Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 28

The Daily Numbers: 1 elaborate ruse, what police are now calling the bogus report of the abduction of a mother and daughter in Bucks County.
2 black men, description Bonnie Sweeten gave police in 911 call of suspects she says hit her car and then forced her and her daughter into the trunk of her car. Turns out there’s no truth to that either.
4 to 8 years in jail for a Clifton Heights man convicted of selling marijuana.
100,000 dollars bail posted by the West Chester man charged with shooting his son-in-law in Marple.
2 opposing same-sex marriage proposals making their way around Harrisburg.
72 residences, 80 businesses and 3,300 jobs, what’s at stake in the fight over an expansion plan for Philadelphia International Airport that would come farther into Tinicum Township.
1 winning ticket sold in the $232 million Powerball drawing last night.
Unfortunately, it was sold in South Dakota.
3 tickets sold in Pennsylvania that would be worth $200,000 a piece.
400,000 dollar Powerball jackpot claimed by a woman from Cumberland County, Pa., yesterday, 1 day before her claim to the prize would expire.
30 percent dip in home prices in the Philadelphia region in April.
1 worker at Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City shot to death yesterday. A man from Norristown is under arrest.
25 years in jail for a New Jersey man who traveled to Eastern Europe to have sex with young boys.
168,000 dollars, how much the head of the Montgomery County fire and emergency services training center is charged with stealing over the last decade.
6 out of 10 respondents in a poll of those who plan to visit the Jersey shore this year who say they will spend less time at the beach in order to save money.
1 human leg found washed up near a refinery along the Delaware River in West Deptford, N.J.
5 people shot and 1 person now in custody in Milford, Del.
2.48, average price of gas we’re now paying in the Philly region.
2 more home runs served up last night by Phils starter Brett Myers, who left the game in the sixth with a sore hip.
9 wins and 14 losses, the Phils’ record this year at Citizens Bank Park.
16 wins and 6 losses, their mark on the road.
1 of 8 series at home that the Phils have won this year. They have compiled a 1-6-1 mark on their home turf.
3-2 lead for the Lakers after they beat the Nuggets last night.
2-1 win in OT for the Red Wings, sending them to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the Penguins.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Maybe it’s time to take Charlie Manuel up on his offer. The Phils skipper thinks maybe the fans are going easy on the club, which is clearly struggling to play well at home.
I Don’t Get It: It’s bad enough to make up the story of an abduction and use your 9-year-old daughter as part of the hoax. But of course Bonnie Sweeten had to include a description of her alleged abductors as “two black men.” I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Margaret Schwabe, the 92-year-old Upper Darby great-grandmother who was awarded an honorary degree from Archbishop Prendergast High School. It truly is never too late!
Quote Box: “I personally have made a decision that I intend to get in this race with one other item.”
-- Joe Sestak on CNN, saying he would sit down with his family and talk about a challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic Primary.

Sestak vs. Specter

The specter of a primary challenge to newly minted Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter looms even larger this morning.

And the gauntlet is being thrown down right here in Delaware County.

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak has not made it a secret that he has been less then thrilled about the way party leaders have fallen all over themselves to welcome Specter, in the process giving every indication they wanted him to be their candidate in 2010.

Sestak has consistently given indications he is not ready to join the rush by Gov. Rendell, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama to crown Specter as their candidate.

Yesterday that drumbeat got a little louder. Reports started to surface that Sestak was telling those close to him that he was running. Talking Points Memo had a hand-written letter from Sestak to close supporters indicating he was going to run. Sestak’s sister also told the Web site she expected him to get in the race.

Then Sestak told CNN last night he would challenge Specter.

The only thing left for him to do is sit down with his family, then make a formal announcement.

But Sestak left little doubt about his desire. He wants a piece of the longtime Republican senator who is actually returning to his roots in the Democratic Party.

Sestak already has amassed more than $3 million in his war chest. He’ll need a lot more to snatch the crown off Arlen’s head. He needs to seriously upgrade his visibility outside the Philadelphia region. My guess is that if you go west of West Chester, nobody has ever heard of Joe Sestak. Everyone in Pennsylvania has heard of Arlen Specter. He makes it a point in every campaign to visit every county in the state.

That doesn’t mean Sestak doesn’t have a chance. It does mean he’s facing a decidedly uphill battle, in fact a much bigger hurdle than the one posed in his historic first run for office in 2006, when he stunned the Delco political world by showing 20-year incumbent Curt Weldon the door in a bruising 7th District congressional race. In that race Sestak got a huge boost by a federal investigation of Weldon that continues to drag on almost three years later.

Sestak often says he didn’t ask for Democratic Party leaders’ blessing to get in the race vs. Weldon. Actually, on a closer look, that’s not exactly the case. Rendell was pivotal in asking the guy who appeared to be the front-runner, Bryan Lentz, to step aside to allow Sestak to assume the mantle.

Sestak probably shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for much in the way of support from party leaders. But it’s pretty clear that a fair amount of people inside the party are not all that thrilled with Specter and wouldn’t mind seeing him challenged in the primary.

Enough to snatch away the nomination? I don’t see it. But I don’t expect that to stop Sestak. He goes to the beat of his own drummer. He doesn’t exactly shy away from the limelight. And it’s not exactly a secret that the guy who once served in the Clinton Administration has his eyes on a loftier perch.

Every time I’ve ever asked him about the future and runs for other offices, he’s always replied the same way. “I love my job.”

Turns out he’d love the one currently held by Arlen Specter, too.

The only thing left is the announcement.

An elaborate ruse

You work in this job for awhile, you develop a kind of radar when a story just doesn’t sound right.

So the antenna went up almost immediately after the reports first started coming in Tuesday of a mother and daughter being abducted in the middle of the afternoon on a busy Bucks County street.

And for good reason. It was all a hoax.

Mom’s SUV was not hit from behind. She and her daughter were not abducted and forced into the trunk of a black cadillac. Of course she had to include the tired, damaging description of the suspects as “two black men.”

Bonnie Sweeten’s story started falling apart yesterday afternoon, hours after local police and the FBI issued an amber alert for her 9 year-old daughter and kicked off a massive manhunt.

One of the first pieces was the cell phone call she made to 911. It appeared to be emanating from Center City in Philadelphia, not Bucks County. Then police found her car on a Center City Street. She made her
911 call at 2 p.m. Her car had a parking ticket affixed to it at 2:20.
Pretty quick trip in from State Road in Upper Southampton.

Then last night we learned that video surveillance at the airport showed her and her daughter – seemingly fine and of their own free will – boarding a flight to Tampa.

Don’t look for Sweeten in one of those familiar MVP sports commercials:
“Bonnie Sweeten, you’ve just pulled off an unbelievable ruse, leading cops on a wild goose chase and using your daughter as a pawn in your hoax, what are you going to do now? ‘I’m going to Disney World.’”

That’s right. Sweeten went to Disney World. She was picked up by police at the Grand Floridian luxury hotel last night.

She’s now charged with ID theft and filing a false police report. Police say she used a co-worker’s driver’s license to buy the airplane tickets.

Of course, the big question now is why? What was Sweeten running from?
It turns out she may be looking at some financial problems. There are reports she’s being looked at in connection with money missing from her workplace.

She will now be brought back to Bucks County to face the charges.

I’m wondering if I will get a call this morning from the man who called me yesterday morning to call into question my competence to be editor of this newspaper because we hadn’t put the story – and the pictures of the mom and daughter – all over our front page. I tried to tell him that while it was a compelling story, it did not happen in Delaware County, whereas our lead story, the lawsuit filed by the county and Tinicum against the city of Philadelphia in a battle over airport expansion, affects a lot more people here.

“That child might not be found now because you didn’t put her picture on the front page,” he chided me. “What are you, some kind of idiot?”

Not really. But idiotic certainly would seem to pertain to the actions of Bonnie Sweeten.

I’m not certain what kind of demons drove her to take the actions she did. All I know is she was not the first. And I can say pretty confidently she will not be the last.

Phils not hip to home ills

The Phils continue to struggle at home. Charlie Manuel thinks maybe the fans are being too easy on the World Champs. He’d kind of like to see the “phanatics” – no, not the big, furry green one with the capital P – turn up the heat a bit.

Can you imagine Andy Reid saying that? “Uh, injuries. Our pride. Our egos. The fans really ought to let us have it. Time’s yours.”

The Phils fell to the Marlins last night, 6-2. That makes them just 9-14 in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park this year, while they are a league best 16-6 on the road.

In the process they lost their hold on first place. The Mets leap-frogged them after beating the Nationals and are now up by a half game.

But the Phils may have lost much more than that. Starter Brad Myers left the game in the sixth with a sore hip. To that point he had surrendered five runs on seven hits, including, of course, two more home runs.

Myers is due to have an MRI on his hip today. The result of that exam could heat up the talks for Padres starter Jake Peavey. And some big names could be involved in those talks, including center-fielder Shane Victorino.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the fans take Manuel up on his offer.

Then again, maybe the best news the Phils have today is that the lowly Nationals arrive for weekend set Friday night.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 27

The Daily Numbers: 2 times now that a magisterial district judge has tossed first-degree murder charges against a Sharon Hill mother in connection with her daughter’s stabbing death. She faces trial on third-degree murder.
52, age of man charged in connection with the shooting of his son-in-law in Marple.
92, age of woman who was given an honorary degree from Archbishop Prendergast High School yesterday.
222 million dollars up for grabs tonight in the Powerball drawing, but it does not appear as if anyone is getting all that worked up about it.
40 residents who showed up at a meeting last night in Chester to complain about trash fees that the city is now going after that date back several years.
2 people, a mother and daughter, apparently abducted in Bucks County yesterday after their car was hit from behind. Their SUV was found later in Philadelphia. The woman made a 911 call from the trunk of a car police believe she may have been being held in.
9 people killed in crashes across Pennsylvania during the Memorial Day weekend. Police also issued 9,434 speeding tickets, up from 7,848 last year.
12 gun shop protesters who were acquitted yesterday of charges stemming from a demonstration outside a Philly gun shop.
14 more confirmed cases of swine flu in the Reading area. That brings the number of suspected cases in Berks County to 43.
56 confirmed swine flu cases now in New Jersey. That’s twice the number reported just last week.
3 confirmed cases of measles among children in Bucks County.
75,000 dollars, how much a woman who is now charged with stealing $100,000 from the law firm where she worked in Norristown is believed to have ripped off from the archdiocese of Newark, N.J., back in the late 1990s.
3 Montco teens charges with going on a theft spree over the weekend in Ocean City, N.J.
6 years in jail for a former Delaware state trooper for orchestrating a gunpoint robbery of a high-stakes poker game.
25 percent property tax hike facing residents in New Castle County, Del. It means another 21 bucks on the average tax bill.
115,000 dollars ripped off from the Philadelphia Home and School Council by the group’s former president. She pleaded guilty.
19 percent dip in home price sales in first quarter of 2009 across the nation.
44, age of former Flyer Peter Zezel, who died yesterday of a rare blood disorder.
11 strikeouts for Phils starter Joe Blanton, a career high. He tossed 7 shutout innings as the Phils beat the Marlins.
114 pitches for Blanton, who was lifted after the seventh inning.
4 hits for Shane Victorino, maybe to atone for his base-running blunder Monday night.
1 error for Ryan Howard, his first of the year, that allowed two runs to score in the ninth.
4 straight wins for the Penguins as they eliminated the Caps to advance to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.I don’t like the pitch count. Joe Blanton had tossed 114 pitches when he was lifted after seven innings. But he had struck out five of the last six batters he faced and appeared to be cruising. Of course the Phils bullpen just had to make things interesting instead of cruising to a shutout win.
I Don’t Get It: Police say a man was drunk when he tried to drive into his gated community in Tobyhanna, Pa. He fell out of his truck while trying to open the gate, and his truck ran over him. He was not seriously injured.

Today’s Upper: Kudos to those behind a name change for a piece of protective armor that took place during a special event in Ridley yesterday. It was renamed McCurdy Armor, for a soldier killed in action in Iraq.
Quote Box: “Ryan would have been so proud that his memory is being honored this way.”
-- Jan McCurdy, mother of Ryan McCurdy, for whom the device is now named.

The O'Neill saga

The saga of the O’Neill clan continues. I’m hard-pressed to remember a family that has seen so much turmoil, involving so many different members of a single family.

Father, daughter, son. All have now had scrapes with the law. And all continue to work their way through the justice system.

There’s a part of me that feels sorry for them, that this much misfortune could befall one family. And there’s a part of me that wonders what the hell is going on with this family, how they can continue to act the way they do and put themselves in circumstances that so clearly stretch the limits of the law.

Then I get a phone call that offers a different view. It was from Susan Sheridan. She is the mother of Scott Sheridan. He is the young man and fellow Cardinal O’Hara student who was a close friend of Sean O’Neill Jr. and a tragic part of an incident that first landed the O’Neill family in the headlines.

After a night of partying, Sean O’Neill Jr. apparently pointed a gun at Sheridan. It went off. Scott Sheridan died in Sean O’Neill’s arms.

Since then O’Neill Jr. has been in both the adult and juvenile court systems. He served time at a juvenile camp. Back in October his bail was revoked after it was learned he had twice violated its terms. He was sent into a second treatment program.

He’s not the only family member to cross paths with the law.

The patriarch, Sean O’Neill Sr., is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to federal immigration, weapons and tax charges.

His sister, Roisin O’Neill, is facing trial on charges she was drunk when she was driving the wrong way on the Blue Route and slammed into another car, killing a grandmother who was driving to Delaware County to visit her grandkids.

Roisin and Sean Jr. were involved in another incident when they passed through a sobriety checkpoint at 1:30 in the morning back in April.
Neither was found to be drinking, but six underage kids in the car were cited.

Roisin was found to be in violation of her bail. A judge recently ordered her to report to jail on the weekends, while she can remain free on home monitoring during the week while getting treatment for injuries she suffered in the crash.

Meanwhile, a Chester County judge ruled that Sean O’Neill Jr. had not violated his bail in connection with the traffic stop. A prosecutor said she asked for the review with the judge, who then requested more formal limits be placed on Sean O’Neill Jr.’s comings and going. He also put a
9 p.m. curfew in place.

Susan Sheridan is not impressed. She continues to have problems with the way the O’Neill cases have been handled and openly wonders if they have received special treatment.

I suppose she is entitled. The O’Neills have certainly lost a lot in this saga, but not nearly as much as Sheridan has.

She lost her son. Sometimes that gets forgotten in all this.

Meaning of Memorial Day

Matt Crawford knows all too well that freedom is not free.

Of all the comments I head and read over the Memorial Day holiday, it was something Crawford said that stuck in my mind.

Crawford was part of a group unveiling a tribute wall at VFW Post 598 in Darby Borough to honor soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Crawford knows a little something about those conflicts. He lost a few friends there, while barely escaping with his own life.

Crawford was a member of Bridge Company Bravo, a Marine Reserve detachment based in Folsom.

Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle, Cpl. John Todd III, and Sgt. Alan Sherman did not return from Iraq. They were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated as the humvee they were riding in drove by in Iraq.
Crawford made it back, but with serious injuries. He was blinded in one eye and suffered nerve damage to his hand and leg.

Crawford, very much still alive, took time to remember his brothers who are not this Memorial Day.

“It’s important that the soldiers who gave their lives for us are recognized and remembered,” he said.

Another local vet, Danny Vare, who served in Vietnam, gave still another valuable view of the service he offered his country.

Vare and many other Nam vets did not exactly get the red carpet rolled out for them when they returned to the States.

That’s one of the reasons he’s now involved in the VFW Post and works to honor veterans.

“I didn’t know then how important it was to come home to a nation that would appreciate what we had been doing,” Vare said of the honor unveiled for local vets. “Now, I want to make sure that these guys don’t know the feeling of being turned on like that.”

It’s something all of us could emulate, and not just one day a year.

Oh what a relief?

The Phils posted an impressive win last night vs. the Marlins. Most impressive of all was the performance of starter Joe Blanton. All he did was throw seven scoreless innings, striking out a career-high 11 along the way.

So why am I ticked off this morning? Because Blanton was lifted after the seventh. This after he struck out five of the six batters he faced in the sixth and seventh.

Why? I have two words for you – pitch count.

It is one of those maxims of the way the game is played – and managed – today.

Blanton had not allowed a single Marlin to reach third base, but he had thrown 114 pitches and Charlie Manuel decided to go to the bullpen. Ryan Madson pitched a perfect eighth, but he also was lifted after just a single inning. He threw nine pitches.

Enter Chad Durbin as the Phils hoped to go a night without having to use struggling closer Brad Lidge. It didn’t work out that way.

Durbin got just one out while walking two and loading the bases. When he exited the Phils were suddenly clinging to a 5-3 lead. Scott Eyre faced one batter and Lidge eventually nailed down the win, and picked up a save in the process.

All I can think about is a manger striding out to the mound to tell Bob Gibson, one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball history, perhaps in the midst of tossing a shutout, that he had done enough and that he was being lifted for a reliever. Gibson didn’t take kindly to catchers and managers offering any advice while he was pitching.

I guess it’s a new era. This is the way the game is played these days.
Complete games from pitchers are as rare as double-headers.

Rich Ashburn had it right. Hard to believe, Harry.

Sad day for Flyers fans

Sad news this morning for Flyers fans.

Peter Zezel, whose matinee idol looks made him a favorite, especially with female fans, in the mid-‘80s, has died of a rare blood disease.

He was just 84 years old.

Zezel broke in with the Flyers when he was just 19, after the team made him the 41st pick in the 1983 draft.

Zezel was part of a core of young players that led the Flyers back to prominence. He played for the team four years before being dealt to the Blues during the 1988-89 season. The trade was not a popular one with fans, who railed about the loss of one of the team’s most popular players.

Zezel went on to play for the Blues, Washington, Toronto, Dallas, New Jersey and Vancouver over a 15-year career in the NHL during which he tallied 219 goals and 389 assists.

We often think of pro athletes as being super-human. We don’t think of them succumbing to a rare disease. And we certainly don’t ever think of losing them at just 44. Very sad.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 26

The Daily Numbers: 1 person killed and 6 people injured Monday night when a motorcycle and van collided at Route 352 and Gradyville Road.
1 motorcyclist killed on Route 322 when he collided with a car in Upper Chichester.
1 person killed in a shooting Monday night in the city of Chester. It is the 9th murder in the county this year and the 5th in the city.
24.6 million dollars flowing into the coffers of the city of Chester from Harrah’s Casino.
4 Villanova students due in court today in connection with a break-in this spring at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s believed to have been a prank that got out of control.
222 million dollars up for grabs in Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing. That would certainly help your ailing 401K account.
400 members of the New Jersey Army National Guard welcomed home after a year in Iraq yesterday at Fort Dix. Memorial Day doesn’t get much better than that.
4 people treated after lightning struck near a group of hikers on the Appalachian Trail in North Jersey.
2 swimmers rescued from rough surf by a helicopter that dragged them back to the beach in Rehoboth.
4 men slain over the holiday weekend in another violent chapter in Philadelphia.
12 protesters charged during a demonstration outside a Philly gun shop who will get their day in court today.
4 hours, 18 minutes, how long a woman held the dice during a very hot roll at a craps table in Atlantic City. That’s a new record. She rolled the dice 154 times.
12 confirmed deaths from H1N1 flu in the U.S., with the latest being in Chicago.
35 percent less than last fall, how much dairy farmers are getting for milk. Meanwhile the price of milk at the grocery store is down only 19 percent.
7.8 percent jobless rate in Pennsylvania in April. Pa. lost 17,300 more jobs last month.
2 home runs for Ryan Howard, but it was not enough to push the Phils to a win over the Marlins last night.
8 wins, 13 losses for the Phils at Citizens Bank Park this year. They are 16-6 on the road.
249 wins and counting for Jamie Moyer, who got the loss last night, although he continues to pitch better than the rough patch he was suffering from earlier this year.
4 RBI for former Phil Wes Helms in leading the Marlins to a win.
2-2 deadlock between the Lakers and Nuggets after Denver blew out L.A. last night, 120-101.
1 more win needed by the Red Wings and Penguins to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Sure, Jamie Moyer deserved better when he got squeezed on what appeared to be a sure strike three in the fourth inning. That happens. But there’s no excuse for Shane Victorino getting thrown out trying to steal in the bottom of the ninth with the Phils down, 5-3, and Matt Stairs at the plate.
I Don’t Get It: A woman in Tennessee is charged with assault in an attack on a Wal-Mart employee. Her weapon of choice? A child car seat with her 2-month-old still strapped inside.
Today’s Upper: Big thumb’s up for Media for honoring the memory of Harry Kalas this Memorial Day. Kalas’ voice formed the soundtrack to many of the borough’s special celebrations.
Quote Box: “The veterans were so important him and I grew up with him, so it became important to me.”
-- Kane Kalas, son of Harry Kalas, on the Memorial Day tribute to his dad yesterday in Media.

A salute to Harry

Harry Kalas was a fixture around Media.

It wasn’t really a holiday without the legendary voice of the Phillies serving as the backdrop for the festivities in “Everybody’s Hometown.”

Kalas had an affinity for veterans, and he made a point of serving as emcee for the borough’s two very special days set aside each year to honor those who have served.

Every Nov. 11, Kalas would serve as master of ceremonies for the borough’s impressive salute on Veterans Day, including the role of the Pennsylvania Veterans Musuem, which now makes its home in the borough.

Kalas also could also be counted on if the Phils were in town to be on hand on Memorial Day.

So it was most appropriate yesterday for Media to take the time during Memorial Day to honor Kalas, who passed away earlier this year.

And it was another Kalas voice that provided the soundtrack this year.

Kane Kalas, Harry’s youngest son, was in Media as they honored his dad.
The trained classical singer wowed the crowd just as his dad did so often, only this time instead of a home run call, it was a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

The town was awash with people in patriotic red, white and blue, and more than a little Phillies red.

Harry Kalas will never be forgotten by Phils’ fans.

He certainly won’t be forgotten in his – and Everybody’s – Hometown either.

Heartbreak Ridge for conservative GOPers?

Last we heard from Tom Ridge he was being urged to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to oppose GOP turncoat-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter.

The thinking was that the party needed someone a little more center of the road, as opposed to conservative former congressman Pat Toomey, who many believe will have trouble in a statewide race.

Ridge, the former governor and Homeland Security director, begged off.

Turns out he has bigger fish to fry.

Ridge obviously heard the concerns among party faithful about how far right the party has swung, and the concern about Toomey’s ability to appeal to enough voters outside the base to win a statewide race.

Sounds like Ridge thinks the same thing is playing out nationally.

He spent part of the Memorial Day weekend hitting the Sunday morning talk shows. And his message was clear: The Republican Party needs to move to the center, away from the hard-line, strictly partisan stance of the party’s hard-core conservative base.

Ridge said the party needs to start spending less time defining the differences within the party and pointing out more how they differ from the Democrats. And to do that he believes the party needs to move more to the center.

His thoughts were echoed by another moderate Republican, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Both had some stinging words for the man many now see as the face of the party, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Ridge made it pretty clear that Limbaugh’s message turned off a lot of voters and left them unable to draw enough support to win key races. Limbaugh has belittled Powell, questioning his GOP credentials and urging him to join Specter in the Democratic ranks.

While Ridge has ruled out a run in the Senate race that could pit him against fellow moderate Arlen Specter, he did not specifically rule out seeking the White House in 2012. Ridge was considered a possibility for the vice president’s slot that Sen. John McCain instead gave to Gov.
Sarah Palin.

Ridge was considered a problem for the GOP because of his “choice”
position on abortion. That kind of litmus test imposed by GOP hard-liners seems to be exactly the kind of thing Ridge and others point to in saying the party has moved too far to the right.

You have to wonder how much more effective a McCain/Ridge ticket would have been.

Ridge now might not settle for the No. 2 slot on the ticket. He obviously believes the party needs to change.

And he might be ready to be the person leading the parade.

Phils flop at home

Maybe the Phils should play all their games on the road.

As much as everyone loves Citizens Bank Park, making it literally the place to be in the summer in these parts, the Phils are not exactly enjoying the home cooking so far this year.

The Phils just completed an 8-2 road swing, including a great weekend at the new Yankee Stadium that saw fans decked out in Phillies red literally take over the park.

The Phils responded with a great series, taking two of three from the Bronx Bombers. They easily could have swept, if not for a blown save opportunity Saturday from Brad Lidge, who coughed up a 4-2 Phils lead on the way to a 5-4 loss.

Lidge repeated the process Sunday, but the Phils rallied to win in extra innings.

The momentum did not follow the Phils back down the New Jersey Turnpike.
They were back in Citizens Bank Park last night. They had struggling Jamie Moyer on the mound in the best possible situation, facing the Marlins, a team he seems to own.

But Moyer got squeezed on what looked like a sure-fire strike three against former Phil Wes Helms in the fourth. Given new life, Helms responded to some boos from fans by taking Moyer out of the park, and staking the Marlins to a 3-2 lead. Moyer caused some of his own grief by walking the first two men in the inning. They both scored in front of Helms.

Then there was the small matter of Shane Victorino’s base-running in the ninth. The center-fielder walked to start the inning with the Phils trailing, 5-3. Matt Stairs came to the plate representing the tying run.
But Victorino got thrown out trying to steal second, a brutal mistake for a veteran player to make.

Moyer seems to be coming around, now making two decent starts after a brutal stretch when he literally was getting hammered. Victorino likely will think twice about such base-running antics after having a chat with a not-too-pleased manager Charlie Manuel.

But the Phils will have to find the magic they had at Citizens Bank Park last year if they want to defend their World Series title. Tonight would be a good time to start.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A night in Upper Darby

I had a run-in with Mike Chitwood earlier this week.

No, I’m not under arrest. At least not yet.

A few weeks ago, Chitwood had asked me to judge an essay contest the
Upper Darby Police Department was holding for township schoolkids.

I tried not to joke with him about asking me to be a judge in a writing
contest. What would I know about writing? I edit a newspaper.

Chitwood is serious about getting the community involved in the fight
against crime. And he wants to enlist young people, so often the victims
of that kind of street violence, in the battle.

He asked middle school kids to put pen to paper in detailing, “How I
Would End Youth Violence in My Community.”

The results were very impressive. You can read the winning entries here. I reviewed more than 150 entries,
along with fellow judges Detective Capt. George Rhoades Jr., and Maureen
Plagge, Upper Darby School District supervisor of language arts.

Wednesday night the three winners were given their prizes at the Upper
Darby Township Council meeting. I was there for the occasion.

I couldn’t have been happier. I remarked to the council and those in
attendance that I am always asked by parents and school administrators
how young people can make it into the newspaper.

I told them that was easy. In fact, Chitwood does a very good job of
giving us stories about young people every day. It got a couple of
knowing laughs.

The truth is, I have to remind myself and my staff just about every day
that there is another side to that story, one that too often does not
get told.

So it was my pleasure to be on hand to honor the accomplishments of
three young writers from Upper Darby Schools.

First place prize went to Tajay McLeon, of Beverly Hills Middle School.
In second was Valerie Mertin, of Drexel Hill Middle School. The third
place winner was Maite Guachichullca of St. Laurence School.

There are good stories out there about young people. Some times they
even come from the police.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 21

The Daily Numbers: 100 million votes cast in last night’s finale on “American Idol.”
7 percent turnout for Tuesday’s primary election in Delaware County.
Maybe a little more than 40,000 people went to the polls. Sad.
150 acres along Baltimore Pike at the former Franklin Mint site that would be transformed into a walkable community under the latest development plan before township officials.
980 residential units, 230,000 square feet of office space, 798,000 square feet of commercial space and a 225-room hotel under the latest plan.
1, as in June 1, when former Folcroft Manager Anthony Truscello has been ordered to report to prison.
25,000 dollars bail for Roisin O’Neill in connection with a fatal crash on the Blue Route in which police allege she was driving drunk. A judge has ordered her to spend weekends in jail for violating her bail.
2.8 percent tax hike facing homeowners in Wallingford-Swarthmore School District under their new budget.
4.4 percent tax hike looming in the Haverford School District.
2.37 mill tax hike staring at residents in the Garnet Valley School District.
3,000 dollars raised by students at Ridley High for a classmate seriously injured in a car accident in which the car he was driving was slammed into by a car driven by a suspected drunken driver.
30 months in jail for the Collingdale man who was a longtime aide to convicted former state Sen. Vince Fumo. Leonard Luchko lashed out at Fumo, saying he deceived him and was nothing more than “a crook.”
0 winners in last night’s Powerball drawing. That means the jackpot grows to $192 million Saturday night.
33 percent of Americans who admit they do not use sunscreen. Another 69 percent said they were only occasional users. Happy Memorial Day!
4 students at William Tennent High in Bucks County sent to hospital after they ingested an anti-psychotic drug.
50,000 pound whale that washed up on shore near Dewey Beach in Delaware.
300 jobs up for grabs at a job fair held in Delaware yesterday by Barclaycard US, a credit card firm. More than 1,000 people showed up.
90 dogs recovered from a home in Lancaster County.
6 DUI offenses racked up by a man arrested again this week in Lewes, Del.
38 percent dip in revenue for Atlantic City casinos in the first quarter of 2009, compared to last year.
1 more casino opening its doors in Pa. on Friday, as they unveil the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem.
249 wins and counting for Jamie Moyer. He threw six innings last night but took the loss.
1 run on 4 hits, all the Phils could muster as they fell, 5-1. Raul Ibanez was all the offense the Phils got with a homer.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Six innings for Jamie Moyer last night. Which means he most certainly will be on the mound again next week. That could be the charm for Moyer, who is still seeking win No. 250. He makes his next start against the Marlins, a team he owns.
I Don’t Get It: “American Idol.” Enough said.
Today’s Upper: Three Upper Darby middle school students were honored by Upper Darby Council last night for their winning efforts in an anti-violence essay contest sponsored by the township police department.
Good for them.
Quote Box: “There’s nothing in the township that really brings us together as neighbors. I think it would be beneficial to have a Media-like atmosphere here in Middletown.
-- Dana Riker, at open house for proposed Franklin Mint development last night.

'Idol' chatter

The sun came up this morning.

This despite the fact that Adam Lambert did not win “American Idol.”

Kris Allen did.

That’s all I can tell you about it. I have yet to actually watch a single episode of America’s favorite TV show.

What can I tell you? I’m not a big TV guy, and I have zero desire to watch people be humiliated, the price of their 15 minutes of fame, which is all too often the backbone of this meat grinder as they chew up and spit out contestants on their way to an elite group of finalists.

All I know is that every time I heard a clip on the news of Lambert singing, it sounded like screeching to me. But then again, what do I know, I still prefer classic rock.

I can admit to being something of a hypocrite about all this. You might notice there is a “teaser” on the front page of our print edition hailing the surprise win by Allen. You also will find complete coverage by clicking on the Entertainment tab on our Web site.

I said I didn’t care for ‘Idol.” I didn’t say I don’t realize that people can’t get enough of it.

I don’t know if they want to read about it as much as they want to watch it, but I’m not foolish enough to ignore it. Except when it comes to my own viewing habits.

The Vick conundrum

Michael Vick is a free man. Sort of.

The former star quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons was released from a federal prison yesterday after doing 19 months in prison on dogfighting charges. He then got in a car and headed for his home in Virginia, where he will remain on home monitoring.

The big question now is whether or not an NFL team will roll the dice and give Vick a job. He was released by his last employer, the Atlanta Falcons.

This country’s justice system is based on the idea that everyone deserves a second chance. That should not exclude Vick.

But playing quarterback in the NFL is not exactly a low-profile position. Very often the man who holds down that slot becomes the face of the franchise. Does anyone want a guy convicted of doing to dogs what Vick did as the face of their multi-million dollar enterprise?

As a newspaper editor, I can tell you a little something about animals.
No, not the people I work with.

Every day the newspaper is filled with sometimes horrific items involving people in the worst circumstances imaginable. Very often the public rolls their eyes, shrugs their shoulders, and moves on.

But put a story about an animal being abused in the paper and the phones light up like Three Mile Island.

I believe Michael Vick deserves another chance. But I wouldn’t want to be the guy who signs that check.

And I don’t envy Vick the first time he dons that uniform and then walks out in front of 80,000 fans and a national TV audience.

That is what I would call a Dog Day Afternoon.

A little corn from Kolb

The Eagles have a quarterback who is unhappy.

And his name is not Donovan McNabb. That’s right, backup QB Kevin Kolb is making a little news of his own.

Kolb met with the media yesterday during the camp for rookies and some selected vets at the NovaCare Center. He admitted that he is getting a little “antsy” to get on the field and show what he can do.

The only view Birds’ fans have of Kolb aside from the preseason is the now-infamous second half of that game in Baltimore last year in which McNabb was benched. Kolb led the Eagles down the field, then threw an ill-advised interception as the Birds were knocking on the door. Ed Reed returned it 108 yards for a TD and the rout was on.

Yesterday, asked by Derrick Gunn of Comcast SportsNet about the possibility of the team offering an extension to starter McNabb, Kolb sounded like a guy who would not be all that thrilled with that prospect.

It’s one of the touchiest situations the Eagles face this year. They seem to be built to win now. That means with McNabb. But he wants a new deal. In the meantime, they need to make a decision on Kolb, who is nearing the end of his deal as well. The Eagles need to decide if he’s going to be the QB of the future, but what do you judge that on? Kolb has almost no experience in real games.

Then there is the even more intriguing aspect of how McNabb will react to Kolb’s comments and what his demeanor will be like if his impasse with the team over a new deal goes into the summer.

Yep, things are heating up. And the team is not even at Lehigh yet.

No luck for Moyer

Good news and bad news for Phils last night.

They got six innings out of Jamie Moyer. The aging wonder had struggled mightily in his last two starts, not getting out of the early innings.
But last night he scattered nine hits over six innings, allowing the Reds just three runs.

Unfortunately, that was more than enough as the Phils’ bats went silent and they fell to the Reds, 5-1. It means Moyer continues to sit at 249 wins and counting in his search for win No. 250.

It also means he undoubtedly will remain in the rotation for the time being. Manager Charlie Manuel had actually shuffled his rotation just a tad, using Moyer last night. That lines him up for a start next week against the Marlins, a team he owns over his career.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 20

The Daily Numbers: 7 percent of voters who bothered to make it to the polls for yesterday’s municipal primary in Delco.
21,523 votes for incumbent County Councilman Jack Whelan, the county’s top vote-getter.
9,440 votes for Republican challenger Barbara Murray, who trailed Whelan and Mario Civera in the GOP council race.
8,630 votes for Democrat Nancy Rhoads Koons in the Dem primary for a seat on the county bench. That means she will face Linda Cartisano in the fall. Both candidates cross-filed. Cartisano failed to the win the Dem nomination as well.
337 votes for Mayor Helen Thomas in Darby Borough to beat back a challenge from former Mayor Paula Brown. The ex-mayor now says she’ll run in November as a Republican.
3 bullets fired through a door in Upper Darby. Two of them struck the woman who had answered the door. She’s in stable condition.
5 Democrats seeking the nomination for D.A. in Philadelphia. Seth Williams emerged the victor.
300,000 dollars believed pocketed in a scam a man ran in which he faked autographs of famous authors on books and then hawked them on eBay.
1.5 million dollars in pot discovered by police during a burglary call for a home in Olney. They also uncovered a cache of automatic weapons.
2 incumbent GOP officials, clerk of courts and treasurer, who lost primary races in Chester County.
47 percent decline in revenue reported by home builder Toll Brothers in second quarter. They sold 648 homes totaling $398 million.
9.3 increase in customer satisfaction ratings shown by cable giant Comcast.
1, as in No. 1, ranking for the beach in Ocean City as the best beach in New Jersey.
25 percent cut in price of fares by Amtrak for its routes in the Northeast this summer.
5 people missing after Navy helicopter went down in the ocean off San Diego.
6 strong innings and 7 strikeouts for Cole Hamels last night as the Phils topped the Reds.
117 pitches for Hamels, a season high. He evened his record at 2-2.
4 wins and 0 losses for Hamels over his careeer pitching in Cincinnati.
186th career homer for Ryan Howard, moving him past Johnny Callison on the all-time Phils list. That’s No. 9 on the year for Howard.
2 more coaches on the list of candidates for the Sixers. They have talked to assistant Dwane Casey of Dallas and Kurt Rambis of the Lakers.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.We won’t have Chan Ho Park to kick around anymore. At least not in the starting rotation. Charlie Manuel gave Park the heave-ho to the bullpen.
J.A. Happ moves into the rotation. An even more ticklish situation may unwind tonight, when struggling Jamie Moyer takes the mound. He needs a good outing.
I Don’t Get It: A student at a Berks County school put a knife to the throat of two classmates. He’s in fifth grade. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Nancy Rhoads Koons, who won the Democratic Primary for a seat on the county bench. That means there will be a race come November. Both she and Linda Cartisano had cross-filed, in effect trying to wrap up the election by winning on both tickets. Didn’t happen.
Quote Box: “Most people feel it doesn’t matter. But this matters more.”
-- Aston resident Chad Small, one of the few who made it to the polls to cast his vote yesterday.

Voting for indifference

What a difference a few months makes.

It was just last November many of us stood in long lines as we waited to cast our ballots in a historic election, one that resulted in the election of the nation’s first African-American president. The polls were packed.

Contrast that scene with yesterday’s primary election. Oh, there was plenty of waiting going on. There were poll workers waiting for voters.
I hope they weren’t holding their breath. As expected, the voters stayed away in droves. Turnout is believed to be in the vicinity of a thoroughly miserable 7 percent.

Granted, there wasn’t much sizzle in this election. There was no presidential vote. Not even a U.S. Senate, Congress or state Legislature race.

This was the municipal primary. All these people do is set the tax rates for your town and school. Apparently that’s not sexy enough to get people to the polls these days.

Here in Delaware County, both parties were nominating candidates for two open seats on County Council, and a new seat on the Court of Common Pleas.

Ax expected, an unendorsed Republican failed to dislodge the two favored GOP candidates running for council. No surprise there. A GOP challenge against incumbent Sheriff Joe McGinn also fell short.

I was interested to see whether current council member Linda Cartisano, running for a seat on the bench, could grab the nod in both parties.
Judicial candidates can cross-file. Her opponent did the same.

Nancy Rhoads Koons managed to hold serve in the Democratic Primary. That means she’ll tangle with Cartisano in the November general election.

In the council races, Republican incumbent Jack Whelan, joined by longtime state Rep. Mario Civera, will face Democrats Nancy Baulis and Keith Collins in the fall. A challenge inside the GOP from Barbara Murray fell woefully short. I still like the idea of the challenge, however. I say the more debate the better. Clearly there are factions of the Republican Party who are tired of the way their party operates in this county, and are ready to battle their own party leadership in seeking change.

Same thing happened in Brookhaven, where an upstart GOP faction mixed it up with the endorsed slate for borough council. They also came up short, but not before getting the party’s attention.

Now it’s on to November. Turnout has to be better then. It can’t get much worse.

What if they held an election and nobody came? Almost happened yesterday.

He lives where?

I go to work every day in a place called Primos, Pa. Nice place. It has something in common with lots of other places in Delaware County, places like Secane, Linwood, Boothwyn, Glen Mills, Broomall, Havertown and Drexel Hill.

And what that might be? None of them actually exist …. other than in the eyes of the United State Postal Service.

There is no such place as Primos. We actually are located in Upper Darby Township, right down here in the corner wedged in against Aldan and Clifton Heights.

I can’t tell you how much trouble this creates for me. Why? I’ll tell you why.

When someone does something they should not be doing and it merits those actions being written up in the newspaper, where do you think we get that information from? We get it from the police. And where do they get their info from? They get most likely get it from the suspect’s driver’s license, which is based on where that person gets his or her mail delivered.

Which is nice, but it may or may not be where they actually live.

Do you know how many places get their mail delivered from the Media Post Office. Here’s some breaking news for you: They have not moved the Granite Run Mall to Media. It in fact is not located in Media, no matter how many times they say it is. It is located in Middletown Township, right down the street from the Media Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police. It’s not located in Media, either. It’s also in Middletown.

The policy of the newspaper is whenever we can to use the geographic location, not just the mailing address.

We violated that tenet again last weekend in reporting the arrest of a man on rape charges. We listed him as being a resident of Brookhaven.
That’s because his address is served by the Brookhaven Post Office.

But several readers pointed out that his address is clearly in the Toby Farms section of Chester Township.

They didn’t like the idea of their fine town being so besmirched.
Neither do I. Sorry about that.

Charlie makes his pitch

Charlie Manuel has made one decision. He may face another one tonight.

Manuel apparently has seen all he needs of Chan Ho Park in his starting rotation. After Sunday’s outing in which a clearly rattled Park failed to get out of the second inning, coughing up a 3-0 lead the Phils handed him in the top of the first, Manuel made his move.

Yesterday Charlie gave Park the heave-ho to the bullpen. He’s putting J.A. Happ into the starting rotation. He will head to the hill on Saturday when the Phils go to New York to face the Yankees.

Tonight all eyes will be on the aging wonder Jamie Moyer when he goes to the mound against the Reds.

Moyer has been horrific in his last two starts. He says he’s simply not getting his pitches in the right locations. A third straight bad outing might mean Manuel will have to tweak his starting rotation again.

Then the Phils will have to face the problem of exactly what they want to do with Moyer, who won 16 games last year, and in the process won himself a new, two-year, $13 million deal. Moyer is one of the most popular Phillies, but that’s not helping him get people out.

In the meantime, the Phils simply continue to roll. One constant in their rotation now seems to be Cole Hamels. He again looked every bit the ace of the staff in throwing six strong innings against the Reds, striking out seven and throwing 117 pitches.

The Phils bullpen sealed the deal as they won their fifth straight, 5-3.

Manuel will be looking for five decent innings out of Moyer tonight. If he doesn’t get it, if it’s another early shower for the Souderton product, Manuel may have to tinker with his rotation one more time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 19

The Daily Numbers: 15 to 20 percent, what the experts believe the turnout will be today for Primary elections in Delco and Pennsylvania.
3 Republicans and 3 Democrats seeking nominations for two openings on County Council.
2 Republicans seeking the nomination for county sheriff.
1 Republic and and 1 Democrat seeking nomination for a seat on the county bench. Both also are cross-filed.
1,600 dollars in trash fees, what one 87-year-old Chester faces as the city goes after some outstanding bills that went uncollected due to what the city says is a computer mistake.
3 million dollars, how much Chester says it is owed in back payments from about 3,000 homeowners.
0 injuries and 0 people evacuated during Sunday night’s explosion and fire at the Sunoco refinery in Marcus Hook. Frayed nerves? That’s another story.
3 Delco residents facing federal gun trafficking charges after indictments were issued in Philadelphia.
386,000 dollars, how much authorities allege was embezzled from a Main Line firm by Norbert Nawn, who was chief financial officer there.
374,000 dollars being spent to resurface the track at Chester High School.
1 person shot in an incident last night in Upper Darby.
200 residents who packed a meeting last night to fight to preserve the Brandywine Battlefield, which is the target of state budget cuts.
19, age of female who is now 3rd person charged in connection with a home invasion in Concord. She is believed to be the getaway driver.
710,000 international visitors who dropped in on Philadelphia last year, according to tourism officials.
100 million dollars in rebates announced yesterday by the state to push solar, electric and hot water projects under “Project Sunshine.”
35.5 miles per gallon, what President Obama wants to make the minimum standard for automakers. It means it will cost you another $1,600 per car by the year 2016.
2 people shot in incidents involving kids firing BB guns in South Jersey.
100,000 dollars believed ripped off from a Montgomery County law firm by a woman who was employed there.
200 jobs to be filled this week at a job fair being held by Philly Park as part of their $250 million expansion of their slots parlor.
4.7 percent decline in casino revenues across the nation last year.
Their take went from $34.1 billion to $32.5 billion. Still a pretty nice neighborhood.
4,000 jobs being cut by American Express as it looks to slice $800 million in costs.
2 cent hike in the region’s average gas price. We’re now paying $2.35 a gallon at the pump.
16 schools in New York City now closed amid an outbreak of swine flu that killed one administrator.
4 home runs last weekend for Raul Ibanez, who was named NL Player of the Week.
.357 batting average for Ibanez, good enough for fifth in the NL. That goes with his 13 home runs and 35 RBI.
20-16 record for Phils as they head to Cincinnati dead even tied for first place with the Mets.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Does anyone remember Pat Burrell? He was placed on the disabled list yesterday by the Rays with a neck problem. Maybe it’s whiplash from watching the stats being put up by his replacement on the Phils, Raul Ibanez.
I Don’t Get It: The state is staring into the abyss of a $3 billion budget gap. Yesterday in Harrisburg another bill was introduced to ban same-sex marriage. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for Eric Schmidt. The Google boss yesterday told graduates at Penn to unplug their computers, disconnect from the technology they swim in and discover real-life connections. I like this guy.
Quote Box: “Turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us.”
-- Google boss Eric Schmidt in his commencement address to graduates at University of Pennsylvania yesterday.


A lot of people believe the Internet is going to be the death of newspapers. I’m not quite so sure.

But it is one of the reasons I was interested in a couple of things that happened yesterday.

One was the commencement at Penn, where the featured speaker was none other than Eric Schmidt.

Eric who? Was he the guy who has made the breakthough on AIDS research?
Not exactly. Is he a statesman or world leader? No, but he probably has had a more lasting effect on our everyday lives than just about any politician you can name. And no, he’s not the heir to the Schmidt’s brewery either.

Schmidt is the man behind Google. He’s the CEO behind the world’s leading Internet search engine. Penn President Amy Gutmann lauded Schmidt for “putting the world at humanity’s fingertips.”

He’s turned an odd name into part of our daily lexicon. Google is both noun and verb; it is a thing, and also an action, as in “I Googled our new boss to check him out.” Very simply, it is one of those words that has now become part of our everyday lives – and our everyday vocabulary.

But I was intrigued by what the man who has made a zillion dollars by creating one of the building blocks of the online world had to say to graduates.

He didn’t tell them to plug in, turn on and join the online revolution.
He told them to unplug their computers. Honest.

God, I love this guy.

OK, that’s probably a bit of an oversimplification of what he said. But this dinosaur will take it.

Schmidt suggested that Penn grads move away from their cyber-villages and check out what’s going on in the real world.

“Turn off your computer,” Schmidt said. “You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us. Nothing beats holding the hand of your grandchild as he walks his first steps.”

I might add that nothing quite equals holding the printed version of the newspaper in your hands as well, but that might be pushing the envelope.

This blog item is part of the parallel universe I dwell in every day. It does not appear in our print edition. Maybe it should.

I have for years been one of those dinosaurs who was wary of all these gadgets and gizmos that we utilize every day. I have often said I would like nothing more than to just once get my hands around the neck of the person who keeps telling me “this technology is going to make your life so much easier.”

I would suppose that Eric Schmidt would be one of those people. So here I find myself praising the advice he offered graduates yesterday.

Of course, I am not exactly without my biases in these matters of technology.

But I imagine there are some fellow journalists in Philly who wish they had taken Schmidt’s advice to heart.

That is, unplugged their computer.

A Philly newspaper yesterday reported on one of their blogs an item purporting to have been written by Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel on his Twitter account. Twitter is the online service that allows you to post whatever random thought happens to be racing through your mind at any time, so long as it is 140 characters or less.

I have a Twitter account myself. I wish I could tell you what it is supposed to do.

The newspaper reported that Samuel had boasted on the Twitter posting that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl. It was picked up in a print column that also appears in the newspaper.

Only problem is that Samuel apparently does not have a Twitter account.

The newspaper today is saying they got duped. I know how they feel. I find myself becoming more and more leery about material I find online, and how blurred the line is becoming between what I do online and what I do in print.

Maybe Eric Schmidt is on to something.

Primary importance

Today is Primary Day in Pennsylvania. Try not to yawn.

There’s not a lot of sizzle in Delaware County. Both parties will nominate candidates for two vacancies on County Council. There is, I suppose, some interest in whether an unendorsed Republican can knock off one of two party favorites. I wouldn’t bet on Barbara Murray beating either incumbent Councilman Jack Whelan or longtime state Rep. Mario Civera.

There are also three Democrats seeking their party’s two spots on the November ballot.

Incumbent Sheriff Joe McGinn is being challenged within his own party as well, with Michael Boyle looking to crash the GOP-arty.

There’s a judgeship up for grabs. The real question there is whether current County Council member Linda Cartisano can capture enough votes on the Democratic ballot to knock Nancy Rhoads Koons out of the race.
Both are cross-filed. Here’s hoping Rhoads Koons keeps the Dem nod.
Voters deserve a choice in November.

A group of Republicans are bucking their own party in Brookhaven. And there’s always Paula Brown, who is looking to win her old seat back in city hall in Darby.

That’s about it. The most heated race in the region is the five-way brawl for the Democratic nomination for district attorney in Philadelphia.

None of which is an excuse to not exercise your basic civil right today and get to the polls.

You forfeit your right to complain if you don’t take part in the process. Lord knows none of us want to do that.

Pat who?

Pat who?

The last time we saw Pat Burrell, he was looking just as dapper as ever, in a natty suit collecting his World Series ring. Burrell was in a suit, not a baseball uniform, because he no longer plays for the Phils.

The team decided they needed to upgrade in left-field, so they let the popular, longtime Phil go. We’ll always have the memory of Burrell and his dog in that horse-drawn carriage leading the parade down Broad Street last October after the Phils won the World Series.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for a lot of people complaining about the move to let Burrell go. Yesterday the Rays placed Burrell on the disabled list with a neck strain. He’s hitting .250, pretty much what you would expect, but his power numbers are way down. He has just one home run and 17 RBI in 108 at-bats.

And the guy who replaced him?

Raul Ibanez was just named the National League Player of the Week after a sizzling weekend in Washington.

Ibanzez hit a sizzling .481 last week, hiking his season average to .357. That’s good enough for fifth in the NL. He also collected four home runs and 13 hits during his torrid week. His season numbers now stand at a healthy 13 home runs and 35 RBI. He’s in second place in the NL in both of those categories. It also means he’s hit an even dozen more home runs this year than Burrell.

I do not come to bury Burrell; instead I seek to sing the praises of Ibanez. While the Phils have been somewhat inconsistent in the early going, Ibanez has been a constant.

We’ll make this pretty simple. Ibanez has been the best person in the Phils lineup through the first 36 games of the season. And he’s a big reason why they head to Cincinnati with a 20-16 record, tied for first place with the Mets.

They aren’t getting even a sniff of first place without Ibanez.

Pat who indeed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 18

The Daily Numbers: 0 injuries reported after an explosion and fire at the Sunoco plant in Marcus Hook Sunday night.
38 awards handed out to 300 nominees at the high school theatre Cappies Awards in Upper Darby last night.
6 Delco colleges that held their commencement festivities this weekend.
200 people who gathered at Riddle Hospital yesterday for a celebration and reunion of preemies, many of whom have now grown up, their parents and families.
2.35 a gallon, what we’re paying on average at the pump as gas prices in Philly region continue to climb.
2 bank robbers being sought in connection with May 5 heist at a bank in Upper Darby.
1 person killed by an Amtrak train Sunday afternoon on the tracks in Bristol Township.
10 people struck by gunfire in Philly over the weekend, including a 3-year-old boy. None of the injuries was fatal.
7 people injured at a graduation party when a deck collapsed in Hillsdale, N.J.
88, age of robbery victim in Delaware. A 45-year-old woman is under arrest. She knocked on the man’s house and then forced her way inside.
762,000 dollar penalty being paid by Sunoco for air quality violations at its Marcus Hook plant. And that was before last night’s fire.
763 million dollar loss reported by Sovereign Bank in the first quarter.
3, as in No. 3, where Pennsylvania ranks in terms of the number of senior residents. Only Florida and West Virginia are older. 15 percent of Pa.’s population is 65 or older.
73, age of resident in Somerset, Pa., ordered to stand trial in the murder of a 73-year-old woman he married just a few weeks earlier.
11 story condo in the Northern Liberties section of Philly that is due to go on the sheriff’s auction block.
1,800 vacant houses and lots that the Philadelphia Housing Authority is looking to sell.
1 inning and change, all the Phils got out of Chan Ho Park, who was touched for 5 runs. He surrendered 4 walks and 2 wild pitches in going just an inning and a third.
3 runs the Phils scored in the top of the first. Didn’t last long.
37 minutes, how long it took to play that first inning.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The clock is now officially ticking on Chan Ho Park as a member of the Phils starting rotation. Just how long manager Charlie Manuel can continue to run him out there is up for debate. Things might get even more interesting if Jamie Moyer continues to struggle. He pitches Wednesday night.
I Don’t Get It: Still don’t get the uproar at Notre Dame over the selection of President Barack Obama to deliver the commencement address.
Uh, the man is the president.
Today’s Upper: Some huge kudos for all the kids honored for their theatrical endeavors last night at the Cappies Awards in Upper Darby.
Quote Box: “We can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.”
-- President Barack Obama, talking about the divisive issue of abortion as he addressed graduates at Notre Dame Sunday.

An anxious night in the Hook

This is no doubt the fear that lingers deep in the psyche of every longtime resident of Marcus Hook.

It is the questions about your ubiquitous neighbor, the sprawling Sunoco plant that straddles the Delaware border and cozies up to many Hook neighborhoods.

It is not knowing what could possibly happen at any time. And what no doubt was racing through every resident’s mind Sunday night when the spring calm was shattered by a blast and fire at the Sunoco facility.

The explosion rocked the town around 10:30 Sunday night, no doubt jolting some out of bed, and picking at the lingering scab that is always the concern that exactly something like this could happen.

Once again that scab is now an open wound, a wonder about what might happen.

The initial fear last night subsided, even as the flames lit up the night sky in the region. The fireball could be seen for miles.

With sunlight this morning came a bit of reassurance, even as firefighters continued to pour water on the burning facility.

This time the Hook got lucky. There were no injuries, and no evacuations. All employees at the Sunoco plant are accounted for. No one was chased out of their nearby homes.

The fire is not out this morning, but it is contained. The explosion and blast occurred in the refinery’s ethylene complex. Ethylene is a feed stock used in the production of plastics.

If only it were as easy to contain those lingering feelings that reside deep in the minds of longtime Hook residents.

Those likely will be a little harder to contain.

A little tarnish on the Golden Dome

One of the things that always bothered me about the criticisms leveled at former President George W. Bush is that it often times veered into the personal.

In the process, I think his critics often lost site of the fact that he was the president, our commander-in-chief. That title – and the office – demands a certain decorum, a respect, that was too often lacking.

That doesn’t mean that you always have to agree with the man, or his policies, but you always have to be sure not to cross the line and sully what he stands for. The zeal with which some of his critics went after him too often simply obliterated that distinction.

Which brings me to this weekend and the appearance of President Barack Obama at commencement exercises at Notre Dame.

The president was to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

This did not sit well with some at the school, and some abortion foes, who believe that Obama’s abortion policies fly in the face of the basic tenets of the Catholic church and thus should make him ineligible for such an honor.

I disagree. I am Roman Catholic. I happen to be a big fan of Notre Dame, even though I did not go to school there. It is one of the nation’s foremost Catholic institutions. My own beliefs on abortion are conflicted, as I am sure many other Catholics are as well.

Personally, I am opposed. But I don’t necessarily seek to impose my belief on others. I know, in the eyes of some believers, and some church officials, that apparently is something of a moral fault of mine. I can live with that.

I suppose I will not be asked to address the graduating class at Notre Dame anytime soon.

Then again, I am not the president of the United States.

Let me say that again: The President of the United States, a historic president at that. And you’re going to tell me he is not welcome to deliver a commencement address? You’re going to tell me that protesters will try to disrupt his appearance?

That does not mean you have to agree with him, or his policies. That is not what this country is about. We are all about exchanging ideas and a full, vigorous debate of the issues.

That’s not what some of the faithful wanted at Notre Dame. They wanted to silence a voice they did not agree with, and did not believe was in step with the teachings of the church.

The voice just happened to belong to the President of the United States.

Obama addressed the graduates, and stressed that we do not necessarily have to agree on every issue. That it’s OK to disagree, sometimes passionately.

But that’s a two-way street. Something many on the other side of this issue seemed to forget.

And they forgot something else. The president of the United States was willing to come to your campus and deliver a commencement address.

No, you didn’t have to agree with the decision, nor with what he said.
But you should be above simply canceling Obama’s invitation because of his beliefs on abortion.

True, the school was honoring the president with an honorary degree. But the same also is true. The school was being honored with his presence, as would any school.

Some people at Notre Dame seemed to forget that.

Time to give Cha the heave 'Ho' to bullpen

The Washington Nationals are quickly turning into the Washington Generals of baseball.

You know the Generals. They are the hapless bunch of guys who are routinely served up as the sacrificial lambs in those hilarious hoops affairs with the Harlem Globetrotters. But no one in Washington is laughing about the Nationals.

One thing you count on with the Generals is that they will lose. You just don’t know how. Same pretty much goes for the Nationals.

Yesterday they were clinging to a 6-5 lead after another horrific effort from Phils’ starter Chan Ho Park. You have to wonder just how long the Phillies will be able to keep him in their rotation.

Then again, if he made all his starts against the Nationals, it might not matter. Down 6-5, the Phils put their first two men on in the eighth. Pedro Feliz dropped a very good bunt down the third-base line, then the Nats went into Generals’ mode.

Pitcher Jesus Colome fielded the ball, then threw it into right field.
Two runs scored. The Phils tacked on another and went on to win, 8-6, for a four-game sweep in D.C.

The Phils have won 12 games on the road, best in the majors.
Unfortunately, the bulk of those have come against the hapless Nats.

More serious for the Phils as they head for Cincinnati is their shaky starting pitching. Park was treated to a rare 3-0 lead before he took the mound. Of course, he offered it right back to the Nats in the bottom of the first, surrendering two runs.

Park didn’t make it out of the second after walking three batters. His ERA is now a lusty 7.08.

Look for Chan Ho to “Park” it in the Phils’ bullpen while another arm takes his spot in the starting rotation. Then again, if Jamie Moyer continues to get lit up, that will complicate things.

Moyer’s next start has been pushed back until Wednesday against the Reds.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 15

The Daily Numbers: 25,000 dollars bail for 23-year-old Roisin O’Neill, which the Montco D.A. wants revoked as they claim she violated conditions of bail.
16 Chinook helicopters to be built for the Italian Army in a joint production between Boeing in Ridley and AgustaWestland.
1922, when Weathers Dodge opened their doors on Baltimore Pike in Lima.
They were informed by Chrysler they are losing their affiliation with the automaker.
53 Chrysler dealerships in Pennsylvania targeted by Chrysler, out of 789 across the nation. That’s more than any other state.
12 dealerships targeted in the Delaware Valley, with Weathers being the only one in Delco.
50 dollar incentive being eyed as an incentive to get kids in Chester headed to ninth grade to attend a summer school program.
15 cadets that graduated from local ROTC programs who received their commissions yesterday at Widener University.
300 arrests made during crime crackdown in Philly dubbed Operation Pressure Point.
1 case of West Nile Virus so far this year in Pennsylvania, with a bird testing positive in York.
1 more case of swine flu reported in the region. Officials at Valley Forge Military Academy say a cadet had a case of H1N1 flu, but has since recovered.
3 schools in New York City that are being closed for a week due to a spike in cases of swine flu. One assistant principal is hospitalized in critical condition.
28 percent drop in net income reported in first quarter by hip clothes retailer Urban Outfitters.
2 dollar hike in admission at the Academy of Natural Sciences. It will now cost adults $12 to get in, up from $10.
5 people in Maryland charged with a shoplifting spree that netted them thousands of dollars of goods from stores in the Rehoboth Outlet Malls in Del.
2.5 billion in federal stimulus funds headed for Lincoln Financial Group. Yep, they’re the firm whose name adorns the Eagles fancy digs at Lincoln Financial Field.
9, age of girl gunned down, the victim of an apparent turf war in Lancaster. Police say she was the daughter of suspected Philly drug kingpin Kaboni Savage.
2 cent uptick in gas prices. Average price at the pump in Philly region now is $2.32.
43,000 people in Pennsylvania who just got their final unemployment compensation check after getting benefits for the federal maximum of 33 weeks, on top of 26 weeks of state bennies.
350,000 people in Pennsylvania currently receiving jobless benefits.
36,000 more people who filed for help last week.
5 hits for the Phillies anemic offense as they lost to the Dodgers, 5-3.
0 hits for Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the 2, 3, 4 slots in the batting order.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.The Phillies finally get their visit to the White House to be honored as World Series champions. It was delayed last month by the death of Harry Kalas. Unfortunately they arrive with a .500 record, 16 wins and 16 losses.
I Don’t Get It: You have to wonder exactly what Garrett Reid is thinking, and how powerful the hold drugs have on this guy, who finds himself back in jail after failing a drug test.
Today’s Upper: Chrysler may be pulling its affiliation, but they can’t kill off Weathers Dodge. The family is vowing to carry on selling cars on Baltimore Pike in Lima as they have since 1922.
Quote Box: “We can steer ourselves in a negative direction, sit and feel sorry, or take these things as opportunities to make things bigger and better.”
-- Larry Weathers III, after getting word from Chryslyer that the automaker was ending its affiliation with the family dealership that opened its doors in 1922.

Sestak still mulling

The road to the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate just got a bit easier for longtime Republican Arlen Specter.

The other announced Democrat, Joe Torsella, is getting out of the race.

Torsella, the former head of the National Consitution Center, exited the race Thursday night with an announcement on YouTube.

That does not mean Specter is getting a free ride.

Still mulling his options is none other than Delco U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7.

Sestak continues to indicate he is mulling his options in terms of offering a challenge to Specter, who is the clear choice of party leadership, including Gov. Ed Rendell.

Sestak doesn’t seem to care what the party leadership wants. He continues to say he wants to know what kind of Democrat Specter plans to be, what’s he running for, and not necessarily who is standing behind the newly minted Democrat.

Sestak is not offering any specific timetable for making a decision, but it now sounds as if he could be making up his mind in the next couple of weeks.

Clearly, the guy who stunned Delaware County politics when, helped in no small part by a leaked federal investigation, he showed longtime incumbent Rep. Curt Weldon the door, goes to the beat of his own drummer.

He was an underdog then; he’ll be an even bigger underdog now, in his own party, if he decides to take on Specter.

Now we wait on Sestak’s decision.

My guess? I understand Sestak has higher political ambitions, despite his consistent talk about how much he loves this job.

Yes, a non-scientific online poll resulted in a lopsided finding that there is support for Sestak to run.

I don’t see it. He likely will face the same problem so many other Delaware County politicians have faced when they venture beyond our borders.

In a statewide race, too many people don’t know who they are.

Sestak vs. Specter to me sounds like political suicide for someone who right now is considered an up-and-coming congressman.

Then again, those kind of odds didn’t stop Sestak before. Maybe party leaders will offer some kind of incentive to entice Sestak to step aside.

Aren’t we also electing a governor in 2010?

How about a statewide race featuring two Delco powerhouses.

Sestak vs. Meehan, anyone?

Another icon falls

Things along Baltimore Pike in the Lima section of Middletown just won’t be the same.

And this has nothing to do with the development of the old Franklin Mint site.

Up the road just a bit on the corner with Pennell Road sits Weathers Dodge.

The Weathers family has been selling cars there under the Chrysler label since 1922, making them one of the oldest Chrysler dealers in the country.

Not anymore.

The news had been circulating for weeks. Chrysler was looking to shed a lot of dealers. Yesterday the letters arrived. And they scored a direct hit on Weathers Dodge.

One thing needs to be made clear here. Weathers is not going away. They are not closing their doors. They will remain open selling cars as they have for the last 87 years.

But after the first week of June, it is likely the family dealership will no longer do so under the Dodge-Chrysler banner. Unless they can hook on with another label, they may not be selling new vehicles at all, instead focusing on the used-car trade.

Twenty-six people make their living at Weathers Dodge, which was named the 2009 Family Business of the Year by the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.

Larry Weathers III, the third generation of Weathers family members to run the franchise, said the news came as a shock. But he’s not looking at the past, or even the rocky present.

Weathers instead is looking to the future.

“I think the key is to get over the shock quickly, get rid of any anger lingering around, get on with business and figure out a game plan,” he told our Vicky Thomas yesterday after getting the letter from Chrysler informing him they were cutting their ties.

With an attitude like that, it’s no wonder the family business has been a stalwart for almost a century.

Weathers Dodge has been an icon on Baltimore Pike for decades. It has forged strong relationships with generations of loyal customers.

Those kinds of work relationships don’t always count for all that much in today’s bottom-line driven economic environment.

But you can’t put a price tag on the kind of relationship Weathers Dodge had with the car-buying public. The people at Chrysler don’t understand the deep ties Weathers has in the community, the local youth sports teams it sponsors and other endeavors it is intimately involved with.

That’s Chrysler’s loss. And in reality a loss for all of us.

Stormy Weathers? In this economy, where the bottom line is king, it’s just another sign of the times.

Phils to Obama: How about a stimulus!

The Phillies will finally make their much-anticipated visit to the White House to mingle with President Barack Obama today.

The Phils are back in the nation’s capital for a weekend series with the Nationals. You might remember the team was supposed to do the White House last month, but it was postponed after the death of legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas.

Jimmy Rollins will offer the president a gift from the team. Exactly what they will be is something of a secret.

Maybe Obama can offer the Phils a gift in return.

A little stimulus would be nice.

The Phils continued their offensive woes yesterday, getting just one hit out of the first four spots in their lineup. That came from Rollins, who was back in his familiar leadoff spot. He doubled and scored.

The Phils managed all of five hits against the Dodgers, but did rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, 3-3. Of course the Dodgers promptly scored two runs in the top of the 10th and took a 5-3 win.

There were o-fers for Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

The Phils are now two games behind the Mets in the NL East race. Yes, it’s early.

But we were saying much the same thing about this team a month ago when they were first preparing for their White House visit.

Yeah, a stimulus plan might be just what this team needs.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 14

The Daily Numbers: 16,000 dollars, how much officials allege former Penn-Delco School Board member John Green embezzled from a school booster group.
36 checks, believed made out by Green from the group’s account to himself, members of his family, or to cash.
80 women who showed up yesterday at the Tri-State Sports Complex in Aston to try out for the local entry in something called the Lingerie Football League.
2 corrections officers at the county prison who have been suspended amid a probe into allegations an inmate was beaten.
350 properties that had been listed to go on the block at a sheriff’s sale in Media Friday that got a reprieve yesterday when it was announced the sale was being delayed.
26, age of Garrett Reid, eldest son of Eagles Coach Andy Reid, who is back in jail after apparently failing a drug test.
22, age of Rosin O’Neill, who is in trouble again in Montgomery County.
Prosecutors are seeking to have her bail revoked, saying she violated the conditions. She faces trial in a fatal DUI accident.
1.2 billion dollar deal for Boeing and AgustaWestland to supply 16 Chinook helicopters for the Italian Army. The fuselages will be made at Boeing’s Ridley plant.
35, age of clerk who was shot during a holdup last night at a grocery store in Cobbs Creek.
2 brothers behind bars charged with a series of home break-ins in Montgomery and Bucks counties.
36, age of Bucks County woman charged with prostitution, including some encounters when her son apparently was in the motel room.
6.77 percent drop in home sale prices being reported in the Philly area in first quarter of 2008.
9.7 percent jobless rate reported in Philadelphia in March. The rate in Delco is at 7.2 percent.
2.18 million dollar malpractice award to the widow of a Philly man who died when his heart stopped beating while in the hospital.
1979, last time the children of murder victim Susan Reinert were seen alive. One of two men convicted in their deaths, Jay C. Smith, died this week. He was freed by the state Supreme Court, which threw out his conviction.
2 senior citizens in Stroudsburg, Pa., charged with selling heroin who are now seeking plea deals. They were making $10,000 a week.
0, how much Gov. Ed Rendell is warning some state workers they could be paid during any budget impasse.
1 billion loss reported by Sony, their first loss in 14 years.
249 wins and holding for Phils pitcher Jamie Moyer, who struggled again last night vs. the Dodgers.
1 run on 3 hits surrendered by former Phil Randy Wolf against his old mates.
2 goals in 8 seconds for the Pittsburgh Penguins as they rolled to a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals to advance in the NHL Playoffs.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.One of the few hits the Phils managed off former teammate Randy Wolf last night was a home run by Jimmy Rollins in his new No. 5 slot in the batting order.
I Don’t Get It: The problems continue for people who bought homes from TH Properties in Montgomery County. The firm has filed for bankruptcy, but homeowners are now having liens placed against their homes by subcontractors who say the company owes them for work on the homes. Now they want the homeowners to pick up the tab. How does that work?
Today’s Upper: Good news arriving for Boeing, with a big new contract they will share with AgustaWestland to build Chinook copters for the Italian Army.
Quote Box: “We’re excited to get out here in the market and see the kind of caliber we have. There is some true talent out here.”
-- Mitchell Mortaza, founder of the Lingerie Football League, at tryouts held Wednesday at the Tri-State Sports complex in Aston.

Another Penn-Delco story

Our legions of critics in the Penn-Delco School District might be somewhat surprised by the front page of today’s print edition.

They are the ones who believe we play favorites, that we take great delight in displaying the troubles of some officials, while downplaying others.

The focus of today’s front-page story is John Green. He is a former Penn-Delco School Board member. He served on the board when the district was engulfed in controversy, much of which was displayed in the pages of this newspaper.

At the center of the controversy was a company called Quick Start, which the district contracted to provide preschool services and full-day care.

By most accounts, Quick Start was a very popular company that provided a service that was praised by parents in the district. In fact, a move by the district to remove the contract from Quick Start sparked outrage from many parents.

But Quick Start had another problem. His name was Keith Crego. At the time, Crego was president of the Penn-Delco School Board.

Eventually Crego was indicted on charges that he was secretly an investor in Quick Start and drew income from the operation, but never disclosed it.

Crego took Superintendent Leslye Abrutyn down with him. She resigned her post after being indicted on charges that she did not reveal her connections to Quick Start and Crego.

Both Crego and Abrutyn eventually entered plea deals. It should be noted that while Quick Start as a corporation was charged in the deal, and entered a plea that resulted in the firm discontinuing operations, none of its principals were charged with wrongdoing.

All of which played out in the pages of the newspaper.

Green is not exactly without his share of problems.

It was less than two years ago that Green entered a no-contest plea to a felony count of conflict of interest under the state Ethics Code. It turns out Green received more than $800 in commissions from the firm where he was employed for work they received from the school district.
He received 18 months probation, 40 hours of community service and fined $2,510. He also resigned his seat on the school board.

He also ran afoul of the rules involving filing the required financial disclosure forms with the state, then using phony dates to make it appear as if he did. He was fined $500.

Another member of the Penn-Delco community, former chief district financial officer John Steffy, found himself with a similar problem with the state Ethics Commission involving financial disclosure forms. He was fined $250. Steffy has since left Penn-Delco, but not before an audit undertaken by the district in the fallout from all this controversy criticized some areas of his office. He now has found work in the Reading School District.

As for Green, today he has more serious problems. He is charged with stealing $16,000 from a sports booster club at Sun Valley High School.
The affidavit filed for his arrest alleges he made out 30 checks from the club’s account to himself, a family member, or to cash.

I have never met John Green. He faces charges of embezzlement. They are serious charges.

It is the latest in what seems to be the never-ending problems swirling around the district and some members of its school board.

They have landed him on today’s front page.

I’m not in the business of playing favorites. I report the news. And the charges filed against Green are news.

I feel badly for his family, as I would for anyone in a similar circumstance. And that includes the families of Keith Crego and Leslye Abrutyn. That does not mean we do not report the issues surrounding them. The same goes for Green.

Which I am sure surprises those who wondered if this story would ever make the pages of the newspaper.

Two troubled families

There are two high-profile names back in the news today. Both are in trouble again.

The eldest son of Eagles coach Andy Reid is back in hot water. He’s also back in prison. Graterford Prison, in fact.

Garrett Reid, 26, apparently failed a drug test that was administered as he returned to a halfway house where he was undergoing court-ordered drug treatment. He also is believed to have gotten into a fight with another resident.

Reid was returning to the Luzerne Treatment Center after an approved leave and was administered a drug test on his return. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman indicated Reid was found to have some kind of controlled substance in his system.

Reid first ran afoul of the law a few years back when he was involved in a serious accident and admitted to being high on heroin at the time. He failed a drug test while on probation and was sentenced to 23 months.
Then he was charged with trying to smuggle prescription pills into prison.

Garrett’s younger brother Britt also has had run-ins with the police.

There are also more legal issues this morning for a member of the troubled O’Neill family.

Roisin O’Neill, 22, who is awaiting trial on charges stemming from a crash where it is alleged that she was driving the wrong way on the Blue Route while under the influence, then slamming into another car and killing the driver, stands accused of violating the terms of her bail.

The Montco D.A. was in court yesterday asking a judge to revoke O’Neill’s bail. They say O’Neill was in a car full of kids that was stopped during a DUI checkpoint. A bottle of wine was found in the car.
Several of the kids were cited for under underage drinking. O’Neill was not. She denied any wrongdoing.

Her lawyers argued against her bail being revoked, citing the extensive treatment she continues to undergo stemming from injuries she suffered in the accident.

The judge is mulling some kind of compromise, possibly jail on weekends, along with treatment and monitoring during the week.

Her brother Sean O’Neill is completing a probationary sentence handed down in the juvenile court for his role in an accidental shooting that took the life of his best friend.

Their father, Sean O’Neill Sr., recently entered a plea in federal court to a slew of tax, immigration and fraud charges. He is likely facing jail time, followed by deportation.

The enduring Reinert mystery

One of the great enduring mysteries of the bizarre Susan Reinert murder case likely will go to the grave with Jay C. Smith.

He’s the Chester native who went on to become the principal of Upper Merion High. In the late ‘70s that community was stunned when it was learned Smith was a suspect in the robbery of a couple of Sears stores.

It only got more bizarre from there. A lot more bizarre.

The body of Upper Merion High English teacher Susan Reinert was found in the trunk of a car in the parking lot of a Harrisburg motel on same day Smith was being sentenced there for the robberies. A comb was found under her body bearing the insignia of Smith’s National Guard unit.
Toxicology tests showed she had been drugged.

Eventually, another English teacher, William Bradfield, along with Smith were charged with Reinert’s murder.

Both Bradfield and Smith were convicted. Smith spent six years on death row, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court freed him, citing serious prosecutorial misconduct.

Smith died on Tuesday at a hospital where he was being treated for a heart condition.

Bradfield died in Graterford Prison, where he was serving a life sentence, in 1998.

The sensational case was turned into a best-seller, “Echoes in the Darkness,” as well as a TV mini-series by author Joseph Wambaugh.

After his release, Smith penned his own book, in which he maintained he innocence on the murder charge.

None of which resolves one of the most haunting aspects of this mystery, one that remains unsolved after nearly three decades.

What happened to Reinert’s two young children?

Karen, 11, and Michael, 10, were last seen on Friday, June 22, 1979, in the car with their mother leaving their home in Ardmore. They were never seen again.

They were declared dead in 1987. Both Smith and Bradfield were also convicted of the children’s murders.

But exactly what happened to them has never been revealed, and no bodies were ever recovered.

Echoes in the darkness, indeed.

Revenge of the Wolf Man

Call it the revenge of the Wolf Man. Sounds like some kind of cheesy teen horror flick. It turned into a nightmare for the Phillies.

Their old pal Randy Wolf dazzled the Phillies over six innings, giving up just one run on six hits. The only run he surrendered was to that dreaded No. 5 hitter, Jimmy Rollins.

In the meantime, Phils starter Jamie Moyer had a nightmarish inning of his own. After cruising through the first three innings, giving up just one hit, Moyer had a bit of a meltdown in the fourth, when he was touched for five runs as the Dodgers built a 5-1 lead.

It means Moyer continues to sit at 249 wins. Capturing that 250th victory is proving a bit elusive. He’s now 3-3 and has struggled in his last couple of starts.

The Phils continue to be consistently inconsistent, both in their hitting and pitching.

Last night they could have drawn even with the Mets, who had lost yesterday afternoon. Instead, they were shut down by a very familiar face.

The Wolf Pack, those crazies wearing masks who used to celebrate every Wolf strikeout, didn’t seem to be in attendance at Citizens Bank Park last night.

It was the Phils who were left howling at the moon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 13

The Daily Numbers: 2.31, what gas is going for at some local stations after a weekend spurt. Memorial Day must not be far off.
2.28, the average price we’re paying at the pump.
16 cent increase in the price of gas in just the last week, according to AAA.
100 years young, all those in attendance at yesterday’s luncheon honoring 34 county residents who have hit the century mark.
10 homeless after an inferno roared through a home in Yeadon.
15, age of teen who testified yesterday he had sex with a 41-year-old woman in Lower Chichester.
500 people who attended a Veterans Summit hosted by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak at Ridley High School.
2,000 dollars won by Gov. Ed Rendell on the slots at Harrah’s last year. No wonder some call him “Fast Eddie.”
0, what owners of “green” vehicles would pay for parking in Doylestown parking lots and meters under a new program.
35, age of clerk who was shot during a holdup last night at a grocery store in Cobbs Creek.
121 million dollars in state funding and $209 million in federal stimulus funds that will allow the Philadelphia School District to balance its budget.
40 teachers being axed in budget-cutting moves in Winslow Township in South Jersey. The district is looking to ax 160 jobs altogether to save
$6 million.
800 volunteers being sought by the organizers of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. You get a free meal at the June 7 event.
200,000 in pots seized by police during a raid on a home in Hammonton, N.J.
8 percent sales tax you’d pay on anything you buy in Philly under the new budget deal brokered by Mayor Michael Nutter and City Council. The rate in the suburbs is only 6 percent.
13.9 percent, unemployment rate among those 20 to 24 years old. Not good news for new college grads.
9 million dollar military order for Unisys for information technology support to the Joint Forces Command in Va.
500 dollar fee slapped on students for campus housing at the University of Delaware. That’s on top of a 6.6 percent hike overall in housing rates, and a 7.46 hike in dining costs.
130 bucks, what you will now pay for blocking the intersection in Philly as the city tries a new crackdown to keep traffic moving in the city.
5,000 Pennsylvania homes in foreclosure in April, the first time it’s gone over that mark since the numbers first started being kept four years ago.
52 million dollars in the first year, how much Delaware expects to rake in under a proposal to legalize sports betting in the state.
4 stolen bases last night for Phils outfielder Jayson Werth, including a rare steal of home.
2 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings and 0 walks for Chan Ho Park as he picked up his first win of the season.
5, as in the No. 5 slot in the batting order, where normal leadoff man Jimmy Rollins hit last night. He drove in a run.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Doug Collins says he’s talked to the Sixers about the head coaching job.
Uh, on second thought, maybe he didn’t. Collins last night told the AP he talked to the Sixers “two or three times” about the job. Later he clarified, saying he was mistaken.
I Don’t Get It: Why should I care what Miss California USA thinks about gay marriage? And why should it have any effect on her role in the pageant. Same goes for the “racy” pix of her floating around the Internet. She competes in a barely-there bikini. Just another instance of Donald Trump proving he’s the master of the media.
Today’s Upper: Legalized sports gambling in Delaware. And the bill also would allow casinos there to introduce table games. Good news for gamblers, not so much for Harrah’s Chester.
Quote Box: “For the first time in over a month, motorists were hit with significant increases at the pump.”
-- Catherine Rossi, spokesperson for AAA, on weekend gasoline price hikes.

Passion pit


It turns out the Philadelphia Union is not the only new pro team on the local sports horizon.

Brace yourself for something called the Philadelphia Passion.

Think NFL cheerleaders and then rev it up a few notches. And remove a few articles of clothing.

The Passion will be the local entry in something called the Lingerie Football League.

I’m not making this up. It’s women in what appears to be little more than bras, panties, shoulder pads and helmets doing battle. Think Victoria’s Secret on the gridiron.

Ladies, if you think you’ve got what it takes (and don’t ask me what that is), the Passion is holding open tryouts today at the Tri-State Sports Complex in Aston from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The public is invited to check out the, err, action.

Here’s my question: Do they have male cheerleading squads with guys in tiny shorts, or maybe jock straps?

Maybe I’m just not feeling the Passion.

Bet the house on it

Here’s a safe bet: As politicians look for new sources of income to fend off massive spending deficits to avoid cutting jobs and programs, they will increasingly turn to more legalized gambling.

All states now dabble in lottery games. A few years ago, Pennsylvania, tired of watching its residents stream across the border to neighboring Delaware and New Jersey to legally gamble, rolled the dice a bit more.
Pennsylvania instituted slots gambling as a way of easing the crush of property taxes in the state. There are now seven slots operations up and running in the state, including Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.
Another one will open soon in Bethlehem, and two more are likely to go online in Philly in the coming year.

Now Delaware is upping the ante. The Delaware state Senate yesterday OK’d a plan to legalize sports betting in the Diamond State. This is the Holy Grail of betting. The move would make Delaware the only state east of the Mississippi where you could legally wager on sports events.

Gov. Jack Markell has indicated he will sign the measure into law about as fast as it hits his desk.

As you can imagine, the folks at the NFL, NBA and NCAA are not nearly enthused. The plan could still face a legal challenge.

Pennsylvania does not have this option. Delaware is one of only four states, along with Nevada, Montana and Oregon, that was exempted from a
1992 federal law banning sports gambling.

It would provide Delaware with a big edge over Pennsylvania in terms of luring gamblers. And it of course would not be especially good news at Harrah’s, which just happens to be the only one of the seven slots operations in Pennsylvania where revenue is down from a year ago.

The new law would allow Delaware to add sports betting at its three existing slots locations.

How much money are we talking about? The state estimates it will bring in $52 million in the first year.

And one other thing that no doubt will raise a few eyebrows down at Harrah’s. The Delaware law also legalizes table games at state casinos.

Look for that to become part of the discussion in Pennsylvania.

You might say you can bet the house on it.

Werth the price of admission

Better watch your wallet around Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth.

All he did last night was steal four bases – including a steal of home – while stealing a win for the Phils in the process.

Werth actually stole four bases to tie a team record set by somebody named Sheery Magee on two different times in 1906, and Garry Maddox on May 29, 1978.

You have to think if Rich Ashburn were still alive, he would have remarked to his pal, the late Harry Kalas, that Werth looked “runnerish”
last night.

Werth stole third base in the fourth inning.

Then in the seventh, Werth, who was on third, broke for home as Dodgers catcher Russell Martin casually took his time in tossing the ball back to reliver Ronald Belisario. Werth’s swipe gave the Phils a 5-2 lead.

His steal of home came after he took both second and third after a single, the cycle of stealing, as it were.

Almost as much fun as watching Werth pilfer all these bases was the sight of Dodgers coach – and former Phillies manager – Larry Bowa doing a not-so-slow burn over the lackadaisical attitude displayed by L.A.

The Phils held on for a 5-3 win to stay a game back of the Dodgers.

One other note in the Phils win. No, that was not Jimmy Rollins in the leadoff spot.

Charlie Manuel shuffled his lineup and dropped Rollins down to the fifth spot. Manuel indicated it had as much to do with the Dodgers’ bullpen matchups as it did with the slump Rollins has been mired in to start the year. Rollins did single in a run.

No word from Manuel if Rollins will return to the leadoff spot tonight.
Rollins wasn’t talking after the game. But before the contest he made it clear he considers himself No. 1 spot hitter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Soccer arrives kicking & screaming

They came, they saw, they partied.

Or maybe I should say they scored.

Or even Goaaaaaaaaaaaaaal, the classic call of international soccer competition.

Pro soccer returned to the region in a big way yesterday, and the Sons of Ben were not about to let the day they have waited on for years pass without a party.

The fanatical soccer zealots named for a certain influential statesman were out in force yesterday for the official announcement of the team name, logo and uniform colors of the region’s new MLS franchise.

Just as they were huddled in the refurbished PECO Power Station in Chester for the announcement that Major League Soccer had awarded its 16th franchise to the region.

And just as they were last fall when the official groundbreaking for the team’s 18,500-seat stadium took place in the shadow of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

I have no idea if the MLS version of pro soccer will make it in this town. My son is something of a soccer aficionado. He snickers a bit at the mention of the MLS, believing it to be an inferior brand of the game compared to world competition. He’s quick to remind me that the next World Cup, the Holy Grail of the soccer world, is just around the corner.

The Philly team will be called Philadelphia Union. Their blue and gold emblem includes 13 stars and a rattlesnake.

The union label sparked something of a debate on our Web site yesterday about the labor movement. Which I suppose is fine except I don’t think that’s what this “Union” label is referring to.

A confession here. We probably added to that confusion with our front page display on Monday advancing the announcement, which included a shot of the team logo superimposed on the stadium construction site along with the headline, “Look for the Union label.”

That was a play off the old advertising campaign urging consumers to buy union-made products. I thought it worked perfectly as a way of introducing the logo and advancing the press conference to unveil it.

The “Union” that makes up the moniker of the team is a reference to Philadelphia’s key role in the formation of the United States, as well as the wording in the Declaration of Independence, the movement “to form a more perfect union.”

Judging by the reaction from the Sons of Ben, this “Union” is already perfect in their eyes.

We welcome the region’s newest sport. We relish the opportunity to watch them play their home games in the city of Chester. We salute the Sons of Ben for their role in bringing major league soccer to town.

Their first game is less than year away. Plenty of time for me to convince my son to join the party.

The Daily Numbers

The Daily Numbers: 13 stars and a rattlesnake, on the emblem of the logo for the Philadelphia Union, the region’s new pro soccer team that was unveiled yesterday.
6,000 season tickets that have already been sold for the team, most of them to member of the local soccer zealots the Sons of Ben.
275 bucks, what you’ll pay for a season ticket on the cheapest section of the 18,500 seat stadium being constructed on the Chester waterfront.
The top end tickets go for $1,100.
1 probable case of swine flu now reported in Delaware County. There are
17 confirmed cases in Delaware County.
90 more parking spaces at the Elwyn Train Station that won approval from Middletown Council.
72 homes and 10 businesses in Tinicum being eyed by Philadelphia International Airport for an expansion program, according to U.S. Rep.
Joe Sestak, D-7.
3.94 percent tax hike facing a vote in the Penn-Delco School District.
100 bronze vases swiped from graves at Edgewood Memorial Gardens in Concord.
34 million dollars in federal stimulus funds that will be used for renovations to the Media/Sharon Hill trolley line.
2 alarm fire that gutted a home in Yeadon last night, forcing a family to flee and leaving 5 people homeless.
500,000 dollars believed swindled from a business associate by a West Chester man.
6, age of boy who was struck by hit-run driver in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia Sunday night.
14, age of student in elementary school in Northeast Philly charged with sexually groping a female eighth-grader in his school.
7 year veteran of the Delaware State Police charged with sexual extortion after engaging in inappropriate sexual relations with a suspect.
2,000 dollar guitar stolen from a performer at the Deer Park Hotel in Newark, Del.
4 billion dollar shortfall in Philly budget. Mayor Michael Nutter and City Council yesterday agreed on a plan that would not raise residents’
property taxes.
32-27 record for the Sixers under Coach Tony DiLeo. He announced yesterday he would not be a candidate for the job.
0 times the Phils will face Dodgers star Manny Ramirez in their three-game set starting tonight. He’s serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Don’t look now but those New York Mets are red-hot, and starting to put some distance between themselves and the second-place Phils.
I Don’t Get It: We are now above average for rainfall so far in May.
However, we’re still 2 inches short in the water bucket for the year.
Today’s Upper: Let’s hear it for the Sons of Ben and the arrival of major league soccer in the area. Go Union!
Quote Box: “If there was a public health concern, we would provide the information necessary to the public to alleviate the health risk.”
-- Pa. Department of Health spokesman Stacy Kriedeman, on news of a probable case of swine flu discovered in Delco.

Swine flu arrives

Swine flu has arrived in Delaware County.

That is not a surprise. It was pretty much expected that sooner or later it would pop up here. A spokesman for the state Department of Health has confirmed that we added a “probable” case of swine flu over the weekend.

There are 17 confirmed cases in the state in 11 counties, along with another 20 probable cases in nine counties, with Delco now added to the list.

There isn’t any need to panic, nor run out and buy a surgical mask.
Basically a little common sense is likely to get us over this.

First and foremost, wash your hands. Sneeze into your shirtsleeve. If you’re sick or displaying symptoms, don’t go to school or work.

So far this strain of swine flu does not appear to be all that virulent in the cases reported in the U.S.

That could change in the fall, but for right now the great swine flu fear appears to be just that, probably as much fear as actual medical malady.

Gas pains

Let’s see, Memorial Day is just around the corner, so I guess that means it’s time for a spike in gasoline prices.

You can pretty much count on it.

What I did not count on was prices at the pump going up a dime over the weekend.

Did I miss something here? Can anyone explain this to me? I could of swore that late last week I was passing a lot of Wawas and other stations advertising prices at $2.05 a gallon.

Over the weekend for some reason prices spurted. This morning it will set you back $2.25 a gallon to fill up at a lot of stations.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling gouged.

Officially, AAA reports the price jumped 12 cents over the past week.

AAA says this is a result of an improving economy, coupled with the “expectation that summer driving season will bring increased demand as motorists take to the road.”


As of Sunday, AAA put the average price in Philly at $2.24 a gallon.
Most stations I passed yesterday were a penny higher.

I don’t get it. It’s enough to “drive” you to distraction. Or once again simply consider putting the car in the driveway and keeping it there.

Why do I think that’s not going to happen? And why do I think prices will continue to rise as Memorial Day approaches.

Wright stuff for Sixers?

Anybody remember the Sixers? Didn’t think so.

Last we saw them they were folding their tent after taking a surprising
2-1 first-round playoff loss to the Orlando Magic, who were playing without star center Dwight Howard.

Up until that point, there was a pretty good chance that Tony DiLeo might have that interim in front of his name erased as the Sixers coach.

Not anymore.

Yesterday, after meeting with the guy he put on the bench after firing Mo Cheeks last December, Sixers GM Ed Stefanski announced there would be someone else directing the Sixers next year.

Actually, DiLeo apparently told Stefanski he wanted to return to his job in the front office. Whether or not he had much choice in the matter is a matter of conjecture.

Stefanski says he has not contacted a single person about the job. He maintains he wanted to sit down with DiLeo before talking to anyone else.

He’s had the sit-down. DiLeo will not be the coach next year.

So who will?

There is a short list of candidates, headed by Eddie Jordan, Avery Johnson and even former Sixer star guard Doug Collins.

But the Sixers need to make a splash, and none of those names will make much more than a ripple.

Of course, there is a name that would make some real waves for the team.
But the smart money says Villanova coach Jay Wright is not about to leave his perch on the Main Line, especially with a returning squad that is likely to be a pre-season Top 10 selection.

Maybe it’s time for Stefanski to make Wright an offer he can’t refuse.

Ever since the Sixers jettisoned Pat Croce, they seemingly have made nothing but wrong moves.

They could change that with a single announcement. The Wright stuff?
Wright on, baby!

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's party time for soccer fans

Philly has seen riots in the 700 level, rumbles in the parking lots, a World Series Championship Parade and all other manner of fanatical sports passion on full display.

But I'm now quite sure the city has ever seen anything like what is abouto unfurl this morning in the courtyard of City Hall.

And this is not for a game or contest. This is just to announce a team name and colors.

The name of the Philadelphia entry in Major League Soccer will be unveiled, along with the team logo, colors and most importantly, ticket prices.

You'll forgive me if I whine about the announcement being held in Philly. After all, this team will play its games in a stadium being constructed under the Commodore Barry Bridge on the Chester waterfront. We're big enough to share the excitement with the rest of the region.

And we salute one group that was crucial in bringing pro soccer to the region. If you have not yet been exposed to the Sons of Ben,. steer clear of City Hall, and local watering holes this morning.

These guys are ready to party, and the team's first game is not set to take place for antoher 10 months. Has there even been a 10-month tailgate party?

More on them in my weekly Letter from the Editor.

Start the party!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 7

The Daily Numbers: 3,000 people who had weighed in on an online poll as to whether U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7, should challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Primary.
88 percent national and 84 percent in Pa. saying Sestak should join the fray.
36 Delaware County law enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty whose memories were honored during the annual Day of Remembrace during Law Week.
3 incidents – including 2 on the Swarthmore campus – that police think may be related. In the latest a man emerged from a coed’s dorm room and displayed a gun before fleeing.
14 cans of baby food, what police say a Chester man pilfered from the Pathmark store in Brookhaven.
46 percent of occupational fraud cases that are solved by a tip, with the majority of those coming from employees.
150 million in financing still being sought by the folks who run the proposed Sugarhouse Casino, which could open in a temporary facility on the Philadelphia waterfront next year.
5, age of boy riding a bike in Smyrna, Del., who was killed when he rode under the wheels of a tractor-trailer.
250 jobs, including teachers and aides, that are on the chopping block in Winslow Township over in Jersey. Voters there rejected a proposed budget with a tax hike.
4 percent hike in passengers reported in April for Southwest Airlines.
2 fatal hit-run cases in 2 days in Philadelphia. Last night a 20-year-old man was struck and killed in the Logan section. The driver of the car fled the scene.
0 winning tickets in Wednesday night’s Powerball drawing. Saturday’s night’s jackpot swells to $109 million.
28 years of seniority down the drain for Sen. Arlen Specter after he switched to the Democratic Party.
27.3 billion dollar state budget approved by the Pa. Senate. That sets the stage for some brutal negotiations between Senate Republicans and Gov. Rendell.
2 cases of confirmed swine flu now reported in Pennsylvania. A 28-year-old Montco man who has since recovered is the latest victim.
6 shutout innings for Phillies starter Chan Ho Park.
7 shutout innings for Mets ace Johan Santana, who beat the Phils, 1-0.
10 strikeouts for Santana as he mowed down the Phils.
1 crucial throwing error for third baseman Pedro Feliz that led to the winning run.
15 straight games with a hit for Shane Victorino, who doubled.
13 straight wins at home by the L.A. Dodgers to start the season. That’s a new record.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.You expect Chan Ho Park to throw games away with lousy pitching. You don’t expect slick fielding third baseman Pedro Feliz to be the offending party.
I Don’t Get It: Police in western Pennsylvania are investigating the killing of a house cat with an arrow. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Tell me you did not have a tear in your eye while watching the story of Abby McGovern introducing their new baby to her husband, Army Maj. Frank McGovern, who is stationed in Iraq. Beautiful!
Quote Box: “To me, it just represents the views of the people who respond, and I don’t know if it has any relation with what all the liberals want or what the voters in the state want.”
-- Political pollster G. Terry Madonna, on an online poll gauging support for a Senate run by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

More on the Lazaroff case

I have had one thing on my mind since last Friday. That’s when a Delaware County jury acquitted Dr. Jerry Lazaroff of all charges in a case in which he was accused of inappropriately touching some of his young patients.

What was I wondering? What has his life been like for the last year.

We’re beginning to find out. I had columnist Gil Spencer ask Lazaroff if he would sit down for an interview. You can read Part 1 here. Part Two will appear in Friday’s Daily Times.

I spoke to several groups on Wednesday. At both of them I referenced the Lazaroff case. I had gone back and pulled out the newspaper when we first reported the charges filed against him. It was the lead story on the front page on Wednesday, May 7. I held that front page up to the audiences. Then I held up the front page of last Saturday’s paper. May 2, almost exactly one year. There was another photo of Lazaroff and two simple words: Not Guilty.

I asked a simple question: What do you think his life has been like for the past year?

One thing I learned by reading the first part of the interview is that Dr. Lazaroff lost almost all of his professional licenses after he was charged. Notice that is not after he was convicted. In fact, Lazaroff was not convicted.

Makes you wonder about all that high-minded talk about the justice system in this country, and how you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In the Lazaroff case, it seems like just the opposite was the case.

Now he’s looking to put his life back together, starting with getting his old job back with the county Juvenile Court system.

You’d think that would be the least they could do.

The 'beat' goes on at Harrah's

When your business takes in $27.6 million in one month, it’s hard to imagine that in negative terms.

But that’s the story coming from Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.

Harrah’s is on a losing streak.

They took in $27.6 million from gamblers in April. That’s down 2.4 percent from the same month last year. It’s the second straight month the take has been down at Harrah’s, continuing a trend that first popped up last summer.

And once again, Harrah’s was the only one of the seven operating slots parlors now up and running in Pennsylvania where the take is down. For example, at Philly Park, gaming was up almost 10 percent. Some of the smaller operations, such as those at Pocono Downs and Penn National, were way up, more than 40 percent.

Still, Harrah’s weighs in as the second largest venue in the state, behind only Philly Park, which took in $31 million in April.

No one is saying why Harrah’s is down. Certainly not the folks at the Chester site, who are notoriously tight-lipped about the numbers there.

Maybe it’s the economy. But if that was the case, wouldn’t it hold true for other slots parlors as well? Is the economy here worse than other areas of the state? Is Harrah’s somehow more vulnerable to competition than other locations?

One thing is sure. Harrah’s soon will be facing more competition, not less. A slots parlor in Bethlehem is ready to open its doors.

And even more threatening is the situation in Philly, where two new sites are going to go on line eventually. Yesterday Sugarhouse got an extension on its license for their site on the Delaware River in Fishtown. They’re actually hoping to have a temporary slots operation running there by early next year. The folks at Foxwoods want to have a facility in the old Strawbridge’s building at Eighth and Market online by Christmas.

Jingle all the way? Maybe not for Harrah’s.

Fields of Nightmares

If you build it, they will come. Or will they? These days that depends on the cost.

Several teams are learning that a Field of Dreams does not translate into dreamy attendance figures. Instead, the high prices are turning into a nightmare – for both the teams and fans.

Major League Baseball yesterday announced that attendance is down 7 percent, and that average crowds are off for 19 of the 30 major league clubs.

Among those seeing less people come through the turnstiles are both the New York clubs, which just happened to open palatial new digs this year, along with some equally high-dollar prices.

Attendance for Mets games are off 23 percent; for the Yankees it’s 12 percent fewer fans showing up.

You might recall that some seats in the new Yankee Stadium ring in at a lusty $2,62. That’s for a single seat, not an entire section. Those seats have been sitting empty for the most part.

Gone are the days when baseball was one of the few remaining bargains in major league sports.

What would Ray Kinsella think?

Phils throw one away

If the Phils were going to throw a game away against the hated Mets, about the last place you would look would be smooth-fielding third baseman Pedro Feliz.

Instead you might just as well zero in on one of the Phils starting pitchers, who have struggled mightily in the early going this year.

How then do you explain what unfolded last night in the Mets’ swanky new CitiBank ballpark?

Chan Ho Park, who won a spot in the starting rotation in spring training and seemingly hasn’t done anything right since, was pitching for his life last night. Another shaky outing likely would have seen him banished to the bullpen in favor of J.A. Happ, who also pitched well in Clearwater.

So all Park did last night was unfurl a gem. Entering the game with a lusty 8.57 ERA, Park tossed six shutout innings, surrendering just one hit.

Didn’t much matter. Mets ace Johan Santana was better. He shut the Phils out for 7 innings, striking out 10 along the way.

The key play was a throwing error by – of all people – Feliz in the seventh. Feliz bare-handed a chopper but then threw way wide of Ryan Howard, allowing the Mets to score the only run of the game.

Park clearly earned another start. And the Phils will get another shot at the Mets tonight.

It’s not likely Feliz will throw away another one. What is likely, however, is that Santana will loom large over this series all summer long.

Attention Cole Hamels. That’s what this team needs you to do. All season long, not just in October.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Daily Numbers - May 6

The Daily Numbers: 4 children who made accusations against psychologist Dr. Jerry Lazaroff. A jury acquitted him of all charges.
2 suspects now being sought by Upper Darby police in connection with 2 different shooting incidents, one them fatal.
9 to 18 months of house arrest for the woman who pleaded guilty to stealing almost a million bucks from her employer in Marcus Hook.
20 million dollars, how much the feds say a Broomall investment manager pocketed in a Ponzi scheme. He was formally indicted yesterday.
6 days in May and 6 straight days we have had rain. We’re supposed to get a bit of clearing this afternoon before showers return tonight.
There is a chance of rain each day through Saturday.
7 million dollars in cuts targeting the D.A.’s Office in Philly. Lynn Abraham went before City Council yesterday to blast the plan.
400 million dollars in federal stimulus funds for roads and bridges in Pa., with another $258 million in the pipeline.
5 percent dip in boardings for US Airways in April. They welcomed 4.51 million passengers, down from 4.75 million in the same month last year.
3,000 dollars in damage done to the manicured lawns of the Winterthur Museum and Estate after Saturday’s Point-to-Point races by a man in an oversized pickup truck. Here’s the worst part. He apparently splashed mud all over some spectators.
15 workers being layed off by Sunoco at one of their refineries in Tulsa, Okla. It comes after earlier layoffs rocked their Philly and Marcus Hook facilities.
49, age of man driving BMW who police say struck and killed 1 pedestrian, then hit a 2nd a couple of blocks away in the Nicetown Tioga section of Philly last night.
27, age of soldier from Philadelphia reported killed in action in Afghanistan.
140 million dollar temporary slots facility being eyed by Sugarhouse casino for the Delaware riverfront in the Fishtown/Northern Liberties section of Philly. They go before state gaming regulators today.
23-15, margin by which the House in Delaware rejected a measure to OK sports betting.
81 more job cuts in April at Atlantic City casinos, which continue to battle the economic downturn and increased competition from Pa.
1 confirmed death of a U.S. citizen from swine flu, a person with a pre-existing condition in Texas.
1 confirmed case of swine flu in Pennsylvania, although there are several more probable cases being reported.
2 hands successfully transplanted onto a Georgia man at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
3 point lead in a favorability rating poll for former Gov. Tom Ridge over now Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter.
4 senior committee posts stripped from Specter in a Senate vote last night.
4,000 contributors who have helped him raise over a half million dollars since he announced his campaign, according to Pat Toomey.
1, as in first place, where Phils sit in National League East as they head for New York and a set vs. the Mets.
2 more home runs surrendered by Phils starter Brett Myers.
.346 batting average, with league high 8 homers for Chase Utley, who sat out last night’s game with a sore foot.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.Eventually you figure the Phils starting pitching woes are going to catch up with them. On the other hand, what do you think this team can do if the starters come around?
I Don’t Get It: A woman in Erie faces assault charges for a fight with her boyfriend. And her weapon of choice? She was apparently swinging her infant son like a baseball bat. I don’t get it.
Today’s Upper: Kudos to Ralph Bucci. He owns the Marcus Hook business where Elizabeth Greenawalt stole almost a million dollars. He was in court yesterday for her sentencing and asked the judge to be lenient on the frail, ailing former worker. He’s a better man than I am.
Quote Box: “The streets of our community are becoming like Baghdad, and the community members have got to come forward, because the police department can only do so much.”
-- Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, in the wake of another shooting on a crowded township street.

More fights for Specter

When he rocked the political world last week by announcing he was fleeing the Republican Party and crossing the aisle to the Democrats, Sen. Arlen Specter indicated he had been promised he would retain his powerful leadership posts as a Democrat.

That apparently did not sit well with some longtime Democrats who were not especially thrilled by the notion of Specter leapfrogging over them into the seat of power.

Last night the Senate added Specter as a Democrat to four committees, but he lost his seniority posts. That means Specter loses a key trump card to put before Pennsylvania voters in the 2010 Senate race.

He no doubt would have pushed the power he wields in Washington and what those leadership posts mean in terms of money and clout for Pennsylvania.

Specter defected from the GOP when his own polling data indicated he would lose to conservative former Congressman Pat Toomey.

But he’s not out of the woods yet, either in terms of his old party, or his new one, for that matter.

Former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge confirmed yesterday that he was mulling a run for the Republican nomination.

He would face many of the same challenges from conservative Republicans as Specter, but initial polling say he would be a much more formidable opponent in the general election should he win the nomination.

A poll done by Quinnipiac University showed Ridge and Specter running about even. Polls also indicate Ridge would beat Toomey in the GOP Primary in a competitive race. For his part, Toomey yesterday said Ridge was Specter in different clothing, still too liberal to represent the state.

Specter doesn’t even have smooth sailing in his new-found party.

Delco 7th District Congressman Joe Sestak continues to make noise about challenging Specter, despite the fact that party leaders like President Barack Obama and Gov. Ed Rendell are trying to clear a path to a Specter nomination.

It seems not everyone in the party is ready to anoint Specter, and they’re not thrilled with party leaders’ attempts to do just that.

They might be turning to Sestak, who this week met with some unions to gauge their suppport.

Today an outfit called the Progressive Change Campaign plans to launch an online poll to test the water for a possible Sestak run.

Likewise Joe Torsella, the guy who headed the Constitution Center, is saying he plans to stay in the race.

The Specter of a Democratic nomination might just be turning into the Specter of still one more fight for his political life for the ever-evasive Specter.

He now looks like he’s facing challenges from both parties.

All wet

When did we move to Seattle?

If my eyes don’t deceive me, I think it may have stopped raining. It’s still cloudy, but at least it’s not wet. There is even a rumor that the sun might make an appearance this afternoon.

I’ll believe it when I see it. That’s because I haven’t seen it yet in May. That’s right, it has rained every day – six of them so far - we’ve recorded in May.

And guess what? There is a chance of showers tonight, as well as Thursday through Saturday. The forecast calls for it to finally clear out on Sunday. Happy Mother’s Day!

Which will make the following sentence all the more galling. The experts tell us rainfall still remains below average. They say we’re down about
3 inches so far this year.

Can the annual summer drought warnings be far off?

Looking for a silver lining to all these clouds? Some experts believe our wet spring will extend the color and foliage of some flowering plants.

Yeah, I’m underwhelmed, too.

Which brings me back to my constant complaint about the weather here in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Somehow I don’t think the Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Boards are lining up to adopt my suggested advertising campaign:

“Welcome to Pennsylvania. World’s Worst Weather, 365 Days a Year.”


Is there a more fun team to watch than the Phillies?

You never know on any given night which one of them is going to go off, leading to another thrilling late-inning victory.

Monday night it was Ryan Howard, launching his seventh career grand slam against his home town team, the St. Louis Cardinals. That ties him with Mike Schmidt for the all-time Phils record.

At that point, 11 of the Phils 13 wins involved come-from-behind rallies.

Last night they did it in more standard fashion, building a lead, fending off a Cardinals rally, then pulling away. The offensive hero was Shane Victorino, who went four for five with a homer and three RBIs.

Imagine what this team might be capable of if they ever get decent starting pitching. Last night it was another performance by home run machine Brett Myers. He gave up two more dingers.

No problem. In addition to the heroics from Victorino, Jayson Werth also went yard, thrilling a bunch of family and friends in the park in his hometown.

Now it’s on to New York and the first visit to the Mets’ swanky new CitiBank Park.

Oh, and one other minor thing.

The Phils arrive not only as the defending World Series champs, but also as the team sitting atop the National League East standings.

The Marlins’ loss combined with the Phils’ win put the pinstripes in first by a half-game.

Must be getting close to summer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A swine Sunday tradtition ruined

I did something last Sunday I have never done before.

I have swine flu to thank for it, and I’m not especially happy about it.

OK, first things first. It’s not really swine flu anymore. It’s now properly being referred to as H1N1 flu. We wouldn’t want to cause any more problems for pork producers than they’re already facing.

I got a press release last week from the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council reminding the media that the World Organization for Animal Health had renamed the flu H1N1, which is the correct scientific name.

As if that is going to make this thing disappear from the headlines.
Look, we’re as guilty as anyone. I heard from more than a few readers who were not exactly thrilled at our front page last week showing an image of the actual virus in connection with the first reported death in the country, of a Mexican child brought into Texas.

My critics might be on to something. It appears as if the situation is easing a bit, even in Mexico. There are still reports of confirmed cases popping up across the tri-state region, but even the World Health Organization is now wondering if this strain has the traits that would make it a real health concern. Most incidents in the U.S. have been mild, and its victims recover.

In other words, not all that different from any other strain of flu that strikes the country. We sometimes forget that flu kills 36,000 people in the U.S. each year. That’s as opposed to one from swine flu – excuse me, H1N1.

Which brings me to last Sunday.

I had a feeling something like this might happen. Last week I noticed an Associated Press story from Baltimore where the archbishop there suggested priests refrain from serving wine during the Mass as a precaution against swine flu concerns.

No problem. At least I thought.

I am Roman Catholic, the proud product of eight years under the firm tutelage of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I am also a former altar boy.

To say that I am a bit old-fashioned in my religious beliefs is putting it mild. What can I tell you? I’m a dinosaur. Just a little to the right of Attila the Hun. Nowhere is that more evident that in my faith. I’d just as soon the Mass was still recited in Latin. I can still remember most of the words from those huge, laminated cards we wielded.

I am not a big fan of many of the new-fangled, “enlightened” moves instituted by the church. The belief is that congregations should be more open, welcoming. I think they’re just turning off longtime stalwarts such as myself.

So when they announced at Mass last Sunday that they would do away with shaking hands as a greeting at the start of Mass, along with the sign of peace, that was fine by me.

But then they crossed the line. Maybe I was brain-washed by the nuns.
Maybe there was something in that altar wine. But the bottom line is, I have never joined my fellow Catholics in accepting Communion – which we believe to be the body of Christ – in my hands.

I still remember the panic instilled on an impressionable young altar boy when the wafer once became stuck to the top of my mouth. After all, you weren’t to ever dare touch it with your hands. You sort of had to fidget around with your tongue to loosen it.

Today, most Catholics accept the host in their hand, casually pop it in their mouth, and munch on it like a Grand Slam Breakfast.

Gone are the days when the Mass was halted and the holy oils were brought out should the unthinkable ever happen, a mishap that left a dropped host on the ground.

Last Sunday I clumsily took the host in my hand and then placed it in my mouth.

Imagine my chagrin when I returned to my pew, only to watch someone else still accept the host in their mouth.

It says here swine flu is overhyped, this year’s Skylab or Kohoutek scare. I plead guilty to being a member of the media and being part of those who foisted this thing off on an unsuspecting public.

Next Sunday I will return to taking the host in my mouth. What are they going to do, excommunicate me?

Next thing you know they’ll be allowing girls to serve as altar boys.

Must be the pig in me again. Or maybe it’s the swine.

The Daily Numbers - May 5

The Daily Numbers: 3 to 23 months in prison, sentence for former Folcroft Manager and District Judge Anthony Truscello.
90 minutes, how long I-95 in Chester was shut down yesterday after a fire truck crash that left it dangling on an embankment.
1 of 3 firefighters on the truck who suffered injuries in the crash.
39 union workers at Alan McIlvain Co. manning a picket line after they went on strike. They company, union and borough officials are planning to meet today to try to settle the issue.
980 residential units and a 225-room hotel in the latest development plan for the sprawling old Franklin Mint site on Baltimore Pike in Middletown.
1.7 mill tax hike in the final budget plan being eyed by Southeast Delco School Board.
14,000 in cash and checks ripped off from a newlywed couple in Montgomery County by a worker at a local hotel.
1 dead, 1 arrested in Montgomery County in what police say started as “trash talking” in a game of beer pong.
6 tenths of an inch of rain, what we’ve gotten in the first three days of May. We’re still down about 4 inches so far this year. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to hear that.
2 schools that remain closed as a precaution against swine flu in the region.
1 case of confirmed swine flu in Pennsylvania. Same as yesterday.
75 percent of those in a poll of Pennsylvania residents who said they were not worried about swine flu.
60,000 dollars in felony fraud warrants charged in Philadelphia as the “hipster grifter” wanted in Utah.
100 cases of the H1N1 flu now being reported in New York City. Across the nation the number now stands at 286.
3 stab wounds in the back for a deli owner in Southwest Philly during a robbery attempt as he tried to shield his daughter, who was working the cash register.
27.6 million in revenue at Harrah’s Chester Casino in April. Again that’s down from April 2008. And again Harrah’s was the only Pa. casino to be down.
73 dollars to 641 dollars, what Delco homeowners can expect to get in tax relief from slots revenues in the state.
70,000 dollar dip in revenue for Tasty Baking Co., even as their sales increased.
451 million dollars in bad loans charged off by Citizens Bank in the first quarter.
27 billion dollar budget plan that would not raise taxes proposed yesterday by Republicans in the state Senate.
12 people hurt when the canopy on the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, built by an Allentown firm, collapsed. One assistant coach is now paralyzed from the waist down.
30 of June, when Iraq says it wants all U.S. troops out of its country.
10 percent cut in operating budget announced by Lafayette College in Easton as a result of the slowing economy. They also are freezing wages.
53 to 33 percent lead for Arlen Specter as a Democrat over the GOP’s Pat Toomey. But the same poll indicated Specter could face a serious challenge should former Gov. Tom Ridge be the Republican nominee.
7 grand slams for Ryan Howard in his career. He has already tied Mike Schmidt’s team record.
.383 batting average for Howard in his hometown of St. Louis. That includes 7 home runs.
11 of the Phils 13 wins that have involved come-from-behind rallies.
7.27 ERA for Phils ace Cole Hamels, who will take the mound Friday night to test his ouchy ankle.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
I don’t know whether to revel in Ryan Howard’s home town heroics or worry about him one day deciding to play full-time in front of family in St. Louis.
I Don’t Get It: Two schools in the region remain closed as a precaution against swine flu. I guess they’re being cautious.
Today’s Upper: Tired of the rain? You’ll be thrilled to know that we’re still 4 inches below the normal rainfall amounts for the year.
Quote Box: “It’s time for them to begin serving the jail sentences.”
-- Deputy Attorney General John Flannery, on ruling ordering former Folcroft Manager Anthony Truscello and Councilman Joseph Zito to prison.

A swine Sunday tradition ruined

I did something last Sunday I have never done before.

I have swine flu to thank for it, and I’m not especially happy about it.

OK, first things first. It’s not really swine flu anymore. It’s now properly being referred to as H1N1 flu. We wouldn’t want to cause any more problems for pork producers than they’re already facing.

I got a press release last week from the Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council reminding the media that the World Organization for Animal Health had renamed the flu H1N1, which is the correct scientific name.

As if that is going to make this thing disappear from the headlines.
Look, we’re as guilty as anyone. I heard from more than a few readers who were not exactly thrilled at our front page last week showing an image of the actual virus in connection with the first reported death in the country, of a Mexican child brought into Texas.

My critics might be on to something. It appears as if the situation is easing a bit, even in Mexico. There are still reports of confirmed cases popping up across the tri-state region, but even the World Health Organization is now wondering if this strain has the traits that would make it a real health concern. Most incidents in the U.S. have been mild, and its victims recover.

In other words, not all that different from any other strain of flu that strikes the country. We sometimes forget that flu kills 36,000 people in the U.S. each year. That’s as opposed to one from swine flu – excuse me, H1N1.

Which brings me to last Sunday.

I had a feeling something like this might happen. Last week I noticed an Associated Press story from Baltimore where the archbishop there suggested priests refrain from serving wine during the Mass as a precaution against swine flu concerns.

No problem. At least I thought.

I am Roman Catholic, the proud product of eight years under the firm tutelage of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I am also a former altar boy.

To say that I am a bit old-fashioned in my religious beliefs is putting it mild. What can I tell you? I’m a dinosaur. Just a little to the right of Attila the Hun. Nowhere is that more evident that in my faith. I’d just as soon the Mass was still recited in Latin. I can still remember most of the words from those huge, laminated cards we wielded.

I am not a big fan of many of the new-fangled, “enlightened” moves instituted by the church. The belief is that congregations should be more open, welcoming. I think they’re just turning off longtime stalwarts such as myself.

So when they announced at Mass last Sunday that they would do away with shaking hands as a greeting at the start of Mass, along with the sign of peace, that was fine by me.

But then they crossed the line. Maybe I was brain-washed by the nuns.
Maybe there was something in that altar wine. But the bottom line is, I have never joined my fellow Catholics in accepting Communion – which we believe to be the body of Christ – in my hands.

I still remember the panic instilled on an impressionable young altar boy when the wafer once became stuck to the top of my mouth. After all, you weren’t to ever dare touch it with your hands. You sort of had to fidget around with your tongue to loosen it.

Today, most Catholics accept the host in their hand, casually pop it in their mouth, and munch on it like a Grand Slam Breakfast.

Gone are the days when the Mass was halted and the holy oils were brought out should the unthinkable ever happen, a mishap that left a dropped host on the ground.

Last Sunday I clumsily took the host in my hand and then placed it in my mouth.

Imagine my chagrin when I returned to my pew, only to watch someone else still accept the host in their mouth.

It says here swine flu is overhyped, this year’s Skylab or Kohoutek scare. I plead guilty to being a member of the media and being part of those who foisted this thing off on an unsuspecting public.

Next Sunday I will return to taking the host in my mouth. What are they going to do, excommunicate me?

Next thing you know they’ll be allowing girls to serve as altar boys.

Must be the pig in me again. Or maybe it’s the swine.

Prison for Truscello

It appears the self-proclaimed “Wizard of Folcroft” will need one final magic act to escape going to jail.

For decades, Anthony Truscello literally was the law in the tiny borough. Now he finds himself on the other side.

Truscello served as the district justice in Folcroft for years, often dispensing his own version of homestyle justice. He rubbed more than a few people the wrong way during his reign. After he retired to become a senior magisterial district judge, he kept his hand in borough affairs as manager.

But officials from the state attorney general’s office say he crossed the line when he apparently took sides in a nasty race for his old district judge seat, which was then held by his daughter. Truscello, along with former borough council Vice President Joseph Zito, were convicted on some charges stemming from an elaborate plot involving video surveillance. State officials said it was done to get information on the man challenging Truscello’s daughter, police chief Ed Christie.

Truscello and Zito actually were acquitted at trial of the wiretapping and invasion-of-privacy charges involving the surveillance. But they were convicted of records tampering.

They had been free while appealing the verdicts. Now it looks like they’ve run out of appeals.

The former district judge’s plea to his brethren on the state’s highest court has apparently fallen on deaf ears. The U.S. Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has rejected their appeal. It is expected an order now will be issued by the court ordering the two men to prison.

They are looking at a minimum of 90 days. Their sentence was for three to 23 months.

It has taken almost three years, but it is a reminder that no one is above the law. Not even in Folcroft. Anthony Truscello’s Folcroft.

The Wizard of Folcroft is going to prison.

Hearbreak Ridge for Specter?

If Arlen Specter believed he was doing an end-run on challenges from within his old political party, he may have to rethink things.

A new poll out yesterday from Quinnipiac University shows the longtime Pennsylvania senator, who stunned the political world last week with his announcement that he was abandoning the Republican Party and crossing the aisle to become a Democrat, likely made the right call. But that does not mean his problems are over.

Specter made the move because his own polling data told him he was going to lose in the Republican Primary to conservative former Congressman Pat Toomey. Ever the pragmatist, Specter skirted that problem by switching parties. He may face a challenge from either Joe Torsella, the head of the Constitution Center, or our own Joe Sestak, the 7th District Congressman who is not yet ready to join the party leadership in backing Specter. We heard Sestak was meeting with some local labor leaders to gauge their support.

But that might not even be Specter’s biggest problem. While the poll shows Specter as a Democrat with a healthy lead over Toomey in a general election vote, that assumes that Toomey will be the Republican candidate.

There is a persistent drumbeat that Republicans, leery about whether Toomey can attract enough support in a statewide race, may turn to former governor and homeland security boss Tom Ridge.

The poll shows Specter and Ridge in almost a dead heat.

For his part, Ridge is not talking about a possible run. But if the numbers hold showing Specter vanquishing Toomey, look for Republicans to cast their eyes to the former governor.

It could be Heartbreak Ridge for Darlin’ Arlen.

Home cooking just grand for Howard

Who says you can’t go home again?

Don’t tell that to Ryan Howard. The St. Louis native loves playing in his home town. And it showed again last night.

Go ahead, admit it. When Howard walked up to the plate in the fifth inning, you were thinking grand slam. So was Howard. And he delivered, much to the joy of the large contingent of family and friends at the game, the Phils’ first trip to St. Louis this season.

Howard’s slam lifted the Phils to a 6-1 win.

Think Howard likes his home town? He’s now hitting .383 lifetime there, with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 60 at bats.

We just hope he doesn’t love it too much along the Mississippi. We want him as a fixture in the middle of that Phillies lineup for the rest of his career.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Lazaroff case

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t field a phone call from someone who believes they have been mistreated by the newspaper. It goes with the territory.

There are very few things I can be sure of these days – especially in this business – but one of them is that I am fairly confident I will manage to tick off any number of people just about every day.

Usually the callers have seen their names in the newspaper, very often in not the best circumstances. They usually ask, very often in fairly colorful language, why their name has been so denigrated. They insist the circumstances are not as portrayed, and that we have only offered one side of the story.

On that last part, I try to lend a sympathetic ear.

The truth is much of the news reported in the paper when it comes to police activity does in fact tend to be one-sided. We get that information from police, usually from the affidavit they file for a person’s arrest. While we often attempt to get the other side, very often the story appears without it. That’s why we try to follow the stories as they make their way through the courts, first with the preliminary hearing, then to the trial.

At the preliminary hearing, the state presents evidence in order to have the case held over for trial. Again it has a tendency to lean toward the police and prosecution version of events.

It sometimes is not until a case goes to trial that the accused gets to offer their defense to the charges, and gets the opportunity to face their accuser.

That’s the backbone of the American justice system, that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers.

I usually don’t place a lot of credence in these callers. We report the charges filed by police. If the story changes, we report on that as well.

Sometimes I’m reminded otherwise.

A couple of years ago the District Attorney’s Office filed charges against the principal of Chester High School, based on the allegations of a female student that she had sex with the young, dynamic principal.

It was front-page news. Eboni Wilson’s life twisted in the wind for months until the D.A. dropped all charges in the case.

That’s not the norm. Usually charges filed by the D.A. wind up in court, one way or another. Very often they result in a plea bargain. Some of those very same people and their supporters who challenged our version of events cut a deal.

Others wind up in front of a jury. In either case, we report the results, just as we reported the initial charges.

That’s why I wanted to pay very close attention last week to the trial of Dr. Jerry Lazaroff. He’s a psychologist who worked for the county Juvenile Court system.

The district attorney charged Lazaroff with inappropriately touching one of his young clients in his office. When the initial charges were filed, we splashed the case on our front page. After the story hit the newspaper and TV, several other young people came forward with similar tales. Additional charges were filed against the therapist. Lazaroff consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying everything he did was simply part of the treatment. We included those claims in the stories we wrote about Lazaroff.

Unlike several other news organizations, we covered Lazaroff’s trial every day last week, including Thursday, when he took the stand and told his side of the story, denying he had ever inapproriately touched any of the children. Lazaroff gave a sobering viewe of the ordeal he has been through, and what his life has been like since the charges were filed.

That’s one of those things that make newspaper editors sit up in bed at
3 a.m. in a cold sweat. I like to tell people that I can understand when they complain about what they have been through as they make their way through what appears to be a one-sided justice system. The truth is I don’t have any idea. In particular, I can’t even imagine what the life of Dr. Jerry Lazaroff has been like the past few months.

There was conflicting testimony offered even by several of the prosecution witnesses in the trial.

The jury went out Friday afternoon. They returned late Friday night with their verdict. They acquitted Lazaroff of all charges.

There were several big stories we were following on Friday. An Aldan man was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend’s young son. A horrific crash involving a group of Ridley High students was the talk of the town and left one student seriously injured. A raging fire swept through several row homes in Darby Borough, leaving a dozen people homeless.

I could have selected any of those stories to lead our front page. I chose none of them.

Instead, Page One was dominated by a picture of Dr. Jerry Lazaroff and two simple words: Not Guilty.

Lazaroff was front-page news when he was charged. He deserved similar treatment when he was cleared. I could have simply tucked the story inside the paper. It would have confirmed one of the most common complaints people make about newspapers, that we blast a person all over our front page when they are charged, but when the reverse happens, when we get it wrong or a person is acquitted, it gets stuck inside where nobody can see it.

The truth is I very often find myself going back to recall how we treated a story when it first broke. I try to offer equal treatment to the verdict as we did with the charges, especially when a person is cleared.

None of which I suppose will ease the pain Dr. Jerry Lazaroff likely still feels this morning.

Just as in the case of Chester High Principal Dr. Eboni Wilson, I am again reminded of a story involving then Labor Secretary Ray Donovan. In 1984, Donovan was President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of labor, right up until the time he was indicted by a federal grand jury. Donovan consistently proclaimed his innocence, and he was acquitted of the charges.

As he left the courtroom, Donovan offered this response to reporters.
“Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

I imagine Dr. Jerry Lazaroff feels exactly the same way.

The Daily Numbers - May 4

The Daily Numbers: 11 shots fired, one of which struck and killed a Folcroft man on an Upper Darby street.
4 percent pay raise in each of 4 years under new contract agreed to by both Springfield School Board and the teachers union as recommended by an arbitration panel.
43,000 dollars, average starting salary for teachers under the deal.
64,000 dollars, average salary of a teacher in the district.
12,000 dollars being spent by the Chester Upland School District in their search for a new principal for their School for the Arts.
1 confirmed case of swine flu in Pennsylvania, a 31-year-old man in Montgomery County who has already recovered.
10 cases of the H1N1 flu now confirmed among students at the University of Delaware. There are another 16 probable cases suspected.
2 schools in the region closed because of the outbreaks, an elementary school in Elsmere, Del., and another one in Burlington County, N.J.
245 confirmed cases of H1N1 across the U.S.
1 death from swine flu, a baby that was brought into Texas from Mexico.
92 million dollars, value of Powerball jackpot on Wednesday night after no one hit on Saturday.
3 winning tickets sold for Saturday night’s Mega Millions lottery jackpot that was worth $225 million.
27,000 runners who braved the rain to make the jaunt down Broad Street in Philly yesterday for the annual Broad Street Run.
47 minutes, 21 seconds, how long it took Linus Maiyo, from Kenya, to cover the 10 miles.
52 minutes, 31 seconds, top time for a woman, Jane Murage, also of Kenya.
17 burglaries in Delaware believed to be the work of four people arrested in Kent County.
12,000 dollars in cash ripped off by thieves who hit the TD Bank in Hammonton, N.J.
2 men shot to death, 4 others injured in a pair of weekend incidents in Wilmington, Del.
49 percent of human resource managers who indicate they have a hiring freeze in effect at their work place, according to a new poll.
102 million dollars hauled in over the weekend by “X-Men Origins:
Wolverine,” to lead the box office results.
5 more days of rest for Phils ace Cole Hamels. His next start has been pushed back to Friday night, at home, as he nurses an ankle sprain.
3 days of mini-camp for the Eagles and 0 public comments from Donovan McNabb. He’s not talking.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.When did we move to Seattle. Either the weather is 90 degrees or it’s miserable cold and rain. What happened to spring? And for that matter, what happened to our winter sports teams, the Sixers and Flyers?
I Don’t Get It: Yes, there is now a confirmed case of swine flu in Pennsylvania. No, it is still not time to panic.
Today’s Upper: Finally, there appears to be a contract accord in the Springfield School District. It only took almost a full year of talks.
Quote Box: “This was urban terrorism. Whoever did this unloaded a semiautomatic on him.”
-- Upper Darby top cop Michael Chitwood, on a fatal shooting incident over the weekend.

Rough sailing for Admiral Sestak

Joe Sestak is not exactly throwing down the red carpet to welcome longtime Republican Sen. Arlen Specter into the Democratic fold.

Throwing the first punch may be more like it.

Specter rocked the D.C. and Pennsylvania political worlds last week when he announced that after 29 years as a Republican senator from the Keystone State, he was abandoning the GOP and crossing the aisle to become a Democrat.

This was not some huge philosophical shift for the moderate Specter. It was a case of political survival.

Specter once again left his GOP brethren seething when he provided the crucial vote to pass President Barack Obama’s massive federal stimulus plan.

They vowed, as they seemingly have every six years for the past two decades, to take Specter down. To that end, former congressman Pat Toomey, who nearly accomplished the task in 2004, again was planning a challenge to Specter in the Republican primary. And the polls said Toomey likely was going to do just that.

Specter could read the numbers as well as anyone. He realized he likely would not survive a bruising primary fight among Republicans. So he pulled an end-run, stepped into the phone booth and emerged wearing the cape with the big “D” on his chest.

He was welcomed with open arms by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. They seemed to indicate Specter would get smooth sailing on his way to the Democratic nomination. Nobody told Sestak. The former admiral is roiling the Democratic waters.

Up until a few weeks ago, Sestak had pretty much been saying he had no interest in seeking higher office, again and again commenting that “I love my job.”

That was before the Toomey factor. Sestak, with a limited statewide recogniation, likely would not beat Specter in a general election. But Toomey, whose arch-conservative beliefs seem to fly in the face of the increasingly middle-of-the-road key Philadelphia suburbs, was another matter.

Suddenly Sestak was mulling his options. That hasn’t changed since Specter’s sudden conversion.

Sestak is not yet ready to fall in line with the party leadership under the Specter tent.

Yesterday he was again on CNN saying exactly that, and more specifically pointing out that he just might challenge Specter in the Democratic primary. Sestak said he was “kind of disappointed” in the Democratic establishment in D.C. in their rush to anoint Specter.

Sestak says he wants “to know what he’s running for. If he has the right answer, so be it, we move on.”

Last week Sestak said he would not be swayed by Rendell and others who are clearly in the Specter camp. He pointed out he didn’t ask them when he ran for Congress and defeated Curt Weldon.

That’s not exactly the way I remember it. As I recall, the early candidate the party was behind was Bryan Lentz. Eventually he gave up that bid and instead challenged and beat longtime state Rep. Tom Gannon for the 161st Pa House seat. Haverford Democrat Paul Scoles had already withdrawn and given his support to Sestak. Gov. Ed Rendell asked Lentz to abandon his run against Weldon, clearing the way for the party to unite behind Sestak, who eventually stunned the Delco political world by showing the 10-time incumbent Weldon the door.

Now Rendell may find himself going turning the tables on the former admiral, asking him to withdraw and unite the party behind Specter.

It will be interesting to see how long Sestak makes waves.

Common sense & swine flu

This morning Pennsylvania has been added to the number of states that have confirmed cases of H1N1 – better known as swine flu.

Ready to panic yet? Neither am I.

Look, I’m in the news business. But even I have to step back and take a breath and wonder if all this coverage is not just a tad over the top and adding to the concerns about just how dangerous this situation is.

Across the region, there are a handful of swine flu cases confirmed in both New Jersey and Delaware. There are now two schools – one in Jersey, one in Delaware – that have been shut down as a precaution against the spread of the virus. I’ll leave that to someone else whether or not that was the correct thing to do.

There are now 10 confirmed cases of swine flu among students at the University of Delaware. They’ve brought in the Centers for Disease Control to monitor the situation there.

Nationwide, the case count now stands at 245. But there has still only been one confirmed fatality in the U.S., and that case involved a baby in Texas that was brought into the country from Mexico. Even south of the border in Mexico, the situation seems to be stabilizing.

There is something about the Pennsylvania case that struck me. The victim is a 31-year-old landscaper who recently arrived from Mexico. But he has already recovered. That’s the same situation that played out with a toddler in Philadelphia that was one of the early “probable” cases of swine flu.

I will repeat what we tried to stress on our editorial page in the print edition today. There is no need to panic. A good dose of common sense may be just what the doctor ordered.

Routine winter flu outbreaks kill more than 30,000 people in the U.S.
every year. So far swine flu has killed exactly one person – a baby that was actually sickened in Mexico.

All silent on the Eagles' front

On a rainy day – make that now two rainy days – what’s a sports fan to do but mull the local options when it comes to chatting up our local teams.

The Phils and Mets dodged raindrops yesterday before finally calling the game off. They split the two games they played, with the Mets bullpen in a familiar mode Saturday afternoon, walking in the winning run to blow a game they led in the late innings.

In the meantime, the rainout will give unlucky Cole Hamels a chance to rest that twisted ankle of his. He now likely will not pitch until Friday at home against Atlanta. The way his luck has been going, Hamels should stay as far away as he can from anyone who is sneezing, what with this swine flu scare and all.

The Sixers continue to slowly disappear from the radar screen. Somehow, Tony DiLeo managed to survive the weekend and is still the coach of the team after one of the most disgraceful efforts in the storied franchise’s history Thursday night when they folded their tent against an undermanned Magic.

The Flyers are trying to figure out whether or not to re-sign goalie Marty Biron, and what other moves to make in what is undoubtedly a longer off-season than they or their fans expected.

Which, of course, brings us back to the same spot almost every sports conversation in this city eventually comes back to – those beloved Iggles.

Odd thing happened at this weekend’s mini-camp. No, Sheldon Brown did not blow a gasket and go nuclear on the team. He was there and went about his job in the professional manner he vowed he would.

No. 5 also was there, though you’d be hard-pressed to determine that by his public comments. That’s because this time around Donovan McNabb decided he wasn’t talking.

Now I’m trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. McNabb, whether he wants it or not, now very likely will assume the role of elder statesman on this team after the exit of Brian Dawkins.

But the only comments McNabb made this week came via his blog. He made no public statements and did not, as has been his custom, sit down with the media.

This comes after McNabb famously decided after a meeting with the Eagles’ brass that he would reserve his commitment to the team until after he saw what they did in the off-season and draft. He should have liked what he saw. The Birds now have two new offensive tackles to protect his flanks. And they used their top two draft picks to give him some more weapons, adding wideout Jeremy Maclin and running back LeSean McCoy.

There’s a part of me that believes this is not exactly what you would call assuming leadership. Then again, given McNabb’s penchant for saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong way, this may not necessarily be a bad thing.

For now it appears McNabb will do his talking on the field.

Of course, the fans and media will not. He likely will learn that with the arrival of the first short-hope throw he makes in a couple of months when the Birds arrive at Lehigh.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sestak vs. Specter?

A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation of Arlen Specter as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat he has held for 29 years as a Republican.

Somebody forgot to tell U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.

It has long been believed in county political circles that Sestak has higher ambitions. This was a guy who mingled – and served – with the Clintons. He was an early backer of Hillary’s presidential bid.

But when asked about any future aspirations, Sestak almost always gave the same answer: “I love my job.”

But that was before Specter voted for President Barack Obama’s controversial economic stimulus plan. His vote was crucial, without it the plan likely would have died in the Senate.

His GOP brethren were – once again – furious with the moderate Specter.
They immediately hung a bull’s eye on his chest.

Then conservative former congressman Pat Toomey – who almost killed off Specter back in 2004 – announced he would run against him in the 2010 GOP primary. And the polls said he would beat the five-term incumbent.
The poll put Toomey up 21 points.

You can call Specter a lot of things. Politically unsavvy isn’t one of them. Specter looked at the numbers and realized they didn’t add up.

Voila! Democrat Specter. While he would have been facing an uphill battle with Toomey in a GOP Primary, there are a lot of people who believe it’s just as likely Toomey does not win a general election statewide race.

Sestak watched all these developments as well. While he would have faced a tough task challenging Specter, the Toomey factor changed everything.

Suddenly Mr. “I Love My Job” morphed into Mr. “I’m mulling My Options.”

Sestak just might beat Toomey in a statewide race. But right now that’s not his problem

Now he has to figure out a way to become the Democratic nominee. And Specter is standing squarely in his path.

It’s also interesting that Sestak was an early – and big – backer of Hillary Clinton. He clearly put his eggs in that basket. But he was left with egg on his face when she lost to Barack Obama.

One of the first things Specter did after making announcing his party switch was go to the White House, where Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the former Delaware senator and long-time train-riding buddy of Specter, welcomed him with open arms.

Gov. Ed Rendell also apparently was involved in the Specter switch.

Sestak says he never asked for party approval when he ran for the Congress and upset longtime incumbent Congressman Curt Weldon.

But at that time he was stepping into a void.

This time he’s stepping on the toes of a guy who’s spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

Will Sestak swim against the stream and tangle with his own party and Specter?

This time the former admiral could find himself outranked.

The Daily Numbers - May 1

The Daily Numbers: 14 months, age of child killed when fire erupted in a Clifton Heights row home back in March.
33, age of Thomas Pierce, now charged with manslaughter in his tiny son’s death.
39 union employees at Alan McIlvain Co. in Marcus Hook who could be out on strike after talks broke off last night.
2 and 4, age of kids police say were left home alone by a mother in Upper Darby. They wandered out on the street. The mom now faces charges.
8 to 22 years in jail for a man who attacked a CVS worker during a shoplifting incident. County Councilman Jack Whelan helped subdue the man.
0 cases of suspected swine flu reported so far in Delaware County.
1 case in Chester County, along with 1 in Montgomery County.
3 cases in Philadelphia.
4 confirmed cases among students at the University of Delaware, and another 10 suspected. The school has now canceled all athletic activities, but classes will continue.
5 confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu in New Jersey.
100 confirmed cases of swine flu across the U.S., forcing the closure of 300 schools.
48, age of former youth rehab counselor in Delaware charged with inappropriately touching a teen male client.
18 people hurt when a woman driving a van collided with a SEPTA bus, sending it careening into a bridge support column in Philadelphia.
5 percent hike in income for cable giant Comcast.
59.08 million in revenue for Dover Downs Casino in the first quarter of 2009, down from $59.789 million in 2008.
42 percent boost in profit reported by drug giant AstraZeneca in first quarter.
3 billion dollars, where the budget deficit in Pennsylvania could be by the time the fiscal year ends July 1, according to 2 Dem state reps.
25 point loss for the Sixers last night against the Magic, who were playing without star center Dwight Howard.
3 games vs. the hated Mets starting tonight at Citizens Bank Park as one of the best rivalries in baseball heats up again.
2 winter teams now sitting on the sidelines, as the Sixers join the Flyers on the outside looking in as the playoffs continue.
Call me a Phanatic: A look at the ups and downs of being a Philadelphia sports fan.
Disgraceful. About the only word that comes to mind for the Sixers’
effort last night in losing to the Magic, thus losing the series and being eliminated from the playoffs. They never showed up and were never in it.
I Don’t Get It: Yes, the whole idea of this swine flu thing is kind of scary. No, I do not think it’s time to panic. Just use some common sense.
Today’s Upper: Mayor Michael Nutter signed that ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in Philly. It comes at about the same time a woman using a phone while driving a van collided with a SEPTA bus, injuring 18 people.
Quote Box: “It’s going to be another heart-breaking story for Clifton.”
-- Linda Ceritano, owner of Chckies Corner Deli, after word came of charges filed against father of tot in a fatal Clifton Heights fire. She had helped raise money for the family in the aftermath of the blaze.

The Sixers' Magic act - they disappeared


Just like Magic, the Sixers disappeared.

And just as 29 years ago, they did it when it appeared things had lined up to give them an easy win.

Maybe that’s the problem. Reading their comments before last night’s pivotal Game 6, you get the distinct impression the Sixers fully expected to breeze to victory since the Magic were going to be without star center Dwight Howard, courtesy of the elbow he threw at Sam Dalembert.

Only nobody told the Magic.

Back in 1990 it was Magic Johnson, subbing for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, dropping 42 points on the Sixers and leading the Lakers to an NBA title.
Last night it was another Magic-al night, unless you happen to be a Sixers fan.

It didn’t have the drama of the NBA Finals in ’90, in fact for the Sixers it didn’t have much of anything. They never showed up.

The Magic came out firing 3’s, while the Sixers fired blanks.

This team now faces a crossroads. Do they write off this season as an aberration and await the return of a healthy Elton Brand? Or do they come to the conclusion that this group isn’t good enough and begin to make major changes?

Andre Iguodala? Was he there last night? Andre Miller was one of the few who was, but there’s a question about whether he really wants to be here.

Drexel Hill native Ed Stefanski has lots of questions facing him. Some won’t be answered right away. But one likely will, and it’s a big one.

Stefanski needs to determine whether he wants to bring Tony DiLeo back as his coach, or go with a bigger name. Before last night DiLeo was looking more and more like a guy who helped his undermanned team over-perform in this series, stealing a couple of games against a better team.

But last night’s disgraceful fiasco, one in which his team was expected to win but was never in it, along with some unusually blunt comments after the game from veteran Theo Ratliffe about DeLeo not getting in anyone’s face while the game got out of control, changes things.

The winter sports season has ended. It will be a long off-season for Sixers and Flyers fans.

Bring on the Mets.