September 24, 2009


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Good Food: ‘What did you expect?’

I do not agree with R. Zinser, who wrote in last week against the new Good Food Market on Willow Grove Avenue. We desperately need something besides Pathmark in this community where we can get real, healthy food, not just that stuff with loads of additives that’s boxed and packaged thousands of miles away. From what I have heard, Jennifer Zoga is the kind of person who will fill this need in a professional way that does no harm to anyone.

I can understand the part about the lack of parking, but when you buy a house on a busy street like Willow Grove Avenue, shouldn’t you take that into consideration? It’s like buying a house on Germantown Avenue and then complaining that there’s too much traffic. Well, what did you expect?

Anthony Garofalo
Chestnut Hill


Concerned about settlement

The recent steps the CHCA board has taken to resolve Rob Remus’ threatened liable claim coupled with Walter Sullivan’s piece in last week’s Local have me concerned.

First, I don’t understand why the board did not insist that Mr. Remus resign his position with the CHCA as part of the settlement agreement. At best, all accounts indicate that Mr. Remus is at least guilty of making poor decisions and overstepping the bounds of civil decorum that should guide the behavior of any CHCA board member.

What’s more shocking is that Mr. Remus is now being rewarded by CHCA leadership with a nomination to the Budget and Finance Committee. Remember, the settlement is neither an admission of wrongdoing or a verdict of innocent or guilty on the part of any of the involved parties. It’s hush money, plain and simple.

Robert Slack
Mt. Airy

Editor’s Note:

The following letters condemning Michael Vick, all in response to John Russo’s counter opinion of Sept. 17, allege many things about the current Eagle quarterback’s behavior leading to his 2007 federal conviction for dog fighting.

I’m not worried about libeling Vick. Nothing anyone could say in this paper would harm his reputation (though it’s clear many of the following letter writers do have sufficient malice towards the man).  But, given the remarkable charges in the following letters, I thought some facts were necessary.

According to the statement of facts offered by federal prosecutors at the time of Vick’s guilty plea, Vick never admitted to killing any dogs. Federal prosecutors did not charge him with killing dogs, either. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison for charges relating to the conspiracy of funding and operating his dog fighting operation. This includes buying and owning the property used for the dog fighting operation, buying the dogs to be used in that operation and for running the affiliated gambling ring.

He was not charged with killing animals and never admitted to doing so.

Also, killing and torturing animals is not a felony in Virginia (where Vick’s Bad Newz Kennel operated). It is, instead a class 1 misdemeanor, unless it is a second offense or the animal is a “companion.” In those cases, an offender can be charged with a class 6 felony.


Animal abusers often abuse kids

To answer John Russo (Sept. 17), who insists that Michael Vick is an OK guy because he “only” tortured and killed dogs and not children, according to a 1997 study done by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University, animal abusers are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people and four times more likely to commit property crimes than are individuals without a history of animal abuse.

Their conclusion: “Abusing an animal is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend itself.” Rape is also “a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves.” The same principle applies to child abuse, of course.

Virtually every serious violent offender has a history of animal abuse in his past, and since there’s no way to know which animal abuser is going to commit violent human crimes, they should all be taken that seriously.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Allen Brantley was quoted as saying, “Animal cruelty is not a harmless venting of emotion in a healthy individual; this is a warning sign.” It’s a clear indicator of psychological issues that can and often do lead to more violent human crimes.

Those who abuse animals for no obvious reason, like Michael Vick, are “budding psychopaths.” They have no empathy and only see the world for what it’s going to do for them. What do you think, Mr. Russo? Do you feel there is enough evidence to support a link between animal abuse and violence towards humans, or is it all just propaganda by the tree-huggers?

Adina Silberstein
Queenie’s Pets
Mt. Airy


Murder of animals can’t be defended

John Russo seems to think (Sept. 17) that what Michael Vick did in torturing and killing dogs was no big thing because dogs are, after all, not human beings. Well, distinguished law professor Gary Francione, an enlightened and progressive thinker from the animal rights position, once wrote, “Sentience or the ability to feel pain is the only characteristic that should be required for personhood — one’s status as a being with intrinsic moral value and as a being not to be treated as a thing.” In suffering, animals are our equals, philosopher Peter Singer has said. Eligibility for personhood should be a given for animals. I believe that Francione would have no qualm using the term “murder” to characterize the despicable acts of Vick and his accomplices, cowards all.

It was Leonardo de Vinci who said, “…the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”

Further, having just read the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report from the Office of Inspector General following an investigation into Vick, I am even more outraged.  Participants actually derived pleasure from torturing and killing dogs. Child killer Arthur J. Shawcross also tortured and killed animals and liked to watch them suffer, according to his cousin. According to the FBI, animal cruelty often moves in a very ominous direction — as a gateway to human-directed violence. The evidence is overwhelming, even though Russo can’t see it. Social thinker, moralist and author of “War and Peace,” Leo Tolstoy, wrote, “It’s only a step from the murder of animals to the murder of humans.” Better keep an eye on Michael Vick, Mr. Russo.

Bridget Irons
Chestnut Hill


A ‘deranged, evil beast’ and ‘coward’

In a letter this week (Sept. 17), John Russo stated that because Michael Vick didn’t kill people, his killing of dogs “wasn’t murder,” and he asked readers to think about “Ted Kennedy, whose actions led to the death of a woman but who went on to become a fine senator.”

I would like to remind Mr. Russo that Michael Vick personally enjoyed torturing and killing living creatures for over six years, and he even paid people to do the same. He didn’t do this once and get caught. His own father was quoted in the Atlanta Journal Constitution as saying, “This is Mike’s thing — he likes it.”

You cannot compare someone who drove drunk one time to someone who tortured animals for over six years. Everyone is entitled to make a mistake, but Vick did not make a “mistake.” He was addicted to torturing animals, and did so every chance he got. 

Michael Vick is sadistic and a sociopath. He once had it all with a $130 million dollar contract with the Atlanta Falcons, but that wasn’t enough for him. His deranged mind craved blood and violence. He enjoyed electrocuting dogs by shoving wires into their rectums or beating them to death himself. Their cries of pain brought Vick pleasure.

He is an evil beast with deranged mental wiring. Healthy minds do not cross the line into the savagery that comprised his daily living. Animal abuse is a well-documented common denominator among serial killers and criminal minds. Animals — like women, children the elderly and the infirm — are easy targets. Vick is a coward who preyed on the weak. He is not a role model; he is a failed human being. 

Vick cannot vote or serve in our military, but he can make $1.6 million dollars to run around with a leather ball. The Eagles organization has sacrificed its morality, respectability and responsibility in the name of profits.

Brenda Malinics
Chestnut Hill


Respect is owed to all God’s creatures

I truly feel sorry for John Russo of Glenside, who apparently never learned the lesson that all of us should have been taught as children at home, school and church — that we all have a duty to care for and respect all of God’s creatures, And most of all, those who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly, the sick, children and animals. Russo has made it clear that he thinks it’s no big thing for someone like Michael Vick to torture and murder dogs.

From 1993 to 1999, I was a volunteer for a pet therapy organization in St. Louis called Fuzzy Friends. I lived in St. Louis for nine years before moving to Chestnut Hill. We would take therapy dogs into nursing homes, children’s cancer wards of hospitals, etc. Unless you see it, you cannot imagine how much joy those dogs and cats brought into the lives of those very sick children and elderly people.

More than once, a nursing home supervisor told us that a particular patient in her ‘80s had not smiled in months until we placed a puppy with a wagging tail in her lap. Over and over again, we saw the magic that can be brought into a damaged life from a small, innocent creature that has nothing but trust and unconditional love to offer — qualities that are not so easy to find in human beings.

It is indeed disheartening, to say the least, that there are those like Mr. Russo in our community who feel that these sweet, loving creatures can be tortured and murdered by evil people, and if one of those cruel sociopaths can score touchdowns, that’s really all that counts.

Arlene Baranowski
Chestnut Hill


Responsible for children’s deaths

In response to John Russo’s letter (Sept. 17), I am not a member of any animal rights organization, nor do I equate my dogs with children. Not even close. However, there is one similarity between children and animals that you overlook in your letter of two weeks ago. They cannot stand up for themselves. They are ready victims for unscrupulous men like Vick.

You also say Vick did not kill any children, which certainly is true in a narrow sense. However, multiple multi-year studies have identified “pit bulls” as being both the breed most likely to bite and most likely to bite fatally, accounting for about one-third of fatal dog bites. (One source of these statistics is Many “pits” are kind, loving dogs, but many — and most likely those bred by people like Vick, bred, born and taught to fight — are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.

Children are the most common victims of dog bites, and among the least able to defend themselves. So who can say Vick and others like him have not been responsible (if indirectly) for the death of children?

Finally, that sort of criminal behavior has led to a “bad rap” for the breed, leading to homeowners’ insurance being dropped for owners, laws restricting ownership of the breed, etc. So even responsible owners and breeders are injured by the likes of Vick.

Yes, football players are grown men who willingly engage in a senseless sport with the hope of making fortunes. If they are injured, it was by choice. As long as Vick stays in that arena and out of the dog fight business, I don’t have a major complaint. Can’t promise I’ll EVER cheer for him, though.

Linda Smith


Dogs more selfless than human beings

Mr. Russo’s remarks (Sept. 17 letter) sadden me. Although, I am aware not all people have the fortune of being touched deeply by the mystery and magic that resides in all of life, I am not alone in thinking that every living thing has feelings. It always astounds me when I am reminded that I live in a world where people continue to look down on animals as “less than” human.

Russo is dead-on right that “dogs are NOT people,” although I have found the very rare person who comes close to the selflessness I have seen in dogs. No one human in my personal experience is equal to it. But seriously, why is it that not being human would be our only point of measurement in determining whether or not animals deserve to be protected from emotionally wounded humans who consciously choose to abuse, threaten or kill them for the sole purpose of entertainment or money?

Dr. Irene Pepperberg has revealed the startling awareness of “Alex” the African Grey parrot who demonstrated the ability to read images his handler saw while isolated in a windowless, environmentally controlled building across the complex.

And biologist Stacey O’Brien lived with and studied an owl named Wesley for 19 years who experienced the same phenomenon. Wesley “read” images she held in her mind. The study of emotions and intelligence of animals is not new, and the proof abounds. Did you know that there is a dog in Chestnut Hill who has been on Montel Williams (and I believe Oprah) for discerning cancer in his human partner who lived thanks to his insistence?

What really makes us so different? We feel physical pain; so do they. We have desire for pleasant experiences; so do they. Frankly, we are animals ourselves. If we are indeed “above” animals, then wouldn’t that make us their stewards? By that very definition, wouldn’t it then be our duty to ensure their safety?

Diane Collins


Basement ripoff same as Todd’s

I laughed so much reading Mike Todd’s article today (“How to go broke fast; let Barf into your basement”). I signed up for a “Free” basement “do-over” also at one of the Chestnut Hill festivals, and we had the same experience with the same price and reduction after my husband almost threw the guy out. What a racket. Yes. My husband had a fit as we sat for over two hours listening to this salesman

Mags Sowter
Chestnut Hill


Busking memories

I really enjoy Jim Harris’ twisted, funny take on life, but his article in today’s paper (“Playing music on South Street no way to get rich”) really struck a chord.

You might say I’m an old hippie, and in the ‘70s I was part of a band that also did “busking” (playing for tips on the street) in Columbus, Ohio, when I was a graduate student at Ohio State University. His article brought back fun memories.

We sure did not make much money, but we sure did have fun. We became minor celebrities on campus, and I have a lot better memories of playing music on the street than of all the final exams that were so stressful.

Arthur Huntz
Chestnut Hill


Green Earth is wonderful

Recently, we had to have some of our neighbors’ trees pruned back off of our property. Wyndmoor is a wonderful town filled with lots of very tall trees, as is Chestnut Hill. It’s part of what gives our towns so much character. Streets lined with very tall, old trees.

However, with so many storms this summer, it also makes you aware of the dangers that can lurk with these very tall trees surrounding our homes. It was time to take matters into our own hands with regard to Mother Nature.

If you have had the experience of dealing with Ken LeRoy from Green Earth you’ll understand why I decided I just had to write. He cares about the character of our towns. He cares about our trees. He and his crew did a wonderful job balancing out a big beautiful Beech tree that  had completely over-shadowed our patio over the years.

Not only do we now have sunlight in this area, but our fears have been eliminated in the event of further storms. Ken has also seen to it that our big old Black Walnut tree that has been sick with a fungus continues to thrive in his care.

Green Earth Enterprises of Lafayette Hill not only protects the character of our towns, but our wallets too.

Terri O’Donnell