Finally, some props for Reading

Reading has been peering down the barrel of negative news for so long, it’s absolutely delicious to enjoy a cheer-up moment.Indeed, such a moment transpired today when the news broke that the 14th annual “City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America” placed Reading as the 32nd most dangerous city among those with populations of at least 75,000.Since we improved a whopping 11 slots from last year’s 21st ranking, we all need to take a deep, cleansing breath. The jump was good enough to make Reading the sixth most improved city on the list. “We have something to crow about,” said Reading Mayor Tom McMahon. Of course, there’s still room for considerable improvement. So Reading’s finest will have to continue their clenched-teeth efforts to further reduce rampant crime.

Westbrook rescues Eagles from an embarrassing pratfall against the Dolphins

For much of Sunday’s scrum between the winless Dolphins and the hardly-ready-for-prime-time Eagles at the Linc, the game was boring enough to numb minds as well as butts.And since the Birds trailed Miami Vice until almost a third of the way through the third quarter, the encounter was enough to make Eagles Nation tear its gizzard out and eat it raw. And if Philly fans instead were munching on Philly Cheesesteaks instead, it was double bad news for their carotid arteries.Fortunately, Brian Westbrook is a god in a chinstrap. The elusive running back, who missed some practice time with a sore knee, hardly looked sore Sunday as he scampered for a career-high 148 yards on 32 carries to fuel an offense that was hardly a passing fancy in a 17-7 wart-ugly win.Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Westbrook, the Eagles likely would have strangled in a lattice of misery. Before he was knocked out of the game with a sprained right ankle with 7:44 remaining in the first half, Donovan McNabb was a dreary 3 of 11 for 34 yards, including two drive-killing picks. X-rays were negative, but McNabb was too gimpy to play again.His status for next Sunday night’s game at unbeaten New England is uncertain. McNabb’s injury Sunday happened nearly a full year after he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee.A.J. Feeley, supposedly the backup bridge between the McNabb and Kevin Kolb eras, was 13-of-19 for 116 yards, a touchdown and an interception.”If Donovan’s healthy, he’s the quarterback,” said Andy Reid in squelching any quarterback controversy.By the way, the Eagles reached the hallowed ground of .500 at 5-5 with the win, their second straight for the first time this season.Granted, they figure to slip below .500 next week after tangling with the Patriots.As for the Dolphins, they’re the reverse image of a perfect 10 at 0-10.

An extremely taxing situation

OK, we’re all gonna die. And we’re all gonna pay taxes. And while we can’t do anything about the former, we can do something the latter.But not until we realize that sometimes we need Uncle Sam to step up and do his job.Obviously some folks are so sick of property taxes that their skin is as pale as a pearl handle. So we gotta do something pronto about this because who in the hell wants to live amidst a bunch of ghosts?I say we’re all stuck in the net of too many types of taxes like tuna caught at sea. We and our wallets have to flounder around with federal, state and local income taxes; property taxes; school taxes; head taxes; sales taxes; and God knows what else.Besides paying through the nose, we’re all contemplating hara-kiri with all the paperwork.Why can we just pay a federal income tax that is graduated prudently and fairly across income levels? The richer you are, the more you pay. The poorer you are, the less you pay. And if you’re middle class, you don’t have to pay the freight for the pampered rich and the perpetually poor.And then let the federal folks do their jobs efficiently and filter the money down to the state and local levels with an equitable system that eliminates all the confounding layers of fragmentation. We simply have too many damn tax collectors. And if we can’t make the folks who operate the levers in Washington, D.C. make a Big Brother government accountable to all us little brothers, let’s vote in federal officials who will.Otherwise getting taxed to death will remain an unfortunate way of life.

City crime can sneak up on anybody at anytime

Nobody has kept the fact that Reading is rife with criminal behavior under lock and key.The urban strife around here is so pervasive and invasive that it should be set to raucous music and pigeons.For instance, police said Thursday that three males, one with a handgun, robbed a 12-year-old Reading boy of his $120 Nike Air Jordan sneakers while the kid was walking on North 11 Street.As the boy was taking off his sneakers, one of the assailants struck him on the side of his face with the butt of the gun.Nice, huh? Indeed, the cowardice of these punks was absolutely breathtaking. At least they didn’t shoot the poor kid or nail him to the nearest backboard.

Why doesn't Santa just say hello?

Whatever happened to simpler times when we didn’t magnify every perceived misstep out of proportion?I long for the days when we could keep things light and not burrow ourselves ever deeper under the heavy yoke of political correctness. For instance, Santas in Sydney have been told not to use the “ho ho ho” greeting because it may be offensive to women.Since “ho” is slang for prostitute, Sydney’s Santa Clauses have been told to substitute “ha ha ha” instead.Well, at least Sydney residents have been spared a sequel of “Bad Santa” starring the kindly and adorable Billy Bob Thornton.

Travel makes Thanksgiving a real turkey of a holiday

We all know that traveling these days is worse than a dentist hitting a nerve in your bicuspid after the Novocain has worn off. Drive your car and you’ll have to kidnap an oil baron’s wallet just to fill up your tank. Hop a plane and the airport hassles will make your sanity and patience take flight. Hitch up a buckboard and pray nobody laced the horse’s oats with baked beans.All of which makes Thanksgiving weekend a terrible time for people forced to visit family and watch relatives you really don’t like all that much gargle their gravy and chew their words while munching on a drumstick.Makes you envy orphans, doesn’t it? They get to stay home and watch football.

Shock and awe! Birds squirt past Redskins

Well, at least for one game the Eagles didn’t smell worse than the men’s room in an old, disreputable movie theater.Actually, the Birds weren’t all that particularly pleasingly fragrant during the first three periods Sunday at FedEx Field.But they played with their old swagger in crunch time, stuffing 20 points into the fourth quarter to daze the Redskins 33-25.And now Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid get to keep their jobs for another week.Pray tell, the Birds may even cop an attitude this week, accusing Eagle Nation of jumping ship on what should be an astonishing voyage to a Super Bowl title.Yeah, right!Anyway, McNabb and Reid certainly relished this victory. Their post-game embrace lasted longer than some honeymoons.OK, McNabb hasn’t yet regained his superduperstar status, but the much maligned quarterback did complete 20 of 28 passes for 258 yards and four touchdowns.And running back/receiver Brian Westbrook was simply radiant as he scored three touchdowns, two of them within 58 seconds late in the fourth period.Westbrook, who rushed 20 times for 100 yards and had five receptions for 83 yards, scored on a 10-yard run with 2:18 remaining to seal Philadelphia’s first NFC East win this season. Westbrook had zipped 57 yards with a McNabb screen pass to give the 4-5 Eagles their first lead of the day at 26-25 with 3:16 left.And now the Birds, still mired in the muck of last place, hope to reach .500 when they host winless Miami next Sunday at the Linc.Flashes of non-linear bemusement may be crossing faces everywhere in the Delaware Valley and beyond if that transpires.