Does Michael Vick Matter?

Ordinarily I shy away from blogging about sports. There are more than enough people who seem to live or die by what their favorite team or athlete does or doesn’t do.

Yet over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asked a bunch of times about Michael Vick, and what I think about his incarceration, suspension, reinstatement, and possible return to football. What’s startling to me is the passion the mere mention of the man’s name engenders, whether the person is a supporter or detractor.

Vick Surrenders Football

There’s really no reason to go over Vick’s dogfighting transgressions here. Right now the media frenzy isn’t over his conditional reinstatement, or even when he’ll play again. It’s who he’ll play for, and that question has become a parlor game in sports media. The coach of a team says he’d like to have Vick on his squad, the the general manager or owner says the exact opposite. It’s great summer theater.

Yet the central question is more about whether he’s deserving of playing football again, and, one expects, earning that multi-million dollar paycheck. On the one hand, you have the Vick supporters, some of whom argue the man has paid his debt to society, and therefore should be able to play immediately. I’ve also heard some people make the argument, “well, they were just dogs”. I take specific issue with that. Cruelty to animals ought not be taken lightly. What Vick did was reprehensible, and one hopes he understands that.

However, the argument that he’s done his time does tend to resonate. Maybe he should have gotten a longer sentence, but he didn’t. Should he be banned from making a living because people still are repulsed by what he did?

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One of Michael Vick's dogs

I don’t think so, not in this case. There are those who say he hasn’t been publicly contrite, or not contrite enough for them. That’s a tough one. How do you look inside a man’s heart, and determine if he’s really sorry for a wrong?

There is, by the way, something else looming over this entire debate . That would be the world of professional football. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell knows only too well that world has more than its share of miscreants, and to keep Michael Vick out of football for too long would invoke comparisons with past discipline meted out to others.

That’s why, on balance, Michael Vick got what he deserved. And he will play football again, not because some team is making a moral judgment one way or the other, but because they need that most precious of commodities, a seasoned quarterback.

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Animal rights groups may protest, but it won’t do any good. I say this as a dog lover myself, one who can’t conceive of the horror Vick inflicted on those animals.

What do you think. Will Michael Vick play in the NFL this season? Should he?

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We Lost Another Giant – Healthcare NOW advocate Marilyn Clement.

I’m fully aware that some of you do know, but longtime health care activist Marilyn Clement died Monday at the age of 74. Her list of accomplishments would take up this entire space, but suffice to say she was one of the nation’s greatest advocates for universal, single payer health care. This means she was talking about it a long time ago, before the current debate.

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Coretta Scott King and Marilyn Clement

And she spoke up for single payer, universal health care right up until her passing. Marilyn Clement was national co-ordinator for the organization Healthcare-NOW. Universal care was her passion. I consider it one of the missed opportunities of my career that I never had a chance to interview her. And yet, she shares a lot with many of the great people I’ve met in my life.

One word links them, selflessness. That is, to think of the greater good beyond what’s good for you. Marilyn Clement had this in abundance. Whether it was her work with the civil rights movement or helping fledgling organizations like Progressive Democrats of America, she did the work not for personal celebrity, but for regular, just plain folks.

Check out her speech at the Judson Memorial Church in New York back in June…

It was an event to honor her, but something struck me while watching it. Conservative groups that are trying to kill any type of health care reform (let alone single payer) constantly rally their troops. They send out e-mails that say keep up the fight, that progress is being made.

So it was with Marilyn Clement, though obviously in the opposite direction. She told that audience at Judson that we don’t have single payer yet, but eventually, we will. That the fight must be kept up, and so must the spirits of those waging the battle. She said those words knowing she wouldn’t live to see the result. To me, that’s the true definition of selflessness.

Let’s be clear. What passes the Congress and gets signed into law by President Obama won’t be single payer health care. Supporters like Cong. Henry Waxman say universal care could never pass the Congress. Still, because of the work of Marilyn Clement and those she inspired to get involve, universal, single payer care is closer than it’s been in my lifetime.

So, rest in peace, Marilyn Clement. I didn’t know you, but I am one of those who is grateful for all you did, and deeply mourn your passing. Your legacy is with those you’ve left behind to carry on your good work.

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Cash for Clunkers…cars… A New Partisan Fight?

It sure looks that way. The Cash for Clunkers program, which gives buyers of new, fuel efficient cars rebates of up to $4500 for turning in old gas guzzlers, has become a political football.

That should be no surprise. What’s interesting is the fighting now is directly because of the program’s popularity. The $1 billion dollars budgeted for the program has quickly run out. Now, the House has passed an additional $2 billion dollars, but the Senate may not follow suit.

So what’s not to like? New car sales during Cash for Clunkers have gone up, dealer inventory has dropped, and in theory, gas guzzling relics are leaving American roads.

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The problem, say Republican senators, is the cost and the fear on the part of people like John McCain that speculators are already abusing the program. In fact, he threatens to lead a filibuster against extending Cash for Clunkers any more money.

As usual, the McCains and Jim DeMints of the Congress are just saying no. Never mind that buyers exhausted all the money in the program in about a week. Never mind that Ford will post its first monthly sales increase since 2007. The point is to never give an inch, unless you absolutely have to. The government says it will continue the program until the Senate acts (or doesn’t), but like with health care, one has to ask why the GOP is so good at forging a united front, while Democrats seem to be hedging their bets.

To be sure, no one is saying Cash for Clunkers should go on forever, And yes, there have been some problems, like the government’s Website crashing, and too much paperwork. But still, it’s a popular program even has an environmental benefit (though no one’s talking about it).

Cash For Clunkers

Maybe this time Republicans are overreacting. It’s hard to argue with a program that offers a serious discount during times like these. Americans like Cash for Clunkers. Otherwise, the McCains and DeMints would be arguing it was a bad idea in the first place.

So give it the extra $2 billion, and let it run its course. More than that the Republicans might have a point. US car buyers know that nothing is forever, not zero percent financing, not employee pricing, and certainly not Cash for Clunkers. It’s a shot in the arm the economy could use, and, more importantly, you can’t treat every Obama Administration initiative like it’s health care.

But the Republicans should know that by now, shouldn’t they?

What do you think? More Cash for Clunkers, or no?

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