Samsung & Armstrong

Just when we’re convinced the legal system does not work…

I’ve been following the Tour de France ever since Greg LeMond emerged triumphant. This was not supposed to happen. Americans were always also-rans.

But it turned out LeMond was a genetic freak. That’s what it takes to win in basketball as well as bike racing, if you’re playing by the rules. Despite the success of Muggsy Bogues, you cannot compete in the NBA if you’re of average height. And Muggsy didn’t make it on sheer pluck alone, he could jump! I’m surprised no short person has sued the NBA, claiming they’ve been locked out of a career. That’s the American way, suing to success.

But suits take money. And winning is rarely everything. Because oftentimes you can’t collect.

But ever since O.J. it’s been common knowledge that the government’s lawyers are amateurs compared to the high-priced attorneys available on the outside. Hell, I winced watching that trial, because no one on the government’s side realized trials are theatre. It’s not only about the facts, but how you present those facts, whether you weave a coherent story. It’s like being able to write a hit song but being unable to perform it. You’d better not book a gig. But the government has been booking gigs forever…and losing. Except for Rudy Giuliani and Eliot Spitzer. That’s how they built their names and careers. By doing the impossible. Fighting power and winning. And we know their names because their success was so rare. Everybody else working for the home team is if not an incompetent also-ran, someone not quite good enough.

But they nailed Lance Armstrong. Not the government, they couldn’t even lock up Roger Clemens. They’re all show, and no go. And they gave up on Armstrong too. But the non-profit, non-governmental USADA ( got Lance, when no one else could.

He doped. There’s no question of that. I could recite the evidence, but if you still believe he’s innocent, you probably believe lowering taxes on the rich will balance the budget and a woman can prevent pregnancy by squinting and squeezing her legs.

But what Lance did not do was admit it. No one admits their mistakes anymore. Everybody’s got to be perfect, all the time.

Hell, I knew Lance was guilty before he even started to race. Because I went to college with bike racers, back in the seventies. World class cross-country ski racers, every summer they went to Europe to compete in bicycle races. Were they planning to graduate and go pro? Of course not. Because all the winners were on dope!

You’ve got to be on dope to win.

That’s what Lance should have said. In a crooked, illegal game, I played and won. He was king of the dopers! Instead, he keeps saying he’s innocent like a kid in a locked house protesting over an empty plate that he didn’t eat the cookies. We could have a turning point in the national discussion if only Lance would come clean, be a force for good. But Lance is all about image, like a bad “rock star” whose hits were written by committee and produced by Dr. Luke… They’re afraid the facade will crumble.

And do you know despite wearing a yellow wristband, essentially none of the money donated to Livestrong goes to cancer research? ( That’s not their mission. They’re about awareness… Are people truly clueless when it comes to cancer? And if the word needs to be spread, shouldn’t Lance be forthright and honest? No, he employs subterfuge, the same way he won the Tour de France, he wants you to believe one thing while he does another.

As for the Samsung Galaxy products… If you don’t think they’re a rip-off of Apple gear, you’re truly blind.

And this is about everything musicians rail about. Copyrights. Only in this case, it’s called patents. Can someone steal with impunity?

Then again, patents don’t last forever.

But can you ride the back of someone else’s hard work and innovation to riches? Can someone copy your CD at no cost? If you don’t think so, then you must come down on the side of Apple in this lawsuit, however much you hate the Cupertino company.

And in this case, it was the best against the best. And the judge was a hoot, she’d take no gruff, she didn’t lose control of her courtroom. Hell upon seeing Apple’s witness list, she asked the company’s barristers if they were smoking crack!

And I don’t want to get into a lengthy discussion of whether patent protection should exist, I’ll just say there were rules. And Samsung broke them, just like Lance Armstrong.

And if the rules are bad, you lobby to change them.

But Lance is not part of the solution, he’s truly part of the problem.

So what did we learn here?

1. Innovate or die. That’s how Lance won all those trophies, by employing cutting edge doping technologies. And that’s how Apple escaped the doldrums. If you’re in a creative business, sleep with one eye open, never rest on your laurels, you’re only as good as what you did today.

2. Hire the best legal help you can. Oftentimes, that’s more important to success than whether you’re innocent or guilty. Hell, look how long it took to get Lance!

3. Like in the westerns of yore, the bad guys win for a while, but lose in the long run. Choose your path. Brief success or long term struggle. Hell, Apple’s been around in excess of thirty years. It took the company this long to get into this fight. As for Lance Armstrong, he worked long and hard for an athlete, but most athletes peak and are done way before they’re forty, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? Kinda like those kid stars who end up robbing 7-11’s, or those wearing blinders who believe retirement will never come and don’t prepare for it.

4. Don’t put your faith in the government or institutions, but in yourself. That’s what all successful entrepreneurs have, a belief that they’re right and the rules are meant to be bent. Now this is complicated:

a. Companies lobby for less regulation because they want to continue to rape and pillage and prosper. They don’t care about the hoi polloi. If you restrict them, they don’t go out of business, they just have a slightly harder time making tons of money. It’s the government that looks out for the people. So when you’re pro-corporation, you’re against yourself, unless you’re running or high up in said corporation.

b. That’s the problem with sports. The bending of the rules. The reason we’re fascinated with sports is because we believe it’s the last bastion of honesty, a place where we can see all the angles, a fair fight. That’s why we root out dopers. We don’t really care who wins, it’s just that we need faith in the system.

c. But my main point is if you think there’s always somebody smarter than you, who knows better and more and is looking out for you…you’re sorely mistaken. If you’ve been aggrieved, you’ve got to look for your own solutions.

5. The press is not as powerful as you think. There was a whole book written about Lance doping, years ago, but it was never translated from the French, the media building Lance Armstrong up was reluctant to tear him down. And these same reporters were so beholden to the Apple god, so star-struck and at the same time angry that technology is undermining their business, that they could never get the story straight. It’s a big problem with reporters, they get the facts but miss the story. Winners understand the underpinnings, the strategy… Not only is government one step behind, but the media too.

It’s hard to believe we’re in a brand new era when the Supreme Court hands Bush II the Presidency and Justice Roberts employs fallacious logic to uphold Obamacare, but maybe the tide is turning. Maybe the real America is on a comeback.

And the real America is not solely blood and guts and combat, but playing within the boundaries, the rules, and owning your actions. Hell, if you didn’t do anything illegal Mitt Romney, release your tax returns. If you employed offshore accounts, let’s put them in evidence, let’s have a national discussion. And speaking of discussion, even the left wing patron saint Paul Krugman believes Medicare spending must be addressed, but nobody on the left will even entertain a discussion.

But ain’t that America. Where we’ve got no faith in the institutions and we argue all day long, accomplishing little.

If you had faith in Lance Armstrong, you were duped. Plain and simple. Which is why people are still defending him, they don’t want to have to upend their beliefs, rewrite history.

It turns out we can only have faith in Apple. Which is purely in search of excellence and puts forth a scorched earth policy defending itself. Apple is the hero in the westerns and John Lennon and all the icons that have withstood the test of time.

Because Steve Jobs did not worry about being liked. Because he fought 24/7 for what he thought was right, despite everybody else saying he was wrong.

I’m not sure where we go from here, but for one day, there’s justice in the world.

P.S. I realize having faith in Apple contradicts #4 above, but that’s the point. Our heroes have failed us so many times that we’ve become enamored of a corporation. Hell, Apple products are better than any hit record of the past decade. More innovation, more surprises and seamless quality. We used to have these elements in individuals. We need them to return.

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