Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More pain, and anger

It is the same, sad picture that has become all too familiar.

A long line of blue heading into the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

Once again, the thin blue line is gathering today to bury one of their own.

But behind the sadness over the death of Highway Patrolman Patrick McDonald, there is a real, palpabale anger.

McDonald was the fifth city officer slain in the line of duty in just the past three years. A total of nine Philly police officers were shot in the last year.

That police are burying one of their own so soon after performing the same sad task is incredibly sad.

But there is anger as well, and it’s focused squarely on why the man who shot McDonald before being gunned down by other officers was on the street in the first place.

Daniel Giddings was a free man courtesy of the state Board of Probation and Parole. Giddings was 27. He had his first brush with the law at age 10. While behind bars, he racked up a dizzying series of violations.

Yet he was still approved for parole after serving 10 years of a 12-year sentence in connection with a violent carjacking.

His release prompted a protest yesterday by Philadelphia police, led by a clearly irate Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Mayor Michael Nutter. They demanded an end to such early releases.

Their howls of anger have been heard. And they’ve gotten action.

Yesterday former mayor and now Gov. Ed Rendell temporarily halted paroles for violent offenders and named a Temple University professor to lead a review of parole procedures.

It’s a good first step.

Daniel Giddings never should have been out on the street. He was doing time for a 1998 robbery and aggravated assault. On Aug. 18 he was released to a halfway house as part of his parole. It didn’t take him long to revert to his violent behavior. He fled the halfway house after a week and within a month had been involved in a confrontation with police. He was wanted on those charges when he was stopped by Officer McDonald.

Giddings had vowed he would not go to prison. After a chase and shootout, he stood over a wounded McDonald and executed the fallen officer, firing several more shots into him.

Daniel Giddings will never be eligible for parole again. He died in a subsequent shootout with police after killing Officer McDonald.

It won’t bring back the fallen officer. It will not ease the pain felt through the region today.

But the move to take another look at the way parole is granted in this state is the right call.

So that we never have to go through this horror again.

Bucks stop here

If you’re still having trouble getting a feel for just how much $700 billion is, I have some even more frightening numbers for you.

That $700 billion is the cost of the economic bailout plan concocted by President Bush and his financial gurus to get the U.S. banking industry out of a sea of red ink tied to bad mortgages and other lousy decisions.

After urging quick passage on the measure, Bush had to sit and watch as House Republicans revolted, shooting down the measure 228-205.

As it became clear the rescue effort was going to be rejected, Wall Street began to nosedive. When the smoke cleared the Dow was off 777 points. That’s the largest one-day decline in market history, although not when you consider it as a percentage of the market’s worth. It was a 7 percent decline.

Now comes the really scary part. In those heart-rending couple of hours, more than $1 trillion in securities value disappeared.

It’s just paper, right? It’s not real. It doesn’t affect me and you.

Uh, think again. Do you have a 401K? Is your nest egg invested in funds that are heavily tied to stocks. Brace yourself. You just got hit.

At this point, you might not want to look at those 401K numbers.

The mantra in these situations, with the market in a freefall, is that the best option is to do nothing. To hang in there and wait for the market to rebound. They always say the worst thing to do is sell in a downturn. That, of course, assumes there is going to be a rebound.

Want to hear something really scary? This morning, for the first time, I’m actually hearing some experts talking about how it might be time to get out. That’s especially true, they say, if you’re not comfortable with the idea of waiting for that turnaround.

Remember that old saw about stashing the money under the mattress? Suddenly it’s not so funny.

Running for cover

For the past couple years, Eagles fans have begged, cajoled and in some instances demanded that Andy Reid run the ball more.

Sunday night they got their wish. How did that work out?

With the game in the balance, the Eagles stood on the precipice of a dramatic come-from-behind win that would propel them to a 3-1 start and cement their position among the NFL’s elite.

The Birds had the ball inside the Bears’ 5-yard line. A running play moved the ball to the 1.

That’s when the normally pass-happy Reid decided to change course.

So you’re thinking he would utilize what most people view as a slam dunk, his 245-pound quarterback, and have Donovan McNabb sneak the ball that final, agonizing yard.

Uh, not exactly.

Maybe Andy would fool everyone, have Donovan play-fake, sucker everyone with a running play, then have Donovan waltz around that now-undefended end on a bootleg? Or maybe pull up after the play fake and hit his tight end all alone in the end zone?

One thing we know: He wasn’t going to be able to hand the ball to rocket-man Brian Westbrook and watch him launch himself up and over the mosh pit on the line into the end zone. Westbrook was standing on the sidelines in civvies.

No, instead McNabb handed the ball off three more times, first to Tony Hutn and then to backup Correll Buckhalter. Twice. Hunt missed a hole inside, bounced outside and was quickly swarmed under. On third down Buckhalter tried a Westbrook-like vault, only to come up short. On fourth down the Eagles tried to go the smash-mouth route, handing the ball to Buckhalter on a straight dive play. One missed block later, Buckhalter was wrapped up pretty much where the ball was snapped.

Four straight running plays. Zero touchdowns. Another bitter loss and a 2-2 record.

Now Reid and the Eagles are “running” for cover.

There’s another issue not being addressed here. In the two losses the Eagles have suffered this year, Reid and McNabb had control of the situation in the final agonizing moments.

And both times they have failed to get the job done. When the Eagles win, they usually do so comfortably. Occasionally they will get blown out.

But in a close game, with the money on the table, do you still want Reid and McNabb calling the shots? The doubts are growing bigger each time the Eagles fail to seal the deal.

And that’s not something the team can run away from by questioning a missed blocking assignment, a missed field goal, or someone who is not holding that giant laminated card on the sidelines each Sunday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Daily Numbers - September 29

The Daily Numbers: 10,000 people who registered for playoff tickets in the Phillies lottery for their first two possible playoff series.

45,000 tickets already sold for the Phils’ playoff games.

3,455,583 ticket holders who went through the gates into Citizens Bank Park this year, a team record.

700 billion dollars, how much is at stake in the economic bailout plan that’s been agreed to in principle in Washington.

45 age of Bucks County woman who will be in court today to face charges that she had sex with several teen boys at what started as a sleepover.

1.375 million dollars, the price tag the state received for selling a 1981 Beech King Air 200 airplane.

41 age of funeral director in Lancaster County who will face trial on charges that he beat and drowned his wife.

4 rooms in City Hall in Philadelphia that were damaged in a weekend fire that broke out in a judge’s office.

5 suspects that go on trial today on charges they plotted to attack soldiers at Ford Dix.

17 age of senior football player at Martin Luther King High who died of a MRSA staph infection.

2 men shot on a South Philly street early Sunday morning. Police believe they may have been shot by a person they were trying to rob.

300 million dollars in mortgage bonds being sold by Peco Energy Co.

255 million dollar tower being planned for Atlantic City by Donald Trump. It will have 782 rooms.

4 people killed in a helicopter crash outside Washington, D.C. over the weekend.

27 percent decline in Wachovia bank stock on Friday. It is now getting bids from other banks in takeover plans. It appears as if CitiBank will take over Wachovia.

2 straight National League East division titles for the Phils.

2 days until the Phils and Brewers kick off their NLDS at Citizens Bank Park.

2 missed field goals for Eagles kicker David Akers.

3 straight tries from the 1-yard-line that the Eagles failed to punch in for the winning touchdown last night.

2 wins and 2 losses for the Eagles, good enough to put them in last place in the NFC East.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s one of those moments that we will remember forever as Phillies fans. So where were you and what were you doing when Jimmy Rollins saved the season with that miraculous stop behind the bag that started the double-play that ended the game?


I Don’t Get It: Another star has been popped for driving under the influence. Heather Locklear was arrested over the weekend for suspicion of driving under the influence. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Here’s another reason to look forward to the Super Bowl. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will provide the entertainment in Tampa this year. Now if only the Eagles also were there.


Quote Box: “The economy is horrendous, the worst since 1929.”

-- Donald Trump, on these challenging times, which will not stop him from building a $255 million, 782-room tower in Atlantic City.

One game short of perfection

We approached sports perfection this weekend. Then Andy Reid and the Eagles got involved.

First the Phillies clinched their second straight National League East crown with one of those plays that simply will forever be etched in the minds of Phillies’ fans.

Jimmy Rollins’ gem diving into the hole behind second base to smother what looked like a base hit with the bases loaded that could have put the Nationals ahead, will be one of those moments Phillies’ faithful will remember with unbridled joy for years.

It wiped out that knot in your stomach, that déjà vu that after successfully closing the door on 40 straight save opportunities, Brad Lidge was having the wheels come off at the worst possible time.

Rollins to Utley to Howard.

And on to October.

It was perfection. Or at least part of it. A few minutes later, the Florida Marlins were driving a stake into the heart of the New York Mets. “Shea Goodbye,” Mets fans. On the last game ever played at their decrepit stadium, the Mets completed their second straight epic collapse. Just like last year, they coughed up their shot at the playoffs on the last day of the season.

A click of the remote then revealed the delightful images of the hated Dallas Cowboys falling from the ranks of the unbeaten in front of their home fans.

Then Andy Reid and the Eagles got involved. So much for perfection.

The Bears did everything they could to hand this game to the Eagles last night. And Reid and the Eagles kept spitting it right back at them.

After a pretty good first half the Bears decided to hibernate after halftime. They turned the ball over four times. And still the Eagles could not win a game that was theirs for the taking.

All eyes will focus on the Eagles’ last series, when they failed to punch the fall in on three straight plays from the 1-yard line. Andy Reid, who never met a pass he didn’t like, and who insists on putting the game in Donovan McNabb’s hands, instead decided to feature Tony Hunt and Correll Buckhalter. How’d that work out? A quarterback sneak with McNabb simply falling forward might have done the trick, but Reid apparently believed his QB was so banged up from last week that he didn’t want to put him in that position. I guess it didn’t bother him nearly as much to have McNabb drop back and throw the ball 41 times.

This is the spot where Brian Westbrook often launches himself over the line and into the end zone. Only problem with that is that Westbrook was in civilian clothes on the sideline, resting an achy ankle.

Buckhalter tried the same act, and came up woefully short. The next play, he tried again to stuff it into the end zone, running behind the spot where Shawn Andrews is usually clearing space. The only problem with that was that Andrews was not even in Chicago. He was back in Philly nursing a sore back.

That was the key moment of the game, but it wasn’t the only downer. David Akers did not exactly help, missing two lengthy field goals that would have meant a win instead of a kick-in-the-gut loss.

It also was not the best of nights for rookie DeSean Jackson, who muffed a punt in the first half that led to an easy touchdown for the Bears, then later did not seem to be on the same page with McNabb on a route that ended with McNabb throwing the ball directly to a Bears’ safety.

The loss drops the Eagles to 2-2. Oh, it also dumps them into the cellar into the suddenly “cream of the NFL” NFC East.

Perfection? Not exactly. The Eagles could have won this game with mediocre, but they didn’t get it done.

Now they host the Redskins next weekend at the Linc in what is looking like an early must win for the Eagles to keep pace in the NFC East.

Forget perfection. We’ll settle for any kind of win. And the same goes for the Phils, who also could be playing Game 4 of their series in Milwaukee.

We had our shot at perfection yesterday. The stars seemed to be aligned.

Then Andy Reid and the Eagles strode out onto Soldier Field in Chicago and threw mud all over our Mona Lisa of a sports weekend.

A Thursday night to remember

Here’s something for all you combination political junkies and die-hard Philly sportsfans to start pondering.

Better clear your calendar for Thursday night.

The Phillies will kick things off with Game Two of their National League Divisional Series against the Brewers. Game time at Citizens Bank Park is 6 p.m.

That’s the key here.

If the game runs to form, it will be coming down to crunch time about three hours later.

I can see it now, Brad Lidge is walking to the mound … just as Gov. Sarah Palin is walking onto the stage for her much-anticipated vice presidential debate against Sen. Joe Biden.

That’s right. The VP candidates are set to square at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. It’s slated to begin at 9 p.m.

Palin warmed up for her big moment in the spotlight by hanging around Philly this weekend.

So what do you do, stay with the Phillies or flip over to the debate. Use the remote to click over to Palin vs. Biden in between pitches? Use picture in picture?

I guess that why they invented the VRC, or DVR.

Let’s be optimists. Maybe the Phils don’t even need Lidge. They’re pounding the Brew Crew. That will clear the decks for the Veep debate.

For Sarah Palin, this just might be her own version of the playoffs.

One meltdown averted; you might not be so lucky

The nation has been saved. Or at least the economic part of it. Or so we’re told.

Our fearless leaders in Washington, D.C., have peered over the edge into the abyss and decided to bail.

That is they have come to an agreement on a $700 billion economic bailout plan.

I am still staggering under this number. For the life of me, I have no idea what exactly $700 billion looks like. And I think that’s part of the problem.

Somehow, when you start tossing around these kinds of numbers, you lose grip with reality.

When you’re standing beside your car at the gas station watching the numbers click past $40 to fill your tank, that’s real.

When you’re in the supermarket and have your hands on a box of cereal that’s approaching $5, that’s real.

When you decide against going out to dinner because you just don’t have the spare cash you used to be able to scrounge together each week after paying the bills, that’s a reality check.

But there’s nothing real about $700 billion. It’s all play money. Wall Street will be saved. The financial gurus whose decisions put us in this precarious position will walk away with their pockets lined with cash, seemingly oblivious to what they are leaving behind.

This morning President Bush will address the nation on the deal hammered out in Washington, D.C. He no doubt will hail the bipartisan effort to head off an “economic meltdown.”

That’s as opposed to what happens to your family budget every week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

How about those Philies!

That's my way of skirting the issue just a tad when it comes to my Birds.

OK, I'm officially impressed. I'm also officially 1-2 in the prognostication business. This Eagles team is clearly better than I thought. A lot better.

In fact, the Eagles are part of a shift in power in the NFL. The three best teams in the NFL just might play in the NFC East, with the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants. And the Redskins might not be that far behind.

The old order of AFL superiority fell under what could only be called a blitz-krieg.

Jim Johnson ordered up a hornet's nest of blitzes that left Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers battered and bruised.

I think the Steelers played right into the Eagles' hands, for some reason abandoning the run and allowing Johnson to turn loose the dogs.

Now it's on to Chicago, and a Sunday night game with the Bears.

If you haven't noticed, the Steelers weren't the only team to limp out of Lincoln Financial Field last week. The Eagles also have their share of injuries. Donovan McNabb did not practice most of the week. Neither did Brian Westbrook. While McNabb will be behind center Sunday night, I would not expect to see Westbroook. L.J. Smith and Shawn Andrews look like they both could miss the Bears game.

This game likely will rest on the right arm of Donovan McNabb, and the ability of the Eagles defense to repeat last week's mauling.

It says here the Birds scratch and claw their way to a win. It likely won't be easy, or flashy, but it will put them at 3-1, a very good start.

Eagles prevail, 16-10. They are one botched handoff away from being 4-0.

Yep, they're better than I thought they were. A lot better.

Now excuse me as I head back to the land of Phillies Phever!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Daily Numbers - September 26

The Daily Numbers: 90 age of legendary Delco sports figure Mickey Vernon, who died this week after suffering a stroke.

2 American League batting titles and 7 All-Star appearances for Vernon, the native of Marcus Hook.

1 park that bears Vernon’s name in his hometown, along with a statue of the famous ballplayer.

8,000 dollars, how much ‘Team Danny,’ a group of Cardinal O’Hara students, raise each year at the annual Parkway Run for Children’s Cancer Research. They do it in the name of classmate Dan Hammond, who is battling the disease.

3.7 million dollars that has been raised already in the campaigns for the three state row offices up for grabs in November.

100 billion dollars being sought by Gov. Ed Rendell from the feds to rebuild state roads and bridges. Rendell figures if they have $700 billion for an economic bailout, they can help us rebuild our infrastructure.

3 gunmen being sought for holding up a Dunkin Donuts in Philadelphia. It’s the same store where a Philadelphia police officer was gunned down when he walked in on another robbery last October.

11 million dollar cash offer for the Boscov’s department store chain. The deal is now in limbo after a hearing in Delaware bankruptcy court was delayed.

4 pit bulls that were found in deplorable condition inside a Philadelphia home.

16 Bucks County Coffee franchises that are being bought out by Saxbys Coffee Worldwide.

7 year high for the nation’s jobless rate announced yesterday. Another 32,000 people filed for jobless benefits in the week ending Sept. 20.

5 million dollar donation for the Please Touch Museum and their new home made by Campbell soup heir Dorrance Hamilton.

1 in every 100 drivers likely to have a collision with a deer, according to a study done by Eric Insurance Co. They claim the rate is actually down from years past.

700 billion dollars economic rescue plan that is still being debated today in Washington, D.C.

9 p.m., when tonight’s scheduled first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama is scheduled to begin. Whether McCain will show is still debatable.

52 to 37 percent lead for John McCain over Barack Obama among men in the latest Franklin & Marshall national poll of voters.

3.59 a gallon, average price of gas in the Philly region, that’s down another penny overnight.

3 days and 3 games left in the regular season for the Phillies, who have 3 with the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

1 game lead for the Phils over the Mets, who won in dramatic fashion last night in the ninth inning. The Mets final three games are at Shea against the Marlins.

3 the Phillies Magic Number for both the NL East crown and the Wild Card, with 3 games left in season.

8 and 12, record for Joe Blanton, who will be the starter tonight if the Phils can get in their game amid the raindrops.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Let’s make this one as simple as possible. The Phils win their last three games, they win the NL East and it doesn’t matter what anyone else does. Lose one or two along the way, and things start to get real interesting.


I Don’t Get It: Gee, imagine that. The gun that was used to kill Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald is believe to have been acquired through a straw purchase in South Carolina. Then it made its way to Philadelphia and into the hands of Daniel Giddings, who used it to gun down the officer in the middle of the afternoon. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: The math is gorgeous in its simplicity for Phillies fans. They lead the Mets by 1 with 3 to go. Any combination of Phillies wins and Mets losses that add up to 3 means the Phils successfully defend their NL East crown.


Quote Box: “I believe that it’s very possible that we can get an agreement in time for me to fly to Mississippi.”

-- Sen. John McCain, speaking yesterday on tonight’s planned first presidential debate.

It's all debatable

Bailout? Or no bailout?

Debate? Or no debate?

At this point your guess is as good as any.

It’s kind of hard to describe everything that happened yesterday in Washington, D.C.

Around 1:30 p.m., it appeared that an agreement had been reached on that massive $700 billion bailout plan everyone says we need to prevent an economic meltdown.

Then Democrats and Republicans huddled at the White House with President Bush.

What happened in that meeting is debatable, which is kind of funny since tonight’s first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama continues to be in limbo.

It sounds as if Republicans suddenly wanted new terms, specifically moving to seek a bigger share of private funds, instead of taxpayer money, for the bailout.

There is actually talk of one rather unbelievable scene. And that is of Treasury boss Henry Paulson, the man who crafted this proposal and who stands to literally be the new Master of the Universe if it’s approved, getting down on one knee and begging the two sides not to blow up the deal.

Maybe we all ought to join him today. At this point we likely could do worse than prayer.

Because if something is not done on this package today, there’s a belief that we might not have one, prayer that is, at least economically.

Of course, all of this is being done in the backdrop of the presidential race.

And how the matter is being “spun” depends on who is talking. McCain backers are hailing him for his decision to suspend his campaign and head to D.C. to work on the bailout plan. It’s being called leadership and putting country first. McCain is still not committed to attending tonight’s debate unless there’s a deal in place.

Obama supporters instead say McCain injected partisan politics into the process and the whole thing blew up in his face. They vow to be at the debate tonight regardless of whether McCain shows up or not.

Democratic senator Chris Dodd, who heads the Senate Finance Committee, went so far as to call the proceedings “a rescue plan for John McCain.”

The two sides will go back at it today.

Here’s my best guess. Some kind of deal will be hammered out this afternoon. All sides will smile and shake hands and claim they all came together for the good of the country.

With at least the framework for the deal in place, McCain will show up for the debate, which is supposed to focus on foreign policy but which I guess will quickly morph into a discussion of what transpired the past few days.

Buckle your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy day.

Questions linger in Philly cop-killing

Turns out we’re not the only one who was wondering exactly what cop-killer Daniel Giddings was doing out on the street.

Gov. Ed Rendell also has some questions.

Specifically, the governor is wondering pretty much the same thing that I’ve been puzzling over. How exactly did the state Board of Probation and Parole reach the decision that Giddings, a career criminal whose first brush with the law occurred at age 10 and who had a laundry list of violations behind bars while doing time for an assault, should be turned back out onto the streets?

Bottom line? Giddings had done 10 years of a 12-year stint. The general belief is that there is a push to get people out of jail and back into society.

But some people don’t seem like especially good candidates for an early release. And Giddings would appear to be the poster candidate for just the kind of person we want to keep locked away.

In the meantime, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, the “Tough Cookie” herself, is pointing fingers in another direction.

Abraham was joined by state Attorney General Tom Corbett yesterday in criticizing the sentence handed down by the trial judge in Giddings’ conviction in a 2000 armed carjacking case.

The crime-fighting duo had harsh words for Common Pleas Court Judge Lynn Bennett Hamlin. Instead of the six-to-12-year sentence Hamlin handed down, Abraham believes a 22-to-40-year stint would have been more appropriate, especially in light of the prosecutor’s argument of Giddings’ long and violent criminal history.

None of which is going to change the funeral plans for Officer Patrick McDonald, scheduled to take place on Monday and Tuesday.

It’s become a sad and too familiar routine. The long line of men and women in blue saluting another flag-drapped casket. They have already performed this solemn duty three times in the past year.

And this one final item also guaranteed to turn your stomach. Charges are now pending in connection with the gun Giddings used to kill Officer McDonald and wound another highway patrolman.

A 29-year-old man from South Carolina will be charged in what appears to be a classic “straw purchase” of a firearm. Jason Mack is believed to have lied on the federal form needed to purchase the gun.

Mack claimed the gun was stolen.

Somehow, Giddings wound up back on the street. And somehow that gun also wound up in Philadelphia, in Giddings’ cold, murderous hands.

And now the city is preparing to say a sad farewell to another officer as a result.

Forecasting the easy way

Let me try to save you a lot of time and aggravation today when it comes to the weather.

It’s going to be lousy out today. We’re going to get showers off and on all day. Some of them might be heavy. There also will be some gusty winds.

Take the umbrella with you this morning. It’s supposed to clear tomorrow morning.

There, that pretty much covers it. No talk of Nor’easters. I don’t need to stand on the beach and be blown around while waiting to see if some sand is going to be washed away. It very likely will.

It’s going to rain.

And now for the most important aspect of today’s weather. Will the Phillies be able to get in their game tonight at Citizens Bank Park against the Nationals? Good question. It’s kind of like the economic bailout proposal and the presidential debate – still up in the air.

The Mets did get their game in last night, which was a bit surprising.

A rainout tonight will wreak havoc on what is already going to be a fairly harrowing weekend for Phillies’ fans.

And don’t even get me started on what it means in terms of high school football. Let me just offer this. It creates a scheduling nightmare.

All together now, “raindrops keep fallin …. “

The Numbers Game

There is a simple elegance in the symbiotic relationship between sports and numbers.

For the Phillies and their long-suffering fans, the math could not be more direct.

There are three days – and three games - left in the regular season.

The Phils continue to lead the Mets in the race to defend their National League East crown, although it’s been sliced by a half-game after the Mets’ dramatic win in the ninth inning last night. The Phils remain a game up. Meanwhile, the Mets and Brewers are tied for the Wild Card.

Throw in some dicey weather, and you have all the makings of a wet & wild weekend.

The Phils have three at home with the Nationals; the Mets are at Shea for three with the Marlins; the Brewers wind up with three against the Cubs.

For the Phils, the Magic Number remains three, any combination of Phils wins and Mets losses adding up to three and they win the NL East. Ditto for the Wild Card. Any combination of Phils wins and Brewers losses adding up to three gets the Phils a possible Wild Card.

Of course, the Phils could simplify this process by going out and winning their final three games. Do that and they’re in regardless of what anyone else does.

Let the weekend begin. Three days, three games, and about three million fans with their hearts in their throats.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Daily Numbers - September 25

The Daily Numbers: 12 minutes, how long President Bush spoke last night urging Congress to OK a $700 billion economic bailout plan to avert what he referred to as “financial panic” that could put the entire economy in danger.

240,000 dollars, what the Chester Upland School District is receiving in leasing out the old Wetherill Middle School building.

2 Chester High students who face charges connected to a small fire at the school that was determined to be intentionally set.

85 age of Yeadon woman brutally killed in her home back in March. Her nephew and his girlfriend were charged in the killing. Now they are pointing the finger at each other and are seeking separate trials.

10 age when suspected cop-killer Daniel Giddings had his first brush with the law. It was not his last. He had been out on parole for about a month when he was involved in an altercation with Philly cops. A week later, he shot and killed Officer Patrick McDonald after a traffic stop and foot chase.

10 years of a 12-year maximum term, how long Giddings was in jail.

4 Philadelphia police officers shot and killed in the line of duty in the last two years.

200 arrests made to date by Philadelphia’s gun violence task force.

1 person dead and 1 injured after they jumped from the second floor of a burning apartment in Philadelphia.

3,003 dollars in Girl Scout Cookie sales believed pocketed by a woman who was a troop leader in Newark, Del.

6 foot tall statue of the ‘Angel of the Roses’ stolen from the National Center for Padre Pio religious shrine in Barto, Pa.

15 age of student who is believed to have raped a school employee inside the women’s locker room at Dickinson High School in Delaware Tuesday night.

30 percent decline in numbers of houses sold in the Philadelphia area in August.

237,000 dollars, the median price for a home sale, that’s down just 1.3 percent.

10 age of child accused of trying to stab a nanny in Randolph, N.J. Police say the two were involved in some kind of argument.

45 to 43 percent lead for John McCain over Barack Obama in the latest Franklin & Marshall Keystone Poll of voters nationally.

200 million dollars up for grabs in Saturday night’s Powerball drawing.

2 cent dip in price we’re paying at the pump. Average price of gas in the Philly region is now $3.61.

10 hits and 6 runs surrendered by Brett Myers last night as the Phils lost to the Braves.

1.5 game lead, what the Phils still enjoy over the Mets after New York coughed up another big lead and the game to the Cubs last night. The Mets are now tied with the Brewers in the Wild Card chase.

3 the Phillies Magic Number for both the NL East crown and the Wild Card, with 3 games left against the Nationals.

3 suspicious packages found outside Citizens Bank Park yesterday afternoon that caused some mild concern. They turned out to be hot dogs.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Those “suspicious devices” that caused a lockdown at Citizens Bank Park yesterday afternoon turned out to be hot dogs. A dud, as it were. So were the Phils, who seem intent on keeping us in suspense through the weekend. Then again, the Mets also lost.


I Don’t Get It: It seems pretty clear that cop-killer Daniel Giddings should not have been out of jail, walking the streets of Philly. Yet that’s where he was when he encountered Officer Patrick McDonald. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Kudos to those responsible for the new program at Cheyney University that will help students with scholarship in return for a promise to teach inner city youths.


Quote Box: “Delaware County has lost a a great man.”

-- Former Delco League President Jim Vankoski, on the passing of Mickey Vernon.

Mickey Vernon: A true gentleman

At the end of each summer, this newspaper holds what we fondly refer to as the Champs ‘n’ Charity Classic. Our annual softball tournament raises money in the fight against cancer.

I usually make the jaunt down to “the Hook” for the final night of the tourney. This year, with about a million things going on in the office, I almost didn’t make it.

I’m glad I did.

As I walked past the statue of the town’s famous native son and into the park named for him, the first person I met in the pavilion was one James “Mickey” Vernon.

He was sitting at a bench, talking with a few acquaintances. I walked over and shook his hand. At 90 years old, Mickey Vernon immediately recognized me and offered a hello, this despite the fact we had only met on two other occasions. Mickey Vernon was in his element. He was among friends. He was home.

I walked away from that encounter with exactly the same impression I got from our other two meetings. It was hard to believe that this unassuming, quiet gentleman was once a professional athlete.

Times change, I guess. Vernon, it seems to me, has little in common with today’s athletes, aside from their abilities on the field.

Maybe that’s what makes Vernon unique. Mickey never forgot where he came from. Maybe that’s why they erected a statue for him in the town where he grew up. And why the park that sits in the center of town is now named Mickey Vernon Park.

Mickey Vernon died Wednesday at age 90. But there is still one more story in his exemplary life that needs to be written.

Vernon starred for 20 seasons in the major leagues, mostly with the Washington Senators. He hit .286 and collected 2,495 hits. Along the way he collected two American League batting titles and appeared in seven All-Star games. He hit .353 in 1946 and .337 in 1953 to lead the AL.

It’s hard to put a number on what those kinds of stats would be worth today. But then that would not be Vernon’s way. He did not play the game for money, as so many of today’s stars do.

Vernon played because he loved the game. At age 90, he still did. That’s why he would show up in his home town in the dead of summer to watch a softball game. Vernon knew how important those games – and the charity effort behind it – were to Marcus Hook, and the rest of Delaware County.

Now it’s time for the game that Vernon loved so deeply to return the sentiment. Vernon is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. At least not yet.

That could change in December, when Vernon’s name will be among 10 named by the Baseball Veterans Committee for consideration to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Vernon needs the votes of nine of the 12 people on the ballot to get in. If he does, he will be inducted posthumously in July 2009.

Longtime Delco sports historian and Springfield resident Rich Westcott, a former Daily Times sports writer, wrote a book about Vernon. It was titled, “The Gentleman First Baseman.”

You would be hard-pressed to find a better description. So would the folks at the Hall of Fame.

Delaware County has lost more than one of its true athletic heroes. In the words of another friend, Jim Vankoski, the former head of the Delco Baseball League, we’ve “lost a great man.”

A gentle-man, in every meaning of the word.

Let’s hope those people voting for the Hall of Fame are listening.

An outrage in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Police Capt. James Clark did not mince words Wednesday when he spoke of Daniel Giddings.

Giddings is the 27-year-old lifelong criminal who shot and killed Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald.

“He was just evil,” Clark said.

Hard to argue with him.

Clark offered a chilling review of the final moments of Officer McDonald’s life.

Now the city is once again reeling in the loss of still another police officer, the fourth killed in the line of duty in less than a year.

But there’s something else simmering in the city, and in fact the entire region.

There is outrage at how a person with Giddings’ background could be out on the street, let alone in a position to “execute” a police officer.

For some as yet unexplained reason, Giddings, whose life of crime started when he was 10, and who had amassed a long list of transgressions even while he was imprisoned, was deemed eligible for parole.

Once back on the street, it did not take long for him to revert to his old ways. Giddings promptly returned to his life of crime. Ironically, he was involved in a confrontation with police just a week before his fatal encounter with McDonald.

It was during that earlier tussle that Giddings made a prophetic, ugly promise. He vowed he would not go back to prison and that he’d take down any police officer who got in his way.

About a week later, it was McDonald who found himself in just that position.

Clark offered a chilling version of how Giddings opened fire on McDonald during a foot chase after the initial car stop. But it was what happened after McDonald was initially wounded that stops your heart.

Instead of fleeing, Giddings instead “stood over him and executed him, shooting him several times,” according to Clark.

Mayor Michael Nutter yesterday spoke for a lot of people when he said he was “outraged” that Giddings was back on the street.

He’s not alone.

The debate about the debate

Very interesting development along the way to cobbling together a $700 billion bailout to avert what President Bush last night referred to as the possibility of a “long, painful recession.”

Yesterday afternoon Republican candidate Sen. John McCain stunned everyone by saying he was suspending his campaign so he could return to Washington to focus on the economic crisis.

Not only that, but he also called on his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Barack Obama, to join him.

Oh, and one other thing. That much ballyhooed first presidential debate set for Friday night? Let’s put it on hold, McCain said.

Obama responded by saying he agreed – on the seriousness of the situation. But he made it pretty clear that he had no intention of putting off the debate.

In fact, he said it would be the wrong thing to do.

“It is my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be dealing with this mess,” Obama said.

You might call it the debate before the debate. Or the debate about the debate.

You can make a cogent argument on both sides.

McCain is being hailed for his actions, which are being described as “country-first.”

Obama supporters see politics at work, and suggest the move is tied to the GOP candidate’s sliding numbers in several national polls, where it is believed he is being hurt by the economic mess.

It was once said about the presidency that “the bucks stop here.” What we’ll find out sometime today or tomorrow is whether all these problems with bucks also can stop debates.

Phils bomb on dud of night at Citizens Bank Park

You got a premonition of how the night was going to go for the Phils around 4:30, three hours before game time.

The stadium went into lockdown when three “suspicious” packages were found outside Citizens Bank Park.

It turned out to be a dud. So did the Phils.

The devices turned out to be hot dogs, wrapped up so they could be fired from the Phillie Phanatic’s special wiener launcher.

The rest of the night was nothing to relish either. Brett Myers just did not cut the mustard.

There was no need to adjust your television. That was not a re-run of Brett Myers’ last outing when he was shelled by the Marlins. It just looked that way.

Myers was miserable again. The first battter he faced hit a laser to the gap in right-center. He surrendered hits to the first three Braves, immediately digging the Phils a 2-0 hole.

Every time the Phils would scratch their way back, via homers from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Myers would walk out to the mound and promptly give it right back.

Myers lasted just four and a third innings, surrendering six runs on 10 hits.

It didn’t get much better after he left, with the Braves coasting to a 10-4 win. Along the way, there was the almost-to-be-expected Ryan Howard defensive lapse, with the first baseman fielding a ground ball and promptly hitting the runner square in the back on hit throw to second. Jayson Werth also misplayed a ball in right that led to another Braves rally.

Consider this: The Phils lost two of three to the Braves, and they had their top two pitchers on the mound, Myers and Cole Hamels.

The good news in all this is that the Mets continue their “Groundhog Day” re-living of last year. They blew still another game to the Cubs last night, coughing up a 5-0 lead and eventually losing in the 10th. They’re now tied with the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card race.

That means that the Phils continue to lead the NL East by a game and a half, and they actually reduced their “Magic Number” to clinch a playoff spot to three. It’s now three for both the NL East and Wild Card.

But the Phils certainly would like to reverse the way they played the last two nights. The idea is to go into the playoffs on a roll.

And not a hot dog roll. The way the Phils pitched and played last night left most with visions of another kind of dog.

Now it comes down to three games with the Nationals. And that does not include possible weather problems that appear to loom over Friday night’s game.

It could make for a Dog Day Afternoon on Sunday, with another one of those day-night double-headers.

As usual, this team will manage to keep everyone’s “buns” on the edge of their seats.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- September 24

The Daily Numbers: 3 Philadelphia police officers who have died in the line of duty so far this year. Officer Patrick McDonald became the latest Tuesday when he was gunned down after a traffic stop and chase in the middle of the afternoon.

5 Philadelphia officers who have died in the line of duty in just the last two years.

1 Philadelphia officer who also was wounded in the shootout with the suspect yesterday. Officer Richard Bowes is expected to recover.

14 shots believed fired during the shootout by suspect Daniel Giddings, 27. He was shot and killed by police. He also had another fully loaded clip on him.

700 billion dollar bailout still being debated in Congress amid dire warnings for the economy if action is not taken.

14,000 dollars in controlled substances seized by police when they arrested an Upper Darby woman described as “a major dealer” in connection with undercover buys of oxycodone.

1 debate set in the 7th District Congressional race between Republican challenger Craig Williams and first-term Rep. Joe Sestak. The Williams camp wanted more. The debate will be held Oct. 29, just a week before the election.

7 families left homeless then they were evacuated from 8 apartments when fire broke out in Yeadon.

100 residents who toured the progress being made at the site of the old Haverford State Hospital site.

20 million dollars being sought by a lawyer who claims an Atlantic City casino did nothing to stop her gambling addiction. The lawsuit was tossed by a judge.

5 more charges lodged against a Montgomery County landlord who police say used an elaborate videotaping scheme to spy on his tenants.

75 more voting machines being bought by Montgomery County to handle what is expected to be a huge voter turnout in the presidential election.

15 months in jail for Delco native, O’Hara grad and disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy for his role in a betting scandal that shook the league. He reported to jail yesterday.

3 security workers at the upscale Nordstrom’s store in the King of Prussia Mall who have been charged with ripping off the store.

3.63 a gallon, what we’re paying for gas in the Philly region today.

3 still the Phillies Magic Number to lock up a playoff spot after they lost to the Braves last night. That’s for the Wild Card; it’s 4 to actually win the NL East.

1 crucial error by Cole Hamels and one base-running gaffe by Pat Burrell that led to the Phils’ loss.

1.5 game lead for the Phils over the Mets, who won last night.

4 games left for both the Phils and Mets. Don’t look now, but rainy weather due here Friday just might wreak havoc with the schedule.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
How fast did Pat Burrell go from hero to goat last night? He was a hero when he drove in Ryan Howard to tie the score, but then committed a costly base-running gaffe, breaking for third on a sharp grounder to short, that short-circuited the rally.


I Don’t Get It: A mother in Montgomery County admitted in court she was trying to help her son, who was being bullied in school. How? She helped him amass a cache of weapons. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: Members of a state House Transportation Committee are beginning to look at whether they should make text and cell phone conversations by bus and train drivers part of a move to attack distracted driving.


Quote Box: “He stood over the top of him and killed him. It was an execution.”

-- Philadelphia Police Capt James Clark, on the shooting that took the life of Officer Patrick McDonald.

Tell me this is not becoming routine

Last weekend more than 1,200 people wanted in the city of Philadelphia turned themselves in.

Daniel Giddings, 27, was not among them.

Operation “Fugitive Safe Surrender” was for non-violent offenders. That does not describe Giddings.

Instead, the man with a long criminal record of violent offenses was still on the street yesterday when he encountered Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald.

The 30-year-old, eight-year veteran of the force stopped the car Giddings was riding in around 1:45 p.m. at 17th and Diamond.

Giddings, who had recently been released from prison for aggravated assault with a gun, apparently decided he did not want any part of McDonald. He bolted. A chase ensued.

Ironically, Giddings was wanted for an assault on police officers after a traffic stop. He soon would revert to his violent ways.

Officer McDonald chased Giddings into the 2200 block of Colorado Street. Gunshots ensued. Police believe McDonald was shot repeatedly in the chest at point-blank range.

Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. James Clark did not mince words. He called it “an execution.”

Giddings was shot and killed by other officers who joined the pursuit, who likely did not even know that their colleague had been mortally wounded. Another officer, Richard Bowes, was wounded in the subsequent shootout. He is expected to recover.

That makes three Philadelphia officers killed in the line of duty just this year, and five in the last two years.

Once again the city steels itself for a period of mourning, for the funeral of another officer.

And you wonder just what has happened to our society when what once was unthinkable now becomes part of our routine.

Tick, tick, tick

Hear that ticking sound? That’s the sound of the timer counting down to a cataclysmic meltdown of our economy.

Yet, as is usually the case, there does not seem to be any sense of urgency in Washington to get something done.

That’s in part because it is hard to imagine just how much 700 billion dollars is. It doesn’t seem real. As they say, after awhile it adds up to real money.

But make no mistake. This crisis is all too real. The warnings being sounded by Fed Chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury boss Henry Paulson urging Congress to take action are backed up by a belief that we could be on the verge of an economic collapse not seen since the days of the Depression.

Ironically, it’s some Republicans in Congress who are screaming the loudest about this rescue plan. They say it does not provide a solution to the problem, that it does not do enough to help average Americans who are struggling to pay bills, including their mortgages, and that it will reward titans of finance who put this mess into play in the first place.

They are all good points. But they don’t change the urgent need to take action.

There is plenty of time to argue what happened in this debacle, who was at fault, who was asleep at the switch and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

Right now we need to take action to stop the rest of the economy from sliding over the edge into the abyss.

Not a magic night for Phils

Might want to hold off on that talk of the Phillies and their magic number.

The Phils showed little magic last night, instead ham-handedly handing a game to the Atlanta Braves.

The Phils lost, 3-2, while the Mets were winning. That slices the Phils lead in the National League East to a game and a half. Both teams have four games left in the regular season.

The Phils magic number did not budge. It remains 3 to clinch a playoff spot via the Wild Card; 4 to win the National League East.

The Phils were their own worst enemy last night – both in the field and on the bases. This team’s occasional butchering of some of the basics came back to haunt them.

After the team rallied to tie the game at 1 in the second, starter Cole Hamels, who did not have his best stuff, handed the lead right back to the Braves. Hamels’ worst throw on the night was not to the plate. Instead it was botched pickoff that allowed the Braves to take a 2-1 lead.

The base-running gaffes sunk the Phils’ hopes in the sixth. Pat Burrell was looking like a hero again after he doubled home Ryan Howard with a shot to the base of the wall. The glow didn’t last long, and Burrell was soon being fitted for goat horns.

Shane Victorino hit a hard ground ball to short. For some reason, Burrell broke for third. He was dead and was tagged out after a rundown. Victorino didn’t escape unscathed either. It first appeared as if he was bunting to move to Burrell to third, but he didn’t connect. Then he swung away, and failed to hit behind the runner. That still doesn’t explain why Burrell broke for third on a play that was in front of him, not behind, which is the usual base-running rule. Victorino then finished off the inning by getting thrown out trying to steal second.

Not a great display of the basics.

Still, the Phils remain in the driver’s seat. They’d probably love to wrap this thing up before the weekend, and possibly be able to rest Brett Myers and Hamels for playoff starts.

To do that they’ll have to play a lot better than they did last night.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We're headlining this show

It was our moment in the sun. Rest assured it won’t be the last.

The presidential campaign came to Delaware County Monday. The GOP ticket, led by Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, were the headliners before a crowd estimated at anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 in the courtyard of the Media Courthouse.

You can read all about it, as well as see a video and slideshow of the day here.

It only reinforces something I’ve been saying now for weeks. This is Ground Zero for Campaign ’08. Pennsylvania could be the key to the election. And the key to winning Pennsylvania very likely will be the Philadelphia suburbs.

Buckle your seat belts. We have 42 days to go.

What do you think the over-under is on how long it takes Sen. Barack Obama to follow the trail set by the GOP and marching into Delco?

For the next seven weeks, we are all going to be VIPs. That’s very important people – and voters.

Our vote is going to be coveted by both the McCain and Obama camps.

Enjoy it. But don’t waste it. Know the issues. Get involved. We have a chance to make a difference. Don’t throw it away with a shrug of the shoulders.

Democracy is a terrible thing to waste.

Dollars and sense?

“In my judgment, it would be foolish to waste massive sums of taxpayer funds testing an idea that has been hastily crafted and may actually cause the government to revert to an inadequate strategy of ad hoc bailouts.”

Another Democrat railing against the economic bailout plan put together by President Bush, along with Fed boss Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson?

Uh, not exactly. Those are the words of Sen. Richard Shelby. He’s a Republican from Alabama. He also happens to be the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Clearly there are going to be a few heated arguments this week as Congress takes up probably the most important piece of economic legislation in our lifetime.

This isn’t a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Make no mistake, our economy is in flames. Some are referring to it as a meltdown.

President Bush and his economic czars have urged Congress to pass the bailout plan ASAP.

Doesn’t look like that is going to happen. For one thing, Democrats and others want more assurances that homeowners face foreclosures will get some help from the measure, and they want to make sure a lot of financial firm barons whose decisions put us in this pickle don’t walk away with a sweet payout.

Stay tuned. All that’s at stake is our future.

Phillies Phever

Can you say playoffs? No, the Phils have not clinched anything yet.

But they are moving solidly toward a defense of their National League East crown. Even as the hated Mets are doing a windpipe-clogging imitation of their epic collapse from last year.

The Phils won last night to go two and a half games up on the Mets, who fell to the Cubs. The Mets might just have their hands full now holding off the Brewers for the Wild Card.

There are five games left in the season. The Phillies magic number to clinch a playoff spot is three. That’s for the Wild Card. To win the NL East it’s four.

The Phils have won 10 of their last 11 games. I like their chances.

Scary words for Eagles fans

Here are the three scariest words in Eagles land today: Day to Day.

That’s how Eagles brass are describing the ankle injury suffered by all-everything running back Brian Westbrook. It didn’t stop him from doing his radio show last night, where he entered a South Jersey nightspot sans crutches and did not appear to be limping, as he clearly was the last time we saw him as he exited Lincoln Financial Field early in the Eagles big win over the Steelers.

Andy Reid said the Eagles are hoping to have Westbrook in the lineup Sunday night when they face another prime time matchup with the Bears in the Windy City.

Don’t buy it. And don’t expect to see Westbrook Sunday night. Ankles are funny things. As are sprains, which some experts say can sometimes be more problematic than outright breaks.

It’s not out of the question that Westbrook could still be in the lineup, but the Eagles will face a very tough question about whether they want to expose their star on an ankle that may not be 100 percent.

On the other hand, as was in evidence Sunday afternoon, the Eagles offense clearly is not the same machine it is when Westbrook is lined up in all those myriad positions. Without that threat, the rest of the Eagles suddenly look a lot less menacing.

Day to day. Scary words.

Very often they turn into week to week. Don’t be surprised if that happens later this week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Daily Numbers - Sept. 22

The Daily Numbers: 15,000 expected to jam into the courtyard of the Delaware County Courthouse this afternoon for a rally with the GOP presidential ticket, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

5 hours, how long Springfield Mall was shut down Saturday because of a leak in a sewage pipe that left a stench that sent 3 people to the hospital with minor injuries.

6 different locations where people “rambled” up and down the Delaware River Saturday for the 5th annual Riverfront Ramble.

4 cents a gallon decline in what we’re paying at the pump for gasoline, according to AAA. Average price in the region now is $3.63.

4 straight days the price of gasoline has fallen, as fears over the damage incurred from Hurricane Ike have eased.

1,205 fugitives who turned themselves in at a Philly church over 4 days as part of “Fugitive Safe Surrender.”

6 people, including a casino dealer, being charged with trying to scam the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.

3 kids killed in a fire that roared through a row home late Saturday in Coatesville.

118 million dollars, how far the revenue collections in the state fallen short.

6 people, including a casino dealer, being charged with trying to scam the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut.

700 billion dollars, the cost of the bailout of the trouble economic markets being proposed by the Bush Administration.

9 sacks for the Eagles defense as they ravaged the Steelers in yesterday’s 15-6 win.

2 field goals, all the offense the Steelers could muster as they never put the ball in the end zone.

1.5 game lead for the Phils, who won yesterday and extended their lead over the Mets in the NL East.

4 the Magic Number for the Phillies. Any number of Phils wins and Mets losses adding up to 4 puts them in the playoffs.

6 games left for the Phils, 3 with the Braves and 3 with the Nationals. All the games will be at Citizens Bank Park.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
It’s a good morning to be a Philly sports fan. The Eagles defense completely throttled the Steelers. So much for that theory of the superior AFC. And the Phils are now a game and a half up in the NL East. Can you say playoffs?


I Don’t Get It: What ever happened to the idea that less government is better, that they should stay out of our lives. I suppose that’s only for us mortals, not the barons of Wall Street


Today’s Upper: Kudos to our own Tina Fey, the Upper Darby High grad who sparkled at last night’s Emmy Awards, taking a statue for best actress.


Quote Box: “They took it to us tonight. They got after us. That’s the story of this football game.”

-- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin after his team was complete bottled up by the Eagles defense.

About that bailout

There’s something that’s been gnawing at me in terms of this massive financial bailout.

Actually, several things.

How much exactly is $700 billion? If you stacked them in a pile of $1 bills, how high would they go? If you placed them side by side, how far would they stretch?

One thing’s certain, you talk about it long enough, it starts adding up to real money.

That’s the point. It’s so big, it’s so unfathomable, it doesn’t seem real. It’s not the same as you not being able to pay your bills, or missing a mortgage payment. That is all too real. And it has real consequences.

In this case, maybe the whole thing can best be described as “heads I win, tails you lose.”

A lot of bankers and financiers who rode high for years while making questionable decisions and shaky loans, now stand to continue to benefit by this massive bailout that the American public will be paying off for years.

And one other thing. What ever happened to the mantra of the free market and small government. Have we not been told for years that government is too big, has become too involved in business, and that the key to a vigorous economy is deregulation, and a hands-off marketplace that allows the system to govern itself?

How has that worked out?

It's GOP-arty time!

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The temperature on Campaign ’08 will get cranked up several degrees today.

Last week it was Joe Biden at Linvilla Orchards.

Today it’s the Republicans’ turn, and they’re bringing out the heavy artillery.

The GOP ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin will hold a rally at the Media Courthouse this afternoon.

About 15,000 people are expected to attend. That would make it the largest political event in the county since Ronald Reagan graced the same courtyard back in 1984.

Not to be completely outdone, Michelle Obama has a campaign stop in Philadelphia. Now all we need is a stop by her husband, Democratic standard-bearer Barack Obama, to hit for the political cycle here in Delco.

I’ve said it any number of times and will say it again here. Pennsylvania very well could be the key swing state in this election. And in order to win Pennsylvania, McCain needs a huge showing in the Philadelphia suburbs to keep pace with what should be a big turnout for Obama in the city.

Get used to seeing a lot of these folks. They’re going to be here for the next eight weeks.

Monday Morning Quarterback

If it’s Monday morning, it must be time for the Monday Morning Quarterback, or as Mike Schmidt used to refer to it, the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day.

When exactly did the Steelers become a finesse team? They seemed to play right into the Eagles’ hands.

When I think of the Steelers, I always think of smash-mouth, in-your-face running the football.

I expected the Steelers to come out Sunday and try to run Tony Parker right down the Eagles’ throats. Never happened. Instead, for some reason the Steelers pretended they were Joe Montana and those legendary 49ers teams. They decided to put the game on the right arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

If the Steelers had an advantage in the game, it would appear to be their huge offensive line teeing off on the smaller, quicker Eagles defensive line. Instead they looked to establish their passing game. All they established is that they could not handle the bewildering array of blitzes unfurled on them by Eagles defensive wizard Jim Johnson. It was Johnson who took a lot of heat for not putting much heat on Tony Romo last week. He didn’t make the same mistake two weeks in a row.

By the time it was over, a battered and bruised Roethlisberger had been sacked nine times and given way to backup Byron Leftwich.

The impressive win for the Birds did not come without a cost. Brian Westbrook left in the second quarter and did not return. An X-ray was negative, but he will have an MRI on it today.

It was easy to see the difference Westbrook makes in the Eagles offense. Without him in the lineup, everything begins to get clogged up.

But on this day, their defense bailed them out.

In fact, their offensive MVP just might have been punter Sav Rocca. The veteran of Australian football unfurled a dazzling display of punts in the second half that completely changed Steelers’ advantage in field position and then kept them pinned deep in their territory.

Now it’s on to a Sunday night contest in Chicago.

Oh, and did you hear that the Phillies won, while the Mets were losing? The Phils now lead in the NL East by a game and a half.

As far as Monday mornings go, it could be a lot worse.

The greatest invention ever

Anyone else’s thumb sore this morning?

Yep, I was among those furiously using the remote to flick back and forth between the Phillies and Eagles games yesterday.

Nice of Major League Baseball to schedule the Phillies game at 4:10. Most Sundays that would have been a 1:30 game in Florida, meaning it would have blended seamlessly into a sports marathon since the Eagles game at the Linc was scheduled for a 4:15 start.

Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. Instead of spending the entire day on a flat-out gorgeous Sunday cooped up in the family room, I was able to get outside for much of the day and soak up some sun on the last full day of summer.

Once I parked myself in front of the TV, it dawned on me that without question the remote control is very likely the greatest invention ever.

What exactly did we do before the remote? Actually, I’m thinking we probably did a lot less flipping around. We picked a channel and stayed there. It’s still amazing to me that not that long ago you actually had to get up out of your chair to change the channel on the TV.

Of course, it also contributes to our sedentary culture, and, I suppose, is one of the reasons obesity runs rampant in our society.

Just how crucial has the remote become in our culture? Yesterday I found myself once cursing my technological inadequacies. The button that allows me to jump back to the previous station on my remote is broken. So at least my digits were getting a workout.

Yes, I know that’s one of the reasons they invented picture-in-picture.

I don’t have that either.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The dreaded Saturday Eagles pick

Nobody likes a know-it-all. So I will not gloat about correctly picking the Birds to fall on Monday night. That makes me 1-1 on the season; the Eagles now sport the same record.

Believe me, I was rooting for them to win, but I was not stunned that they did not. What fascinates me is the conundrum of Donovan McNabb. The guy played about as well as I've seen him play for the second week in a row.

The only problem was that Donovan seemed to turn off the switch after three quarters. With the money on the table and the game on the line, Donovan didn't deliver the goods.

In fact, he delivered them to the Cowboys, with a botched handoff to Brian Westbrook that remains stuck in the craw of Eagles' fans. Bottom line is the Birds had the ball in the hands of their two best players - and they coughed it up.

The Eagles will need Donovan to be every bit as good this week. The Eagles simply do not play the AFC teams well, and Andy Reid teams always struggle against 3-4 defenses - and the Steelers have a good one.

For those who take up the constant cry that Reid does not run the ball enough, this is not your week. If the Eagles are going to win this game, they'll do it via McNabb's right arm. Brian Westbrook likely will have more yards receiving then rushing.

I don't see it.

That's why I like the Steelers in a much less flashy encounter than what we witnessed Monday night.

Make it 19-16 Steelers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- September 19

The Daily Numbers: 15 guilty verdicts delivered yesterday against Dorothy Prawdzik, of Drexel Hill, who was a codefendant with John Jackey Worman in a horrific child porn case.

10 suspects on the list of 12 Most Wanted in Chester still on the loose. Police collared a second suspect this week.

11 arrests made by Upper Darby police in what they are referring to as Operation Trojan Horse, a drug crackdown in the Bywood section of the township.

2.76 million dollar settlement in case against Liberty Travel in which employees claimed they had been denied overtime pay.

25 age of suspect in the latest brutal beating of a person in a Center City Philadelphia subway concourse.

2 teens among three people shot late Thursday during an altercation in West Philadelphia.

3,000 dollars in Cowboys merchandise a fan says was stolen after the Monday night game in Dallas. The fan, who lives in Philly but went to the game in Dallas, had been hoping to get the items signed by Cowboys. After the game he discovered one of his bags was missing.

11 million dollar cash offer by Versa Capital, part of a $225 million deal to buy the Boscov’s department store chain.

50 million dollars being invested in neuroscience research by the University of Penn.

80 jobs being eliminated by the folks who run Zippo lighters in Bradford, Pa. You might say they’re going up in smoke.

1 cent drop in price of gasoline in the Philly region. Average price now sits at $3.67 a gallon.

1 as in Day One of the school year in Souderton, where teachers ended their strike and went back to the classroom today with an offer to put their dispute to nonbinding arbitration.

4,000 people who have turned themselves in as part of the “Fugitive Safe Surrender” program in Philadelphia. And there’s still two days to go in the program.

38 age of man in Montgomery County charged with trying to proposition a 12-year-odl girl on the Internet.

410 point jump on Wall Street after the feds announced a plan to rescue banks from the bad loans that hang like an anchor around their necks.

50 percent of the week’s losses made up in one day on Wall Street yesterday.

9 wins in 9 games this year for the Phils in Atlanta. They capped off a season sweep last night.

6 innings for Cole Hamels, who gave up 2 runs on 6 hits to get his 14th win of the year.

9 games left for the Phils, who still have a half-game lead over the Mets in the NL East.

2 more days before the Eagles try to get the bad taste of their loss to Dallas out of their mouth when they tangle with the Steelers Sunday at the Linc.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anybody remember the Eagles? Suddenly the Birds are toiling in anonymity again as the Phils make still another unbelievable run to put themselves back in the NL East lead. I’m guessing that might change just a tad around 4 o’clock Sunday.


I Don’t Get It: The 26-year-old suspect in the brutal hammer attack on a rider on a SEPTA subway car has been ruled incompetent to stand trial after a mental evaluation. Ya think?


Today’s Upper: You can get a free ride this weekend on the regional rails as SEPTA tries to lure riders to try out their increased late-night service. The rails are free after 6:30 Friday and Saturday nights.


Quote Box: “My eyes couldn’t take it anymore.”

-- Juror in the child porn trial of John Jackey Worman, on the task of viewing horrific images of children being abused.

Here comes the cavalry: McCain, Palin to do Delco

My guess is that with the Phils in a heated pennant race, not all that many people tore themselves away from the game last night to flip the channel over to the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

If by any chance you did, you could have seen my clearly “not ready for prime time” mug on your TV screen, talking politics.

I made another appearance on “Journalists Roundtable,” with a couple of colleagues from the Pottstown Mercury and host Bill Bova.

I suggested that Pennsylvania just might be the key to the presidential race, and that the suburban Philadelphia area could be the key to taking the Keystone State.

The timing could not have been better. Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden had just held a rally at Linvilla Orchards.

Picking up the paper this morning, I see the cavalry is on the way.

It looks like we’re going to get a close-up look at the GOP team, Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Monday afternoon. A rally is being planned for the Media Courthouse.

It just proves my theory of Southeast Pennsylvania being Ground Zero in the presidential race.

My only question is can Barack Obama be far behind?

By the way, if you missed last night’s airing of “Journalists Roundtable,” it will air again Sunday at 5 and 8 p.m. on PCN.

Or you can Click Here to view it online.

One last story from the Worman trial

Maybe now we can begin to put the depravity of the John Jackey Worman child porn trial behind us.

But before we did, I knew there was one more story to tell. It’s on the front page of today’s newspaper.

I had been wondering what it must have been like to sit on that jury, to have to view the thousands of horrific images of children, some really just babies, being sexually abused.

I wanted to be able to tell the jurors’ story. Today, reporter Marlene DiGiacomo tells their saga.

Like much of what was reported in this trial, it’s not easy to read.

“It was like looking at Satan sitting at the table,” is the way one juror explained it.

Another juror offered a similarly chilling view, and told of how arduous a task they were given in looking at the graphic evidence.

“It was excruciatingly difficult – something a sane, normal human being should never have to look at,” said Simon Yachooh. At one point Yachooh asked the judge for a break. “My eyes couldn’t take it any more.”

After Worman was convicted of all 55 of the federal charges against him, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella, herself a mother who was clearly shaken by the trial, referred to him as a “monster.”

Maybe it was an understatement.

Hot-lanta? Hot Phillies!

Maybe the Phillies can petition the National League to play the remaining nine games on their schedule in Atlanta.

Yes, we know that they are scheduled to play six of those contests in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park, after they hook up with the Marlins for three this weekend in South Florida.

But you can’t argue with what the Phillies have done in Georgia this year? Hot-lanta? How about hot Phillies.

All the Phils have done is win all nine games with the Braves in Atlanta this season.

That matches the number of games they have left on the schedule.

Last night they got a huge lift from a clearly struggling Pat Burrell, who launched a two-run homer in the sixth inning to propel the Phils to a 4-3 win and a season sweep in Atlanta.

The win also allows them to stay a half-game ahead of the Mets in the NL East. The Mets hammered Washington, 7-2.

Cole Hamels was not great, but he was good enough to get the win. He went six innings and gave up a couple of homers.

You know things are going your way when Burrell steps up to be the hero. He was hitting .178 for September and .181 in August, including a game this week in which he struck out five times.

Here’s the deal: Three in Florida, then home for three more against the Braves, a day off and then capping the season with three more with the Nationals.

I like their chances. I’d like them even more if all the games were in Atlanta.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Daily Numbers -- Sept. 18


The Daily Numbers: 56 times that John Jackey Worman of Colwyn heard the word “guilty” yesterday in federal court as he was convicted of all charges against him in one of the most horrific child porn cases prosecutors have ever encountered.

30 days, how long companies have to submit a bid to run the Delaware County Prison. The current operator, Geo, is getting out of their contract a year early.

3 woman, including 2 from Delaware County, killed in a devastating car crash in North Carolina.

10,000 dollar reward still being offered for information in the murder of Veno Leigertwood outside his Yeadon home. His family and friends will gather for his funeral today.

90 million dollar movie production facility that was given the final OK by the Chester Township supervisors. It will be built on the site of the Tri-State Sports complex.

7,000 fewer vehicles using the four bridges, including the Commodore Barry in Chester, run by DRPA Monday after a $1 toll hike went into effect.

100,000 bucks, along with the Liberty Medal being picked up in Philly tonight by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

187,000 dollars worth of nickels scattered across I-95 in south Florida after a truck crashed.

121 million dollars in federal heating aid being released for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs. Pa. is expected to get more than $6.5 million.

23 students arrested after a brawl in Sayre High School in West Philadelphia.

150 fugitives who turned themselves in yesterday in Philadelphia on the first day of a program where they can surrender at a local church if they have outstanding warrants against them.

19.67 the nostalgic price for some tickets to concerts for shows in the final year of the Wachovia Spectrum.

0 what it will cost to ride the regional rails after 6:30 this weekend (Friday-Saturday) as SEPTA tries to lure riders to its increased late-night service.

21 percent decline for Wachovia stock as the largest bank in the region becomes the latest to be hammered in the economic meltdown. Wall Street is worried about bad loans the bank is grappling with.

154 million dollars up for grabs in the Powerball Saturday night. Maybe the Wall Streeters should start buying tickets.

2 teen girls charged in a strong-arm robbery against University of Delaware students.

6 strong innings for J.A. Happ as he got his first major league win for the Phils last night.

6 straight wins for the streaking Phils.

10 games left in the regular season, with the Phils clinging to a half-game lead over the Mets in the NL East.

43 years, the last time the Steelers posted a regular season win in Philadelphia. That was two stadiums ago. They play Sunday in Lincoln Financial Field.


Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Anybody else think maybe the Phils waited a little too long to pull the plug on Kyle Kendrick and get J.A. Happ into the starting lineup?


I Don’t Get It: At Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, they are looking into another incident of worker harassment involving a noose. I don’t get it.


Today’s Upper: City Council in Philadelphia is looking into a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Yeah, we know all about personal rights and the intrusion of government into our lives. This is still a good idea.


Quote Box: “I can’t fix what he did to these kids. But I can make sure that he never gets out to hurt another child.”

-- Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella, after guilty verdicts were returned against John Jackey Worman of Colwyn in a child porn case.

The face of evil

Even for someone who makes his living with words, it is difficult to describe the evil that is one John Jackey Worman.

The Colwyn man was convicted Wednesday on all 56 counts in a child porn case that prosecutors described as one of the most horrific they have ever encountered.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella referred to Worman as a “monster.” It was an understatement.

Even his own defense attorney described his client’s actions as “despicable.”

I won’t spend any more time here reviewing what Worman was convicted of doing. Suffice it to say it involved literally a million images and thousands of video clips of children being sexually abused.

Worman concocted his child-porn operation with the help of a couple of women, including one who ran a day care operation out of her home. A ready-made pipeline for his debased actions.

But something else about this trial struck me as telling you all you needed to know about Worman and what he clearly was capable of doing.

Jurors in the case were warned by both the prosecution and defense of the graphic nature of what they would be forced to view in the case against Worman.

They were told it would “change their lives.”

Jurors clearly were repulsed by the images involving the children. Many looked away from the video screens in front of them. Longtime prosecutors and law enforcement officials all said they were very difficult to view. Luckily, the press and public were shielded from seeing the images. The jury was not that lucky. One man actually asked for a break during one particular tough session.

In the meantime, at the defense table, Worman was consistently described as steadily staring intently at the images on his screen.

John Jackey Worman now will face child porn charges here in Delaware County. For the federal offenses he faces 30 years in prison for each of the 56 counts lodged against him.

He very likely will spent the rest of his life in jail. It’s not long enough.

See you on the television

Just can’t get enough of my rantings here at The Heron’s Nest or in the print edition of the Daily Times?

You’re in luck. Or maybe out of it, as the case may be.

I’ll be appearing on the Pennsylvania Cable Network’s “Journalists Roundtable” tonight at 8. It will be on the PCN channel or you can Click Here to view it online. I can’t believe they actually asked me back after my ghostly appearance the last time I went on the show.

I’ll be joined on the panel by two journalists from our sister paper, the Pottstown Mercury. Tony Phyrillas and Evan Brandt will join me in talking about the election season and you can hear me explain why I think the suburban Philadelphia region just might be the key to winning Pennsylvania – and the election. The show is also repeated Sunday. Great tonight I’m up against the Phillies, and Sunday I vie against the Eagles. I’m not even sure I’ll be watching. I guess it was either me or the test pattern.

You’ve been warned. This is a face that was made for the newspaper. I really do feel OK. I’m not having a heart attack. It just looks that way on the tube.

Driving home a point

Here’s a shocking finding.

They raised the bridge tolls on the four spans run by the Delaware River Port Authority that connnect Pennsylvania on New Jersey on Sunday.

It now costs $4, up from $3. Next September it is going to go up another buck to $5. If my meager math skills are correct, if you work in one state and live in the other, your weekly commute at that point will set you back a cool $25 a week.

But something interesting happened Monday morning, the first business day after the toll hike went into effect.

A lot fewer people used the bridges. And a lot more migrated to the two bridges up in Burlington County where the toll is just two bucks.

That probably is not going to help the people who use the Commodore Barry to go from Chester to South Jersey and vice versa, but it is something to think about.

Someone once said every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

That lesson might just be “driven” home to the folks at the DRPA.

About Brian Dawkins

A confession here: I’ve never been the biggest Brian Dawkins fan.

I think he’s been a very good safety. But I’ve never quite gotten to the point of adulation some seem intent on showering on him. Instead it has always been my belief that his play has not always been at the level of his talk.

Maybe what really bothers me is all the antics we get from him, the whole production number in the pre-game introductions, and every time he makes a play. It’s the exaggerated gyrations and flexing of his muscles that wears on me. Maybe I’m just a tad bit more conservative, but I notice none of these guys ever take up such antics after they get burned.

And there’s something else. It’s this whole idea of celebrations – which I believe can be directly tied to players’ knowing it’s a sure way to show up on Sports Center each night – that leads to situations like what happened to DeSean Jackson Sunday. The outstanding Eagles rookie hauled in a bomb from Donovan McNabb and appeared headed for a highlight reel touchdown. That wasn’t enough. Jackson clearly had his post-touchdown celebration on his mind.

Unfortunately, he started it on the one-yard line. Luckily, the Eagles retained possession and quickly bailed him out by punching it in. If they don’t get the ball back, Jackson is being fitted for one of the all-time pair of goat horns.

Now Dawkins finds himself in the crosshairs after a particularly tough day on Sunday. I don’t know what the coverages were, and what Dawkins’ role in them was. What I know is that every time I saw a big play by the Cowboys, I usually saw Dawkins trailing behind.

I think his best days are behind him, and it now presents a tough decision for the team.

But yesterday, Dawkins did something that I actually admire more than his play, and much more than his antics.

He sat and went under the microscope, talking about his game Sunday, his career and where he goes from here.

He never lost his cool. He didn’t chide the media. He didn’t rip the fans. He simply said this is Philly, that when you lose and don’t play well, you’re going to hear it. There is no such thing as “getting a pass” for a long, solid career and being a good guy both on and off the field.

That may be, but Dawkins’ actions Monday scored more points with me than what he sometimes does on the field.

Happ-y Days here again for Phils

Happ-y days are indeed here again – for both the Phillies and their fans.

And also for their new starter. That would be one J.A. Happ. All he did last night was take struggling Kyle Kendrick’s spot in the rotation, take the hill against the Atlanta Braves and unfurl six scoreless innings. Happ gave up just three hits and walked one in recording his first major league win.

It didn’t hurt that the red-hot Phils lineup staked him to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first before he even took the mound. Along the way Ryan Howard knocked in another run, that’s 137 for the year if you’re counting.

It was Happ’s fourth major league start. But his last start was with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Let’s get all the positives out of the way first. The win keeps the Phils in first place, a half game ahead of the Mets. Both the Mets and Brewers won last night.

Now, since this Philly after all, a couple of questions. Where the hell has Happ been? Does anyone else think maybe Kendrick started two more games as he seemed to lose confidence every time he took the mound, especially the game where he managed to record only four outs before being lifted in the second?

Wouldn’t Happ, who did nothing but offer solid pitching in his short stint and two starts with the Phils, have been a viable alternative? We’ll never know. What we do know is that the Phils likely are going to need a fifth reliever one more time this season, on Monday against the Braves back at Citizens Bank Park. Anyone think that starter should not be Happ? One thing we know. He’s well-rested. Maybe too well-rested.

Cut the music for the ballpark.

“Monday, Tuesday, Happ-y Days” ….

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The cavalry arrives

The cavalry arrived yesterday. And they brought the presidential campaign with them.

Joe Biden wins the contest for first to hit the ground in Delco, with a campaign stop at Linvilla Orchards. Read Alex Rose’s account of the day here.

He won’t be the last. My guess is we’ll see both presidential candidates stumping here in Delco. I would hope we’ll also get an up-close-and-personal look at Gov. Sarah Palin as well. That remains to be seen.

That’s because we are sitting in Ground Zero for the presidential campaign.

Pennsylvania is being considered one of the key swing states, along with places such as Ohio and Michigan.

Since John McCain tapped the newcomer Palin to join him on the GOP ticket, the race has been energized. Obama’s lead in the polls is shrinking. That’s true for the race here in Pennsylvania as well.

Biden was first to arrive. The only thing I’m sure of is that he will not be the last.

The election is 48 days away. It’s an eight-week dash to the polls.

Get used to seeing a lot of the candidates. It’s not a coincidence.

It’s because we matter. Our votes could swing the election. We are important. And we should treat it as such.

Get involved. Know the issues, and the candidates.

You can’t say we didn’t warn you. We have new neighbors.

Their names are McCain, Obama, Palin and Biden.

A geography lesson

Yesterday’s appearance by Sen. Joe Biden at Linvilla Orchards gave me another lesson in one of the vagaries of Delaware County geography.

I heard any number of media outlets trumpeting the campaign stop by the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Most of them indicated he would be appearing at Linvilla Orchards.

In Media.

Oh, really? I beg to disagree. Biden wasn’t in Media. Didn’t even come close, really.

Unless they moved Linvilla Orchards, Biden was in Middletown Township.

It’s one of those things about the county that cause me no small amount of aggravation. We have a tendency at the newspaper to refer to things by their mailing address. I don’t even know but I am guessing that the postal address for Linvilla Orchards is in fact Media, Pa.

That gives it something in common with this newspaper, which is published every day in a place called Primos, Pa. Which is nice except for one thing. There’s no such place. We are located geographically in Upper Darby Township. Primos doesn’t exist, other than in the eyes of the United State Postal Service. If you can find me the Primos Borough Council I’ll have a pretty good story for tomorrow.

Nope, Primos has something in common with places like Secane, Havertown, Drexel Hill, Broomall, Linwood, Boothwyn and Glen Mills. None of them actually exist.

Our policy at the newspaper is, whenever possible, to be geographically correct in terms of referring to where people live. Sometimes that’s easier to do than others.

Media is especially troublesome. Do you have any idea how many towns, or parts of them, get their mail delivered from the Media Post Office, giving them a Media mailing address?

For instance, we have this news flash just in. They have not moved the Granite Run Mall. At least not that I’m aware of. Yet it is constantly referred to as being in Media.

And, of course, there’s my favorite. My good friends at the “Media” barracks of the state police. Go ahead, accuse of “copping” an attitude, but the “Media” barracks is not in Media, it’s also in Middletown.

Most of the times this is fairly innocent. But a lot of people get fairly provincial when it comes to their towns. They get fairly indignant when someone does something pretty despicable and they believe their lovely little burg is being unfairly slimed in the process.

It happens a couple of times every week. We’ll list someone as being from a certain town, because that’s the way they are listed in the police information. Most likely that is because that is their mailing address. Which, of course, may or may not be where they reside geographically.

Which drives one editor in Primos fairly close to the edge … of Secane, of course.

Shine on

If you’re not a early-morning creature as I am, you missed a wonder of nature this morning.

After I stumbled down the steps and plodded toward the coffee maker this morning, I was struck by something as I glanced out the front door. I didn’t really think about it until I hit the kitchen and looked out onto the porch. I saw the same thing.

I had to check the clock. I thought maybe I had overslept. It was almost like dusk. You could clearly see things that you don’t normally experience in the dark at that time in the morning.

Then I thought maybe one of the neighbors had left one of their outdoor spotlights on.

Not the case.

I quickly discovered what was offering this surreal experience. A full, pie-in-the-sky moon.

If you missed it, I would highly recommend maybe checking it out tomorrow morning.

Feel free to ignore me if you think it’s just a bit insane to be getting up at that hour.

But if you’re into nature and the wonder of all that is around us. You’ll get a new reverence for a “harvest moon.”

Call him Mr. September

Here’s a few words I didn’t think I’d be using again this summer: First-place Phillies.

And here’s a big reason why: Ryan Howard.

Call him Mr. September.

Howard came up big again last night as the Phils rallied to beat the Braves, 8-7.

Howard is on fire. Know how you can tell? He’s driving the ball to left field again. Last night he strode to the plate in the seventh inning and promptly blasted one to the wall in left. It probably should have been caught by Braves’ outfielder Omar Infante. Instead it fell for a triple and helped the Phils erase a 7-4 deficit.

An inning later Howard didn’t need any help, rocketing a blast into the left-field seats to push the Phils ahead, 8-7.

Brad Lidge added some drama in the ninth, loading the bases before striking out Gregor Blanco to seal the deal. That makes him a perfect 37 for 37 in save opportunities this year. A lot of years that would engender MVP talk.

But Lidge is quickly being eclipsed by Howard’s September to remember.

It was home run No. 45 for Howard. His 3 RBI gives him 136 for the season.

How’s this for a sizzling September? Howard is hitting .413, going 26-for-63 in his last 16 games. Along the way he has scorched opposing pitchers for nine home runs and 24 RBIs.

No one is complaining about that $10 million deal awarded to Howard in arbitration back in Clearwater last spring.

Two years ago Howard won both the rookie of the year and MVP Awards. Last year it went to teammate Jimmy Rollins. A lot of people thought it could be a three-peat, with Chase Utley keeping the MVP hardware in the Phillies locker room.

They got it half right. It just might remain the property of the Phils, but if so it will be Howard accepting the prize.

Speaking of eyes on the prize, the win catapulted the Phils back into first place. The slumping Mets, who no doubt are tired of hearing of another September swoon, lost again to fall a half-game behind. Both the Astros and Brewers also lost.

Put the football season back on hold.

Baseball is on the front burner again. And that’s largely because of a red-hot Ryan Howard.