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Russian Steps

In this presidential election year it seems like we are in a constant hail storm of political ads and political news.  If we fail to think for ourselves then there is almost certainly some political pundit who is willing to do all of the thinking for us.  It's exhausting to hear all of the political back and forth all of the time.  Perhaps one of the most amazing things that I hear over and over is the cry of 'get government out of our lives'.  That is indeed a noble thought but let's face it, it's not a realistic one.

Volkswagen this year was hit with some serious bad press over their lying to government regulators about the pollution levels of their vehicles.  Bernie Madoff's companies are still being liquidated in bankruptcy courts.  Over and over again we see that the only thing keeping companies honest is the strong arm of the law.  Call them regulations if you want.  Oppose regulations if you want.  But be willing to accept the consequences of what happens when there is no remedy against evil doers.

For some reason this kind of thing reminds me of time that I have spent in Russia.  Russia is a great country that is full of proud people.  They have, at times, rotten leaders but the people themselves are truly amazing.  One thing that you notice right away in Russia is that virtually none of their stairways are even.  The first step is four inches, the second step might be six inches and the third step might be five inches.  I had to learn how to walk on the steps in Russia.  In the United States we walk up a flight of stairs assuming one step is equal to the next.  We do not have to focus on each individual step.  That is not at all the case everywhere and in Russia you could well die from falling down the stairs if you are not focused on what you are doing.

So why do I bring this up in regard to elections?  Because every time I hear about making the government insanely small or repealing every single government regulation I think of the Russian steps.  There is obviously no government body in Russia that regulates building codes.  (Don't even get me started on the horror show of Russian elevators).  We take our government for granted.  We drive on amazing roads.  Our buildings are safe and strong.  Our police work very hard to maintain order.  Our social workers assist struggling families.  Our military is a world power.  Our list of good quality government services goes on and on. 

An average Russian will roll their eyes when they talk about their failing government.  Many times I heard people say 'maybe that's how it works in a normal country but that's not how it works in Russia'.  We roll our eyes because something seems less effective in our government than it should be.  We sometimes celebrate our police and military but we rarely celebrate our government rank and file.  We roll our eyes at them.  We want to eliminate their jobs.  We want to cut their pay.  We want to kill their pensions.  (OK, not all of us want to eliminate our rank and file but that kind of thing is said so often during election seasons that it sure seems like government workers are the enemy).

We would fall apart if we had to deal with the kind of government that they have in Russia.  Next time you get the urge to roll your eyes at our government stop and think about the focus of what they are trying to do in their government role.  Good government makes our lives better.  Bad government leaves you to walk up and down uneven steps all day long.  Bad government lets you get cheated, lied to, and even killed.  Russian steps.


Pete Rose

I attended a fundraiser last night where Pete Rose was the featured speaker.  I have met Pete enough times that he knows me by name.  I will be the first to say that you can call Pete all kinds of things: 'Hit King', 'Convicted Felon', 'Compulsive Gambler', 'Charlie Hustle'.  The fact is that he is all of them and he won't deny many of the labels that people put by his name...although maybe he should have stopped denying the labels long before now. 

There were a couple of things that Pete talked about last night that I thought were notable: 

First, he is going to be the next Red honored with a statue at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.  Pete was born and raised in Cincinnati and played the vast majority of his major league career here.  This city means something to Pete and this honor really hits home for him.  But what he said was that 'statues are for people that are dead' and that bothered me quite a bit.  If we don't honor people when they are alive then why bother honoring them at all?  My mother passed away in 2009, I go to the cemetery to honor her memory from time to time but, let's face it, that moment of reflection is for me, not her.  We should never shy away from honoring those around us that have made a difference...and we should do it when they are able to hear the appreciation.

Second, Pete is very comfortable now with who he is.  He is happy.  In all of the times that I have seen him this is the most at ease that he has been.  Is that because his full issues are now out in the open and there are no more secrets?  I don't know.  Only Pete knows that.  But I think the induction into the Reds Hall of Fame has put something back into Pete that was lost during all these years of turmoil.  Kudos to the Reds.  He talked quite openly about how being from Cincinnati and playing in winning World Series games was an amazing experience.  He discussed how it would have been for Johnny Bench if the games were played in Binger, Oklahoma instead of Cincinnati.  He made great points about his pride in his home town.

Thanks, Pete.  You have served more time being kicked out of baseball than some murderers spend in prison.  Thanks to the Reds for honoring your career and I sincerely hope that Major League Baseball follows suit very soon.


Anonymous v. Cincinnati Police

Today's news around here was all about how the internet hacker/watchdog group that calls itself 'Anonymous' has done a data dump of Cincinnati police officer personal information related to their killing of a black man named Paul Gaston. I think that our cyber connected world will spawn more and more of these kinds of online crusaders.  Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Anonymous...they fancy themselves as the defenders of truth and justice.

The question becomes whether we need to have these online vigilantes or not. The obvious presentation from all of them appears to be a common thread of "the system has failed and now we are exposing the faults". It begs the question of what would Anonymous have done in the days after the Rodney King verdicts. Is it right to riot? Is it right to engage in civil disobedience in the name of perceived injustice? How far is too far? Is releasing the home address and family information of police officers going too far?

Look, I am a lawyer. I tend to favor taking disputes to our courts in order to find a resolution. That is how I make my living. I have not seen the data dump that Anonymous made today. I don't feel the need to go looking for it. I have not watched the video that Anonymous published explaining the reason for the data dump. I don't feel the need to go looking for it.

My personal belief is that Anonymous did their data dump to raise awareness of the killing of Paul Gaston. They have accomplished raising the profile to that killing and if that was part of their goal, they have succeeded. Cincinnati already has one police officer charged with murder (University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing is awaiting trial for the killing of Sam DuBose).  Will there be another murder charge? I have no idea. Will Anonymous bringing this matter under closer scrutiny make a difference to whether the officers get indicted? That's a strong maybe.


Why Youth Sports Matter...

I was asked in a recent meeting why I chose to coach youth sports. I did not even have to think about my answer since it was in the front of my mind before the question was even completed.  I coach youth sports because of how much being a part of sports teams meant to me when I was growing up.

I have coached football, basketball, and lacrosse. I am a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance and I love encouraging kids to have fun with sports. Coaching basketball this past weekend allowed me the amazing experience of having two of my players light up with joy after scoring their first points of the basketball season. (For one of them it was his first points EVER).  As one of my friends correctly noted, those are the points that's not all about winning of losing and sometimes it's about having a kid experience a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Sure, there is room to be competitive in youth sports.  There are, after all, some really great youth athletes. That said, youth sports really hit their mark when kids feel valued as a player, teammate, contestant, and person. They are kids.  They are growing emotionally, mentally, and physically. If youth sports can build a good component of self worth in the mind of a kid then a worthy purpose has been served.


Super Bole [sic] and the Big Football League

Super Bole [sic] Fifty kicks off on Sunday, February 7.  I find myself in the growing number of people who really question whether the Big Football League is quality entertainment that is worth watching.  Why?  Well, if the hit that knocked Giovanni Bernard took from Ryan Shazier in the first round of the playoffs is legal (and the leauge came out and called it unfortunate but not illegal) then I am not sure I want to watch this sport.  That hit was a helmet to helmet blow to the head that knocked a man unconscious...and the league says that is legal.  I have a problem with that.  I don't want to watch a sport with that kind of injurious brutality.  And certainly there are lots and lots of examples of similar conduct in professional football games.  Boxing and IFC at least go out telling everyone that the conduct in the ring is harmful and those referees are all over the action to keep it clean.

Add to that kind brutality the fact that the football league is a bloated money hungry corporation that crushes anything in its path.  I am not using their full name because it's is the name of the big game.  Yeah, think about that for a second...I cannot even use the names of the event or the league!  But I have to question why we pay football executives, coaches, managers, players, and sports agents what we do.  Sure, I like to be entertained as much as the next guy but have we lost site of priorities?  Do we really think a second string kicker is worth more of a salary than an inner city school teacher?

I won't be watching the game on Sunday because I am quite sure that I can find something better to do...oh, and no one invited me to their game watching party!