Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Barry Bonds, the feds, and a bunch of lies

Barry Bonds is on trial right now for allegedly lying to a grand jury about his possible steroid use. Did he use them? It doesn't matter. Did he know what they were at the time? Maybe. Was it legal then? Absolutely. The only crime in question is whether he lied about it.

In case you lost track of time, like I often do, this happened in 2003, eight years ago. To put that in perspective, that was the same year we invaded Iraq. Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? Our troops are still there, the feds are still after Bonds, and you, as a taxpayer, are still paying for all of it. Some things never seem to go away.

Bonds will be eligible for the Hall of Fame soon, as will Roger Clemens, another guy the feds are trying to nail on similar charges. Alex Rodriguez, now of the Yankees, and also somewhat implicated in the steroids snafu, might have a shot at passing Bonds' all-time home run record if he plays for a few more years. But you will never again see a pitcher amass 354 wins like Clemens did. So should they be voted in?

The purists would say not because they "cheated". Maybe, but Gaylord Perry was famous for his "spitball", and he's in. Want to talk about bad guys?  Without getting into the injuries he caused with his sharpened spikes, and being a major league racist, Ty Cobb allegedly killed a man -- but he's there. Alcoholics and adulterers? They abound in Cooperstown. Pete Rose is the all-time hit leader in the game -- a record likely never to be surpassed, but he gambled, so he's out -- for now. Throw in corked bats and juiced balls, and how are we supposed to know where to draw the line?

Yours truly says the first step is for the government to butt out. Given wars, the economy, poverty, immigration issues, foreign policy, and cleaning up their own act, I find it somewhere between comical and insulting that our elected representatives at the highest level have nothing better to do than convene Congressional hearings on these matters, much less turn their prosecutors loose with an unlimited budget that, again, we are paying for.

Secret grand juries nowadays are a draconian abuse of government power anyway. These were started back when people had a legitimate fear of retaliation from certain defendants, should their identities become known. Those days are long gone. Watch all the old Godfather movies or episodes of the Sopranos you want, but nobody gets "whacked" anymore. Yet they still go behind closed doors where the prosecutor, but not the defense attorney is allowed. The judge is typically a former prosecutor him/herself, and the jurors are selectively culled to make sure the case moves on. A defendant has no chance in that room.

Even if Bonds, Clemens, and others are lying, I find it difficult to blame them too much. After all, the feds lie a lot, even at the highest level. "Read my lips, no new taxes", or "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", come to mind. They didn't get prosecuted, and that's not even counting the thousands of lies told by other feds in various entrapments, interrogations, other shenanigans, and even political promises. If you're questioned by a federal agent, they can lie to you to get what they want, and that's OK. If you lie to them back, it's a crime. Something is very wrong with that picture. At that, the Mafioso of the old days confined their whacking to rival gangsters. With the exception of Jimmy Hoffa (36 years ago!), that was done brazenly. Nowadays, if some faceless federal bureaucrat deems you an "enemy combatant", presto, you get "disappeared", and nobody knows anything. So who do we need protection from, indeed?

Personally, I think it's highly likely Bonds took steroids back in the day. But again, it's not about that. It's about whether he lied to an outdated secretive panel in an inquiry led by people that have been known to lie themselves -- 8 years ago. Further, Bonds may be a lot of things but he's certainly no menace to society that should warrant this much prosecutorial attention. How much is enough, already?

Barring an all-out revolution, such as those going on elsewhere in the world, change has to come from the top in this country, and until the people that make and enforce the rules start abiding by them themselves, why should they expect the average citizen to act any differently?

They wouldn't want me on that jury. Anymore, it's getting very difficult for me to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. While there's no love lost here for Bonds, perhaps it would be only fitting that, if he's convicted, the prosecutors had to serve the same sentence handed down.

Oh, that's right. They can lie, cheat, and manipulate all they want, because they have immunity.

To everything except your tax dollars. No wonder they want to keep it secret.


  1. That is the most insightful column I've read in a very long time. Bravo.