News & Notes September 14, 2010

Lots of interesting tidbits today.  The President is in Philadelphia for his second annual back to school speech.  Where’s all the furor this time?

Mayor Jim Brewster of McKeesport has been selected by Democrats to run to succeed Sean Logan in the State Senate.

AFSCME Local 88 has endorsed Lois Herr for Congress in PA-16.  Herr has attacked Joe Pitts for taking credit for construction at the Lancaster AMTRAK station after voting to cut funding for the rail line.  In an era when we must build and rebuild our mass transit Congressman Pitts remains in the 18th century.

Patrick Murphy has his first television ad of the fall campaign:

More information is coming out about Paul LePage the Tea Party candidate for Governor in Maine.  Yesterday I noted how he and his wife took homestead tax exemptions for two different primary residences, one in Maine and another in Florida.  Yesterday he lashed out at the press during questioning and swore at the reporters.  Nice touch there Paul.  He says he will return the $191 to the State of Maine though that isn’t the issue or the amount owed.

The LePages, it seems, established domicile in Florida so two daughters could attend Florida State University based on in state tuition.  Since they didn’t live there and accepted primary domicile tax status in Maine it seems they owe Florida taxpayers the difference between in state and out of state tuition at FSU.  I’m guessing but but I’ll bet that’s more than $191.

You’ve got to love these Tea baggers!  Last night in Easton Jake Towne, Tea bagger running for Congress said in one moment that government cannot create jobs.  A few minutes later he cited government as the single largest job sector in the country.  Which is it Jake?  Maybe Martians created all those government jobs, maybe it was Saturnians funding the seed money for countless new entrepreneurial efforts at Ben Franklin Partners?  Jake thinks if we each contribute our five bucks for economic development we can replace the government’s initiatives formed by pooling all our dollars and giving it to outfits like Ben Franklin.  Maybe he wants us to privatize the roads and bridges too and have everyone pay some private company through tolls?  Is that really what you want?  I’m already imagining the safety issues when profit is put first…

While on the topic of the Tea Party has anyone had any experience trying to attend their events?  Have you been asked to leave or turn off your recording device?  Are they strictly on private property so they can do so?  If so why are elected public officials and candidates for public office attending these closed forums while supposedly campaigning?  Let me know about your experiences.

I didn’t watch the Eagles game Sunday (it was on Fox) but saw several Facebook posting by the team about concussions.  Both QB Kevin Kolb and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley left the game with concussions then sent back into play against league rules and all known medical science about these injuries.  I know something about concussions having had six moderate to severe ones.  The Philadelphia Eagles recklessly put winning ahead of the lives and health of their players.  If this happens again coach Andy Reid should be suspended, if it keeps going on he should be fired.  Maybe Reid has been taking his junkie kids’ drugs.

The Courage of Michael Vick

by Walter and Rosemary Brasch

           The Philadelphia Eagles honored reserve quarterback and admitted dog-killer Michael Vick with an award for courage. Yes, you read that right. “Michael Vick” and “courage” are in the same sentence.

             Each of the 32 NFL teams annually honors one of its own with an Ed Block award, named for the Baltimore Colts head trainer who was an advocate for improving the lives of neglected and abused children; the Foundation says it celebrates “players of inspiration in the NFL.” Unfortunately, there is no stipulation that football players who abuse animals are ineligible receivers.

             Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb told the Philadelphia Inquirer the award was “well deserved.” Vick, his team, and what appears to be a loyal foundation of fans who believe Vick will help lead the Eagles into a SuperBowl, all believe the man who ran Bad Newz Kennels has “seen the light,” has reformed, and is now a model citizen.

             However, Vick’s own words show the humility and humbleness that he should have are still missing from his egocentric world of sweating multi-millionaires.

             “It means a great deal to me,” Vick told the media, gloating that he “was voted unanimously by my teammates. They know what I’ve been through. I’ve been through a lot. It’s been great to come back and have an opportunity to play and be with a great group of guys. I’m just ecstatic about that, and I enjoy every day.” He further justified the honor by explaining, “I’ve overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can handle or bear.” Elaborating, he declared, “You ask certain people to walk through my shoes, they probably couldn’t do. Probably 95 percent of the people in this world because nobody had to endure what I’ve been through, situations I’ve been put in, situations I put myself in and decisions I have made, whether they have been good or bad.” He said, “There’s always consequences behind certain things and repercussions behind them, too. And then you have to wake up every day and face the world, whether they perceive you in the right perspective, it’s a totally different outlook on you. You have to be strong, believe in yourself, be optimistic. That’s what I’ve been able to do. That’s what I display.” Not once in his statements to the media did Michael Vick apologize for what he did, or for the deals he cut in order to be restored to the status of a millionaire athlete. Everything he said was focused upon his own “courage,” with “I” being the prevalent word.

             Perhaps Michael Vick isn’t aware that courage is not being so vacuous as to believe it was acceptable to breed and arrange for dogs to fight to the death, to allow equally malevolent “fans” to bet on the matches, and by the cruelest means possible to kill dogs who didn’t perform as well as he thought they should. Going to prison for 18 months, losing two seasons of multimillion dollar income, having to work out to get into fighting condition, and then earning about $1.6 in his first year back into the NFL, with a second year option for about $5 million, isn’t courage.

             In case Michael Vick doesn’t know what courage is, here are just a few examples. There are thousands of others.

             Courage is the soldier who is on 100 percent disability from combat wounds who is now working almost every hour of every day with physical therapists, social workers, and other medical personnel to try to regain even the most remote possibility of being able to walk again.

             Courage is the firefighters who risk their lives to rescue people and their pets from burning buildings.

             Courage is law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line to serve and protect the people.

             Courage is the “whistle blower” who risks a job and family stability to point out greed and corruption within a business, educational institution, or governmental agency.

            Courage is the lone dissenter who fights for social and economic justice in a society that is determined to continue the “me generation.”

             Courage is the recent graduate who delays entry into the job market, the mid-career executive who gives up the fast track, or the senior citizen who decides there is more to life than retirement, and volunteers for AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or any of hundreds of non-profit organizations that have taken on the burden of helping those who society has made invisible.

             Courage is the parents who work two low-income service jobs, support their families, and still donate time and money to charities that help those less fortunate than they.

             Courage is the family who last year had a home and job, and this year has neither but survives day to day.

             Courage is the animal rights advocates who risk their lives to fight against governments that allow the killing of whales, bears, seals, wolves, and hundreds of other animals; and to humane society staff and innumerable volunteers who rescue abandoned and abused animals, and who work with them to try to give them a better life.

            But most important, courage is all the people who know no matter what obstacles they overcome today, tomorrow will present the same challenges, and that they will never have any hope to be a millionaire or to receive an award for surviving against tremendous odds.

             In his comments after being notified of the award, Michael Vick proved himself to be an unworthy spokesman for anything or anyone other than himself.

           [Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]

Read All About It! Michael Vick Hero in His First Game for Eagles

Read All About It!

Michael Vick Hero in His First Game for Eagles

by Walter Brasch

The headlines, pictures, and most of the stories about the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs focused upon backup quarterback Michael Vick.

           The Eagles fans–desperate for a Super Bowl trophy and proclaiming that since Vick paid his time he should be forgiven–gave him a hearty ovation when he first appeared in the game early in the first quarter.

           Vick, the All-Pro felon who was convicted in federal court of conspiracy, financing, and operating a dog fighting operation, appeared in only 11 plays, rushed for seven yards, threw two incompletes, and was largely a decoy on the other plays. But he drew the attention of sportscasters and reporters in his first NFL game since his suspension.

           Based upon the number of column inches the print media threw to Vick, combined with the air time TV devoted, he was the star and the rest of the team were supporting players.

           Quarterback Kevin Kolb, who ran the offense while starter Donovan McNabb sat out his second game while recovering from a broken rib, did everything Vick couldn’t do. He threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in his first two career starts. Almost as an afterthought, the media later reported that Kolb was the NFC offensive player of the week. Not reported is that Vick, with a $1.5 million salary, is making about $400,000 more this season than Kolb.

           Also overlooked by much of the media were DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek, each of whom had 100-plus yards as receivers and and LeSean McCoy who had 84 yards rushing. The media also ignored the offensive line, which gave Kolb the time to throw, and the defense, which yielded only two touchdowns.

           The Eagles don’t have a game this Sunday, so the media will focus not upon Kolb, not upon the receivers or running backs, not upon the Eagles defense, and certainly not upon the offensive line. “Rehabilitation” will be the key topic this week. It’ll be stories about Donovan McNabb’s recovery from his rib injury–and Vick’s “rehabilitation” from a life of animal cruelty, and his hoped-for march to another All-Pro appearance. It’s just a good thing there aren’t any live eagles as team mascots.

[Walter Brasch was a newspaper sports writer and sports editor in California, public affairs reporter and city editor in Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio. He is also a former multimedia writer-producer and magazine writer and editor. Currently, he is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. Dr. Brasch’s latest books are Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush and ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina, available at amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

Michael Vick: Remorseful Eagle or Smirking Dirty Bird

by Walter Brasch

           PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 28–The crowd at Lincoln Field gave superstar quarterback/convicted felon Michael Vick a standing ovation when he entered the game on the second play against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

           On his first play for the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick tossed an easy shovel pass for a four yard gain. “It was unbelievable the way I was embraced and the warm welcome I received,” Vick told the Associated Press after the game.

           In his other five plays, Vick completed three passes and rushed for a yard. Fans didn’t even boo him when a lateral was mishandled and led to a Jaguars touchdown.

           Although there had been heated discussions, especially on talk radio the previous two weeks, outside the stadium were only a few protestors. Most fans told each other, their bartenders, and any reporters within a hundred yard radius they were pleased that with Vick, once the NFL’s highest paid player when he was with the Atlanta Falcons but now a possible back-up quarterback to All-Pro Donovan McNabb, the Eagles could finally win the Super Bowl.

           As for Vick’s federal conviction on charges of running an illegal interstate dog fighting operation, of providing the financing not only for the operation but also for extensive gambling as well, of involvement with illegal drugs, and with knowing, condoning, and the probability that he was directly involved in the abuse, torture, and murder of dogs, the fans enthusiastically explained that Vick completed his federal prison term, was “redeemed,” and deserved a second chance, especially if it meant-yeah-a Super Bowl championship.

            These are the same fans who probably wouldn’t have embraced Vick if he was a second-string offensive guard who would never be an All-Pro. These are the same fans who once booed and threw snowballs at Santa during a half-time show. These are the fans who cheered when Dallas Cowboys’ receiver Michael Irvin went to the ground for 20 minutes in 1999 with what proved to be a career-ending cervical spinal cord injury. These are the fans whose actions during games led the Philadelphia Municipal Court to put a jail and courtroom into Veterans Stadium in 1997. Eagles Court was terminated six seasons later only when Lincoln Field, with an extensive security system, replaced the Vet.

           Michael Vick never saw Eagles Court, but in the U.S. District Court, Judge Henry Hudson said not only did Vick not cooperate fully with federal officials, as he promised, but that he failed both a drug test and a polygraph about what happened at Bad Newz Kennels and had not yet accepted full responsibility for “promoting, funding and facilitating this cruel and inhumane sporting activity.” Football Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely.

           At Leavenworth, where he completed 18 of his 20-month sentence, Vick claimed he realized the error of his ways and had found Jesus. But, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t want Vick back; most NFL teams also didn’t want him. The Eagles embraced him. For his part, Roger Goodell said if Vick showed remorse, he would allow him to play in the Eagles’ last two pre-season games, and would rule on Vick’s permanent reinstatement by the sixth game of the regular season.

           Professionals convicted of similar felonies, even if not directly related to their jobs, probably will not only lose their license but would have to wait far longer than six months after leaving prison to get it restored. Journalists who commit plagiarism, even if never sued or convicted, seldom get a second chance. Firefighters who commit arson and police officers convicted of taking bribes usually don’t get second chances. And, much of society has no compassion and won’t give a second chance to someone who was laid off, had significant medical bills, loses her house, becomes homeless, and must steal food. Even some athletes who did far less than Michael Vick don’t get a second chance. Pete Rose, who should be in baseball’s Hall of Fame, has a lifetime ban for having bet on sports, although there was no evidence that he neither bet against his team nor fixed a game.

           Nevertheless, count on Michael Vick being very remorseful for at least a few months, especially if he wants to collect all of his $1.6 million first season salary and a $5.2 million salary for the second season.

           At a press conference in August, Vick said he had “committed an act that was cruel and unethical and inhumane.” On CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” later that month, he said, he felt a “tremendous hurt behind what happened. And, you know, I should’ve took the initiative to stop it all. And I didn’t. And I feel so bad about that now. And I know that I didn’t. I didn’t step up. I wasn’t a leader.” It’s possible that Michael Vick is sincere, that he wishes to atone for what he did to others and to the animals that can not speak for themselves.

           Vick says he grew up in a culture that condoned dog fighting, with its brutality, gambling, and drugs. Lying, stealing, and running small cons were all part of his life. Apparently, he had no filters, nothing to tell him that what he was doing was not only illegal but immoral as well; however, others who grew up in that culture didn’t commit the crimes, even as juveniles, Vick did as an adult. Michael Vick could very well be a great actor, able to say the right things, with the right facial inflections to convince people he is remorseful and sincere, traits he may have developed over the first 27 years of his life. Whatever is in a person’s soul that permits him to torture and murder animals doesn’t quickly disappear because of a prison sentence and the public remorse that will lead to a job that may again make him a multi-millionaire.

[Walter M. Brasch-a former sports writer, sports editor, and public affairs/investigative reporter- is a university professor of journalism, social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. You may contact him at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

The Vick Controversy

Since the Eagles signed Michael Vick I’ve been running through my mind all the different emotions.  As a dedicated pet lover I was aghast when Vick’s pit bull fighting operation was exposed.  How anyone can mistreat animals is beyond my comprehension.  Vick did terrible things and paid a high price for his sins.  He did pay his debt to society however.

Of course that doesn’t mean he should continue playing in the NFL.  I would rather prefer he had to do honest labor such as construction.  He wasn’t a winner in Atlanta due to weak work ethics and a prima donna attitude.

The Eagles have become a haven for criminals of late with the drug crime sprees taken by coach Andy Reid’s sons.  He isn’t exactly a role model and signing Vick is beginning to give this team the bad character reputation of the Oakland Raiders.  I doubt this is what Philadelphia fans desire.

My first thought after digesting my disgust was what position Vick would play.  The team is set at quarterback.  The receivers are finally first rate so he must be going to back up Brian Westbrook somehow.

At the same time I was appalled at the NFL’s treatment of former Eagle Donte Stallworth.  Somehow killing dogs is a more serious offense tot he League than killing people.  Stallworth killed a man but only gets a one year suspension?  Man, these people have their priorities all screwed up.