About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Money And Mouth

LeBron James got into some hot water this week for making some statements about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

The drama began when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, tweeted a message supporting the Hong Kong protesters:  “Fight for Freedom.  Stand with Hong Kong.”  The tweet provoked an angry backlash from the Chinese Communist government, which is trying to figure out how to deal with the pro-democracy protests, and caused it to cancel and change certain events surrounding the NBA’s annual tour of China — which is viewed as a big, and growing, broadcasting, merchandising, and sponsorship market for the NBA.

34siop24cjgffnpmwtq4iwgubqThe Chinese government’s response affected LeBron James, who was in China with  the Los Angeles Lakers to play a basketball game as part of the NBA tour.  James then spoke out, saying that Morey “wasn’t educated” on Hong Kong and had put the Lakers through a “difficult week” in China.  “So many people could have been harmed not only financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually. So just be careful with what we tweet, and we say, and we do,” James said.  He later added:  “Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of (Morey’s) tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk About that.”

As a result of the comments, LeBron James has been depicted in some quarters as a kind of sell-out who has kowtowed to the Communist government in the interests of the money that could be made in China.  His comments were popular on official Chinese social media platforms but drew criticism among the Hong Kong protesters, who accused him of supporting totalitarianism.  Some others have risen to James’ defense, arguing that there was nothing wrong with what he said.

One of the more interesting aspects of this little drama is that many people seem to be surprised that a larger-than-life public figure like LeBron James, who has not been shy about speaking out on social issues, might conceivably be motivated in his views by base considerations like making money and his own personal convenience.  I’m not quite sure why this should come as a surprise to anyone.  James is a human being, after all, and as prone to advancing his own interests as any other person.  Perhaps his Hong Kong dust-up will help to remind people who are interested in what Hollywood stars or pro athletes are tweeting about the public issues of the day that the celebrities and sports stars may not be acting altruistically and may well have their own special personal and financial motivations for their public positions.

The old saying refers to “putting your money where your mouth is.”  The reality is that, in many instances, the mouth follows the money.

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One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

One of the candidates who came to Columbus for last night’s spirited Democratic candidate’s debate made some news when he announced that, in his view, Ohio can no longer claim to be a “swing state.”

411c7uuosfl._sx425_The candidate, Tom Steyer, is a billionaire who used to run a hedge fund but now is running for the Democratic nomination in 2020.  According to a news story in the Columbus Dispatch, this week on his visit to town Steyer told a group of 15 young Democrats:  “You guys live in a red state. I know people call it purple, but it’s pretty darn red.”  Steyer apparently noted that President Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 points in 2016 and that Republicans dominated statewide elections in 2018.  Steyer then said, however, that if Trump loses in Ohio and the rest of the country in 2020, it will represent a shift that will leave Republicans losing “forever.”

I don’t know much about Tom Steyer, but I do know this:  he’s off base in his views about Ohio.  The Buckeye State is a classic “swing state,” as the results of presidential elections over the past few cycles will confirm.  Before going for President Trump in 2016, Ohio had voted for President Obama twice, President George Bush twice, and President Clinton twice.  In short, in the last seven presidential elections Ohio has voted for the Democratic candidate four times and the Republican candidate three times.  Equally important, in none of those races did the winning candidate get more than 52 percent of the vote in Ohio.  That record sounds like the very definition of a “swing state.”

But there’s even more that’s wrong in what Steyer is saying.  He’s apparently one of those “classifying” people who like to put people into buckets.  To him, you’re a red state or a blue state, and if you change that change will be for “forever.”  That’s not my experience with Ohioans, at least.  In Ohio, as in any state, there are groups that are solidly for one party or another — but the key to Ohio is the group in the middle who will look carefully at the competing candidates and make their best judgment about who deserves their vote.  Their votes can change because their views, informed by experience and current events, can and do change.  Anyone who thinks Ohio is moving “forever” into one category or another is going to be proven wrong in the not-too-distant future.

Many of us, myself included, were astonished to see President Trump win Ohio by such a significant margin in 2016.  Rather than concluding that the 2016 results mean that Ohio is now a “red state,” candidates like Tom Steyer would be better served by looking carefully at why the middle group of Ohioans voted as they did in the last presidential election and thinking carefully about how they can appeal to that group to change their direction when the 2020 vote rolls around.  If you want Ohio to swing your way in the next election, that’s what you need to do.

Stuart Smalley Sign

Our anonymous Third Street Bridge sign artist has struck again.  When I walked by yesterday morning, I saw that the latest hand-lettered sign channels an inner Stuart Smalley, the fictional character played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live years ago.  You may recall that the mild-mannered, sweater-wearing Stuart gave a Daily Affirmation with a positive message that always concluded:  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

I’d say that “You are worthy” falls squarely into the Stuart Smalley mindset.  (Those of us who don’t share Stuart Smalley’s hopeful and constructive world view might ask, in response, “Worthy of what?”  But never mind that.)

It’s nice to know that some unknown person cares enough about the well-being of their fellow Columbusites to create inspirational messages to help us feel good about ourselves and spur us forward on our days.  I’m looking forward to the next sign that helps to put a spring in my step on the way to work.

Big Bro’s Apps

Every time I update my iPhone, weird new apps appear.  I have no idea what they are.

garageband_ios_iconThere’s one app with a guitar on it called “GarageBand.”  There’s another with a Hollywood Walk of Fame star on it called “iMovie.”  There’s also “iTunes U,” with a mortarboard cap, and “Keynote,” with a podium, and “Measure,” and “Numbers,” and “Pages,” all with their own different square icons.  What do they do?  Beats me!  I have no idea what they are or what function they are designed to perform or how they got where they are.  I didn’t consciously put them on my phone — they just appeared there.  Because I have no idea what they do, I haven’t tapped any of these apps.  I’m afraid that if I do, I might be charged for something I don’t want, or have to go through some long process to sign up for something I won’t use.  And, by using them, I probably would be transmitting data to someone somewhere would could sell it to some marketing firm who would use it to target ads to my phone.

The addition of these unknown apps makes me think about the reach of Apple and the power of its updates.  Somewhere, some unknown person is deciding what applications should appear on my phone.  I have no idea what process they use to make that decision or what they are trying to accomplish.  I get why Apple wants me to activate “Apple Wallet” — which I haven’t done, because I think my normal wallet works just fine.  But why would Apple decide that the standard iPhone set-up, which is what I have, should include an app like “GarageBand”?  What kind of design and standardization approach is at work here?

Cellphones are great, and the functionality they provide allows us to stay connected wherever we may go.  But there’s something about them that’s a little Big Brotherish, too — except that Big Bro isn’t the government, it’s some big company that is deciding what should and shouldn’t be on a device that you carry with you everywhere you go.  It gives me pause.

 

 

The Random Restaurant Tour — XXX

We just got some significant restaurant news in Columbus — the long-empty space that once was occupied by the Deepwood restaurant, directly across from the Columbus Convention Center, is going to become a huge new Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

8-oz-strip-steak_medWhat’s the big deal, you ask?  After all, there are Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses spread across the land.  So who cares if one comes to Columbus?

The answer is this:  with the addition of this new steakhouse, there will be four premium steakhouses in the core downtown Columbus area — Mitchell’s, the Hyde Park Grille, Jeff Ruby’s, and now Ruth’s Chris, all within easy walking distance of each other.  And if your taste runs to Brazilian-style steakhouses, there’s one of those in the core downtown area, too.

The better question is why Columbus seems to have such an appetite for steakhouses.  Do Midwesterners just crave a good steak as a matter of course?  Or, as I suspect, does it have something to do with the hotel and convention and business traveler activity in downtown Columbus, and the notion that travelers looking for a place to have dinner figure a top-end steakhouse is a good, safe option — especially if they are traveling on an expense account?  If Ruth’s Chris is coming to an area that already is well-served with steakhouses, they must think there is a demand for even more dry-aged beef.

As a steak lover, I’m all for steakhouse options, but four seems like too many.  Whatever the reason for the steakhouse overload, I’d like to see some new restaurants that give us a bit of a wider range in the downtown dining options — like a really good Chinese place, or an Ethiopian joint.  Steak is great, but diversity is even better.

A Mid-Size In A Monster Truck World

If you’ve been out on the road lately, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a monster truck world out there.  The huge, oversized, tricked up, jacked-up pickups dominate the traffic flow, and the drivers of those colossal contraptions tend to be . . . well, let’s just say they’re a tad aggressive in their approach to merges, lane changes, assured clear distance, and other basics you were taught in your driver’s ed class.

hqdefaultIf you drive a mid-size — once the prevailing vehicle on the American road — you’re out-sized and hopelessly out-numbered out there.  Between the grillework of the enormous jet-black truck that is tailgating you and fully filling up your rear-view mirror, and the looming pick-up in front of you that blocks any view of the road ahead, you wonder if there’s even a place on the road for the basic, unassuming mid-size that just wants to finish its commute without being crushed between two threatening, inescapable forces who don’t seem to care much about what might happen to you as they rat-race and joust and engage in testosterone-laden antics.

The more I read political news these days, and see the anger and the clashes at rallies and the vehement, over-the-top depictions of opposing viewpoints that seem to prevail at every point on the political spectrum, the more I feel like a humble mid-size car in a monster-truck world.

From Early Bird To Night Owl

For as long as I can remember, I’ve  been an early riser.  When I was a kid, I was the first member of the family who was up in the morning.  In college, I was never able to sleep in like my friends could.  And once I started working, I established the “early to bed, early to rise” regimen that would have made Poor Richard proud.

tumblr_n0gk0hqryh1qmw1oho1_1280But here’s the thing:  as time passed, I found myself waking up, and going to bed, earlier and earlier.  When it got to the point this summer where I was opening my eyes at 4:30 a.m., with no hope of going back to sleep, I knew I needed to do something.  Those hours might be ideal for a farmer, but they seemed a bit out of whack for me.

So lately I’ve been trying to change from an early bird to more of a night owl.  It isn’t easy.  Working to modify ingrained daily habits that have prevailed for decades is a challenge.  The effort for now focuses on the back end of the day, where I’ve been striving to stay up later than usual.  This means no night-time reading, which will always cause me to doze off, and trying to find some really riveting TV shows — like Peaky Blinders, which Kish and I have just started watching.  Through concentrated effort, I’ve actually been up past 10 p.m. every day this week.  This may not seem like anything to those people who regularly catch the late show on TV, but it’s a significant step for me.

And this morning, I slept in until 5:30.  5:30!  I feel like a slugabed, but progress is being made.