Betsy’s revenge

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The handwriting is on the wall, it says “You are totally hosed,” and even Lance Armstrong can read it.

This is a moment to savor if you enjoy watching the mighty brought low. It’s a delicious experience like no other to read the lying, cheating, doping, scheming evildoer as he contemplates a most unheroic end, the end of bankruptcy, of utter ruin, of losing every single bit of his ill-gotten gains.

Betsy Andreu, the sworn enemy of the world’s most infamous cyclist, must surely have floating dinner reservations for the expected date of the jury verdict when Armstrong’s fraud case goes to trial. The case is so overwhelmingly against him that it’s hard to see any impartial jury finding in his favor.

He ripped off the government. He lied about it. He covered it up. Then … he admitted the entire fraud on television.

Juries are unpredictable, and of course no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Random chance may pull this one out of the fire simply because, as Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan until you punch him in the face.” Maybe Lance’s lawyers will get in the first shot and it will be a haymaker.

Realistically, his fate in this case will be no different from his fate in the SCA Promotions fraud case. Judges and juries are repulsed by sociopaths when their lies are finally exposed, and the human instinct to punish the powerful is almost as strong as the urge to put them on the pedestal to begin with.

Of course, what’s happening to Lance is the grossest injustice, as the Ninth Circuit recently ruled in the case of another allegedly lying, corrupt, doped-up cheater who’s now a hobby cyclist by the name of Barry Bonds. The appeals court essentially held that a non-responsive answer to a question posed to a jock cannot be a criminal act. No shit.

By the time justice was served, Bonds had been required to do his time. So far, the Betsy Andreus of the baseball world are likewise smacking their lips in satisfaction, the joy of seeing evildoers punished. Unlike Lance, Bonds still gets to keep his millions, though.

Where Betsy and all the sanctimonious people “betrayed by Lance” have gone awry is by ignoring the ugly fact that the cheap actions of a self-admitted “dick” are the matters on which the criminal system devotes itself, when not one single person has seen a jail cell as the result of Wall Street’s takedown of the economy, its obstruction of justice, and its co-option of agencies created to protect the public from the worst criminals in our history–people who don’t pull triggers and who don’t shoot up elementary schools or movie theaters, but rather people who wreck the lives of millions and leave them to rot.

But don’t worry, because those same criminals have re-made their billions with taxpayer bailouts and with a surging stock market, recouping their losses in the “free market” and taxpayer-funded one. What’s that? You didn’t get rich during the bust? There’s a word for people like you, friend. It’s called “sucker.”

Hanging Lance from his ball passes for justice because it is great theater. It’s easy to hate the guy many used to love; it’s impossible to hate a Harvard MBA at a bank you’ve never even heard of. It’s easy to hate doping cheaters; it’s impossible to hate people who cheat with things you only vaguely even understand like mortgage backed securities and default credit swaps. It’s easy to put the “little” millionaire’s ass in a sling; it’s impossible for the entire SEC to win a single case against banks worth hundreds of billions.

Sports make great entertainment and greater crime. Think O.J., Lance, Barry, Marion, and now the granddaddy of them all, FIFA. Of course the targets in the FIFA investigation include people from wretchedly poor countries such as Bolivia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Nicaragua, corrupt and bribery-prone third world countries where the petty graft from FIFA is huge money. Not a single person from Switzerland, though …

These sporting crimes, on a global scale, are meaningless in the context of institutionalized money laundering and tax theft in corporate fraud havens like the Cayman Islands.

“I’ve heard of FIFA! Go get ’em!”

“The Cayman Islands? Where the hell is that, and why are you wasting my tax dollars on it?”

The hallmark of justice is not its ability to punish wrongdoers. Any fundamentalist crazy from ISIS with a Koran and a sword can do that. The hallmark of justice is refusing to exact total retribution on the small criminal while the big ones go free. When “No one is above the law” comes with the asterisk “Except the richest,” then you’d better take care, because your neck will soon be on the chopping block, too.

Betsy may have made dinner reservations for twelve in joyful anticipation of the final ruinous act in Lance’s tragic opera, but the satisfaction of revenge doesn’t make it just.

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