Lay off city cops and firefighters? What in the blazes are they smoking?

While our City Fathers (and Mothers) fiddle with the budget, Reading burns.Has the ghost of the Roman emperor Nero hit town? And if so, why didn’t Charlie Adams warn us?With oodles of all sorts of crimes still popping up on our streets like pimples on a teenager, the squabble over dollars could force the city to lay off cops and firefighters.Say what?Say it ain’t so.Well, this might be so because City Council doesn’t want to raise desperately needed dollars by approving tax increases — even though multiple citizens at multiple crime forums said they would willingly pay more taxes if it meant they could stroll down their streets without fear of suddenly swallowing an ounce or two of hot lead or catching fire like dry kindling.Now the whole budget process has become a Byzantine mess, courtesy of a City Charter mandate that somebody discovered in some dusty drawer.I say lay off City Council before you lay off cops.What do you say?

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Bet you didn't know this about the birds and bees

I confess that this blog has nothing to do with birds, but I figured the headline would grab anybody who might have thought I’d be blogging about sex.Got ya!Sorry.Actually, this blog is about something more important. Like homeland security. Indeed, it looks as if bees could be out there on the frontlines helping us stay snug and safe. Talk about a story with a big buzz!Scientists say they have trained honeybees to stick out their proboscis — the tube they use to feed on nectar — when they smell explosives.I’m not making this up.And just how did these researchers manage that? Simply by exposing the bees to the odor of explosives, followed by a sugar water reward. Bees apparently have a sweet tooth, one they rarely brush or floss. The bees could be carried in hand-held detectors the size of a shoe box and used to sniff out explosives in airports, roadside security checks, etc.After years of having mankind get stung by bees, it’s great they’re finally on our side and making a beeline towards making all of us safer.This definitely could be the next big sting in the war on terror.

Quick shot of irrationality

Football, gambling and alcohol.Talk about a trifecta of trouble.Mix the three passions into a volatile mix and suddenly the lethal mixture starts slinging carving knives at sanity.For instance, a South Carolina man fatally shot his friend with a high-powered rifle in a dispute over a $20 bet on Saturday’s South Carolina-Clemson game. James Walter Quick, 42, was charged with murder in the shooting of Richard Allen Johnson, 43. The two had bet $20 on the game. Quick took South Carolina, which won 31-28, while Johnson took Clemson.According to the cops, the two buddies drank beer all afternoon while watching the game at Johnson’s home and began arguing about the bet after the game.I realize that college football inflames passions rather ardently in the Deep South. Nevertheless, Quick’s resolution to the dispute obviously was a too literal case of overkill.I doubt if Quick will get the chair for his crime of passion. So for the remainder of his natural life, the sobering memory that he snuffed his pal’s life over a measly $20 football bet will settle like a woodworm behind a knot in the timber of his soul and stay there forever.I just wonder if he will harbor the same passion for the Gamecocks when they tangle with Clemson again next season.

For the Eagles, the defense rests as soundly as dead men

Everybody was concerned that the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense would join Judge Crater and Jimmy Hoffa in the Land of the Vanished when Donovan McNabb’s right knee turned into so much linguini.Well, sometimes worrywarts waste their time with needless fretting.Jeff Garcia played an efficient game of quarterback for the Birds Sunday night, going 19 for 23 for 140 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 121.0 rating before bruising his forearm late in the game.And Brian Westbrook, somehow keeping all his fragile body parts glued together, rushed for 124 yards on 20 carries, becoming the first Eagle to run for 100 or more yards in three straight games since Wilbert Montgomery was flashing and dashing in 1981. And you know what? Garcia and Westbrook and the guys on offense were totally irrelevant.Why?Because the Philadelphia defense was missing in action last night in the 45-21 blowout loss to the Colts. Call the Eagle defenders the Invisible Men. They went splat big time in prime time. The sound they made when they hit the turf echoed like a safe dropping from the 68th floor.What the Colts’ ground game did to the Eagles’ defense hung on the precipice of manslaughter. The D-line and the linebackers were as passive as Quakers. And about as mobile as Cigar Store Indians. Somebody has taken all the buckshot out of this once vaunted unit.Through three quarters, the Colts amassed a whopping 166 rushing yards on 25 carries, an incredible 6.6 yards per carry. Your Uncle Fatso didn’t gobble that much per bite on Thanksgiving.The Colts finished the evening with 237 net rushing yards, and that number wasn’t skewed by any long gallops. They never gained more than 15 yards on a run. They just killed the Birds with consistency, like Chinese water torture. Last week during the practice Andy Reid tried to toughen up the defense by making them practice in pads, a rarity for NFL teams this late in the season. It didn’t work. Neither did the emphasis on gap control. Perhaps the Eagles misplaced it while Christmas shopping at The Gap.Of course, the post-game excuse last night was that the Birds focused too much on Peyton Manning’s electrifying aerial circus in practice. There’s not time to do both, even if it was a holiday week?Oh, well, as football coaches and players love to say in cliché-speak, back to the drawing board.By the way, perhaps Andy Reid should scribble one word in large scrawl across that proverbial drawing board.HELP!

The parallels between Vietnam and Iraq have escaped Bush; don't let them escape you

Keith Olbermann was a helluva sportscaster on ESPN and now is a helluva commentator on MSNBC.Who said that sports people are as dumb as toolboxes when it comes to life outside the sporting arena? Olbermann is vivid proof that such a premise is just not so.I realize Olbermann’s commentary on George W. Bush’s failure to heed the lessons learned in Vietnam when it comes to Iraq is almost a week old. Still, it’s a compelling piece of commentary worth your review if you haven’t read it or heard it already.And, yes, for the record, Olbermann is a bit more liberal than Bill O’Reilly. That having been said, his commentary on this subject is devoid of the pulsating bursts of damp rhetoric that regularly spray the suits of the talking heads on cable chatfests. Now that we have been fighting in Iraq longer than we were in World War II and Iraq seemingly has plunged into the abyss of civil war, the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq are tragic and striking.No wonder the Bush presidency — like Lyndon Johnson’s — is under siege. For Bush, Iraq now is the handle of the whip — every movement ripples back to it. It was the same for LBJ and Vietnam.It’s way past time for Bush and his henchmen to swallow their immense pride and learn their history lessons. If they don’t, the quagmire that is Iraq undoubtedly will usher even more disaster and needless waste of life our way — as surely as a bullet exiting the barrel.

Mifflin’s mauling of Wilson one for the ages as well as the sages

Gov. Mifflin’s football team deserves astonishing acclaim.That the Mustangs could completely dismantle Wilson 47-13 Friday night in their whopper of a District 3/6-AAAA semifinal at Mifflin Stadium was amazing. No wonder it left the 9,000 witnesses with mouths agape.Mifflin, eschewing sophisticated strategy and techno tactics, simply creamed the Bulldogs with a remorseless running game. The Mustangs chiseled out their greatness with a quantum series of crisp runs by tailback Dustin Manz (176 rushing yards and five touchdowns), quarterback Brad Rhoads (101 yards) and fullback Jon Ruffner (68 yards). The thundering strides by this talented trinity now are etched into the annals of Berks County sports history. The Mustangs rushed for 357 yards and only had to throw a mere two passes.The epic encounter had been so widely heralded and universally contemplated that it was expected to be ferociously contested.But Mifflin turned it into a colossal mismatch by running right through Wilson. The Bulldogs’ vaunted defense had more holes than Swiss chess when the carnage was cleared from the premises.Who would have thought that? Until last night, running on Wilson was considered to be as impossible as trying to sneak a cheeseburger past George Foreman.And so much for the I-C League being inferior to the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s Section One. The enormity of Mifflin’s victory now has the Berks football universe spinning on a whole new axis.

Now starting at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles … Jeff Garcia!

The season-ending ACL tear suffered by Donovan McNabb has settled over the Eagles like a shroud.Doomsday reigns supreme in Philly as the woebegone Birds prepare to get sacrificed by the Colts Sunday night upon NBC’s altar.With despair spreading like wet cement in the guts of Eagles fans, the Fat Man (Andy Reid) apparently consulted another Fat Man (Buddha) and today anointed Jeff Garcia to start at quarterback against Indianapolis.Garcia, once a Pro Bowl QB for the Niners, now is old and his arm no longer can go past 30 yards unless it catches a cab.And I realize Garcia was as rusty as one of King Arthur’s knights left out in a 40-year tsunami, but still, for a veteran, he played with eyes that looked like fried eggs in relief of McNabb against the Titans.Anyway, good luck Sunday night, Jeff. And don’t spend too much time looking over your shoulder at A.J. Feeley. He might be gaining on you.