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DTCI: Playing by the rules

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Christopher Lee DTCIWith a role of dice, my youngest son, Matthew, age 12, counted off the spaces with a small metal object. On the last number he placed the thimble on the square marked Boardwalk. A bright smile filled his face since he already owned the other blue space, Park Place. According to the rules, Matthew could now place hotels on the spaces, which would likely lead to his victory.

Unfortunately for Matthew, Dad decided that it would be a good time for his three sons to learn a lesson in democracy and the rule of law. “From this point of the game forward, Dad makes the rules. And the first rule is Dad gets to buy Boardwalk and Park Place for $500.” “What?!?” As you can imagine, Matthew cried, “That’s not fair!” His older brothers laughed until I bought their properties too.

On Nov. 21, 2013, protestors gathered at Maidan Square in Kiev, Ukraine. Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine, had abruptly suspended talks with the European Union on association, free trade and the implementation of rule-of-law principles. When the protestors formed to voice their displeasure, Yanukovych bussed in goons to chase down and pummel the protestors. But the protestors would not be deterred. They supported each other by setting up tents, sharing food and building fires to keep warm. This was no ordinary protest.

Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire known as the “Chocolate King” after his chocolate empire, stood side-by-side with students and laborers in support. Ukrainians greeted each other, “Slava Ukrayini!” “Heroyam slava!” (“Glory to Ukraine!” “Glory to the heroes!”) Thousands sang Ukrainian songs late into the night in defiance. The Ukrainian people, of all walks of life, were demanding change.

Ukraine was now the line of scrimmage between two civilizations – Yanukovych with his ties to Russia, oligarchy and corruption representing one; the opposition, demanding closer ties with Europe and rules against corruption representing the other. The competing cultures offering Ukrainians two distinct choices.

To Americans, the decision would seem quite simple. Americans often take for granted important freedoms such as freedom of speech and expression. For many Americans, it is difficult to imagine a judiciary that is not independent. There are consequences, for the most part, in the United States for not playing by the rules.

Ukraine, however, is financially broke. They are heavily dependent on Russia for trade and fuel. The Ukrainian system lacks simple checks and balances necessary for a transparent and reliable government. There are rarely consequences for failing to play by the rules. As a result, almost nobody plays by the rules. Keeping to the status quo for Ukrainians had some appeal since there was some certainty that homes would be heated and life could continue. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered lower gas prices and closer economic ties with Russia.

On Feb. 21, 2014, Yanukovych fled to Russia. The Ukrainian people chose to seek a path toward government run by institutions and not by individuals and personalities.

Ukraine’s decision has had consequences. Russia still does not recognize the Ukraine government. The Crimean Peninsula has been lost and an ongoing insurgency in the east continues. But the Ukrainian decision seems to have been a long-term play. It has become more apparent that the Ukrainian people understand that profound changes in government may not arrive as quickly as Putin’s gas.

Poroshenko was elected Ukrainian president May 25. While Poroshenko is not free from controversy, his selection in an open and free election symbolizes a clear step toward democracy. Essential to Ukraine’s survival is its adoption of the rule of law. Few countries rival Ukraine in corruption, but Yanukovych’s removal is evidence that Ukrainian people desire a transparent government with no person above the law.

Over the next several months, important rule of law decisions will be made in Ukraine. Judicial review of legislation, judicial independence, protection of individual rights, and a defined distribution of powers between government institutions must not only be adopted but respected. Constitutional and legal principles for democracy and the rule of law will either become part of Ukrainian culture or the country will remain a poor form of oligarchy.

As for the Monopoly game, Dad, much like Yanukovych, was removed from the game for making up his own rules. As explained by my wise 12-year-old, “We are better when we all play by the rules.”•

__________

Christopher Lee is a partner in the Evansville firm of Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn and sits on the board of directors of DTCI. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  2. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  3. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  4. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  5. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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