Saturday, August 21, 2010

Roger Clemens: Next target of the Anti-Steroid Crusaders

In 2005, and again in 2007, I wrote on this issue, defending the use of controlled substances by sports figures...not a popular position then, and probably no more popular now. Like so many aspects of our schizopphrenic culture, what is done in private is one thing, but what we self-righteously say in public is supposed to be something elese entirely. Well, I don't play that game.

Three years ago, the New York Times reported, “…Former Sen. Mitchell's 300-plus page document on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, 21 months in the making, claims that nearly 90 players -- most notably Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Miguel Tejada -- are guilty of using some form of PEDs.” [Perfomance Enhancing Drugs] Yesterday's indictment of Roger Clemens for allegedly lying to Congress is the next step in 'getting those guys' when they can't produce the evidence to convict on the original case. It's the Get-Martha-Stewart approach to justice.

When Mark Magwire was hounded by the press for using Androstendione ( a substance that was legal and sold over the counter in Golds Gyms, GNCs, and Drug Stores across America), it was easy to point the finger at “One Bad Guy.” When Barry Bonds was fingered as a steroid user, the writers at Sports Illustrated (sports nuts who cant play, but who delight in the catty process of creating legends and then destroying them) frothed at the mouth, issue after issue, because they could crucify One Bad Guy.

But now that steroids have appeared in major league baseball across the spectrum of time and teams, prosecuters can have a field day.

Five years ago I wrote:

“…Sitting on my shelf is a bottle of ProLab ThermaPro, a thermogenic designed to raise metabolism and help burn fat. I used this (same basic ingredients as the original Hydroxycut and Xenadrine) several summers ago, while running in the hot Dakota sun every morning while trying to lose weight and tone up (mission: successful!). Ah, but this product contains ephedrine!!! [crowd gasps in horror in the background.] When I used it in 2002, I was using a sports supplement. When the FDA banned it in 2004, I became the possessor of an illegal substance. When the Court overturned the FDA ban, I was an upstanding citizen again. Then the FDA declared that my 20 mg ephedrine was greater than the amount in the court case, and was illegal, and presto-chango, I’m a criminal again.

And this has been the history of steroids and sports supplements. The non-steroidal Androstendione which was available in every health and vitamin store a few years ago, all of a sudden disappeared because the FDA arbitrarily decided that since it was only “one step away” from a steroid, it is now illegal. However, DHEA, which is two chemical steps away from a steroid, is still OK. The steroids that Jose "save-my-own-ass" Canseco mentioned being used in MLB were by and large completely legal in 1980. Many of them are still legal in much of the world, including industrialized nations such as Germany and Holland. Some (Fina) can be made of 100% legal substances in a kitchen. Others are legal as veterinary substances. And a great deal comes into this country from upstanding American soldier-heroes, who discover that the rest of the developed world doesnt have the knee-jerk Prohibitionist response that America has.

The history of Sports is the history of going the extra mile and being slightly better than anyone and everyone else. Athletes give up much of their personal lives and incur a great personal cost in training. They regulate what they eat. They take vitamin supplements such as Calcium. They take Glutamine to prevent muscle breakdown. They take Milk Thistle and ALA to keep their livers healthy. They take Glucosomine to help repair their stressed joints, and if they’re in trouble, they get shots of Cortisone from their doctors. Some take “stacks” to raise metabolism and speed weight-loss (like my illegal aspirin-caffeine-ephedrine stack). They use Creatine as a muscle volumizer and NO2 to increase muscle pump, while downing extra-heavy whey-protein isolate shakes to increase food to muscle cells. Somewhere along the line Congress is going to find out that many use insulin to increase food nutrition entering the muscle cells as well. Some use 2-step-away prohormones like DHEA, others used 1-step-away-prohormones.

And yes, some use steroids.

Yes, the bar is constantly raised. In the effort to be bigger, better, stronger, greater. And if anyone thinks that taking steroids means you take a pill and you’re suddenly Hulk, they are sadly misinformed. Guys who take steroid injections and just ‘wait’ for the effects find themselves fat and tired. An athlete who has chosen to use steroids will be working his butt off 5-6 days a week in grueling workouts. There is no ‘free ride’ by using steroids.

It is amazing, isn’t it? If someone goes to Beverly Hills and forks over $10,000 to a surgeon to have 40 pounds of lard sucked out of their gut in a two-hour operation, that is not only legal, it’s indicative of being One of the Beautiful People. But if you work your tail off during a 12-week steroid cycle to reduce your body fat from 15% to 6% through arduous workouts, well…..”that’s illegal! That’s immoral! That’s just not right!!!! We must punish baseball players!”

Actually, it seems a hell of a lot more honest to me. Of course, why stop at baseball players?

Does anyone really believe that the models on the cover of Mens fitness magazines get that way from situps and spinach? Have they asked the Governor of California how he got that big?

Wake up, folk: when you outlaw a substance, you don’t make it go away…you make it go underground, and you increase the danger of its being tainted. Anyone remember Prohibition?

What’s more important, is that no one has been able to tell me just who is so harmed by an individual athlete’s choice to juice that it requires federal robocops. Have these sports figures killed anyone? Assaulted anyone? Robbed anyone? Maimed anyone? Can you point to any damage they have caused?

There are those who will say that when young people emulate these guys, they are hurt. But that’s like saying that NASCAR should be responsible for kids who drive fast, that McDonalds should be responsible for obese slobs who sit and eat Big Macs every day, and that Clint Eastwood should be responsible for a kid who shoots someone.

If the Players are upset, or the union, or the fans, or the owners, they have immediate remedies and avenues. If they have chosen not to pursue them, perhaps Congress should realize they’re barking up the wrong tree. We don’t need Congress to decide who should be and shouldn’t be our sports heroes. We’ll do that for ourselves, thank you.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Statesman in the Storm: NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

"On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, 'What God do you pray to?' (Bloomberg's voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) 'What beliefs do you hold?'

"The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

"Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation, and in fact their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. But doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our city even closer together, and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any ways consistent with Islam.

"Muslims are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith. And they are as welcome to worship in lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for better, the better part of a year, as is their right. The local community board in lower Manhattan voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal. And if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire city.

"Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God's love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NYC Islamic Center: Mayor Bloomberg is right and Peter King is Wrong.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has shown leadership and statesmanship on the subject of the planned Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan. By contrast, Rep. Peter King is being disingenuous as he engages in hate-mongering and patently anti-American rhetoric. It is yet another confirmation of why I am no longer a Republican. President Obama, who began to take a strong stand, has immediately backtracked after criticism, and has proved to be a disappointment.

As a native New Yorker, I understand that every community on Long Island lost loved ones and neighbors in the 9/11 attacks. The entire ordeal still pushes my emotional buttons, and probably will until I die. But I am just as outraged by the barely-hidden, discriminatory, Constitution-shredding opposition to the Islamic Center's plans.

The issue before NYC was NOT whether a mosque should be allowed ‘near’ ground zero. In fact, a mosque has existed in that neighborhood since 1970. The issue was whether the specific building idenitifed for the Center should be preserved under historic commission guidelines and regulations.

Now, very often in government processes, "polite" objections are used to justify personal agendas. At many public hearings, issues such as traffic, noise, light, endangered species, and native american graves are all raised when residents want to oppose something in their back yard - whether or not those are legitimate issues. Much to the NYC Historic Commission's credit, they voted *unanimously* that there was no historic value to this building which was the ruse being used to obstruct the project.

If the question then, is “can a mosque be built?,” then clearly the answer is a resounding YES.

This nation has enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution the right of all people to practice their religion…PERIOD. We do not ignore Constitutional Rights because we don’t like “those people.” Once we do that, the terrorists have indeed won, and the American way of life has gone the way of every other tinhorn dictatorship.

We are NOT a nation with a National Religion. We are a nation that ascribes to Freedom of Religion, and a Prohibition on the Establishment of one religion over others.

Representative Peter King - who for 20 years openly met with and supported the IRA, a terrorist organization - suddenly developed a soft spot in his heart for the victims of terrorism. He called President Obama "wrong" and and issued the following statement:

"It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero...While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque, they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much...The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from ground zero. Unfortunately, the president caved into political correctness..."

This is entirely disingenuous. King knows that opponents of the Islamic Center have no legal leg to stand on under the U. S. Constitution. Rather than taking the high road and promoting healing and the rule of law, he is giving official voice to the "I-don't-care-what-the-Constitution-says, we-don't-want-them-here, those-people-are-being-mean" mentality, and couching it in warm fuzzy terms, like some Big Brother Social Worker.

What is truly an affront affront to every New Yorker (like me), every NY Firefighter’s Family (like me), and everyone who lost people they knew in the WTC attacks (like me) are people like King who PRESUME to believe that we are delicate flowers who can’t handle Constitutional Rights and diversity, who believe that the proper response to the 9/11 attacks is to rip up the First Amendment.

That speech that is most odious is precisely that speech that must be protected.

That press that is most critical of the government is that press that must be protected.

That criminal who has committed the most heinous acts is precisely the criminal most in need of the Constitutional Rights afforded the accused.

That gun owner who is most despised by his pacifist neighbors is the person most in need ot the protection of the Second Amendment.

And that religous Faith that is most antithetical to the majority is the very faith that must be protected and granted equal standing before the law.

It is by granting freedom for Muslims to worship in that spot that we show how great America is. There IS no other option for Constitutionally-minded, patriotic Americans.

The President has not caved into "political correctness" as King asserts... if anything, he is caving into his own political cowardice. Obama and King could both learn something from Bloomberg.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Urgent Request: Help Preserve Equality in NH...for all of us!

Regular readers of this blog know that I am running for State Representative in Cheshire County (District 4) this year as an openly gay candidate. I am running primarily to safeguard the changes we have made in New Hampshire over the last year.

My District is represented by Rep. Bill Butynski, one of only 4 Democrats in the entire state who voted against Marriage Equality in each of the last two sessions. In fact, this spring, he joined with a failed attempt by some radical right members of the House and voted to repeal the new Marriage Equality law (and this man is a Democrat?!?!?)

He has a history of some very 'backwards,' regressive votes, opposing Medical Marijuana (and lying about it on the statehouse floor), and actually introducing a bill to outlaw the sale of Red Bull and possession of veterinary medicines for pet-owners (both were voted down by the members of his own party.)

I am challenging him in the Democratic Primary. The District actually sends 4 representatives to Concord, and there are 5 candidates running at large, but I am targetting him specifically.

Here is the reality: Marriage Equality is going to lose supporters in the statehouse with the 2010 election. ALL of the Republican candidates for Governor have pledged to sign a REPEAL of the Marriage Equality bill It is crucial that we win every seat we can - not only for issues like Equality, but also for issues such as funding HIV service agencies. If you can help me in any way, this could be one seat we could 'flip' for Equality.

The national democratic clearinghouse, "ActBlue" set up a fundraising page for me yesterday at : (see Direct Link on the left side of this page for Act Blue).

If you are able and willing, I would appreciate ANY help you can offer. Ten people donating $20 each will pay for my signs...and will go a long way towards helping us oust this 'problem' legislator.

Thank you, and my apologies for my unabashed self-promotion.

Thom Simmons
Democratic Candidate, Cheshire-04
Chesterfield, Hinsdale & Winchester

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kelly Ayotte: the Police State Candidate

Of the 33 Senate races taking place across the country this year, there are few whose outcome is as unpredictable right now as New Hampshire's. There are currently 4 major Republicans and 1 Democrat (Congressman Paul Hodes) running for an open Senate seat in this, a state that has voted both 'red' and 'blue' in recent elections. The danger is that in freedom-loving New Hampshire, this combination of candidates - and the support of the national GOP establishment in Washington, DC - could propel former NH Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, perhaps the most dangerous, pro-police-state politician the state has seen in decades, to front-runner status.

Anyone who has watched television in New Hampshire over the last few weeks has seen the barrage of Ayotte ads, each with the same theme: Ayotte put criminals behind bars. All but one of her ads features a uniformed police officer, and her latest shamelessly lauds her prosecution of the man guilty of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.

But it is her other activities as the Granite State's Attorney General that should bring one to pause, if not shudder, for what she would bring to the legislative table. On a consistent basis, AG Ayotte testified before the state legislature to curtail civil liberties and protect the power of the police state. Four important examples:

1) The most egregious must be her abject lies about Medical Marijuana, delivered at last year's legislative debate.

She wrote,

"In fact, marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health consequences to its users, including those who may be using it for medical purposes...The use of smoked marijuana is opposed by all credible medical groups nationwide."

In fact, several major national medical groups have taken positive views of medical cannabis, including the American Academy of Physicians, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association. In a 2001 report, even the American Medical Association noted that marijuana helped those suffering from certain ailments including HIV wasting syndrome and chemotherapy-induced nausea.

It is too bad she didn't consider the testimony of Fremont, NH resident Dennis Acton:

"...I am a cancer survivor and successfully used marijuana to treat severe nausea when my $1600 prescription didn't work. I testified along with many others at the Senate HHS Subcommittee hearing back in April. After the senate passed it, we were able to set up a meeting with the Governor. He was "unavailable" so he sent two policy advisors. About 20 of use showed up for this meeting and told our stories. … I really wish the Gov. could have been there to hear these moving stories. I wish other people like AG Kelly Ayotte... and others who dismiss the medicinal properties of marijuana (based on ignorance rather than science) could have heard this as well.

The bottom line is that terminally or severely ill people want to use marijuana to ease symptoms and to avoid becoming addicted to expensive and harmful opiate based drugs. It is just inconceivable that drugs like Oxycontin are readily available and are being abused terribly while marijuana is outlawed..."

Both the House and Senate adopted a medical marijuana bill, but the Senate lacked the votes to override the Governor's veto...a veto that relied, in part, on Ayotte's disgraceful testimony.

2) A second area is her continued opposition to permitting videotaping of police actions.

In 2009, House Bill 312 was submitted, simply permitting the recording (on a cell phone or other device) police activity. For years, police indiscretions have been brought to light through citizen vigilence (Even parking garages have video cameras these days!) The Bill was bipartisan, sponsored by 3 Democrats (Joel Winters, Susi Nord, and Maureen Mann) and 2 Republicans (Neal Kurk and Jenn Coffey), and passed the Democratically-controlled House.

Ayotte opposed the bill, likening the procedure to illegal wiretapping, and it died in the Senate.

3) In New Hampshire, "...Jury nullification is the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge and contrary to the evidence." (State v. Hokanson, 140 N.H. at 721B906, cited in State of NH v Sanchez). This undisputed power is a check on a rule-oriented legal system that could result in terrible miscarriages of justice. And yet, when HB 906 was filed in 2007, simply requiring that jurors be informed of their existing, "undisputed" rights, Ayotte testified against the bill.

4)On two seperate occasions, Ayotte urged Governor Lynch to veto bills (2006 SB318 and 2009 HB160) that would establish the "Castle Doctrine" in New Hampshire. The Castle Doctrine gives a crime victim the right to use force when attacked when that victim is legally in a place where they have a right to be. Instead, Ayotte has supported the notion that a potential victim has a duty to retreat, rather than defend themselves...cold comfort to a woman walking home late at night and confronted in a dark street, or someone in a wheelchair, or a nightclub patron being surrounded by a group of thugs out to bash someone for fun.

Of course, this is also the Attorney General who advocated for the requirement that picture IDs be produced simply to purchase cough medicine...

Kelly Ayotte has spent her life enhancing and enlarging the power of the State and its Police and enforcement mechanisms as against its citizens. Having garnered the support of the GOP establishmentm, it is now no surprise that as the GOP primary nears, she is tripping over herself to embrace anti-immigration extremism, 14th-Amendment repeal nonsense, Sarah Palin, and the far-right elements that she needs to capture the nod.

But for anyone - Republican, Independent, or Democrat - who values New Hampshire's libertarian way of life, this candidate MUST be defeated. She does not, and must not, represent the people of New Hampshire.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Proposition 8 Overturned: Supreme Court Battle Looms

At 4:50 pm EST this afternoon, Federal District Court Judge Vaughan R. Walker (District of Northern California)overturned California's Proposition 8, setting the stage for an eventual national showdown at the US Supreme Court.

California courts had earlier required Marriage Equality, and couples began to marry under the decision, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue popularly known as "Proposition 8." (Law-making by 'popular vote' is a traditional lawmaking route in the west of the United States, but is little used elsewhere. During the last generation, then-Governor Ronald Reagan opposed a ballot initiative supported by singer Anita Bryant that would have baned gays from teaching. The campaign propelled San Francisco mayor Harvey Milk into the national limelight as he pleaded with GLBT men and women to leave the closets and be counted among their neighbors and families. That ballot initiative ultimately failed.)

But this time, after more than 80 million dollars were spent campaigning, proponents of Prop 8 won by a vote of 52-48%, and Marriage Equality immediately ceased in California 5 months after it started. Two attorneys, David Boies and Theodore Olson(one a liberal Democrat and one a conservative Republican) then brought this suit on behalf of two gay couples and challenged the referendum vote in Federal Court on the basis of the 14th Amendment to the U. S Constitution, which requires the Equal Protection of Laws for all citizens in a case more properly known as Perry et al v. Schwarzneggar. Same-sex marriage had never been challenged on these Constitutional grounds before, and many gay-rights groups expressed everything from delight to nervousness to outright hostility at pursuing this avenue of attack.

During the trial, opponents of gay marriage saw their case fall apart, as 'expert' witnesses failed to show up or to provide evidence of their 'expertise,' while Boies and Olson brought in a parade of experts in marriage, family law, and psychology to show the discriminatory nature of Prop 8 and the campaign that surrounded it.

In the end, Judge Walker wrote:

"Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment...Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation...Plaintiffs seek to have the state recognize their committed relationships, and plaintiffs’ relationships are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States.“

This means that there are now TWO Federal Court rulings citing three different Constitutional provisions chipping away at systematic discrimination against gays and lesbians: This Prop 8 ruling, which places sexual orientation under both the equal protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th amendment, and Judge Tauro's decision in Massachusetts last month, which held that the so-called federal "Defense of Marriage Act" ("DOMA"), which prohibits the federal government from acknowledging the validity of same-sex marriages performed in the states where it is legal, was also unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment guaranteeing State's Rights in family issues.

There is little doubt that both of the California and Massachusetts decisions are headed to Appellate Circuit Courts, and eventually to the Supreme Court, where a decision of national import is likely to rest on the shoulders of the Courts only centrist, Justice Kennedy.