Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick

Is it just me or does it seem like it's been about a month since the Eagles played?

That's what happens when you hit the national limelight on a Thursday night matchup. A lot has happened since the Birds' most impressive win in the last couple of years as they tamed Cam Newton and the Panthers in front of a national audience.

People noticed. The Birds vaulted to the top of the Associated Press Power 32 NFL Rankings. That's right, we're No. 1.

Then Andy Reid and the Chiefs coughed up a fourth quarter lead Thursday night against the Raiders. That means the Eagles, at 5-1, sport the best record in the NFL.

The Birds won't hit the field again until Monday night, when they are back on national TV for a Monday night NFC East clash against the Redskins at the Linc.

Doug Pederson and the Eagles knocked off the Redskins on opening day, 30-17. Since then Kirk Cousins and Washington have rebounded to post a 3-2 mark.

This game should come down to Cousins vs. the Eagles defense. If Fletcher Cox and pals can harass Cousins into making mistakes - read turnovers - they should prevail, especially in front of what will no doubt be a raucous home crowd.

Of offense, right tackle Lane Johnson will be back after missing the last game with a concussion. That's a good thing. Because it will be his job to neutralize Redskins' tackle Ryan Kerrigan, who usually makes life miserable for Eagles QBs. On opening day he picked off a batted Carson Wentz pass and took it to the house for a Pick-Six. He also is usually in Wentz's face with a constant package of blitzes. Once again, it will be interesting to see if Pederson will stick to his new balanced offense, feeding LeGarrette Blount. On opening day, Wentz again dropped back to pass way too many times.

THE PICK: Make it Eagles 31, Redskins 19. Look for Carson Wentz to dazzle again, using his escapability to improvise and make big plays. I know this is going to sound bizarre, but I also like the idea of Doug Pederson now having some extra time to prepare for a game. Look for a very innovative game plan from the Birds' head man.

LAST WEEK: One week after a dominating performance against the Cardinals, the Eagles went on the road on a short week and took down Cam Newton and the Panthers. Easily the most impressive win of the Doug Pederson Era. The victory put the Birds among the NFL's elite with a 5-1 mark. I misfired again and now have fallen a game behind the Birds at 4-2.

GAME BY GAME: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20. (My Pick: Chiefs 33, Eagles 17)

Eagles 30, Redskins 17. (My Pick: Eagles 26, Redskins 13)

Eagles 27, Giants 24. (My Pick: Eagles 23, Giants 17)

Eagles 26, Chargers 24. (My Pick: Chargers 27, Eagles 17)

Eagles 34, Cardinals 7. (My Pick: Eagles 29, Cardinals 24)

Eagles 28, Panthers 23. (My Pick: Panthers 26, Eagles 17)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Amazon on Chester waterfront? Don't bet on it

Do I think that Amazon, the world's biggest online retailer, is going to set up shop with its much-ballyhooed second world headquarters, on the Chester waterfront.

Probably not.

Do I wish they would? Sure.

One of the things Jeff Bezos has stressed in his push to create what the Amazon folks are calling HQ2 is the ability to improve the quality of life in an area.

If that's the case, Chester should shoot to the top of the list.

We're talking about a multi-billion dollar economic shot in the arm, and the addition of 50,000 new jobs.

Think that would do something about helping the quality of life in Chester?

Something else struck me as a gaggle of city and county officials gathered in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge as Delco made its pitch to lure Amazon.

Haven't we been here before.

The group was standing outside Talen Energy Stadium. That's where the Union plays their Major League Soccer games. It wasn't always called that. When it was first built, it was called PPL Park.

It's a beautiful facility, but it was not supposed to be sitting there alone under the Barry Bridge.

Remember? Originally, the stadium was supposed to be part of a similarly impressive multi-million dollar development. The developers Buccini & Pollin, who had done wonders for the Baltimore waterfront, were promising to do the same in Chester.

They envisioned a mix of residential, retail and entertainment outlets. Upscale townhouses on the waterfront. Even a convention center was tossed into the mix.

They got the county to kick in a big chunk of public money.

The stadium got the OK.

Then the economy went off a cliff back in 2008.

Not much has happened since.

The stadium is still there. Down the road in one direction is Harrrah's casino. In the other direction is the Wharf at Rivertown and the restored old PECO Power Station.

The Union has built a training complex.

Townhouses? Uh, no.

Retail outlets? Not yet.

Convention center? Don't hold your breath.

Officials maintain that the plan is still in place and could still happen.

Yeah, right after Amazon sets up shop.

Why Chris Long is on today's editorial page

The NFL is making all kinds of headlines - many of them for things that have nothing to do with what goes on between the lines.

You know, the actual games.

Today on our editorial page, we focus on another off-the-field incident.

No, it's not what you think.

Today we salute Eagles defensive end Chris Long.

What is he doing to merit a spot on our editorial page?

He's donating the rest of his salary for this season to a fund he set up to increase educational opportunities for underserved kids who might otherwise not get that opportunity.

Forget what happens on the field.

Long is a winner in our book.

You can read the editorial here.

The best team in the NFL; Utley heads back to Series

Two quick notes this morning for Philly sports fans.

Congratulations! You're a fan of the team with the best record in the NFL.

That's right. The Eagles are 5-1, and that puts them on top of the heap, after the Chiefs lost a game in classic Andy Reid fashion last night in another prime time performance. This one had Andy's familiar clock management skills written all over it. That and some bizarre penalties led to one of the wildest endings in recent memory.

You can get all those details here

And our old pal Chase Utley is going back to the World Series.

The Dodgers hammed the Cubs in Wrigley last night to seal the deal. They will now face either the Yankees or Astros.

Utley has been struggling mightily of late, but it will still be good to see him get back to the fall classic.

Read about the Dodgers' big win here.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Delco to Amazon: We're Prime!

Now the waiting begins.

Delaware County yesterday threw its hat into the Amazon Derby, hoping to lure the online world biggest retailer to the Chester waterfront.

They have lots of company.

Philadelphia also is hoping to convince the Seattle firm to bring its much-ballyhooed HQ2 to Philly.

The Delco pitch involves the land surrounding Talen Energy Field in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge on the Delaware River.

They also are making the old Community Hospital site available.

And if that's not enough, they have a backup plan, the much talked-about former Franklin Mint site out on Baltimore Pike in Middletown.

There is a lot at stake, a multi-billion dollar economic boom and as many as 50,000 new jobs.

There's plenty of time to debate where Amazon will wind up. The company is not expected to announce its decision until sometime in 2018.

You can read all the details on the Delco pitch for Chester here.

Another reason why the war on opioids is so tough

The opioid battle is not going away.

Not any time soon.

That's why they packed a meeting Monday night in Upper Darby. They wanted to know what they can do to fight the heroin-opioid crisis that is ravaging our towns.

The next night, they were doing the same thing.

Don't fool yourself.

This problem is not limited by geography. It is happening in Upper Darby. And on the Main Line. And in every other Delco town. That is why what happened this week in Washington is absolutely mind-boggling.

What happened?

You can read about it on our editorial page.

27 minutes

27.

That's the most important number to come out of last night's Sixers' season opener.

Not that they lost 120-15 to the Wizards.

Not that Ben Simmons sparkled, scoring 18 points with 10 rebounds.

Not that Robert Covington had 29 points.

So what is the 27?

That's the number of minutes logged by center Joel Embiid.

It tells you that the tanking is over.

The Sixers actually are going to try to win games this year.

The team announced earlier that Embiid would start the season again on a minutes restriction, that he likely would play only 14 minutes. But he blew by that in the first half, and he was on the court with the game on the line in the final five minutes.

That tells you all you need to know about the change in attitude for the Sixers this year.

But it was not the best sports story in the region yesterday.

For that, you had to go to the Eagles.

But it had nothing to do with a game. And everything to do with life.

Chris Long, the defensive end who the Eagles signed as a free agent this year, announced he would donate his entire season of game checks to a fund being set up to push educational equality.

Long had already decided to donate his first six game checks in the wake of the controversy surrounding a white nationalist march in the town where he went to school at the University of Virginia.

You can get all the details here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Delco jumps into the Amazon Derby

Amazon is about to jump into the great Amazon derby.

No, they're not taking some exotic jungle expedition.

They're looking to reel in one of the biggest economic projects in the region's history.

Amazon is the online retailing goliath created by multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos.

They're looking to build a second headquarters to go along with their Seattle home base.

Philadelphia and Delaware are already all in looking to lure a huge economic project that means thousands of new jobs.

Today it's Delaware County's turn.

Delaware County Council plans to hold an afternoon press conference to make their pitch for Amazon HQ2.

And where do they believe Amazon should set up shop?

Think Chester waterfront.

They are holding the presser in the parking lot of Talen Energy Stadium, where the Union play their MSL home games, in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

On hand will be members of Delaware County Council, county Commerce Director Patrick Killian, Chamber of Commerce President Trish McFarland, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and other local and state elected officials, along with several local labor leaders.

Of course, county Democrats could not resist pointing out that they urged Amazon to select Delco with a pitch of their own back on Sept. 11.

We'll be there for the presser.

A new argument in the claim that we have a political bias

When it comes to politics, I'm pretty much used to taking heat from both sides.

So long as both sides are complaining, I figure I have it just about right.

This year Republicans and GOP loyalists believe we are being terribly unfair to incumbent County Councilman Dave White for reporting the attacks being made by Democrats.

Democrats insist we remain in the pocket of the Delco GOP by allowing Republicans to condemn their attacks.

But I have to admit I have never gotten a complaint quite like the one I fielded last weekend.

Once again I was taken to task, accused of playing favorites.

And once again the belief was that we were tilting to the Republicans.

But it was how we supposedly did it that fascinates me.

Last weekend we presented profiles of all the candidates seeking county office. That would be the two Democrats and two Republicans battling for two seats on County Council, as well as the row offices - Common Please Court Judge, Register of Wills, and Sheriff.

We also ran the first of two parts of listings featuring all the contested municipal, school board and magisterial district judge races that will appear on the county ballot.

We'll run the second batch of that group this coming Sunday.

But it was out profiles for the county races that drew the ire of one political insider and reader.

Actually, it wasn't anything about the profiles themselves.

But rather how we lined them up and when we presented them.

We ran the Republican candidate profiles Sunday, and followed up with the Democrats on Monday.

That is was set the reader off.

The person emailed me to suggest we set them up that way on purpose, apparently to boost the Republicans.

They indicated they were "surprised" to see the Republican candidates Sunday, with nothing about the Democratic candidates. This despite the fact we clearly noted that the Democrats would run the following day, Monday.

The reader suggested we did that on purpose because "more people read the Sunday edition than any other day."

The reader suggested that the "least read" edition is Saturday, followed by Monday, thus we did the Democrats a disservice by running their profiles on Monday.

The truth is there is not much difference anymore on our daily circulation numbers. If we had in fact run the Democrats on Saturday, I might have seen the reader's point. But not on Monday. The truth is all this information appears on our web site as well, and still does.

The reader actually suggested a novel way to fix what she considered this slight to Democrats.

"The only fair resolution is to run the Democratic profiles again this Sunday and the Republicans again on Monday."

Uh, I don't think that's going to happen.

I do appreciate your concern. But I don't agree that we were trying to stack the deck against the Dems.

Just ask Dave White.

Saluting 100 years of parochial education at BVM

Here's everything you need to know about the "little school that could."

That would be Blessed Virgin Mary School in Darby Borough. Or, as almost everyone refers to it, simply 'BVM.'

When they opened the doors to the school back in 1917, 195 students were enrolled. Today, despite all the problems parochial schools have encountered in eastern Delaware County, the school boasts an enrollment of 185.

That's called staying power.

They held a celebration at the parish Sunday to take note of 100 years of Catholic education.

We salute BVM on today's editorial page. You can read it here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A salute to BVM in Darby Borough

It is an oasis on MacDade Boulevard.

And it has been now for a century.

The faithful gathered Sunday to mark 100 years of education at Blessed Virgin Mary School in Darby Borough.

Or, as nearly everyone refers to it, simply BVM.

It is there that hundreds returned to the church and school to relive their childhood memories - and to reaffirm the very important work that is done there every day.

BVM, like much of eastern Delaware County, has seized on that notion of America as melting pot. In those pews - and in the desks of the little school - are faces and names that put meaning to that promise.

They are white, brown and everything in between.

They come from far-flung corners of the globe.

At BVM, they become one.

Americans.

We featured the little school - and the parish of the same name - on the front of Monday's paper.

They held a celebration of the school's centennial Sunday with a special Mass. The place was packed.

You can read about it here.

BVM would not be possible without the dedicated work of a devoted pastor, the Rev. Joe Corley, and Principal Sister Virginia Paschall.

Here's to you, BVM.

Cracker Barrel will open in Ridley Nov. 13

Forget what you see on the front page of today's Daily Times.

Yes, I know I have harped for years about that tiny square of real estate - and what's on it - as being some of the most valuable real estate in the county.

I have often said that the decision I make each day about what appears as our lead story continues to be the most important thing I do each day.

But there is something that is not on today's front page that I am willing to bet will be one of the most talked-about stories in the county today, especially if you go anywhere near social media.

You might want to sit down for this one - and tie on a bib.

They have set the opening date for the new Cracker Barrel - the first one in Delco - that is going to open up in down on Stewart Avenue in Ridley Township.

The long-awaited new eatery will throw open the doors Monday, Nov. 13.

You can read about the insanely popular restaurant here.

There's no truth to the rumor that people are already standing in line.

I least I don't think so.

Fall-ing into a cold fact: Summer's over

I make a pact with myself every fall.

It's my way of clinging to summer, even as I now drive home in the dark each night.

I make a promise to myself that I will not don a coat until Thanksgiving.

Yes, that made for a chilly start this morning.

Brace yourself.

It's not chilly out, at least not to me. It's cold.

Hey, it could have been worse. At least there was only a hint of frost on the windshield this morning. But the second my bottom hit that seat in the car, I knew summer was over.

I may be crazy, but I'm not a fool. I opted against the coat, but I did crank up the heat in the car.

Technology is a two-edged sword. For the most part, I disdain all this technology we swim in.

And so I was less than thrilled as I pulled out of the drive way by that little 'dinging' sound emanating from the dashboard that also flashes the warning light that there could be slick patches on the road. That happens when the temperatures hits 39 degrees.

38!!!!

Where's my coat?

Monday, October 16, 2017

What Chester Makes

Chester was back on the front page of the newspaper in the last couple of days.

Last Friday we took note of an especially violent 24-hour stretch in the city. Police were investigating three separate shooting incidents, one of which police described as a shootout between two men. Both lost their lives.

A victim from one of the other two shooting incidents died the following day. It brought the city's homicide total to 27 for the year. That equals the 27 recorded in the city all of all of last year.

But it's the Sunday story - which dominated the front page - that I want to bring to your attention.

In that story we detailed one of the city's most famous sayings: What Chester Makes Makes Chester.

That saying hung on the old Philadelphia Electric Co. building at Sixth and Crosby streets for nearly half a century. It came down in the 1970s. Not everyone has forgotten, however.

On Saturday city residents gathered for a special presentation celebrating the city's heritage, and its roots as an industrial icon. You can read the story here.

It's easy to take shots at Chester these days.

We get accused of doing it all the time.

Yes, we pay attention to the problem of crime and random gun violence that continues to afflict the city. But we don't ignore the other - positive - stories either.

A lot of people are working hard to return Chester to its grand past. There is a vibrant arts community that is revitalizing center city. We take note of all these stories.

Not because we feel compelled to counterbalance the negative news that comes out of the city.

But because it's the right thing to do.

There was a time when "What Chester Makes Makes Chester" was a way of life.

A lot of people have not forgotten.

Neither have we.

The problem with 'fake news'

It's amazing what a nice guy I am anytime I run something people like or agree with.

At those times I'm lauded as a journalist.

But run something negative, in particular something people don't necessarily agree with, and all of a sudden I'm fake news. This just in - I run both kinds of stories.

And just because you don't happen to agree with a story, or don't particularly care for it, doesn't make it "fake news." This is now part of the media sea I swim in every day.

Of course this is the trickle-down from President Trump's war with the media and his penchant for blasting anything he disagrees with or paints him in a negative light as "fake news."

Let me be clear. That does not mean we don't get things wrong once in awhile.

We have a clear process for that and are careful to correct the misinformation.

But even something that is incorrect is not the same thing as being "fake."

If you don't think that President Trump's battle with the media and his perception of "fake news" is not having an effect on local journalism, I suggest maybe you come in and answer my phone for a couple of hours.

Or you could just check out my Facebook page or Twitter posts.

That's where I'm routinely vilified for peddling "fake news."

It's not part of the media landscape.

It's a dangerous thing, but I don't think people realize just how dangerous.

I talk about it in today's print column, my Monday Letter From the Editor."

A Sunday without the 5-1 Eagles

There is something oddly therapeutic about a fall Sunday without the Eagles.

Thanks to that eye-opening win over the Carolina Panthers Thursday night, Eagles fans were looking at a rare Birds-free weekend.

For one thing, it reminds you of all the things you could be doing every Sunday instead of sitting in front of the TV.

Luckily, yesterday was cloudy and damp, so it provided the perfect time to just sit around, read, watch some TV, and breathe in all those things that you miss out on most Sundays when you are instead glued to the TV.

It also doesn't hurt as you check out some other games to realize that the Eagles are now tied for the best record in the NFL.

That's right, thanks for losses by our old pal Andy Reid and the Chiefs, who fell to the Steelers, and a stunning loss by the Broncos last night to the previously winless Giants, the Eagles now are tied at the top of the NFL heap with a 5-1 mark. That puts them neck and neck with the Chiefs.

I liked everything about yesterday so much I just might repeat it next week.

I'm already looking forward to another lazy Sunday.

Of course, that also is because the Eagles don't play until Monday night.

Yeah, some habits are harder to break than others.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The 5-1 Eagles stake their claim to be among NFL's best

Usually, it is the loser's lament.

The refs cost us the game.

Not last night.

Against all odds - including Pete Morelli's officiating crew - the Eagles went into Carolina last night and beat Cam Newton and the Panthers, 28-23.

The Eagles are 5-1, sitting atop the NFC East and rightfully staking a claim to being one of the best teams in the NFL.

They played without their crucial cog, right guard Lane Johnson. And it showed early as backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled early, giving up a key sack to Julius Peppers that led to a Carson Wentz fumble. But Vaitai settled down and played well in the second half.

It is this mantra of "next man up" that has become the calling card of this team. And it just happens to be the trait of good teams. And make no mistake, Doug Pederson's club is a very good team.

Starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks went down with a turned ankle in the first half. No problem. Joe Woods stepped up and filled the bill.

Carson Wentz was money again, throwing three more TD passes and showing he is quickly becoming one of the elite signal callers in the NFL, far beyond what is usually expected of second-year players. Wentz's ability to come to the line of scrimmage and quickly dissect a defense - including switching out of a play when he sees something he can exploit - is the mark of a savvy veteran like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

The Eagles faced the uphill challenge of a short week and traveling to Carolina.

But it wasn't just the Panthers that seemed to be providing the opposition.

They had to deal with Pete Morelli's officiating crew.

The trend showed up early, a bunch of ticky-tack calls, in particular on the Eagles defense. There was an unnecessary roughness call on running back LeGarrette Blount for what appeared to be routine blocking. That was followed a few minutes later by no call when Blount was thrown to the ground by a Panther clearly after the whistle.

The Eagles were called for 10 penalties for 126 yards; the Panthers just one infraction for 1 yard.

Sound lopsided? Actually, it continued a trend.

In the last four Eagles games done by Morelli's crew - all on the road - the Birds have been flagged 40 times for 396 yards, while the home team has been hit just eight times for 74 yards.

And none of it matters at this point.

What matters is this: The Eagles are 5-1, staking a claim to be among the NFL's elite.

The only downside: We now have to wait more than a week for the Birds to get back on the field, a Monday night matchup vs. the Redskins.

Can't wait.

No tax hike for Delco - for 4th straight year

Delaware County Council has a pre-holiday - and pre-election - present for county residents.

Taxes will not be going up next year.

That makes four straight years without a tax hike.

As you might expect, with two seats on County Council up for grabs on the Nov. 7 ballot, news of a fourth straight year with increasing taxes is viewed differently according to your political persuasion.

Dave White, the Republican incumbent who is running for another term along with John Perfetti, said "Delaware County is on the move," touting growth in the county that has resulted in 25,000 new jobs and 500 new business startups.

The Democratic challengers, Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek, are less impressed.

Click here for the full story.

More violence on the streets of Chester

It has not been a good week on the streets of Chester.

Police are investigating the latest wave of violence on city streets.

In a 24-hour period, two men were killed and two others wounded in three separate shooting incidents.

You can get all the details here.

The two fatal shootings brings the city's homicide total to 26 for the year. There were only 27 all of last year. There have been 33 homicides in the county.

The city has boosted a reward fund for information on gun violence in the city, beefed up the number of officers on patrol and added state police to try to quell the violence on city streets.

Nothing has worked.

Police Chief James Nolan feels the frustration, both from residents and his own police force.

"What we can't correct is the lack of concern for human life," Nolan told a local TV station.

So what is the answer for the city.

It's one residents and officials need to address now, before the next round of gunfire breaks out.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick (Thursday Edition)

How about that Joel Embiid!

Oops, wrong sport.

But it's telling that on a day when the 4-1 Eagles are rolling into a prime-time matchup against another 4-1 team, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, Philly remains abuzz about Embiid's series debut last night against the Nets on on Long Island.

If he stays healthy, the Eagles just might have serious competition atop the Philly sports talk topics.

But on to the matter at hand.

I was on the money last week, thinking the Eagles would handle a struggling Cardinals team that had to fly across the country.

Now it's the Eagles turn to hit the orad, and on a short practice week to play on a Thursday night.

That does not bode well for them.

I don't like this short week and trip to Carolina even a little bit.

Making matters worse, the Eagles will find themselves without right guard Lane Johnson, who just might be the key to their offensive success.

Remember last year when the Birds sprinted out to a 3-0 record? Then they lost Johnson to a 10-game suspension and their season went off a cliff.

So far head coach Doug Pederson has pushed all the right buttons this season. He'll need another gem tonight, devising a way to control the ball on the ground, protecting QB Carson Wentz in front of that line that will be without its star right tackle, and maybe most importantly keeping Panthers QB Cam Newton on the sidelines.

On defense, it appears the Birds might get their All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox back, though it will technically be a game-time decision.

The Eagles have been on a run, with Pederson pushing all the right buttons. A win tonight on the national stage in front of a prime-time audience would put them among the elite of the NFL.

One other thing to note. This is an important game for Carson Wentz. The Eagles second-year QB is slowly starting to build a lot of buzz for his success in leading the Eagles. Tonight everyone will be tuning in to see a prime-time matchup of elite young QBs. Wentz vs. Newtown. It's a very important game for Carson.

I'll be rooting for a win, but my heart tells me Newton and the Panthers come out on top.

THE PICK: Make it Panthers 26, Eagles 17. Look for Carson Wentz and the Birds offense to sputter without key cog Lane Johnson. That means lots of time on the field for Cam Newton, and that will spell big problems for the Eagles defense.

LAST WEEK: Maybe the most impressive poerformance of the Doug Pederson Era. The Birds simply dominated the Cardinals in every facet of the game, racing out to a 21-0 bulge in the first quarter, with Wentz tossing TD passes on the team's first three possessions. The win lifted the Eagles to a 4-1 record, alone atop the NFC East. I had them winning as well, so I now sport an identicial 4-1 mark. This might be one of the tougher tasks of the season. A win could be a defining moment for Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz. A loss won't be the end of the world.

GAME BY GAME: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20. (My Pick: Chiefs 33, Eagles 17)

Eagles 30, Redskins 17. (My Pick: Eagles 26, Redskins 13)

Eagles 27, Giants 24. (My Pick: Eagles 23, Giants 17)

Eagles 26, Chargers 24. (My Pick: Chargers 27, Eagles 17)

Eagles 34, Cardinals 7. (My Pick: Eagles 29, Cardinals 24)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

I am 'Fake News'

I am Fake News.

Or so my critics would have you believe.

This is what it's like working in the social drenched atmosphere of journalism these days.

Yesterday we posted on our website a story on the Temple student who was fatally shot after an altercation with police in Miami.

AP puts a headline on its stories that very often gets copied over when the story isposted on DelcoTimes.com.

This is what the headline on the story said:

Temple University student killed by police after car crashes.

Technically, it's accurate. But after reviewing the story it's pretty clear there was a lot more going on here than that headline portrays. The woman, Cariann Hithon, of Bowie, Md., had crashed her car into several cars along Miami's famous South Beach area. Hithon apparently was in South Florida to celebrate her 22nd birthday. When a crowd gathered around the car, it took off again, striking a police officer. That's when another officer fired three shots into the car.

The entire incident is now under invetigation.

When the story got posted to our DelcoTimes Facebook page, the reaction was immediate - and harsh.

But it was the tone of many of the comments that struck me.

It did not take long for several people to accuse us of practicing "fake news."

Yes, this is what it is like working in journalism today.

Every person with a phone or tablet is a publisher.

That is now part and parcel of what we do. And I have no problem with that. I say the more the merrier.

But if you think that President Trump's insistence on anything that does not portray him in a positive light is "fake news" does not trickle down to your local newspaper, I am here to tell you different.

Let's get this straight.

That initial report was not "fake news."

Was the headline not nearly as accurate as it should have been?

You bet.

That's why I changed it.

You read it right.

As it turns out, I was not in the office yesterday.

But being the glutton for punishment that I am, I still manage email and check our social media accounts.

When I saw that the story on the Temple student was blowing up on our Facebook page, I reviewed the story - and the headline.

I changed it - and I posted a note on the Facebook page.

That did not stop the torrent of negative comments, all with the same tenet: We shape the news to fit our liberal agenda. We purposely crafted that headline to emphasize the actions of police in using deadly force, instead of the actions of the woman that precipitated the incident. We are looking as we always do to foment racial strife. We are anti-police.

"Please stop writing misleading headlines."

"Slanted and misleading headlines are just one of the multitude of reasons no one buys your paper anymore." In short, we are practicing "fake news."

I noticed something else in the stream of invective aimed at the newspaper. People took us to task for not summarizing all the facts of the case, but had no issue with jumping to conclusions as to what was happening on that Miami street. The fact is we don't know - and may never know why that woman did what she did.

"Temple student runs over officer," is how one reader believes the story should have been headlined. I suppose that is accurate as well.

"Not your twisted words of hate. All you are doing is causing more hate towards our police officers."

"Daily Times trying to be like the big anti-police papers and put out headlines that make cops the bad guys."

Funny, I thought we have been going out of our way the past few years to do stories that put cops in a positive light.

I consistently offer them support with our Saturday "Laurels" as well as on our editorial page.

Doesn't matter.

We're anti-police.

And "Fake News." There's a big difference between a story you don't like, or even one you don't agree with, and "fake news."

I don't practice fake news.

That headline was not as accurate as it should have been. I corrected it.

Didn't seem to change many people's minds.

It's all fake news to them.

Thanks, President Trump.

Another view on gun control

Funny thing about opinions.

They are kind of like something else you might have heard about: We all have one.

Actually we probably have several.

I have one.

But notice how I phrased that. I have one. Not the only one.

I have made my position on gun control pretty clear.

I don't harbor for a minute that we are ever going to radically alter Second Amendment rights. Nor do I necessarily think we should.

I have, however, on many occasions, wondered why a person would need a semiautomatic weapon.

A quick glance at social media will show you that is not an especially popular opinion.

But I am always willing to entertain other opinions, despite the critics who insist that I shape the news to fit my own personal - liberal - agenda.

Today columnist Chris Freind steps up to the plate to talk about gun control.

Chris believes - as many do - that a band on some weapons will not stop mass shooting incidents.

I'm glad he weighed in.

That's the whole idea. It's supposed to be a community of ideas.

You can read Chris' here.

Why do athletes make this kind of money? Because they can

I long ago stopped complaining about athletes and the money they make.

This struck me again yesterday as I tried to get my hands around the notion of the Sixers offering center Joel Embiid a max five-year deal worth an estimated $148 million.

This for a guy who has played parts of 31 games.

He missed his first two seasons for injuries.

Last year's rookie season was cut short by knee surgery.

When he did play, he was on minutes restrictions and did not play on back-to-back nights.

He is expected to be in the lineup for the first time in the preseason tonight when the Sixers play the Nets on Long Island. Sorry, the game won't be on TV.

Yes, it's a roll of the dice. But it's one the Sixers had to make. Embiid just might be that good. Or he could wind up injured again and never amount to anything more than the flashes of brilliance he offered last year.

So why do athletes command such insane amounts of money.

I get asked that question a lot. I always give the same answer.

It applies to a lot of things in life:

Because they can.

It's the same for movie stars and others who rake in obscene salaries.

They do it because they can.

It's that simple.

Fans will continue to pay huge money for tickets, be gouged for parking and ripped off for watered-down beer.

The same goes for movies. The price keeps going up because it can. We continue to pay for it.

I still love sports. It's something dear to my heart.v But I no longer grip about the money these guys make.

They make it because they can.

I - and I assume most people - can't. They have a skill set that commands that kind of money.

Is it right? Probably not. Doesn't matter. And I don't see it changing anytime soon, despite the recent outcry over protests at sporting events surrounding the National Anthem.

Anyone care to disagree?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dealing with kidney stones

I never knew I was in such good company.

Apparently lots of people have deal with kidney stones.

And almost all of them no doubt are praying that they don't have to face a return bout.

I know I am.

I wrote about it in my Monday print column. The feedback was great. So many people reached out to tell me of their own experience and offer some tips for keeping these things at bay.

And almost every person mentioned something I learned first-hand: They have never encountered that kind of pain.

So far, so good. The X-ray indicated I have stones on both sides, but there is a chance I might have passed them.

Thanks for all the tips. Yes, I have been increasing my water intake. I always drank water all day - when I wasn't inhaling coffee. I'm trying to keep doing that. It keeps the body flushed and hydrated. It also keeps you in the bathroom.

All I know is I never want to experience that kind of pain again.

I'll keep you posted.

Joel Embiid cashes in

I'm not going to argue the move the Sixers made yesterday to lock up center Joel Embiid to a long-term deal.

The team made it clear. Embiid simply can do things on the court that not many people are able to do.

And that's part of the problem.

Embiid is all too rarely on the court.

That didn't stop the Sixers from signing him to a max contract extension, $148 million over five years.

Embiid, who missed all of his first two seasons in the league with a variety of ailments, has just started to scrimmage in 5-on-5 in training camp. He has yet to appear in the exhibition season.

He finally got on the court last year, playing in parts of 31 games before having knee surgery. He has never played without a minutes restriction because of his lengthy medical issues.

When the Sixers finally got him on the court, it was only with minutes restrictions that limited his effectiveness. He also did not play back-to-back games. None of that stopped him from showing signs of being a dominant player. When he was on the court, it was obvious he could be a difference maker, averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds last season.

"He's a difference maker," coach Brett Brown said. "He has a chance to be great. There's still lots of work to be done. When you look at his body of work ... he's really only been playing basketball for six years, he's just scratching the surface."

No argument from me.

Embiid is the key to the Sixers season. With him, they have a chance to be a playoff team. Without him, even with the addition of Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, they are still in rebuilding mode.

But the flashes of brilliance have convinced team president Bryan Colangelo and ownership that Embiid was worth the risk. "In the time that he has been on the floor, we have seen him change completely the gym," Brown. "He does it with just his physical presence. He does it with a defensive mindset. And he does it with an offensive target that's different than anything else we have."

Now all they have to do is get him - and keep him - on the floor.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Third down magic

The NFL is all about third down.

And Carson Wentz is all about third down.

All the Eagles second-year quarterback did Sunday was go 11 for 12 on third down as the Eagles scorched the Cardinals. Wentz is dialed in. So is his head coach, Doug Pederson.

Wentz threw four touchdown passes Sunday as the Eagles raced out to an early lead over the Cardinals and never looked back. Final score: Eagles 34, Cardinals 7.

And it wasn't that close.

Wentz doesn't look like a second-year NFL QB. This isn't what young signal callers are supposed to be doing. Especially not on third down. But it's pretty clear Wentz is not just any second-year QB.

He has a varied skill set that allows him to adjust on the fly, and when all else fails, he has the physical ability to make something out of nothing.

Yesterday, in the battle of Carsons, Carson Wentz was stellar, while Carson Palmer looked very much like the beleaguered leader of a team that is coming apart at the seams.

Part of that is the frustration of Wentz's third-down magic. There is nothing more deflating to a defense than to surrender a first down on third down, thus preventing them from getting off the field.

Went tossed TD passes on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter to basically decide this contest.

It was the kind of "step on the throat" performance when you get a team down that the Eagles too often have failed to do in the past, instead letting teams crawl back into the game.

Overall the Eagles were went 9 for 14 on third down. Wentz went 11 for 12 for 225 yards and three TDs on third down. Wentz already has six TDs on third downs in five games.

This team has risen to the occasion each week, overcoming whatever obstacles lie in their path.

Injuries? They've had their share. The loss of Darren Sproles has not stopped the offense. Playing their second week without All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has not stopped the flow on defense.

Yesterday they lost right tackle Lane Johnson to a head injury. Ironically, it was Johnson's suspension last year after the Eagles sprinted to a 3-0 record that seemed to pull the plug on the season. Yesterday, they simply buckled their chin straps and soldiered on. Now they may face their biggest challenge.

They are looking at a short week before going on the road to face Cam Newton and a very good Carolina Panthers team. They also are 4-1. Don't be against the Eagles. And Carson Wentz.

Especially on third down.

Taking aim at bump stocks

Yes, we went there Sunday.

We waded back into the gun debate.

On our editorial page, we noted the national conversation. You know, the one we have every time there is a mass shooting.

But this time, in the wake of 59 people killed and 500 more wounded by a madman raining heavy firepower down from his sniper's lair on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Ban resort onto a crowd enjoying a country music festival in Las Vegas, there appears to be something different.

Stephen Paddock was able to modify several of his semiautomatic rifles to fire as an automatic. In other words, instead of having to squeeze the trigger on every shot, he was able to simply hold the trigger down and unleash his version of hell.

Both the guns Paddock used and the device he used to alter his weapons were perfectly legal.

The device is called a bump stock.

And it quickly became the target of those seeking to limit the damage in these heinous events.

But there was something different this time.

After the normal outrage was offered, agreement came in from two places where that kind of talk is not usually offered. Several Republican members of Congress said they would consider banning bump stocks. Even the National Rifle Association indicated it's something that should be considered.

Yes, it just might be time.

You can read our Sunday editorial here.

A medical update

I have been remarkably lucky when it comes to my health.

Oh, I've had a couple of minor skin cancer scares. It's in the genes. You know, that fair-skinned Irish lineage. Yes, I had my share of nasty sunburns when I was a kid. (What, baby oil and iodine doesn't act as a sunscreen?) The skin cancer thing is in our family so any more as much as I love the beach, I'm the guy wrapped on towels.

Then there's my face. Yes, take it, please. Or at least tell me it's going to clear up one of these days. I just turned 62 and I'm sure it's going to happen any day now. I've only been waiting since I was 15.

But none of that prepared me for what hit me last week.

What was it?

Two words: Kidney stones.

Believe me, you don't want to mess with it.

Kidney stones was bad enough. But a secondary issue was almost as bad.

I detail my medical maladies in my weekly Letter From the Editor.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick

All hail Doug Pederson.

The much-questioned (remember 4th and eight?) gunslinger head coach of the Eagles fooled us all.

Pederson has spent much of the preseason and first quarter the regular season looking for an identity for his Birds. I think he's found it.

Behind a very good run-blocking offensive line, Pederson has astounded everyone by reversing his penchant for putting the ball in the air and turning the Birds into a ground attack.

He continues to rotate at left guard, with Stefen Wisniewski and Champ Warmack. He's using a running back by committee approach to carries, and the Eagles are steam-rolling opponents.

Perhaps the best example of that was the final 6:44 of last Sunday's win over the Chargers in front of a throng of Eagles fans in L.A. The Chargers had rallied to draw within two points of the Eagles. Giving Philip Rivers the ball back needing only a field goal to win would have been a dicey proposition.

He never got that chance. The Eagles did what good teams do. No, make that what great teams do. This wasn't fancy. The Eagles simply imposed their will on the Chargers in a 13-play drive that drained the last six minutes of the clock. The Chargers never saw the ball again, and the Birds got a big win.

This week they face another scuffling team. This should be a win, but it won't be easy. The Eagles continue to be banged up. Fletcher Cox is out. One part of the running attack could be sidelined. Wendell Smallwood has not practiced all week with a sore knee.

But LeGarrette Blount and Corey Coleman should be able to shoulder the load.

And even without Cox, the Eagles defensive line should be able to put enough pressure on Carson Palmer to force a couple of key turnovers. And don't forget their new secret weapon. That would be rookie kicker Jake Elliott, who was a perfect four-for-four last week in L.A. With his booming leg, the Eagles are now a threat to score as soon as they cross mid-field.

THE PICK: Make it Eagles 29, Cardinals 24. This could be the day LeGarrette Blount, who was so impressive vs. the Chargers, becomes the darling of the Linc. The guy simply refused to go down after first contact. He's got Philly favorite written all over him.

LAST WEEK: Very impressive win against the Chargers. That final drive to run out the clock is something you expect to see New England or another playoff team do. Now the Eagles need to do something else good teams do. They need to beat a team flying across the country they are expected to handle at home. The win lifted the Birds to a 3-1 mark, and they now sit alone atop the NFC East. I fumbled this one. I didn't expect them to beat the Chargers, although I might add that those last two wins (Chargers and Giants) come against teams that are winless on the year. So let's not get carried away. I now sport an identical 3-1 mark as the Birds.

GAME BY GAME: Chiefs 27, Eagles 20. (My Pick: Chiefs 33, Eagles 17)

Eagles 30, Redskins 17. (My Pick: Eagles 26, Redskins 13)

Eagles 27, Giants 24. (My Pick: Eagles 23, Giants 17)

Eagles 26, Chargers 24. (My Pick: Chargers 27, Eagles 17)

Friday, October 6, 2017

A conversation with the governor

We must be in a budget crisis.

Why else would Gov. Tom Wolf be calling?

The governor has been reaching out to the media to offer his version of the now three-month state budget impasse. Thursday it was my turn.

I got about 10 minutes with the governor, who reinforced that he is no longer waiting on House Republicans to craft some kind of funding mechanism to finish the $32 billion budget that was passed just before the deadline back on June 30.

The governor intends to patch the immediate spending gap by "tapping" into profits from the Liquor Control Board.

I could not resist the opportunity to once again remind the governor that he was talking to the state's foremost proponent of scrapping the LCB and turning the sale of alcohol in the state over to private enterprise.

"Who knew all that revenue from the LCB was going to be so handy," I told the governor.

I think he got the joke.

Actually, he quickly reminded me that raiding the piggy bank of the LCB was far better than the move preferred by House Republican leadership - borrowing from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement.

Wolf says he's done his part, streamlining government and slashing the number of state employees. Now it's time for House Republicans to get their act together.

In the meantime, Wolf is not going to hold his breath. He is going to govern.

Wolf supported the funding plan passed by the state Senate, which included a slew of new taxes as well as the state's first severance tax on natural gas drillers. It wasn't as big a tax as he once sought, but it had the key item he's been pushing, recurring revenue that will address the state's consistent budget woes. He also added that he already had abandoned something he pusheed in his first two budgets, big hikes in the state's major tax vehicles - the sales and personal income tax.

But House leaders dug in their heels against the new shale levy.

They instead this week have come up with an odd variety of measures, first looking at a levy on storage and maintenance facilities, then considering nearly doubling the hotel tax.

Neither one seems to be going anywhere.

One frustrated member of the Delco Republican House legislation told me, "It’s a level of disarray that no one can remember. I feel like the quarterback is saying “go long” every time we get in the huddle."

For his part, Wolf is done waiting.

What happens now?

"The door is always open," Wolf said. "It's time for the House to live up to their commitments."

Don't look for this to end anytime soon.

Click here for a look at what happened when Republicans from southeastern Pa. tried to get a severance tax measure out onto the House floor for a vote by the full chamber.

Click here for our editorial on the latest edition of the Pa. Budget follies.

It's enough to drive a governor to drink. Or at least skim off some of the profits.

A salute to one of the good guys - Bob Adams

I think it's safe to say we have a love-hate relationship with many police forces in Delaware County.

Call us the Odd Couple.

They have information we need.

We are an outlet for them to get the word out.

If only it were always that easy.

Some departments are more forthcoming than others.

The truth is, we never hear from some departments. I often get the distinct impression some police departments are under orders from their bosses - the folks who have to run for office - that they don't necessarily want to see their town's dirty laundry aired in the Daily Times. Then there is the other end of the spectrum. You would be hard-pressed to find a more outspoken, accessible, quotable top cop than Upper Darby's Mike Chitwood.

The ranks of guys we can always count on to deliver information is losing one of its chief disciples today.

It's Bob Adams last day on the job as chief of police in Collingdale. After 10 years as top cop in Collingdale and nearly four decades in law enforcement, Adams is hanging up his badge.

You might say Adams is one of the good guys.

At least you would if you were a newspaper editor. Always available, always fair.

Adams is always willing to talk, even under toughest of circumstances.

Did we always agree? No. What fun would that be.

But Bob Adams shared something I try to be every day.

He was always fair.

He'll be missed - especially by us.

You can read a profile of Adams' career here.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Two sides to every story

It is the oldest adage in the news business.

It also happens to be one of the truest.

There are two sides to every story.

Every time I publish a story, either in print or online, I know that it is going to spark a reaction, and very often a dissenting point of view.

That is the nature of the beast.

I have "an" opinion. It is not "the" opinion. Or the "only" opinion.

Yes, I have a bit bigger megaphone. But the truth is today every person with a phone or tablet is now in fact often an editor or publisher.

The thing that most bothers me is when someone accuses me of shaping the news to fit a specific agenda. I'm not sure why I even bring this up for the millionth time, but I again feel the need to dispel any such notion.

We now live in different times.

Everything is viewed through a partisan, political prism.

Here in Delaware County, we are once again heading toward the polls in November where voters will elect two members of County Council as well as a seat on the county bench and a slew of row offices.

The county courthouse has been a bastion of Republican power here in the county for as long as anyone can remember.

There are those who believe I am in cahoots with Democrats to try to change that.

It's not the case, but I know it's not going to change the impression.

We are reporting the charges made by both sides.

The truth is, I've been getting complaints from both sides on our coverage. Republicans think we've been unfair in reporting the claims of Democrats; Democrats are crying foul about the way they're being characterized by the GOP.

We have been reporting both sides.

That's one of the things we do.

One of the most important topics that we continue to cover in the county is the tumult surrounding the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.

A lot of people - many of them tied to government entities, labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce, all big boosters of the project - think we've gone over the top in covering the story. They think we are tilted in favor of those who oppose the project, citing concerns about safety and property values.

Recently, we ran a letter to the editor from a woman who specifically took some Republican governing bodies to task for what she claimed was their complicity in paving the way for the project, instead of looking out for the rights of citizens.

A few days later, I received a reply from Mark Kirchgasser, president of the Middletown Township Council. He pointed out something the woman did not divulge, she was a leader in the Mid-County Democratic Party and wife of a Democratic elected official. I probably should have know that. I did not.

I'm glad Kirchgasser responded. You can read his piece here. That is the whole purpose of an op-ed page - a community of ideas. All ideas. Not just mine. I will continue to try to stay in the middle of the road.

And I know most people will think that I fail miserably just about every day.

Oh, and other thing, will someone please remind me never to write about guns again?

A salute to a giving people a second chance, a Threshold

On our editorial page, we take time today to salute an effort that is at the heart of our justice system.

In plain language, the notion of a second chance.

The idea is not simply to lock up people and throw away the key.

The idea is to rehabilitate those who enter prison, to arm them for a new, better way of life when they leave.

And that they never return.

That's where a group like Thresholds comes in.

They do one-on-one sessions with prisons, offering them instructions on problem-solving and decision making.

It's voluntary - on both ends.

People volunteer their time to mentor inmates. The prisoners are not required to take part, they sign up of their own accord.

The result? Many inmates express appreciation by saying they wish that had this kind of information before they went astray of the law.

We salute the notion of a second chance for those who have broken the law.

They can get a new start.

A Threshold, if you will.

You can read our editorial here.

Simmons & Simmonds carry the night

It was a big night for guys named Simmons and Simmonds in Philly sports.

First things first.

The powers-that-be in the NHL decided it would be a good idea to have one of their premier teams - in a hockey-crazed major market - start the season on the West Coast.

Don't ask me why.

At any rate, the Flyers managed to come out with guns blazing. They scored three times on the power play and Wayne Simmonds racked up a hat trick to lead the orange-and-black to a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks.

We've got a report on the game here.

Locally, all eyes were on the other Simmons.

That would be Ben Simmons, who made his Sixers debut last night after missing all of what would have been his rookie season with an ankle injury.

Whatever "it" is, Simmons has "it."

He turned the exhibition opener into an event.

The Sixers struggled without center Joel Embiid. Who knows when or if he'll ever be healthy enough to play without some kind of restrictions.

But this could very quickly be Ben Simmons team. He only scored eight points, but everything about the Sixers game flowed through him.

By the way, the announced attendance at last night's preseason opener? That would be 18,102.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Mr. Simmons.

Read Jack McCaffery's take on the city's next budding superstar here.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gunning for trouble

Guns, race and religion.

They are the "third rails" of journalism.

Go there at your own peril.

Yesterday, I went there.

In the wake of still another mass shooting - this time the deadliest in U.S. history - I wanted to talk about guns.

I posted a blog item asking for discussion. I shared it on social media.

I knew what was coming.

It likely sparked more conversation than just about anything I've written - at least recently.

No, not all of it was civil. Almost nothing on social media is these days.

But I still think it was necessary.

I expanded on that blog post on today's editorial page.

The truth is I don't what the answer is. I don't know if anybody does.

I do know this: We can save our breath discussing the Second Amendment. It's not going away. But I think it can - and should - be tweaked.

I don't think a citizen necessarily should have the right to buy a weapon capable of delivering the kind of mayhem that rained down on that crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

I know what the gun crowd is going to say. There are already laws in place. Just enforce them. Clearly they are not working..

And I know all about the NRA's entrenched position against any change in the Second Amendment, with the fear being that "slippery slope" is just a few steps away from prying the guns from the hands of American citizens.

Here, exactly, is what the Second Amendment guarantees:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Period.

That single sentence likely has been the most widely interpreted sentence in U.S. history.

What exactly is a well-regulated militia?

Who are they supposed to be protecting us from?

Is language adopted in 1791 applicable in 2017?

Semi-automatic and automatic weapons certainly are still applicable to a "well regulated militia," but should they be available to a private citizen.

The latest news reports indicate Stephen Paddock legally acquired every one of the weapons he used in the largest mass shooting in United State history.

Don't you think maybe it's time to update the Second Amendment. Or at least talk about it?

You can read our editorial here.

See you on social media.

Latest budget fix: Double the hotel tax

At this point, about the only thing missing in Harrisburg is a Big Top.

Yes, the circus is still in town.

Remember last week when I told you that a budget deal - including the state's first-ever severance tax on natural gas drillers - was imminent.

Uh, never mind.

It now appears that is in fact not going to fly.

All hail Mike Turzai. The Allegheny Republican and Speaker of the House continues to lead a band of conservative Republicans in the House who are adamantly opposed to any such new tax plan.

As you might recall, the state Senate approved a funding plan that included a slew of new taxes, including the new levy on the Marcellus Shale folks. That measure was championed by Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, of Springfield, and other moderates from southeastern Pennsylvania.

But the plan has gone nowhere in the House.

In the meantime, the state still has a budget, which was passed just before the deadline back on June 30, without a funding mechanism. And that $2 billion shortfall has not gone away either.

Earlier this week, it looked like a new tax on storage facilities might be in the works.

Today it's a potential increase in the hotel tax. The move would nearly double the current levy, something that is not exactly making tourism groups and hotel folks do cartwheels.

The House plan would hike the state hotel tax from 6 percent to 11 percent and put the Keystone State among the top 10 states nationally in terms of their hotel tax.

It would give Philadelphia and Pittsburgh the dubious distinction of having the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 highest hotel taxes. The measure could be debated in Harrisburg today.

We'll check in today with Delaware County tourism folks, the Chamber of Commerce and our local state House delegation to see whether or not this donkey will fly.

Just remember our personal state slogan:

Pennsylvania: Land of Giants.

And, apparently, a giant increase in the hotel tax.

We're No. 3 in collisions with Bambi

Cheer up, early-morning drivers. It could be worse.

If you're like me and spend much of your pre-dawn commute dodging deer, as I did again this morning, needing to take evasive actions two different times to avoid mangling Bambi, this blog item is for you.

Be grateful you don't live in West Virginia.

According to a study done by State Farm Insurance, West Virginia tops the list of places where you are most likely to be involved in a car crash involving a deer.

The odds in West Virginia are 1 in 43. That's actually a little bit better than the numbers from 2016, when the odds were 1 in 41.

Pennsylvania checks in at No. 3 on the list, behind Montana. The odds here are Pennsylvania 1 in 67, that's up 5.8 percent from the year before.

Want to go somewhere where it's highly unlikely to hit a deer? Try Hawaii. The chances there are a miniscule 1 in 6,823. Good luck driving there.

Just in case you were wondering, those run-ins with our four-legged friends are not cheap. State Farm estimates average cost of such a collision will set you back $4,179. That's up from $3,995 the year before.

Be careful out there.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Let's talk about guns

We now know them simply by their name.

Columbine.

Aurora.

Newtown.

Fort Hood.

Isla Vista.

Charleston.

San Bernardino.

Orlando.

Now we stick another pin in the map.

Las Vegas.

During an outdoor country music concert on the Las Vegas Strip, a lunatic holed up in his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel broke out a window and started raining bullets down on the crowd below.

Before he was done, Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, had killed 59 people and wounded another 521.

It is the single deadlinest mass shooting in U.S. history.

We are convulsed by the same horror we felt after each of these instances of mass carnage.

We recoil at that singular sound, that non-stop "pop-pop-pop" of bullets exiting an automatic weapon.

But maybe we should be convulsed by something else.

Maybe we should be convulsed by the knowledge that these things keep happening, and we do nothing to stop them.

This isn't about the Second Amendment.

That battle is over.

No one is going to take away anyone's right to own a firearm.

It simply is not going to happen. And maybe it shouldn't. That's an argument for another time.

What is not is a question that will haunt us - at least until the next mass shooting.

What exactly is the purpose of anyone having possession of the kind of firepower Paddock had stockpiled in that hotel room.

Why are we still talking about whether anyone needs to possess either a semi-automatic or automatic weapon capable of delivering the kind of mayhem rained down on those people who had gathered for a Jason Aldean concert to close out the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival.

I come at this discussion freely willing to make some confessions. I'm not a gun guy. I don't own one. Probably have not held or fired one since I put away my BB-gun as a kid.

I know that a lot of people are.

I'm not interested in taking away their rights.

What I'm interested in is not having to do these kinds of stories anymore.

So let's hear it. Why is it necessary for any individual to have this kind of weapon. Would a ban do any good anyhow? Or would people just get the guns illegally.

We've seen what happened.

We've heard the gunshots.

We've screamed; we've cried.

Now let's talk.

So that maybe - just maybe - this does not happen again.

Or at least not as casually as it now seems to be occurring.

More than anything, please let's not for a second think that this is somehow the new normal.

There is nothing normal about it.

Maybe that should be our first admission.

Rock's sad dirge: RIP, Tom Petty

Rock's sad dirge continues.

Don't ask me why, but of the dozens of rock shows I have seen in my life - including just about every major, iconic act - I never saw Tom Petty.

And no, I don't count watching that Super Bowl halftime show. I'm talking about in person.

That opportunity is now gone forever.

We have lost another of the rock gods of our youth.

Tom Petty, leader of The Heartbreakers, died yesterday after suffering a massive heart attack.

But it was not without a bit of mystery.

Believe me, as someone who does this for a living, it is the ONE inexcusable, unforgivable thing that you never want to do. Saying someone is dead when they in fact are not is a newsman's worst nightmare.

As I usually do, I posted to both Twitter and Facebook yesterday when word started to circulate that Petty had passed away.

Then something odd happened.

I kept checking our Associated Press wire for a story. And I waited. And I waited.

Turns out Tom was right after all.

"The waiting is the hardest part."

Finally, AP moved an advisory that indicated they were aware of some news reports that Petty had passe but had not yet been able to confirm.

Then came a couple of odd developments with the Los Angeles Police actually denying a report that they had been the source of a CBS-News story confirming Petty's passing.

Then it was announced that Petty had in fact suffered a massive cardiac arrest, but was on life support.

Finally, early this morning, confirmation came that Petty had died.

It is just the latest in the seeming unending string of death of the musical heroes of our youth.

For some reason, Petty always seemed to slip between the cracks when talking about the greats of rock music.

Then you stop and think about the songs.

"Free Fallin'."

"Refugee."

"American Girl."

"Breakdown."

"Don't Do Me Like That."

Ironically enough, Petty and his band had just completed a 40th anniversary tour and openly indicated this was probably the end of the line in terms of his public performances.

"I'm thinking it may be the last trip around the country," he told Rolling Stone. "We're all on the backside of our 60s. I have a granddaughter now I'd liek to se as much as I can. I don't want to spend my life on the road."

We were all going to be forever young.

We bought their albums - yes, the glory of vinyl. We went to their concerts. They were the soundtrack of our lives.

And now, seemingly one by one, they are being silenced.

But the music lives forever.

RIP, Tom Petty.

As always, thanks for the songs. \

A hero in Sharon Hill

On our editorial page today, we once again talk about the power of words.

One, in particular.

We caution that we too often overuse words - allowing them to lose their unique meaning.

Take the word hero, for example.

It means something very special.

Someone like Michael Reagan Jr.

In Sharon Hill, they paid homage to their own local hero.

We heartily concur.

You can read our editorial here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The best 6 minutes, 44 seconds of the Eagles season

6:44.

Remember those numbers.

You're going to be hearing a lot about them this week.

They very well have been the turning point in the Eagles season. And the coaching career of Doug Pederson. And the blossoming career of quarterback Carson Wentz. And the latest chapter of running back LeGarrette Blount.

There was 6:44 left in the fourth quarter of yesterday's game when the Eagles offense trotted back onto the field at StubHub Arena outside L.A., which happened to be overwhelmed with Eagles fans.

Philip Rivers had just marched the Chargers down the field and scored to draw the Bolts to within two points. The idea now was for their defense to make a stand, get the ball back for their offense, and then put the ball back in Rivers' capable hands.

Never happened.

In a defining moment, the Eagles then did what they so often have failed to do in the past.

They exerted their will.

And basically ran the ball down the Chargers' throat.

Blount ran like a man possessed. He basically ran over most of the Chargers' defense on a wild, 68-yard gallop to squeeze the life out of the Chargers.

This is what good teams do. No, this is actually what great teams do.

And it is what the Eagles did yesterday.

They ran off 13 plays. Rivers and the Chargers offense never got on the field again.

After the first two weeks and complaints that he was little more than Andy Reid lite, a coach who all too quickly abandons the run, Pederson has been stout the past two weeks.

Yesterday the Eagles came out and exerted their will on the Chargers. Their offensive line dominated on the West Coast. Pederson stayed with the run, establishing it early and sticking with it.

Blount led the charge, along with key contributions from Wendel Smallwood and Corey Clement.

The Eagles now have an identity.

It fits this town perfectly.

It was seen in all those green jersey that overwhelmed Chargers fans in the stands.

As Merrill Reese so perfectly noted, LeGarrette was like a runaway train.

He's the face of the Eagles. In the stands. On the field. In your face.

The Eagles faced a gut-check, defining moment with 6:44 left in the game yesterday.

With LeGarrette Blount leading the charge, they answered the bell.

They're now 3-1 and sitting atop the NFC East.

Kudos to Pederson. And to Blount.

And to the fans.

In 6 minutes and 44 seconds, this Eagles team established their identity and issued a warning to the rest of the NFL.

The tale of the tape

Ever wonder how much of our lives is being captured on videotape?

I bet Barry Baker does.

When I was a kid I did a lot of dumb things. Hey, it's what kids do.

But I consider myself lucky. I grew up in a world without the Internet. Without Facebook. Without social media.

I have total deniability. There is no video evidence of some of the stunts I pulled.

Baker, as the entire world knows, does not have that luxury.

Last week he pleaded guilty to a heinous attack on a man with cerebral palsy.

It was the sucker punch heard round the world.

And of course it was captured on video.

I talk about it in this week's Letter From the Editor.

The NFL & its issues

On our editorial page Sunday, we revisited some of the issues facing the NFL.

Yes, the NFL is facing some serious problems. Ratings are down. So is attendance in some towns. There is a serious issues with concussion and the effect of all those hits the players endure. And, how could be forget, there is this ongoing National Anthem thing.

Of course, you will have to pardon some of us in Philly if we have trouble talking about those things this morning.

All of that is before the Eagles flew 3,000 miles to play a home game in Los Angeles.

We should have had some indication how this game was going to go when we learned the game actually was being played in a town called Carson. Yep, our kind of town.

The StubHub Arena where the Chargers - newly replanted after abandoning their longtime roots in San Diego - holds maybe 20,000 fans. It seemed like 15,000 of them were wearing Eagles jerseys.

Eagles players were actually exhorting the crowd as if they were playing at the Linc.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers seemed unnerved by the turn of events.

All of which - at least for a few hours - seemed to put the game's focus where it belongs - on the field.

Not before the game. Not during the National Anthem.

But don't expect those issues to go away anytime soon.

You can read our editorial here.