Armed and dangerous

The sheriff in town is opposed to limiting handgun purchases.”Gun control does not reduce crime,” Berks County Sheriff Barry J. Jozwiak said. “In fact, criminals prefer their victims to be unarmed.”All righty then. Let’s all load up on the handguns. Perhaps we all should start holstering them as well as a fashion accessory.Better yet: When everybody turns 16 in Greater Berks, serve them — courtesy of the county coffers — a handgun on a bed of lettuce with sauce béarnaise.That should make our crime problem easier to swallow.

Today's lesson: Do unto others before they do unto you

A disturbing but hardly surprising story on today’s front page about how chaos is bursting like a hormone surge at Reading High.Apparently the school is overlaid with a fierce nastiness. Gangs of students roaming the halls and flashing teeth-baring ferocity at teachers, staff and classmates evidently are making the place impossibly belligerent.Fellow blogger Al Walentis already has weighed in on the matter, but I figured I’d chime in as well. First of all, who the hell can learn anything when society’s outcasts are running the asylum?Maybe they should build a moat around the Castle on the Hill and never lower the drawbridge.This, of course, is totally ludicrous. Order has to be restored.Perhaps this is a glandular response, but restore corporal punishment to help ease the restive souls of punks gone wild. When I was in parochial school, teachers didn’t think twice about knocking heads against blackboards and smashing knuckles with heavy rulers.I realize times have changed and some pupils have morphed into colossal freaks. So crack down hard on ’em — smack ’em in the windpipe with a crowbar, poke ’em in the eyes, slam their shins with an aluminum bat or whatever. And if they still don’t toe the line, arrest ’em. And throw the book at ’em. Maybe they’ll even pick it up and read it.If not, expel ’em. If they’re spoiling for a fight, they can always enlist and go to Iraq. Then we’ll see just how tough they are.

For many of us, a very dark shadow passed over the sun when this brave young man died

Humans are frail vessels. Which is why we don’t live forever.But we do live on in the memories of others. For it is never time to let go of a memory. And believe me, my family and I will always remember Matt Kelly.I blogged about Matt’s courageous fight against cystic fibrosis in July 2005. Matt, a lifelong friend of my sons, needed a double-lung transplant in order to break the chain of a dreaded disease that literally was strangling his breath for life.Matt spent the last nine months in Chapel Hill, N.C., awaiting a transplant. But the promise of renewed life proved hollow. The transplant never happened. And Matt died much too young at 29 last Saturday.Until the disease established a particularly nasty foothold on Matt in recent years, he led a life as full as possible. He lived with CF, but it didn’t define him. He didn’t allow his affliction to preclude him from enjoying his friends or their mutually avid interest in sports. And I will always recall his wondrous laugh, a robust cackle that belied the havoc nesting in his lungs. Now he’s gone. And those who knew him, loved him and admired him have hearts as still as a cathedral. But we all can take comfort in knowing Matt is in a better place — a place where he can finally breathe deeply.You fought the good fight, Matt. Now savor the fragrant air of heaven!

No surprise on why Anna Nicole's life took an exit ramp

Sorry I didn’t get to this yesterday when the news broke, but then again, I’m not sure it was exactly breaking news that Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental drug overdose.An autopsy report released Monday said the former Playboy playmate and über celebrity accidentally overdosed on at least nine prescription drugs. She was known to swig a sleep sedative straight from the bottle. She apparently was greedily swallowing prescription drugs as if they were candy from a vending machine.Her last few days were hell on earth as she battled a stomach flu, a 105-degree fever, profuse sweating and an infection on her butt from repeated injections. Consuming prescription drugs in lavish quantities equipped her with very little armament for her ultimate endgame struggle.Police found no apparent signs of foul play, and the medical examiner ruled Smith’s death probably was not a suicide.Of course, Anna Nicole was the victim of self-induced foul play. She fouled her body with all those drugs. And her overmedication left her staring through black sockets.Another sad saga in the entertainment world ends with a tragic final curtain.

Eagles can use Spikes to impale some people

How bad did the Eagles need linebackers?Badder than a drunk needs a stiff drink. Badder than a starving man needs a Marvel Ranch cheeseburger. Badder than you and I need oxygen.The Eagles’ linebackers resembled turnstiles with E-Z passes last season. They couldn’t tackle anybody, couldn’t cover anybody. When your unit is a sieve against the run and the pass, your secondary had better have great flood insurance.So the Birds went against their norm and went after a 30-year-old guy with a big salary and a major injury background. The Eagles usually covet guys who are young, healthy and willing to work for only slightly more than McDonald’s pays it counter folks.I know it’s the wrong sport, but the Birds hit a home run last night. Knocked it right out of the park.They got former Pro Bowl linebacker Takeo Spikes from the Buffalo Bills and backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb in exchange for defensive tackle Darwin Walker — expendable after they signed Montae Reagor last week — and a conditional, late-round draft pick in 2008.So the Eagles basically gave up chump change for a guy who, if healthy, is a stud. Now the pause for a hiccup: Spikes tore an Achilles’ tendon in 2005 and had some hamstring issues last season. But he was playing well by season’s end in 2006. So we shall see.Hell, even a one-legged Spikes might be better than Dhani Jones at strongside linebacker. Dhani was about as percussive as my grandmother. And even slower than her. Besides, I hate his bow ties.Spikes can play all three linebacker spots, so he could take over for the aging and chubby Jeremiah Trotter in the middle or play the weak side, where he lined up with the Bills.Buffalo wanted to unload Spikes because he has one season left on his contract, at a base salary of $4.5 million, and then an option year in 2008, at a base salary of $5 million. Jeff Lurie just will have to sell more Eagles cheerleader calendars to up his revenue. Throwing Holcomb into the deal was a real coup for the Birds. The guy can play, and is a backup with 21 career starts. If Donovan McNabb’s rebuilt knee is cranky at the beginning of the season or unravels like so much cheap rayon thereafter, Holcomb allows the Eagles to be more armed and dangerous if backup A.J. Feeley gets dinged or starts throwing picks more frequently than West Virginians spit bicuspids.

Reading is for the birds

Bird lovers seem held together by a velvet bond of emotional Teflon.And now that a pair of predatory peregrine falcons is coupling atop The Madison building at Washington and Madison, legions of folks apparently will be gawking skyward on every crystalline, sun-speckled spring day coming our way. As a blogger pundit, my role is to see the big picture even though I’m can be more myopic than Uncle Sam looking at the Japanese threat right before Pearl Harbor.And what I see is that our town, once upon a time (as recently as last year) known as Dodge City East, is getting safer all the time.After all, the peregrines are an endangered species and they’re not afraid to risk the bullets strafing our city skyline.So perhaps fear and loathing in our fair city are about to fly the coop.I just hope the dealers in town don’t figure out a way to use the falcons as drug carriers. Peregrines literally can fly at speeds exceeding 200 mph. They could deliver a lot of dope with warp speed like that.

Big Biceps vs. Big Mouth

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rush Limbaugh have been sniping at each other. Now there’s a shock. You’d have to crawl through a whole pile of rhetoric to find any scraps of commonality between them. After all, nobody would expect Arnie and Rush to resemble Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing down a political aisle.These two dudes are inverse Leaning Towers of Pisa …. Schwarzenegger’s policies tilting almost as far left as Al Franken and Limbaugh’s babbles tilting almost as far right as Ann Coulter. Now the California Governator is preaching the merits of universal health care, initiatives to combat global warming and embryo stem-cell research.Subjects that simply make Limbaugh want to swallow his microphone, triggering his comment that the former cinematic action hero has wimped out as a Republican. In firing back, at least Arnie didn’t call Rush a girlie man. Just dismissed him as irrelevant.If this tiff escalates into a battle of bench presses, I hope Limbaugh, no stranger to pharmaceuticals, loads up on the roids. He’s gonna need ’em.

$250 million is a lot to flush down the toilet

The estimated cost of replacing most of the city’s sewage treatment plant on Fritz’s Island now is $250 million.Talk about sticker shock. But I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go.Building outhouses in everybody’s backyard might be cheaper.Granted, chilly backsides in the middle of a cold night might be a bit of a sacrifice. But if our forefathers could put up a brave behind, why not us?

A Land of Confusion

Well, looks like there are some bleak, desultory days ahead. Sounds like a good time to cue up some honky-tonk blues.America, you see, is headed for a massive state of confusion. And we’re not talking about those oafs in the White House.A report is coming out today that Alzheimer’s is going to take off in the U.S. like a Tiger Woods tee shot. More than 5 million Americans have the disease now, and the dementia epidemic is expected to hit mind-boggling numbers. Try 7.7 million people with Alzheimer’s by 2030 and 16 million by 2050. Brains ‘R’ Us won’t be us. Sounds like our land will be populated with a bunch of wheezing, Depends-wearing gray-haired ladies and gents with tombstones in their eyes, pacemakers in their hearts and empty caverns in their heads.So keep your mind and body hyperactive before your mind starts wandering like a gypsy between the dusty cobwebs of the past and the shredded gauze of the present. And pin your name to your shirt before you forget it.

Brave caretakers of a sacred trust

If we look hard and close enough, we’ll find there are no shortage of heroes in our midst.For instance, school crossing guards. They usher our children through the thicket of traffic. The safety of our kids always is riding the front seat of a crossing guard’s mind.Which is why we all should feel compassion for 75-year-old Stella Moyer, a crossing guard in Reading who got whacked by a truck while on duty, an accident that has dramatically rerouted her life for the foreseeable future. Two broken legs, a dislocated shoulder, facial injuries and an ear-to-ear gash on the top of your head will do that for you.But despite the monumental medical issues she now faces, Stella didn’t lose her sense of monkish dedication.”They (Reading police) said I got all the kids across,” she said.May she have a speedy recovery. We need more quality people like Stella Moyer protecting our young.