Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My thought on the State of the Union

I have to admit to something that was on my mind as I watched the State of the Union last night.

My hope was for President Trump - for at least an hour - to act presidential. I think he did that. He talked about immigration and the economy.

This isn't about any of that.

This isn't about whether I agree with his positions or not.

This is about something else.

I thought about Pat Meehan.

And what he must be thinking. I don't know if the Congressman was actually in his seat last night as the president addressed the nation.

But I wonder what was going through his mind.

Here he is, a longtime elected official, a former district attorney and U.S. attorney.

He has announced he will not seek re-election and is under fire from many avenues - including this newspaper - to resign now in the wake of reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim from a former staffer.

Meehan denied any sexual wrongdoing in connection with the case, but also undertook a disastrous attempt to explain his actions in a series of interviews.

So there he is watching the State of the Union last night.

He's out.

And Donald Trump is still in. Still the president.

The man who boasted on tape that he could grab women by their private parts.

The man who is now believed to have paid an adult film star for her silence in connection with their relationship.

A man who for the last two years has constantly belittled anyone who stood in his path. Little Marco. Lyin' Ted. Crooked Hillary. Pocahontas.

A man who routinely disparaged immigrants.

And referred to some parts of the developing world as "bleep-holes."

Pat Meehan is out. And Donald Trump is still president.

Think about that for awhile.

The Delco angle, & a special Super Bowl history section today

We continue to be all Eagles, all the time.

One of the things we always try to do anytime we're dealing with a huge story - one that often is playing out on a national level - is look for the local, Delaware County angle.

So naturally out Eagles beat writer Bob Grotz tracked down Ridley High product and Eagles defensive secondary quality control assistant coach Dino Vasso for his take on the big game.

And that's only part of our coverage.

Make sure you pick up a print edition of today's Daily Times for a special insert recapping the history of the Super Bowl.

We'll have the details from every one of the 51 games played so far. It's a keepsake every fan will want to have.

Tomorrow we'll pick up with our week of Eagles Keepsake Centerspread Power Pages.

Here's the schedule:

Thursday: Zach Ertz

Friday: Nick Foles

Saturday: Offensive Collage

Sunday: Defensive Collage.

Make sure you collect all of them for special remembrances of this Super Bowl Eagles team.

And finally, how about a big 50th birthday salute to Doug Pederson, who hits the half-century mark today.

Have a great one, Coach!

Me and Mr. McCabe

One of the many bad habits this job has ingrained in me as we increasingly swim in this ocean of technology is a very likely unhealthy dose of social media.

It goes with the territory. These days, news breaks on Twitter, and is talked about on Facebook. So, despite my best desire not to, the truth is I spend a lot of time every day interacting with people online.

There is a lot about social media that I don't like.

But every once in awhile it does provide a smile.

Take yesterday for interest.

What should I see when I fired up my Facebook page.

Well, me actually.

Or at least someone who looked a lot like me.

An old friend from high school had posted a picture of outgoing Deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Along with it he posted a simple message: "Separated at birth?"

I had to look at it twice. The guy does resemble me, although I can admit he probably looks a little better than I do. Even my wife was a little spooked when I pointed it out to her. I even used to wear glasses with that same black frame at the top and frameless at the bottom.

Here's the best part, at least for me. McCabe will turn 50 in May. I'm 62. I'll take it. That FBI gig - what with President Trump breathing down your neck - must be a killer. I can relate to the gray - and the stress of the job.

I decided to have some fun with it and post pictures of him and me side by side. Of course I posted them both to social media. Later in the day a co-worker came in and said he had received a text message the night before from a guy who used to work with us with this cryptic message: "I see Phil got fired from his FBI job."

Geez, does that mean I get his retirement package too.

They say all of us has a "doppelganger" out there somewhere - someone who is a dead ringer for the person in the mirror.

I suppose I could have done a lot worse than Mr. McCabe.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Meehan should step down now

Pat Meehan got one thing right last week.

The incumbent Republican congressman who found himself in the midst of the latest #Metoo revelation after news that he used taxpayer money to settle a sex harassment claim filed by a former staffer, indicated he would not seek re-election.

He's part way there.

Meehan should resign now, not 11 months from now.

We explain why on our editorial page.

In the meantime, the free-for-all continues in the race to replace him. State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 of Haverford, maybe the state's leading voice on environmental issues, yesterday threw his hat in the ring.

You can get all those details here.

There are now no less than seven Democrats seeking the party's nod in the May Primary.

Vitali joins a crowded list of Democrats seeking the nomination, including state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-166, who has stepped back from the campaign after he was accused of inappropriate behavior of his own in his office; Shelly Chauncey, a former Central Intelligence Agency counter-intelligence officer; attorney Dan Muroff; Realtor Elizabeth Moro; bioengineer Molly Sheehan and information technology consultant Drew McGinty.

Republicans have not yet indicated who they might tap to run in Meehan's place. Among those being mentioned are state Rep. Nick Miccarelli, R-162 of Ridley Park, and Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood. U.S. Navy veteran and longtime volunteer firefighter Joe Billie of Aston is already in the race, and Sean Gale, brother of Republican Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale.

Here's what I think. Look for the Delco GOP to find a woman to run for the seat. They are going to have to do something to counter the anti-Trump #Metoo tide rolling across the country. Can you say County Councilwoman Colleen Morrone?

We're all over the Eagles

Are you ready for some football?

How about a little Super Bowl coverage.

We're getting amped up just like everyone else in Eagles Nation as the Birds look to bring home their first Super Bowl championship.

We're kicking things off today with the first of a weeklong series of Eagles Keepsake Centerspread Power Pages. Today we salute the man who got us here, even if he's not playing in the game. That would be injured star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Make sure you pick a copy of the print edition today and every day this week for these special keepsake pages.

Here's the rest of the schedule:

Thursday: Nick Foles.

Friday: The Offense.

Sunday: The Defense.

Also we have our Eagles beat writer Bob Grotz in Minneapolis covering the team. Make sure you folo Bob on Twitter @BobGrotz. Or you can click here for a live stream of Bob's coverage and tweets all day long.

We're on top of Eagles Fever here at home as well.

Click here for the details on a special Eagles Pride Parade and rally being planned for Saturday in Media Borough.

What could top Eagles Fever? Snow

There is only one thing that could possibly be big enough to knock the Eagles off the 24-hour local TV news coverage this week.

That, of course, would be SNOW!

What's a TV reporter to do?

Yes, we are expecting a few snow flakes this morning. It's not going to amount to much, unless you happen to live in that nebulous region known only as "north and west."

Most of us are expecting only a coating and not much in the way of hassles except for some wet roads.

But that did not stop at least one local TV weather person from offering a nebulous warning for maybe as much as 2 inches "north and west."

Just once in my life I'd like to learn where exactly "north and west" is.

Hey, it could be worse. We could be in Minnesota for the Super Bowl, where the temperature outside today is hovering around 0 degrees. That's a lot of chattering teeth you here offering those E-A-G-L-E-S chants.

Get the full forecast here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Pat Meehan got one thing right last week. The incumbent Republican 7th District congressman announced he would not seek re-election. It was the right call. But it only gets him a third of the way home. Now he needs to finish the job. Meehan found himself the latest focus of the #MeToo revolution amid a blockbuster story first reported by the New York Times that he used taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment suit filed against him by a former staffer. Meehan denied any sexual relationship with the woman, and insisted the payment, done in accordance with House guidelines, was little more than a severance payment. Many of his constituents didn't agree, and let him know via a series of noisy rallies outside his Springfield district office. For some reason, Meehan then threw a little gasoline on the fire, committing political suicide in the process. Meehan did a series of interviews with local news outlets, including this newspaper, in which he tried to offer his side of the story. But the cringe-worthy effort only managed to dig the hole he found himself in a bit deeper. Meehan intimated he felt "invited" to talk about his feelings with his accuser. The married father of three told at least one outlet that he considered the woman, several decades his junior, his "soul mate." He also admitted he did not react well when he learned she was involved with another man outside the office. None of this painted the congressman in an especially good light. It followed his initial request after the first broke that the accuser waive a confidentiality agreement - which he had insisted on - so that all the facts in the case could be aired. Meehan's ham-handed attempt at explaining the situation earned him national scorn, including being wickely harpooned by late-night TV host Stephen colbert, who spent five minutes skewering the congressman. That Meehan could be so tone-deaf in this time of national examination of sexual harassment should not come as a surprise. He becomes the latest powerful man - from politics, entertainment and the media - to be hoisted on his own petard. His explanation that he somehow felt "invited" to offer his feelings by the victim, and subsequent description of the payment as "severance" is equally questionable. The congressman stands by his claim that nothing inappropriate happened. But he still does not seem to grasp the notion that was the woman's superior, in a position of authority. That is part of the harassment atmosphere. But nothing the congressman said changes the fact that he used taxpayer funds to quietly - some would say secretly - settle a harassment complaint. Meehan says he consulted it was done in accordance with House guidelines and vetted by House lawyers. That does not make it smell any better. The congressman has not revealed how much was paid, but has offered to repay the money - but only if the House Ethics Committee finds that he did indeed harass the woman. Shortly after the story first broke, House Speaker Paul Ryan removed Meehan from his post from the Ethics Committee, ordered the panel to investigate the incident, and suggested Meehan pay the money back. That brings us to the last part of this ugly case. Meehan did all this while sitting on the House Ethics Committe, actively sitting in judgment of other politicians and their misdeeds, all the while knowing this skeleton was sitting in his own closet. Meehan's announcement that he would not seek re-election is the latest bombshell in what could be one of the nation's most fiercely contested House races. Meehan was first elected in 2010 and cruised to three consecutive lopsided re-election landslides, in part because of the brutally partisan redistricting done by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2011 that recent court rulings confirmed was done to favor Republican incumbents. Republicans already were expecting a tougher race in November because of the anti-Trump fervor that resulted in unprededented victories by Democrats in winning two seats on Delaware County Council, something they have not done in decades, and sweeping all three county row offices. Add to that last week's state Supreme Court ruling throwing out the state's congressional map - including thta ridiculous 'Goofy Kicking Donald Duck' version of the 7th, and what was already expected to be a tough race has turned into a tossup. It is a race that will go on without Meehan. Now the congressman should finish the job. He should resign now. Not 11 months from now. His constituents deserve no less.

The value of newspapers - & their readers

Last week in my blog I wrote of a very special visit I had from the daughters of one of my all-time favorite readers.

Michele Cordivari and Jackie Constantino were here to make good on a promise they made to their mom before she passed away last year.

But here's the thing. If she were alive, I don't think Theresa Guyer ever would have seen that item in the Heron's Nest.

You see, like so many of our longtime, core, loyal readers, Theresa loved our print edition.

Like me, she was an ink-stained wretch.

For that reason I expanded a bit on that item and used it in today's print column, along with another note to honor my friend John Unangst, head of the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, who passed away suddenly.

Both Theresa and John understood how important the newspaper is, and the value of what we do here every day. You can read my Letter From the Editor here.

Better yet, you could go out and buy a copy.

Do it in honor of Theresa. I think she would understand.

'Super' week brings with it 'Super' hype

Let the hype begin.

Have you heard, they are playing a football game next Sunday in Minneapolis.

And the Eagles are playing in it.

I think it's called the Super Bowl.

That means for the next week all news will cease. There will be only Eagles.

All Eagles, all the time.

Don't believe it?

Yesterday we treated with "Breaking News" coverage of the Eagles taking off from Philadelphia International Airport. Of course, what goes up must come down, so we also got exclusive coverage of the first "touchdown" of the week. Yes, that would be the Eagles landing in Minneapolis. So far no coverage of which Eagle was first to use the facilities, thank God.

Look, I'm as big a fan as you will find.

But I'm a fan of the game. I can live without a lot of the hoopla that surrounds it.

And to be honest, if I never hear "Fly, Eagles Fly" or another full-throated E-A-G-L-E-S chant again, I would survive just fine. We will be as guilty as anyone, looking to take advantage of all this Eagles fever.

We're running a gallery of pets all decked out in their best Eagles gear on our website and also featuring them on Page Two all week.

We will be running more Eagles keepsake pages all week, starting Tuesday with another page to honor local hero Nick Foles. I just wish we could fast-forward and play the damn game.

In fact, I will go a little farther than that. I'm not sure all this hype - in part because we so rarely ever find ourselves in this position - does not play a part in the fact that we usually do not fare all that well in these big games.

I can't wait for the game. But I could live without the week leading up to it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

No 'standing Pat' in the 7th District

That didn't take long.

There will be no "standing Pat" in the 7th Congressional District. For a couple of reasons.

We may not know what the district will look like when the crucial mid-term elections arrive in November, but we do know something about who will be sitting in it.

It won't be Pat Meehan.

The incumbent Republican who has been under fire since a weekend story indicating he used taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment complaint filed against him by a former staffer, Thursday night told party officials he will not seek re-election.

Meehan will instead retire when his current term expires.

Meehan, who denied any improper relations with the former aide and insisted the settlement was little more than a severance package, becomes the latest in a long line of men - from politicians, entertainment moguls, media stars and others felled in the national cauldron that has surrounded the issue of sexual harassment now for months.

#MeToo has now added #MeehanToo.

Meehan's biggest problem was the fact that he used taxpayer money to settle the complaint, despite his argument that everything was done by the book. And the fact that he did this - settled a harassment complaint - while he was sitting in judgment of others being reviewed by the House Ethics Committee.

The "soul mate" comment was just the icing on the cake, or maybe the ice cream to go with the cake, since the congressman detailed asking the former aide out to ice cream to talk things over.

House Speaker moved quickly to remove Meehan from his Ethics Committee post, start an investigation of the incident, and urged Meehan to pay back the money. Meehan has been under fire ever since the story, first reported by the New York Times, hit Saturday.

Yesterday his district office in Springfield was hit by two separate rallies.

Meehan had done a series of interviews with local media outlets, including the Daily Times, on Tuesday.

He spoke openly about his relationship with the woman, noting that nothing sexual ever took place with the aide. But he did admit to having romantic feelings and expressed those to the woman. During one of the interviews, he referred to the aide as his "soul mate."

That drew widespread ridicule and even earned him a bit of national scorn when late-night TV host Stephen Colbert did a five-minute skit on Meehan's predicament.

His decision not to run means the race for the coveted 7th District seat is now wide open.

It was already expected to be targeted by Democrats in the wake of the anti-Trump fervor that saw Democrats capture two seats on Delaware County Council for the first time decades, as well as sweeping all three county row offices. Hillary Clinton carried Delco last November.

But no one knows exactly what the 7th District is going to look like after the state Supreme Court tossed out the state's Congressional maps, saying they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

The 7th was Exhibit A in the lawsuit brought against the redistricting performed by the Republican-led state Legislature. I fact, so bizarre and contorted was the 7th's boundaries, stretching into parts of five suburban counties, that it earned the nickname "Goofy kicking Donald Duck."

A slew of Democrats are vying for what they thought was the right to challenge Meehan. Those include state Sen. Daylin Leach, once thought the Dem frontrunner who has stepped back from his campaign after he was accused of inappropriate conduct himself.

Now Republicans are in the market for a candidate.

Pat Meehan won't be the 7th District Congressman anymore.

A chance meeting with John Unangst

For some reason this week I have been thinking about visits to the office.

Yesterday, it was the memory of one of my favorite readers, Theresa Guyer, and the special memory that her daughters wanted me to have - in the process honoring the promise they made to their mom.

Earlier this week, I was thinking about another visit to my office, one that also got me to thinking about what it is I do and the effect it has on our readers.

Although the memory was pleasant, the reason for it was anything but.

I was startled to receive an email from my friend Rick Durante at the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union. Any time I get an email with "Sad News" in the subject line, I brace for the worst.

But I wasn't ready for this.

John Unangst, the longtime head of the credit union, had passed away suddenly over the weekend.

My mind immediately raced back to a meeting held in my office several years ago.

John had called and said he and Harry Jamison, then the head of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, had an idea they wanted to run by me.

I was all ears.

It turns out John and Harry were big fans of our All-Delco teams, the ones we put together after every high school sports season to honor outstanding achievement. We do one for every high school sport.

Their idea? They wanted to borrow the idea and adapt it to academics.

Specifically, they were planning to align with Hi-Q, the nation's oldest scholastic quiz competition, and create an All-Delco Hi-Q team.

They asked if I was interested.

I almost jumped across the desk and hugged them.

It has always been one of my goals to honor kids who excel at academics. The Daily Times is rightly proud of our reputation as "Delaware County's Sports Authority."

I was in part prodded by my wife, who would always remind me that our coverage of athletes was nice, but why didn't we do anything similar for kids who excel in the classroom?

This was my chance, and I jumped at it.

Every year since, we have presented the All-Delco Hi-Q team on our front page in the spring. We do it before the annual Partners in Education dinner, something else John was instrumental in establishing. It brings all the kids who participate in Hi-Q - not just the All-Delco Hi-Q team, together for a banquet at the Drexelbrook. It's one of the biggest events of the year, routinely drawing as many as 600 people.

It's been my good fortune to attend every year since it was established. I always tell people the same thing. It's important to take note of kids who excel academically, and more importantly to offer a more balanced view of the good things kids are doing. We certainly offer plenty when it comes to young people doing things they probably should not be doing.

After a few years, they added honors for the best teachers with the Excellence in Teaching Awards.

I don't know how he did it, but for the first Partners in Education dinner, John was able to get 'Jeopardy' host Alex Trebek to act as emcee. Could there be a more perfect host? John followed that up the next year by reeling in 'Jeopardy' king Ken Jennings.

I will be forever grateful for that visit more than a decade ago from John and Harry. John was always extremely proud of his alma mater, Interboro High School, and each year offered a college scholarship in his name to a deserving student.

Rest well, John.

Be assured that you have left an indelible mark on Delaware County, honoring kids for their academic prowess.

You can take that to the bank.

The pipeline debate: Bring on the risk assessment study

The opponents of the Mariner East 2 pipeline have racked up a couple of impressive victories the past few weeks.

First, the state Department of Environmental Protection shut down all work on the massive Sunoco Pipeline LP project across the state, citing "egregious" problems that have plagued work on the pipeline for months. They also rapped Sunoco for doing some controversial Horizontal Directional Drilling in areas out near Harrisburg where they were not permitted to do so.

The DEP wants Sunoco to come in with a plan indicating they can fix the problems and adhere to all state regulations. Sunoco says it intends to do just that.

Then this week Delaware County Council told a group that had come before it asking for the county to perform its own risk assessment on the plan that it would do so. A final vote on the plan should come this week.

And so the debate rages on, with Sunoco crowing about the economic benefits, and citizens saying those should not outweigh residents' concerns about safety.

At this point, doing the risk assessment study and thoroughly airing the findings might be the only way to settle this dispute.

You can read it on our editorial page.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A very special visit - & reader

Every once in awhile one of my "fans" isn't satisfied with a heated chat on the phone, a blistering email, or trolling me on Twitter and Facebook.

Occasionally, they stop into the office to pay me a visit.

These are not always pleasant.

Usually, when one of the women who work in Classified at the front of the building comes back to alert me that someone is here to see me, I joke, "Are they armed?'

If they are carrying a package, I deadpan, "Is it ticking?"

It's part of the gallows humor that has inhabited newsrooms for much longer than I have toiled in them, which is longer than I ever could have imagined.

Bottom line is people are not afraid of telling me exactly what is on their mind.

So, no, these visits are not always the highlights of my day.

Except for yesterday.

I had a visit from two women on a very special mission.

Actually, it was something of a return visit. They had stopped in last week when I was at a morning meeting out of the office. They inquired as to when might be a good time to return.

Jackie Constantino and Michele Cordivari are sisters. They live in Broomall.

They had something they wanted to give me. In doing so, they were making good on a promise they made to their mother.

Theresa Guyer was one of my absolute favorite readers.

Every couple of weeks, Theresa would call to talk about what was going on in the world - hers and mine. We were kindred spirits. She always made sure to tell me how much she loved the Daily Times and newspapers in general.

She reminded me very much of my mother. She had strong opinions and was not shy about offering them.

It's people like Theresa - people like my mom and dad who would not for one second consider starting their day without first consuming their daily newspaper - that reminds you how important what we do here everyday really is. How much we affect people's lives.

Theresa Guyer grew up in Chester before moving to Boothwyn and then finally to Chester Heights.

She and her husband owned and operated Guyer's Auto Service and Car Wash in Upper Chichester for years.

Theresa was a longtime political figure in the county and served for years as an Upper Chichester commissioner.

She never expected any special treatment from the newspaper. She just loved Delaware County, the people in it and the newspaper that covered it.

Theresa had been in failing health for awhile when she made her daughters promise to do something for her after she was gone.

She had an old statue of a newsboy hawking newspapers. The papers he's holding are emblazoned 'Daily Times.' It came carefully wrapped - appropriately enough - in old copies of the Daily Times. I know Theresa would have approved. We both often professed our love for newsprint.

She wanted me to have it. And she made her daughters promise they would get it to me.

That's what brought them to our Swarthmore office Wednesday.

Ironically, today is Theresa's birthday. She would have been 82.

I spent about 15 minutes with Jackie and Michele. I could see the emotion building in their eyes, and the relief that they were finally able to deliver on the promise they made to their mom.

We talked about the similarities of our parents, how much they loved their daily newspaper.

I will treasure my newsboy, who now resides on a prominent spot on my desk. It sits right beside the picture of Theresa they also gave me.

Happy birthday, Theresa. Rest well. I hope there are newspapers in heaven.

Let's talk about Mariner East 2

I had a call from Tom Casey earlier this week.

Don't know who Tom Casey is?

You probably are not involved in the titanic battle over the Mariner East 2 pipeline project.

Casey, a West Goshen resident, has been one of the leaders in the effort to stop the project. He's been working on this for years, attending more meetings in more areas of the state than he can count.

Casey did not call to complain, which makes him a rarity these days.

I've been taking some heat for some of my opinions about the pipeline project - for instance saying I believe it is the biggest economic story in the region, and that despite the fact that the state has temporarily shut down construction on the pipeline, I still think it's going to become reality.

I have written several recent opinion pieces in which I have offered some of the so-called positives linked to Mariner East 2. Those have not been greeted entirely warmly by those who are dead-set opposed to piping hundreds of thousands of barrels of volatile materials through densely populated neighborhoods, right past schools and senior centers.

I understand their concerns.

I still think Mariner East 2 is going to happen. It's too far advanced, and involves way too much money.

Casey and I had a great discussion of the project, and the way we have covered it. He pointed out some of the effects the opposition already has achieved. Out in Chester County, several local government boards have been flipped by candidates who ran on a platform that included opposition to the pipeline.

One of the things the groups opposed to Mariner East 2 have pointed out consistently is how unhappy they are with the routing process the state used to allow Sunoco to put this pipeline basically contiguous to an existing pipeline. That's something Sunoco very much wanted because it will save them lots of money. For home owners now saddled with having this thing in their back yards, it's not so great. It now appears their voices have been heard, and that the state could actually create an authority to handle these siting issues.

And this week opponents of the pipeline picked up a huge victory when they convinced Delaware County Council to perform a risk assessment study on the pipeline plan.

You can read about that here.

Do I think it will stop Mariner East 2? No.

But I'm always willing to talk about it.

Thanks for the conversation, Tom.

The best fans in the country

We're coming to the defense of that much-maligned creature known as the Philly fan.

Yesterday I offered my thoughts here in this space and then repeated them on our editorial page today.

Our lead sports columnist Jack McCaffery also has heard the old stories way too many times.

Jack points out they never bring up the marvelous work the team and fans have done in making the dream of Delco native Jimmy Murray come true in creating Ronald McDonald houses, places where sick kids and their families get crucial services.

Or how they offered a standing ovation to Penguins' star Mario Lemieux when he returned to the ice after his own battle with cancer right here in Philly.

We're stuck with this 'ugly Philly fan' stereotype. Jack takes a sledgehammer to that image today.

You can read our editorial here.

And make sure you check out Jack here.

Here's to the best fans in the country.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The 'Pat' response

You can call it the "Pat" response.

Congressman Pat Meehan, who's been under intense scrutiny since a weekend story indicating he used taxpayer dollars to settle a harassment complaint from a former female staffer, yesterday went public with his side of the story.

Meehan, the incumbent Republican who has represented the 7th District since 2011, wanted to make a couple of things clear: - There was nothing sexual about the situation. He never harassed the woman.

- And he did not consider the payment to be any kind of hush money. He believes it was more like severance for a person leaving his office. He points out he abided by all rules of the House Ethics Committee and the payment was approved by the Congressional Budget Office.

Meehan, a married father of three, admitted that he had a deep affection for the woman who is decades his junior. He referred to her as his soul mate, but insisted there was nothing sexual or untoward about the situation.

Meehan did say he probably did not react the way he should have when he learned his longtime aide was entering into a relationship with another man.

The woman filed a complaint, and the two sides settled before she left the office.

"I never in any way made any kind of pass towards her, I never discussed anything about wanting any kind of a further relationship," Meehan said.

He exchanged a series of texts with the woman, invited her out for ice cream to talk things over, and sent her a note when she left the office. All of it was strictly above board, according to the congressman.

As for the hostile atmosphere in the office the woman alleged in her complaint, Meehan chalked it up to the pressures of the office and crucial votes on the Affordable Care Act last spring.

You can read all the details of Meehan's side of the story here.

The attorney for the woman involved in this situation is not thrilled with Meehan's decision break the confidentiality agreement - that he insisted on - and talk about the case. Meehan believes it was the woman who actually broke the deal.

Of course, the eventual arbiters of all this will be the voters in of the 7th District. As you might have heard, that may or may not be the same voters who have voted overwhelmingly for Meehan the last couple of elections, when the Republican routinely rolled up 60 percent of the vote.

That's because the state Supreme Court this week tossed out the state's Congressional map and ordered the Legislature to draw up a new one, agreeing with those who filed suit that the redistricting process was "gerrymandered" to protect Republican incumbents like Meehan.

The 7th District was Exhibit A in the case, wickedly twisted and contorted to take in parts of five different suburban counties.

Meehan already was likely looking at a stiffer challenge in the wake of the anti-Trump fervor that Democrats rode to huge wins in November, taking two seats on Delaware County Council for the first time in decades, and sweeping all three county row offices up for grabs.

Now add in what many people are still going to have trouble accepting: The use of public money to settle this case, despite Meehan's claim that it was little more than severance, much like any other employee would get when leaving a job. And there is the fact that all this happened while he was sitting on the House Ethics Committee, in judgment of other members who had gone astray when it comes to harassment cases.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., immediately removed Meehan from the committee and ordered an investigation into the case. He also suggested Meehan repay the money, which the congressman said he would if the committee finds that he did harass his aide.

So far Republicans have taken a somewhat tepid response to Meehan's plight, saying they would wait for all the facts to come out. It will be interesting to see if the party stands by their man, since Meehan made it clear that he has no plans to resign and intends to seek re-election. Could he possibly face a challenger in the Republican primary.

Of course, Democrats and others have not been nearly as lenient. Many of the slew of challengers seeking the Democratic nod to take him on in November immediately called on him to step down. So did Gov. Tom Wolf. Not among them was the one-time Democratic frontrunner, Sen. Daylin Leach, who had his own problems with claims of inappropriate behavior in his office.

The real judges in this case will be the voters of the 7th District.

Forget a tossup. This race just turned into a barn-burner.

A huge step forward for democracy

I kind of thought the gerrymandering foes would find a more sympathetic ear in front of the state Supreme Court.

After all, they were arguing that the redistricting process was stacked - "gerrymandered" if you will - to benefit Republican candidates. The high court is a 5-2 Democratic majority.

But I never expected them to do what they did Monday.

The high court not only tossed out the state's Congressional map as unconstitutional, they also ordered the state Legislature to draw up a new map in time for the May primaries.

It's an unprecedented move.

And it's a huge step forward in the fight to preserve our democratic process.

We make the case for it on today's editorial page.

The best fans in America

With apologies to Mike Schmidt, you can call it the thrill of victory, and the agony of reading and hearing about it the next day.

Yes, the national media once again has reason to discover the Philadelphia fan.

Brace yourself, you know what's coming.

Yes, we once booed Santa.

Led by the future governor, we once pelted the field with snowballs. That would include a "snow shower" for Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson as he exited the field.

Yes, a few dunderheads cheered when an injured Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin lie prone on that rock-hard tundra known as the surface of Veterans Stadium.

Yes, it's not always a good idea to wear the gear of the visiting team to our stadiums.

Hey, I was a longtime denizen of the 700 level at the Vet. I still don't believe some of the things I saw up there.

Yes, we have a passion that often borders on delirium when it comes to our sports fans, in particular our beloved "Iggles."

Add a new wrinkle this year. Yes, an inebriated fan occasionally punches out a police horse.

A horse's patoot, if you will. The drunken fan, not the equine.

The fact that these are gross generalizations never factors into it.

Hey, the guy was admittedly a pretty bad Santa and probably deserved to be booed.

It's easy to cherry-pick a few incidents and cast a broad brush.

No one talks about the way these devoted zealots continued to pack stadiums when the team was lousy. And that includes a lot of years when what was going on in the stands was infinitely more interesting than the dismal display on the field.

No one talks about how these fans travel. That's right, we're not content with ruling Lincoln Financial Field. This year we actually took over two stadiums on the road. A game in L.A. against the Chargers likely had as many Eagles fans as those of the transplanted San Diego team - 3,000 miles away from a good cheese steak.

The scene was repeated later in the season at the venerable Coliseum when Eagles nation seized the home field advantage in a game against the Rams. The L.A. coaches actually had to pump in noise during the week at practice to get their team used to what they would hear on their so-called home turf on Sunday.

In a late-season game at the Meadowlands, the game changed late in the 4th quarter when the Giants were called for a crucial illegal procedure penalty. Giants QB Eli Manning said after the game his offensive linemen could not hear the snap count because of rowdy Eagles fans.

Now it's on to Minneapolis.

Brace yourselves, middle America.

Gang Green - the best fans in the nation - are coming to your town.

You know that lovable, down on his luck Philly boxer you love so much? Yeah, that Rocky guy. Yes, the same guy who made our Art Museum steps the No. 1 tourist destination in the region, the ones you insist on running up when your visit our city.

Wait until you meet the rest of us.

During these next two weeks, expect to get to know the lyrics of our favorite song, "Fly, Eagles Fly."

Expect us to paint the town green.

We're actually getting use to this new role.

No, not brutish louts. Lovable underdogs.

We've even taken to wearing dog masks.

They say every dog has its day.

This is our day.

Philly Fans.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The perils of Pat Meehan

It was not a good weekend for Pat Meehan.

The incumbent Republican 7th District U.S. Congressman saw his political future cast into doubt by a blockbuster report in the New York Times that revealed Meehan used taxpayer dollars to settle a harassment claim.

Meehan denied wrongdoing - but not the settlement.

Not good.

As expected, a tsunami of negative reaction rolled in, with any number of Democrats, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, calling for him to step down.

Ironically, just a few weeks ago, Wolf was doing likewise after a report of inappropriate conduct was lodged against one of the leading Democrats looking to challenge Meehan, state Sen. Daylin Leach.

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis, got involved. He removed Meehan from his post on the House Ethics Committee, ordered the panel to investigate the incident and strongly suggested that Meehan should repay the money.

Not good.

We have not heard Meehan's side of this saga. A statement put out Saturday in the wake of the story by his spokesperson denied any wrongdoing, saying Meehan "throughout his career has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism." The statement insisted the congressman had abided by the House Counsel and consistent with House Ethics Committee guidance. "Every step of the process was handled ethically and appropriately," the Meehan statement said.

In the allegation, a one-time aide claimed Meehan, a longtime family friend whom she considered to be almost a father figure, declared romantic feelings for her and that when she rejected that notion that he fostered a hostile atmosphere in the office.

Meehan now wants the accuser to waive the confidentiality agreement she signed - which the congressman had sought - so that the full story of the case could be aired.

That is not likely going to play especially well in the era of #MeToo. In fact, the story broke on the day women across the country took to the streets to march to show solidarity with the movement that has gripped the country, bringing down powerful men in business, politics, entertainment and the media.

Things got even more dicey for Meehan Monday. A popular incumbent in a district that was made even more comfortable for the GOP in the last redistricting process, it was generally thought that Meehan could face a stiff race from any of the slew of Democratic candidates seeking the nomination to face him in the November mid-terms, but that he would prevail. Meehan would have to fend off the anti-Trump fervor that sparked unprecedented gains last November, including election of two Democrats to County Council and a sweep of three county row offices.

But Meehan's 7th District cushion evaporated when the state Supreme Court threw out the congressional maps, saying blatant political gerrymandering to benefit Republican candidates made them unconstitutional. Not only that, but the high court wants new districts in place before the May primary.

Finally, citizens rallied outside Meehan's office Monday night demanding the congressman pay back the money and resign in light of the harassment story.

Even with his denials, and without knowledge of what actually happened in this case, Meehan has two huge problems.

First, there is the idea of using taxpayer money to settle this claim. It smells of secrecy and an attempt to keep the matter out of public view. And using taxpayer money to settle the case is not going to sit well with constituents - both Democrats and Republicans.

But maybe more troubling is the fact that he did this while sitting on the Ethics Committee. Meehan had been a vocal supporter of women coming forward with their harassment stories, and was sitting in judgment of other congressmen, such as Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. And he did all of it while this little item was hanging in his closet.

Delaware County Republicans are urging caution, that there are two sides to every story.

It will be interesting to see if anyone in the party challenges Meehan in the primary, or what the party's stance will be if Meehan sticks to his guns and seeks re-election.

Yes, it was not a good weekend for Pat Meehan.

It's not likely to get better anytime soon.

A huge victory for foes of gerrymandering

Who says you can't fight City Hall?

Don't tell that to the League of Women Voters who took one look at the state's reconfigured Congressional districts after the 2010 census and smelled a rat.

Actually, what they smelled was politics. It's called gerrymandering. And in Pennsylvania it's something of an art form. The state Legislature performs the redistricting process every 10 years after the latest census. Not surprisingly, the party that controls the Legislature uses that political clout to bend the new boundaries in ways that help their candidates.

As it happens Republicans have controlled things in Harrisburg for some time. But make no mistake, both parties are more than willing to take part in this kind of political shenanigans.

The result is comical, if it were not so politically malevolent.

Just take a glance at the state's now-infamous 7th District, which used to pretty much adhere to Delaware County and some contiguous surrounding turf.

Now the 7th District has been contorted into an almost unrecognizable shape, taking in parts of five suburban counties. Its bizarre shape sparked one national publication to dub it "Goofy kicking Donald Duck."

The League went to court seeking to have the map tossed out, claiming it was blatantly political.

And they got a Commonwealth Court judge to agree with them. But while noting the last redistricting process was dripping with partisan flavor in an effort to favor Republicans, the judge ruled it was not unconstitutional.

Monday the state Supreme Court disagreed.

The court, which by the way is dominated 5-2 by Democrats, agreed with the League, and the lower court judge - but tossed out the maps and ordered the state Legislature to draw up new maps.

They have until early February to do so and submit it to Gov. Tom Wolf. And if they don't the high court said they would do it themselves. It's a huge victory for everyone who believes that every vote should count, and that partisan politics should not be a part of the process, in effect deciding races long before voters can even enter their polling places.

You can get all the details here.

A salute to our lovable underdogs

Forget Rocky.

We have some new lovable underdogs in Philly.

Meet Dougie and Nicky.

OK, they're not exactly new. The Eagles have been around awhile.

But there is something different about this team.

There is no obstacle they can't overcome. That includes losing one star after another this season, culminating in what almost everyone believed would be a death blow to the team's chances. When potential league MVP quarterback's knee exploded, most believed the Birds would follow suit.

Instead, they rallied behind a coach who is an underdog story all his own, and a quarterback who was sent packing just a few years ago. The result? These underdog Eagles are now going to the Super Bowl.

In the process they lifted the entire region on their shoulders.

You can read our editorial salute to the underdogs who so perfectly capture the city and region here. In the meantime, the celebrations continues.

As you can guess, anything Eagles-related, especially all that new NFC champion gear, is suddenly a very hot commodity. We have the details here.

And if you want to continue the party in Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII, well let's just say you better bring your wallet. Those details are here.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Feeling Super

We have now officially entered the "team of destiny" mode.

How else do you explain what happened last night at Lincoln Financial Field.

I'll leave that to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson: We're going to the Super Bowl.

Actually Doug added a little spice to his comment: "We're going to the stinkin' Super Bowl."

With Nick Foles as his quarterback.

The underdog Eagles again spit in the eye of the expert and simply dismantled a highly touted Vikings defense, with Foles doing the work of a surgeon in wielding a precise scalpel to carve up the highly touted Vikings defense.

In a way, the fact that the Eagles won is not a surprise. They were playing at home in the NFC title game.

How they did it was a stunner.

After falling behind 7-0, the Eagles - sparked by a Pick-6 interception return by Patrick Robinson - ran off 38 unanswered points.

And it wasn't really that close.

Foles, who took over the team after potential MVP Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury, played out of his mind. Foles went 26 of 33 passes for 352 yards, with three TD passes and no interceptions.

Foles led the Birds into the playoffs, and last night he was every bit the potential MVP of the man he replaced.

How good was Foles? A weird thought came over me in the third quarter. Could Carson Wentz - or for that matter Tom Brady or any other NFL QB - have played any better than Foles?

Much of the credit for this must go to Doug Pederson, perhaps the perfect coach for this team.

If the team has been labeled underdogs since losing Wentz, Pederson has toted that tag around since he was named head coach last year. One expert actually dubbed Pederson the least qualified head coaching candidate in NFL history.

And that was before the Eagles lost their best running back in Darren Sproles.

And their All-Pro starting left tackle Jason Peters.

And special teams ace Chris Maragos.

And starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks.

And then what was supposed to be the death knell, the one injury the team could not survive. Wentz's knee exploded, putting him on the shelf for the rest of the season.

Enter Nick Foles. He beat the Giants, then struggled for two weeks in brutal cold conditions.

But Foles seemed to turn things around in the second half of last week's divisional round game against the Falcons.

Last night he was simply lights out.

It was a chance to silence the critics for Pederson.

It was redemption for Foles, who once threw 27 TD passes and just 2 interceptions for the Eagles just a few years ago, then returned as an afterthought, a backup to Wentz, an insurance policy the Eagles certainly never thought they would have to use.

Now?

Now he has a date with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots in Super Bowl LII (that's 52 for those of you not up on your Latin). It's a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.

The underdogs are now Top Dogs.

Or, as Doug Pederson might say: The Eagles are going to the stinkin' Super Bowl.

Found: Rational online conversation

My quest continues.

I have made it my mission this year to discover - and contribute - to a better online discussion.

That does not mean you have to agree with me, nor I with you.

Take the Mariner East 2 pipeline for instance.

This massive $2.5 billion project by Sunoco Pipeline LP has been dubbed - by yours truly - as the most important economic story in the region.

That does not mean it's especially popular.

Oh, there are any number of elected officials, labor unions and chamber of commerce types who just love it.

They don't have to live with it in their back yard.

A lot of people who do aren't nearly as enthralled by this project, which will being hundreds of thousands of barrels of volatile gases such as propane, ethane and butane at high pressure from the state's Marcellus Shale regions to Marcus Hook.

And they are not the least bit shy about saying so.

Right now I'm not their favorite guy.

That is because I have expressed the opionion that it might be too late in the game to stop this project, which is currently shut down until Sunoco can convince the state Department of Environmental Protection that it can fix the problems that have taken place during construction and play by the rules.

But the discussion on this important issue has never descended to the level of so much of the tripe that I see online.

And for that I am grateful.

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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick (NFC Championship Game Edition)

I could have told you before the season the Eagles were going to the Super Bowl.

You know, back when everyone was still doubting Doug Pederson.

Before Howie Roseman became a genius.

Before Carson Wentz became an MVP-caliber superstar quarterback.

And before his knee exploded.

How? As soon as I saw the Super Bowl was being played in Minneapolis - in February - I knew this was going to be our year.

Who doesn't want to spend a week in Minneapolis in February?

The conditions Sunday in South Philly when the Eagles host the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game will be decidedly un-January-like as well. Temperatures during the day are supposed to soar over 50 and be in the 40s at the 6:40 kickoff. It may be great tailgating weather, but I'm not sure that helps the Birds.

After all, the Vikings play inside.

This will be the battle of two quarterbacks that nobody really wanted. Nick Foles was signed strictly to be the backup to Wentz. Now he has a chance to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl. The same goes for Case Keenum, who also was salvaged off the QB scrap heap by the Vikes, only to take on a starring role when Sam Bradford (remember him?) suffered his latest knee injury. The Vikings traded for Bradford after young star Teddy Bridgewater blew up his own knee two years ago. He still has not played again for the Vikes.

And just like last week, this game will be decided largely upon which quarterback has the most success against two stellar defensive units. Both teams will ask their QBs simply not to lose the game.

After a very shaky start, Foles settled in nicely in the second half vs. the Falcons, appearing comfortable as Pederson dialed up a series of run-pass option plays.

Pederson again will need a very imaginative playbook to keep the Vikings ferocious defense in check.

Last week Foles was lucky several of his throws were not picked off. In fact, they actually turned into big plays either via penalty or some fortuitous bounces. Don't look for that to happen again.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense must dial up some serious pressure on Keenum, make him uncomfortable in the pocket, and force mistakes. All while containing the QB, who is also a threat to run.

Don't look for a lot of points in this game, either.

The Eagles defense - and a rocking Lincoln Financial Field - will again take the lead role, shutting down the Vikings and harassing Keenum into a very long day.

Note to Jake Elliott. This is not the day for more kicking hiccups. It could easily come down to a kicking contest, decided by the team that makes the fewer mistakes and does not turn the ball over.

Field position will be critical. I don't see either team making long, sustained drives against these two defenses.

Nick Foles probably will not win the game for the Eagles. But he could lose it.

I see him doing just enough to get the Birds the win.

We're going to Minneapolis.

THE PICK: Make it Eagles 16, Vikings 13. I'm still not a big believer in Nick Foles. But I'm solidly behind Doug Pederson and I think he will come up with a playbook that will allow Foles again to be comfortable, and throw in just enough surprise looks and plays to get the job done.

LAST WEEK: The Eagles surprised me and a lot of other pundits by beating the Falcons, setting off some serious "underdog" themes. They come into this game as underdogs as well. After a 13-3 regular season, they picked up a playoff win by basically shutting down Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. The defense will need a repeat performance for the Eagles to get the win again this week. I finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark on the season. Not a bad year. But I was on the wrong end of the playoff game. I'm not making that mistake again.

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

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

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)

Eagles 34, Redskins 24. (My Pick: Eagles 31, Redskins 19)

Eagles 33, 49ers 10. (My Pick: Eagles 24, 49ers 10)

Eagles 51, Broncos 23 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Broncos 19)

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9 (My Pick: Eagles 29, Cowboys 17)

Eagles 31, Bears 3 (My Pick: Eagles 31, Bears 13)

Seahawks 24, Eagles 10 (My Pick: Seahawks 23, Eagles 17)

Eagles 43, Rams 35 (My Pick: Rams 33, Eagles 29)

Eagles 24, Giants 29 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Giants 19)

Eagles 19, Raiders 10 (My Pick: Eagles 27, Raiders 17)

Cowboys 6, Eagles 0 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Cowboys 16)

NFC Divisional Playoff

Eagles 15, Falcons 10 (My Pick: Falcons 23, Eagles 13)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Get your Nick Foles keepsake centerspread Friday!

The beat goes on for our Eagles celebration, with the second of four consecutive Eagles centerspread keepsake posters.

Yesterday it was defensive stalwart Fletcher Cox. Today it's quarterback Nick Foles.

You can get yours in the center of Friday's print edition.

And at the same time you can read beat Bob Grotz's continuing coverage as we lead up to Sunday's huge NFC Championship game pitting the Birds vs. the Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.

It was a big night in Philly sports. Make sure you read columnist Jack McCaffery's take on a very special night for the Flyers, as they retired the No. 88 of none other than the Big E, Eric Lindros.

We continue our Eagles celebration Saturday and Sunday with more keepsake pages.

Look for running back Jay Ajayi Saturday and tight end Zach Ertz Sunday.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Make sure you get our special Eagles centerspread keepsake pages

It's not just the kids at Haverford Middle School.

Yes, they got psyched up yesterday for the Eagles pep rally held at the school. Kids, students and staff all got decked out in green. We're also coming down with a serious case of Eagles Fever.

That's why today we're rolling out the first of a series of four full-color Eagles keepsake pages.

Today it's stalwart defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Here's the lineup for the rest of the week:

Friday: Quarterback Nick Foles.

Saturday: Running back Jay Ajayi.

Sunday: Tight end Zach Ertz.

Make sure you pick up a copy of the print edition of the Daily Times each day and collect all four Eagles centerspreads. Go Birds!

Another 'Chester story'

There are a lot of 'stories' in Chester.

Not all of them are bad, despite the impression that many media outlets - including this newspaper - sometimes offer.

Chester has a glorious past, years of struggle, and a bedding renaissance rooted in a vibrant arts scene.

That's one of those stories that was unveiled, appropriately enough on the holiday honoring the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, was so important.

It is a Chester story.

Literally.

'A Chester Story' is a documentary detailing the city's efforts to reverse years of decline, as well as paying homage to its past and taking a critical look at the issues that led to its current predicament.

It is 'A Chester Story' that needs to be told.

You can read our editorial on the doc here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The next battle in the gerrymandering war

Brace yourself for the next battle in the gerrymandering wars.

You might remember a few weeks back a state Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the plan enacted by the Republican Legislature in 2011 clearly was partisan and tilted to favor Republicans.

But he also ruled that fact did not necessarily make it unconstitutional.

And that was his recommendation to the state Supreme Court.

Today the high court will hear oral arguments in the case.

The hope is that the court, which carries a 5-2 Democratic majority, will order those boundaries - including one in the 7th District here in Delaware County that is usually pointed to as one of the worst instances of gerrymandering in the nation - should be tossed out.

You can read our editorial on the issue here.

The new D.A. calling

I received a phone call I had kind of been expecting yesterday.

It was from the new Delaware County D.A.

What I didn't know was what kind of mood Katayoun 'Kat' Copeland would be in.

That's because I was wondering what her reaction was going to be after our front page announced the county Board of Judges' decision to name her to fill the unexpired term of Jack Whelan with this front page headline:

TOP

'KAT'

Some background here. Everyone refers to her as 'Kat.' Even the county's official press release made not of her nickname. Still, I wanted to be sure no one would take it the wrong way, or that we were somehow trying to demean Copeland or her ascension to being the county's top law enforcer.

No worries.

She liked it.

In fact, she actually showed it to her mother, who also enjoyed it.

Copeland gave me a courtesy call to introduce herself. As we said in our editorial. She's a great choice.

But more than that, Copeland wanted to thank me - and the newspaper - for what we do, covering a lot of stories here in Delaware County that no one else covers. That's sort of the idea behind being a community newspaper, even in these most difficult times for our industry. She scored points with me.

She will be sworn in Friday.

Go get 'em, Kat!

Some days you just shake your head

In this racket, you tend to build up a fairly crusty - some would say hardened - exterior.

It's either that you find another line of work.

And pretty quickly.

It's not because we don't care.

It's because we toil in so much misery that you have to develop a fairly strong defense mechanism.

Then you read a story like this, and your heart just breaks.

Some days you just have to shake your head.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Living the Dream

We have concluded the annual 24 hours that we reserve to honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But what about the other 364 days of the year.

That is the challenge we define on today's editorial page.

Dr. King's Dream is not something to be taken down off the shelf and celebrated once a year.

It needs to be how we live our lives every day - and too often do not.

That is the challenge.

You can read our editorial here.

Yep, we have more snow coming

Here we go again. We have snow in the forecast, with flurries off and on most of the day today and then maybe a more significant coating coming overnight.

Swell.

There actually is snow falling right now in some parts of Chester and Berks counties, as well as areas farther north.

This is for the most part going to be a nuisance storm.

We'll have more snow - maybe an inch or two - moving in overnight just in time to make a mess of the Wednesday morning commute.

Looking for a silver lining?

After that we are in store for a warming trend, with temps rising into the 40s by Friday and then the 50s for the weekend.

Of course, that might not be exactly what we wanted as those indoor-loving Minnesota Vikings arrive for Sunday night's NFC Championship game at the Linc.

Game time is 6:30 Sunday night. But conditions should be perfect for tailgating much of the day Sunday.

Get all the details here.

Underdog Eagles: That dog will hunt

All together now:

"Here he comes to save the day."

If you're of a certain age, which I certainly am, you will recognize that as the lyrics to the kids' cartoon show 'Underdog' that we loved back in the '60's.

Underdog is back.

And he's wearing green.

The Eagles and coach Doug Pederson have embraced their role as underdogs in their mission to make it to the Super Bowl.

As per Coach Pederson, this has been going on since potential MVP Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury.

Pederson went out of his way after the game to note that the Eagles have not been getting any respect, that everyone has been picking them to lose.

The oddsmakers jumped on the underdog bandwagon, making the Birds the first team in NFL history to hold the distinction of being the No. 1 seed, yet being the underdog while playing on their home turf.

That win over the Falcons Saturday still has not convinced Vegas. They've installed the Vikings as 3 and a half point favorites for Sunday night's NFC Championship game, which is also being played at the Linc.

Lane Johnson and a couple of Eagles got in the spirit, donning dog masks as they walked off the field after the defense turned away Matt Ryan and the Falcons at the 2-yard line to seal the victory.

Get used to it. We're going to the dogs this week.

* * *

Want tickets to see the NFC title game in person? Bring your wallet. Ducats go on sale at 10 a.m. and they won't be cheap. Get the details here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Putting the Pa. Legislature on a diet

On our editorial page Sunday, we dealt with the notion of something all of us do: New Year's resolutions.

But this one is a little different.

Some state representatives believe the Legislature needs to do something a lot of us are trying to do at this time of the year, after the reality of our festive holiday mood shows up around our waist.

They are looking the shed a few pounds.

Actually, they are looking to downsize.

It's an idea we agree with.

It's on our editorial page.

Today, of all days, a plea for civil conversation

I wrote last week about taking a more civil tone in our social conversation.

That means for all you who post comments on our website, who respond on Twitter and who take to Facebook to engage in a dialog with me, the humble editor of your local newspaper.

But on this day - of all days - coming after the week we just endured, I find the task looming larger than ever.

I have written many times in the past year of my single hope for President Donald Trump, that he simply act presidential.

I know we are not going to agree in policy. That's OK. It's healthy and part of the process.

But what we endured last week was not.

It was ugly, base, representing the worst of us.

That is why, on this day, I appeal to our better angels.

And I use some of the words of the man whose ideals we celebrate today.

It's in my weekly Letter From the Editor.

Bring on the Vikings

Going into Saturday's NFC Divisional playoff game, Eagles fans seemed split on the question of which Nick Foles would show up. The quarterback who looked like an All-Pro a couple of years ago, when he threw 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions, then stepped in this year when Carson Wentz went down and beat the Giants by throwing four TD passes, or the guy who struggled mightily and looked fairly inept in successive weeks against the Raiders and Cowboys. It turns out we got both.

Foles was not especially sharp in the first half Saturday against the Falcons. He started the game on the very first play by heaving a deep ball quail into the wind that fluttered far short of its intended target. But the Falcons were called for pass interference on the play. Foles missed on a swing pass and then later in the half missed badly on a wide open Trey Burton that might have been a touchdown. He got another huge break toward the end of the first half when another heave bounced off a Falcons defensive back's knee into the hands of Torrey Smith. That set up a glorious 53-yard field goal by Jake Elliott.

But Foles rallied in the second half. Bolstered by Doug Pederson's decision to feature more of the "Run-Option Offense, Foles moved the Eagles efficiently.

That and a ferocious Eagles defense led the underdog Birds to a 15-10 win. They will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday night in the NFC title game for the rights to head to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl. That comes after one of the wildest endings of a game you will ever see as the Vikes beat Drew Brees and the Saints on the last play of the game.

The Eagles will be looking to prevent the first-ever appearance of a "home" team in the big game by preventing the Vikings from hosting the game on their home turf.

It's obvious by now that both the Eagles and Pederson have embraced this underdog thing.

They'll get another chance this week.

The oddsmakers have installed Minnesota as a three and a half point pick.

Lane Johnson and some of his pals have actually gone so far as to don German Shepherd masks to embrace the underdog theme. I picked against them - based largely on the belief that Foles would struggle, much as he did in the first half.

But if Foles can manage to continue to play as he did in the second half, all bets are off.

Bring on the Vikings.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Dreaded Saturday Eagles Pick (Playoff Edition)

This is a game the Eagles are supposed to win.

This is the game that the best NFL teams get as a reward for a great season.

The Eagles have had two weeks to rest up, having earned a bye while the Falcons had to slug it out in a Wild Card game last week. So why so much angst about the Birds.

Why have they turned into the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL, the first time in league history that the No. 1 seed has been an underdog at home in the divisional round of the playoffs?

That's easy. This is not Carson Wentz's team anymore.

It belongs to Nick Foles.

And his last two games have not exactly instilled confidence in Eagles Nation, managing just 10 points against the Raiders and then getting shut out by the Raiders in a meaningless finale in which Foles only played a quarter.

So which Nick Foles shows up today?

The answer to that question likely will decide this game.

Eagles fans believe they have the answer. The Birds should load up on Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and try to run the ball down the Falcon's throats.

But the feeling here is that the Falcons' No. 1 goal today will be to take away the Eagles running attack and stake their chances on Nick Foles beating them.

Foles will need to make big plays, in particular on third down, which was the magic of Carson Wentz.

Maybe this will be the game when Fletcher Cox puts this team on his back and delivers a win by being a constant menace, and harassing Exton native Matt Ryan into a couple of turnovers.

They also will need to be aware of Julio Jones, the Falcons' outstanding wide receiver. No, Jones did not have a stellar season. This is not the time for him to have a breakout game.

The X-Factor will be the atmosphere in the Linc. With temperatures plunging as much as 30 degrees during the day, it will be cold out there for the dome team Falcons.

But a couple of quick 3-and-outs or an early turnover could turn the home crowd against Foles.

I still think this game comes down to Nick Foles.

If the Eagles win, it will be because of him.

And the flip side? Well, you know how that goes.

THE PICK: Make it Falcons 23, Eagles 13. Yes, it kills me to do this. Maybe Foles will flip a switch and look more like that "27-2" legend from a few years back. Or maybe the Birds' defense will harass home boy Matt Ryan into a couple of key mistakes, maybe even a Pick 6, But I'm not banking on it. It's just a shame. This was our year. Everything was lined up. Then Wentz's knee exploded. Nothing has been the same since.

LAST WEEK: That ugly shutout at the hands of the Cowboys did not keep the Eagles from amassing a 13-3 record, best in the NFL and the top seed going into the playoffs. But it left most seeing them as a deeply wounded team. For me, I thought the prospect of 14 wins - something no Eagles team has done in franchise history - would be enough to inspire a win. Hard to win when you don't score. And that's part of the unease going into this playoff week. The loss left me with a 12-4 mark on the season. Not a bad year. I just hope I get one more week in an NFC Championship game at the Linc next week. I'm not optimistic.

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

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

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)

Eagles 34, Redskins 24. (My Pick: Eagles 31, Redskins 19)

Eagles 33, 49ers 10. (My Pick: Eagles 24, 49ers 10)

Eagles 51, Broncos 23 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Broncos 19)

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9 (My Pick: Eagles 29, Cowboys 17)

Eagles 31, Bears 3 (My Pick: Eagles 31, Bears 13)

Seahawks 24, Eagles 10 (My Pick: Seahawks 23, Eagles 17)

Eagles 43, Rams 35 (My Pick: Rams 33, Eagles 29)

Eagles 24, Giants 29 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Giants 19)

Eagles 19, Raiders 10 (My Pick: Eagles 27, Raiders 17)

Cowboys 6, Eagles 0 (My Pick: Eagles 23, Cowboys 16)

Friday, January 12, 2018

A final salute to Lt. Matt LeTourneau

Today we offer the first of what will be several 'Final Salutes' to fallen firefighter Lt. Matt LeTourneau.

You can read about last night's first of two viewings, where thousands stood in line for hours to honor him at the Cathedral Basilica SS Peter & Paul in downtown Philadelphia, here.

LeTourneau, a Springfield resident and longtime member of Springfield Fire Co., was killed in the line of duty while battling a row house blaze in North Philadelphia last weekend.

A second viewing will be followed by a funeral Mass this morning, and then a procession to his final resting spot, with burial in SS. Peter & Paul Cemetery in Marple, across the street from his alma mater, Cardinal O'Hara High School.

There will be a live-stream for first responders who want to pay their respects but can't make it into the city at the high school today.

We also will air the live-stream on our website, DelcoTimes, starting at 10:30 a.m.

You also should know there will be some major road closures around 1:30 this afternoon as the funeral procession makes its way from the city, south on I-95, north on the Blue Route to the cemetery.

Get those details here.

We will have full coverage of the funeral honoring LeTourneau today online and tomorrow in print.

RIP, Matt LeTourneau.

Presidential? Uh, not today

For the past year, I have asked for very little from President Trump.

I have not been disappointed.

I have repeatedly used this forum to plead with him to act presidential.

I guess this is not the morning to have that conversation again.

All night I kept waiting for a denial from the White House of the deplorable comments about Haiti, African nations and other developing areas.

Had the president been misquoted? Had his comments been taken out of context? No such explanation was forthcoming.

I won't repeat the comments here.

I think most people have heard them.

I don't get it.

The saddest part? I am sure that there are no shortage of people willing to embrace what the president said.

They are his "base."

Yep, that's the right word.

A balmy day, then a quick plunge back to winter

One day last week I gritted my teeth and shivered as I settled into the driver's seat for the ride to work and was greeted by a dashboard thermometer that read 9 degrees.

It would get worse. I was not far into the drive when the reading started dropping. It finally bottomed out at single, measly 1 degree. It's the first time in my life I've ever seen a reading that low in the car.

This morning I knew things had changed the second I opened the front door.

It felt absolutely balmy.

When I got in the car, the gauge told me it was exactly 58 degrees warmer than that point just last week.

Yes, it was drizzling. Yes, there was some very thick fog on the ride to work. Be careful about that.

But I will take it.

Unfortunately, it's not going to last long.

We will have some heavy rain this afternoon, as temperatures climb into the 60s.

But if you're headed for that Eagles playoff game tomorrow, better be prepared for a little bit of everything along the way.

They are talking about temperatures going off a cliff literally during the game. You tailgate may start mild, but could end up freezing.

Temperatures are expected to drop as much as 30 degrees during the day tomorrow, cooling off just in time for those Dome-folks from Atlanta to take the field against the Birds.

Get all the details on the forecast here.