Obama Praises Vick Ahead of “Wuss” Bowl; Pakistani Problems

“Wuss” Bowl Stars Obama’s Pick Vick

"He said, 'So many people who serve time never get a fair second chance.’ He was ... passionate about it. He said it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail.''

-- Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie relaying to Sports Illustrated President Obama’s praise to him for signing quarterback Michael Vick despite Vick’s conviction on dog-fighting charges.

First Fan Barack Obama took time to call Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to praise Lurie’s decision to sign Michael Vick after Vick’s 2009 completion of a 21-month federal sentence for being part of a dog-fighting ring.

Lurie, a major Democratic donor, gushed about the call to Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King, saying how good it felt to be recognized for “our faith in giving someone a second chance.”
While the White House said that the purpose of the call was to congratulate Lurie for a plan to install wind turbines and solar panels at Lincoln Financial Field, a spokesman did confirm that the president talked about Vick and restated the president’s position on the need for ex-convicts to find opportunities for rehabilitation.

Vick, second on the all-time rushing list for NFL quarterbacks, and the recipient of a $1.5 million bonus on top of a contract worth $5 million this year, is hardly typical of most of the folks rotating out of America’s prisons. But his return to mainstream acceptability following public outrage over an extensive dog-fighting ring has been a favorite story in the sports press. ESPN even had a reality series.

The ex-cons looking for gigs after being in the joint aren’t generally subjects of bidding wars. Some team was going to hire Michael Vick and make millions from his high profile and prodigious talents. The same is not true of the guy looking for a dish washing job after prison. Obama may feel Lurie has done a good deed, but it is one for which the Eagles owner has profited handsomely.

Vick has returned to his pre-prison form on the field, winning the starting job in Philly and is on track to surpass his best performance with the Atlanta Falcons, the team that dropped him after the charges emerged. He has led the team to a 10-4 record and a playoff berth as the NFC East division champions.

But many remain unsatisfied that Vick, who had a string of legal troubles before the conviction, and failed a drug test while on bail, is a deserving recipient of the wealth and praise that have come with his return. Animal rights activists are particularly incensed that Vick, who backed the dog fighting enterprise called “barbaric” on the floor of the U.S. Senate, has so quickly returned to mainstream acceptance.

In an interesting twist, the next game for the Eagles comes tonight because of the snowstorm that walloped the East Coast on Sunday. The NFL cancelled the Sunday game between the Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings because of snow, a decision that in itself has touched off a blizzard of controversy.

"We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game?” Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Monday on radio station 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. “People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down."

Power Play has never seen street corner calculus in Philadelphia, but has seen quick computations on the cost of a Pat’s Cheesesteak “wit” by even the most inebriated football fans, so maybe the governor is underestimating the computational skills of his citizens.

But many agree with Rendell’s sentiment that founding fathers of the NFL, like Vince Lombardi, would blanch at the thought of canceling a game because of snow. If you play football outside in Philadelphia in December it seems like a contingency you would prepare for.

Either way, tonight’s “Wuss” Bowl will feature Vick, lauded for not getting back into trouble for nearly two years after a major federal felony conviction, versus the Vikings, led by QB Brett Favre, currently in trouble for allegedly sending pictures of his genitals to a sideline reporter/nude model. Favre is considered unlikely to start because of a series on concussions and other ailments, but the game marks what is likely his last chance for an NFL appearance because the decrepit Vikings did not make the playoffs.

Pakistani Government on the Ropes

"We are giving the PPP time to before making any decision of sitting in the opposition.”

-- Haider Abbas Rizvi, senior member of Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement, announcing his party’s departure from Pakistan’s ruling coalition.

Beset by allegations of corruption and claims that his government is a puppet of the United States, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is watching the tenuous political coalition he built after the 2007 murder of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, crumble.

Pakistan has mostly been ruled by its military throughout its 63-year history and Zardari, widely dismissed as a playboy and a kept man prior to his wife’s assassination, may not be able to maintain civilian control.

America’s medium-term interests in the region wouldn’t necessarily be damaged by a return to military rule. While many American intelligence figures have complained that the Pakistani military is sympathetic to the jihadis, with whom they share a common enemy in India, the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharaf proved a generally dependable ally in the fight against the Taliban.

But the deep concern is that a regime more hostile to American interests might emerge or that as Zardari clings to power he might become more resistant to the increased U.S. military operations in his country.

This is the moment of truth for Zardari. His coalition is fraying fast and his country is turning against the government. The irony is that while Zardari relies on American aid to deal with the nations’ persistent poverty, that same dependence makes him open to charges of being a Western pawn.

Anything that goes wrong in a nuclear-armed Central Asian nation of 170 million Muslims can go seriously wrong indeed.

Bailed Out Banks Still Staggering

"It just shows the weakness of the government's selection process and the weakness of the banking sector in general."

-- Linus Wilson, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who has analyzed TARP data, quoted by the Washington Post.

The number of bank failures continues unabated, and new reports suggest that federal bailout funds haven’t prevented many small institutions from further collapses.

The Wall Street Journal found 98 banks that received a combined $4.2 billion in bailout funds are in danger of failing. The Washington Post reports that the number of banks behind on their repayments to the bailout fund climbed from fewer than 60 last year to 132 this year.

In all, there are 860 listed by FDIC as troubled. Of those, 78 are identified as “troubled” by the agency, up from 47 at the end of 2009. In all, 157 banks have failed this year.

So what gives? Isn’t the economy getting better?

Reveled in the reports are two trends.

First, that the bailout money was in many cases shoveled out without much scrutiny. Sick banks that should have been closed under FDIC standards got money.

Second, that the TARP money did not produce the burst in lending it’s architects hoped because banks were so hard up. The money may have prevented a worse bank panic, but only delayed the inevitable for many institutions.

Lesson to Oligarchs: Don’t Make Vlad Mad

“Today's conviction in the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and [former business associate] Platon Lebedev on charges of embezzlement and money laundering raises serious questions about selective prosecution — and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations.”

-- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement.

In a trial that didn’t pass the international sniff test on due process, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly Russia’s richest oligarch, was convicted of money laundering and tax evasion.
Khodorovsky has been cooling his heels in jail for seven years as his empire, created from state-owned resources after the fall of the Communist regime, was parceled out to his competitors in favor with the Kremlin.

Khodorovsky was using his wealth to push back against Vladimir Putin’s increasing hold on power in Russia. While many suspect that he was seeking power for himself rather than power for the people, the fact that anyone of such power and profile was targeted, jailed and now convicted in such a fashion has had a chilling effect on those thinking of piping up.

The Obama administration denounced the trial and conviction, but the Putin regime seemed unfazed. Does the rest button only go in one direction?

And Now, A Word From Charles

“Well, my sources inside the White House are as good as my sources inside the inner circle of Kim Jong-il. But It appears to me that he is not a guy who likes to fire people, especially people near to him. I don't see anyone in the cabinet he is itching to get rid of someone.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” discussing potential post-midterm changes at the Obama White House.