A call for a symbolic end for the Tour de France

I’m an avid bicycle racing fan and have followed the Tour de France for many years. However, yesterday’s news that the Cofidis team has been tossed because of the positive test result of one of their riders and that tour leader Michael Rasmussen was fired by his team, and consequently dropped from the race, because he had misled his team, Rabobank, about his whereabouts when he missed pre-Tour blood tests, has shaken the greatest bike race to its core.

In effect, the Tour has been gutted by these events, not merely because of the cheating, but because some riders, such as Levi Leipheimer and Cadell Evans, have built their strategy around falsely powerful opponents and may have nothing left now that those riders have been dropped.

Whoever wins, whether it is young Alberto Contador of Team Discovery Channel or not, the race has been contested based on false pretenses. Contador, Evans and Leipheimer—the only three who seem to be in a position to win now—should use their victory to wipe cheating from the history books by underlining it. Each is a great athlete and would be a great winner for the Tour, but they can do more. They can save the Tour for the future.

So, let me suggest that the riders stop before the final circuits of the Champs-Elysees on Sunday. You see, the winner of the race is decided before the riders begin looping the Champs-Elysees. If the leader were fall and on the cobblestones, they would not lose the race because the clock has already stopped.

The circuits of the Champs-Elysees are one of the great pageants of sport. Because the race is so tainted this year, the riders should dismount and end the race without that pageant as a solemn statement that cheating is not wanted or tolerated. Then, the race can begin afresh in 2008.

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Beyond partisanship

I think the Presidential campaign of 2008 is, at this time, completely irrelevant to the problems the nation faces. I’ll worry about who should be president later, after the Constitution has been restored.

If Congress’ attempt to get Harriet Meiers and Josh Bolten to talk about the U.S. attorneys dismissal fails, the President will have skirted another restraint on unbridled power. If the Supreme Court sides with the President on this issue, they should be impeached, as well.

Leaving the executive in the position to run roughshod over the Constitution and Congress would be worse for the country than any outcome of the 2008 election, because it leaves the people subject to an unchecked executive. Liberalism and conservatism have nothing to do with this “pathetic” move, as Tony Snow called it, implying this is merely a matter of partisanship. It is about making sure there is an election, that the power of the executive return to a balance with the other branches of government.

Montesquieu wrote: “…in a popular government when the laws have ceased to be executed, as this can come only from the corruption of the republic, the state is already lost.” A full investigation of the executive branch’s motivation in firing competent U.S. attorneys demands investigation by Congress. If thwarted, the laws will no longer be relevant, because this administration will have overwhelmed the spirit of law in favor of partisan power.

Politics begin where the marketing ends

I was reading Seth Godin’s excellent little tome, The Dip, this weekend. He makes a strong case that scarcity built on competition, which makes success harder the higher you attempt to climb in a market, is essential to perceived value. In business, I think this is true, but he also says that political campaigning is a similar social filter.

That’s what is wrong with democracy today: It focuses on the campaign, giving winning candidates the sense that they can relax and enjoy the fruits of their success after the election is over (and before the fund-raising efforts for the next campaign begin). This is why Vice President Dick Cheney can say of radical tax cuts for his supporters in the top one percent of earners that it is “our due” after winning the 2002 mid-term election.

Nothing in politics is owed to the winner. The winner of an election is just getting started on the real job of leading, coalescing support and representing the interests of all the people, including those who didn’t vote for them. We seem to have forgotten that governing is the vital element in political life, preferring the horse race of the campaign because it is easier to cover, to understand and convey in 15-second sound bites.

Blog Entry dated 7/4/07 6:31 PM

Independence? Day

    It is hard to think of a reason to celebrate this Fourth of July. King George IV has begun to override the decisions of public juries, in addition to gutting the regulatory system that provided increasingly safe food and transparent markets for the past century—to name just a few of his crimes. Viscount Cheney has declared himself a separate extra-Constitutional branch of government. Congress is a gutted body, while the Supreme Court's activist conservatives are taking steps back to the jurisprudence of the 1870s. American men and women are dying in a war with no discernible goal other than keeping Americans afraid that terrorists will come lurching ashore in landing craft if thousands of lives are not sacrificed in "heathen" lands to stop them. </p>            <p>We are not an independent people this July 4. We have been returned to a form of government in which the people cannot petition for relief or expect to see into and understand the decisions of government. <a href="http://www.ratcliffeblog.com/archives/2004/07/happy_fourth_of.html">A few years ago, I wrote</a> about how one of my neighbors, freshly returned from Iraq, was forced to hide in his house while fireworks went off all over the neighborhood. This year, we're not shooting off any fireworks, because we're in mourning for America the home of the free. </p>              <p>I'd feel better if the candidates for president circling this Fourth of July celebration would actually lead fights for our freedom in Congress, instead of worrying about fund-raising and straw polls 16 months before the election. Momentum for change should be built on debates between representatives of the people and the President's courtiers, not among the people who hope to succeed him in power (if it is even allowed to happen, given the recent <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html">National Security Presidential Directive 51</a>, which allows Bush to appoint himself protector of our Constitutional government. </p>            <p>It is a dark Fourth, in every sense. <br />