Our government works with a system of checks and balances. Congress may pass a law but the Supreme Court can declare the law unconstitutional. The president is not allowed to go to war without congressiOur government works with a system of checks and balances. Congress may pass a law but the Supreme Court can declare the law unconstitutional. The president is not allowed to go to war without congressional approval and he is not allowed to lie in order to get that approval. O.k., so that part isn’t working too well at the moment.

We like to think that the rest of society works in the same way and that does seem to be working a little better. We hope that a second part of the system steps in to take over if a first part fails. After police officers in the Rodney King beating were found not guilty in a Simi Valley courtroom, two of the officers were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights in a federal court.

Even corporate chieftains are finding their way to jail. I once sat next to a retired working class woman on a subway who lost $100, 000 in a 401K plan she had while working for WorldCom. She might take some comfort in the conviction of Bernard Ebbers on all nine counts related to accounting fraud that led to WorldCom’s bankruptcy.

I know that I take some comfort in the congressional hearings on steroids. Baseball almost got away with it. Mark McGwire almost got away with it. If Lil’ Kim and Martha Stewart can go to jail for lying to authorities, you know McGwire is feeling the heat. Sammy Sosa is just not very creative. No tears or qualifications, just a categorical denial. In a survey on sports radio, Sosa came in with the lowest vote of confidence, lower than McGwire, only 4% of listeners believed him.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham is probably the quintessential coming of age novel. The main character, Philip, is a lonely orphan with a clubfoot, a physical deformity that causes him great embarrassment. Philip is desperate to find freedom from his suffering and longs to find his place in the world. He’s given up on Christianity. There is no good and evil, he reasons, there are only those acts that benefit society and those that don’t. Furthermore, “Society has three arms in its contest with the individual, laws, public opinion, and conscience: the first two could be met by guile, guile is the only weapon of the weak against the strong: common opinion put the matter well when it stated that sin consisted of being found out; but conscience was the traitor within the gate…”

Laws failed in the case of steroids in baseball. There was no rule against using steroids even though it was illegal. Before Balco, there was no hard evidence that ballplayers were using steroids. The excitement of breaking Roger Maris’s record and the likelihood of breaking Hank Aaron’s record far outweighed the suspicion. Public opinion didn’t have a chance. Conscience is the voice from within. Who knew that it would be the voice of the class clown, Jose Canseco.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules. This is not always a good thing. Watch Ken Burns latest documentary about Jack Johnson the boxer. Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion. He lived the high life – he rode fast cars and stayed in fancy hotels. He beat every great white hope thrown at him and he had sex with white women. He even married them. The government finally got him by sending him to jail for violating the Mann Act, a law designed to prevent prostitutes from being transported across state lines, because he gave his white girlfriend a train ticket to travel from Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Still, I think they got it right this time. They were making baseball pay for its arrogance. Baseball thought it could get away with lying about their complicity in steroid use and ride Boston’s improbable championship run into the next season and away from steroids. How much will baseball have to pay? They probably won’t lose their antitrust exemption. Mark McGwire won’t have an asterisk next to his record because the urine tests are long gone. But at least someone stepped in and caught baseball in its lie.onal approval and he is not allowed to lie in order to get that approval. O.k., so that part isn’t working too well at the moment.

We like to think that the rest of society works in the same way and that does seems to be working a little better. We hope that a second part of the system steps in to take over if a first part fails. After police officers in the Rodney King beating were found not guilty in a Simi Valley courtroom, two of the officers were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights in a federal court.

Even corporate chieftains are finding their way to jail these days. I once sat next to a retired working class woman on a subway who lost $100, 000 in a 401K plan she had while working for WorldCom. She might take some comfort in the conviction of Bernard Ebbers on all nine counts related to accounting fraud that led to WorldCom’s bankruptcy.

I know that I take some comfort in the congressional hearings on steroids. Baseball almost got away with it. Mark McGwire almost got away with it. If Lil’ Kim and Martha Stewart can go to jail for lying to authorities, you know McGwire is feeling the heat. Sammy Sosa is just not very creative. No tears or qualifications, just a categorical denial. In a survey on sports radio, Sosa came in with the lowest vote of confidence, lower than McGwire, only 4% of listeners believed him.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham is probably the quintessential coming of age novel. The main character, Philip, is a lonely orphan with a clubfoot, a physical deformity that causes him great embarrassment. Philip is desperate to find freedom from his suffering and longs to find his place in the world. He’s given up on Christianity. There is no good and evil, he reasons, there are only those acts that benefit society and those that don’t. Furthermore, “Society has three arms in its contest with the individual, laws, public opinion, and conscience: the first two could be met by guile, guile is the only weapon of the weak against the strong: common opinion put the matter well when it stated that sin consisted of being found out; but conscience was the traitor within the gate…”

Laws failed in the case of steroids in baseball. There was no rule against using steroids even though it was illegal. Before Balco, there was no hard evidence that ballplayers were using steroids. The excitement of breaking Roger Maris’s record and the likelihood of breaking Hank Aaron’s record far outweighed the suspicion. Public opinion didn’t have a chance. Conscience is the voice from within. Who knew that it would be the voice of the class clown, Jose Canseco.

One way or another, society will always find a way to make life difficult for someone who does not follow the rules. This is not always a good thing. Watch Ken Burns latest documentary about Jack Johnson the boxer. Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion. He lived the high life – he rode fast cars and stayed in fancy hotels. He beat every great white hope thrown at him and he had sex with white women. He even married them. The government finally got him by sending him to jail for violating the Mann Act, a law designed to prevent prostitutes from being transported across state lines, because he gave his white girlfriend a train ticket to travel from Pennsylvania to Illinois.

Still, I think they got it right this time. They were making baseball pay for its arrogance. Baseball thought it could get away with lying about their complicity in steroid use and ride Boston’s improbable championship run into the next season and away from steroids. How much will baseball have to pay? They probably won’t lose their antitrust exemption. Mark McGwire won’t have an asterisk next to his record because the urine tests are long gone. But at least someone stepped in and caught baseball in its lie.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 171 user reviews.