstrong that his blood test during the Tour of Switzerland came back with some higher than normal readings  for a hormone EPO. UCI admitted the test was new and could not be relied on and thus Armstrong passed the test. However, this notice meant UCI was watching him closely. The USADA’s argument is that over a period of many years, doping changed Armstrong’s blood content and that he was cheating. This is spite of the fact that doctors on both side of this case claim that Armstrong’s blood content fluctuations are well within the norms for professional athletes.

Is is possible Armstrong has been railroaded and just got tired of the ride? In my opinion – yes. 

After being diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and fighting through it, Armstrong founded the Livestrong Foundation for cancer awareness and to raise money for research. To date, the foundation has raised over 500 million to fight cancer. So, in 1999 when he began the start of his Tour De France domination, Armstrong had everything to live for and no reason to cheat. I am curious as well to know what continuing medicines or routines Armstrong may have had to do to keep cancer away that could have been interpreted as doping. After 2001, Armstrong was very aware of the UCI keeping a strong eye on him, so is he really stupid enough to test them? To jeopardize his career and ability to raise money for fighting cancer?

The USADA points to not entering arbitration as a guilty plea, as if Armstrong had not put up any fight at all. In fact, this issue goes back 3 years. Armstrong has had his lawyers battling this issue on various fronts, but the USADA would not go away. From insiders to Armstrong, the toll was not just financial, but wore on his family and was beginning to impact his health.

But why pack it in now? Why not fight the arbitration? Well, if you know the deck is stacked against you, do you enter the arena to formally get your head chopped off or walk away with your body in one piece? I know something about this, as I was railroaded in 2009 by TREC over a complaint against me and my former broker over a business brokerage case involving real estate that got ugly in 2006. At that time, a seller I represented told me to punt a buyer because they were Mexican. I refused and had the backing of my broker and the firm who positioned to me that her action violated the buyers civil rights. The transaction never closed, but the seller filed a complaint. We submitted a ream of evidence over her discriminatory tendencies and were told in 2007 that it looked like sour grapes and that it should be dismissed. Nearly 3 years later when I was in a political campaign, now it was decided that I alone – not my broker or corporate broker, was to be punished. I assumed I could clear this issue up by meeting with the attorney for TREC and just review the facts. While I had counsel for advice, I went to the meeting by myself and that was a huge error on my part. It was apparent that this lawyer did not like me or my politics. After arguing for 30 minutes on my ream of evidence, I declared I would just take it to an administrative hearing. The lawyer had a motion already prepared to quash 75% of my evidence and told me not only would it not see the light of day in the hearing, but if I challenged her she would pursue revocation of my license. So I took the lesser punishment and kept my head. Of course, we now know her political leanings and ties were opposite of mine and within 6 months of my punishment, she had left TREC to go to work at a plaintiffs firm…..

Could Armstrong have been facing a similar situation? I think so. The large part of the USADA’s “evidence” was not physical, but 10 former teammates that would testify against him. You don’t suppose those 10 former teammates, who got drowned in obscurity by Armstrong’s success, might have an axe to grind? If his legal team assessed the positions of the witnesses and how the arbitrator might view testimony, he could have been fried in a legal setting. At this point, he can walk away and let his defenders argue for him. Sounds crazy, but when powerful bodies want you out of the way, they can find a way.

How can a man whip cancer, pass over 500 drug tests,  dominate his sport,  and face this kind of garbage? Somewhere he made enemies with someone, some group, or some nation that could not stand his success and committed to tearing him down. It has happened to others, although most of the time in politics from both sides of the aisle.

I have not seen or read anything that causes me to think that Armstrong violated any rules. The only thing he cheated was death from cancer.

Livestrong Lance!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized