Gas pains wracking America

Nobody’s face breaks into sunlight when they’re at the gas pump.Gasoline prices are getting mean on lean budgets.Indeed, 44 percent of participants in a national survey said paying for gas was a serious problem for them. Across all income levels, the cost of gas was the most frequently cited economic concern, outstripping jobs and health care.With the price of gas likely heading toward four bucks a gallon, we could become a national of renegade bitter-enders — motorists both bitter and at the end of their economic rope.If this keeps up, despairing folks at the pump may soon be tempted to douse themselves with gasoline rather than waste it in their tanks. Inhale this spring and you will ingest more than pollen. You will smell the aroma of charred financial dreams mixing with the wafting scent of flickering hope for the future.

A first-round bye for Henne, Eagles

What did Chad Henne and the Philadelphia Eagles have in common during Saturday’s NFL Draft?Neither were players in the first round.We shall see whether that matters a twit down the road … the draft is merely where seeds are planted … it takes time to see whether they sprout gloriously or ignominiously … picking bodies isn’t the same exact science as picking toenails.Henne, the former Wilson and Michigan quarterback with the big arm, had been anointed the second-best quarterback by many draftniks.But he wound up being the fourth QB selected, falling to pick No. 57 in the second round to the Miami Dolphins. He and Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm got plenty of ESPN face time as the revamped draft format sped by at warp speed for seemingly everybody but these two passers, whose date with destiny proceeded at a glacial pace. Brohm was plucked by the Green Bay Packers one pick prior to Henne’s selection.Boston College’s Matt Ryan was the first quarterback chosen, going to the Atlanta Falcons with the third pick of the draft. Delaware’s Joe Flacco was the other first-round quarterback, going No. 18 to the Baltimore Ravens.With the Dolphins rebuilding under Bill Parcells, the wait might have been worth it for Henne. He has an excellent shot at competing for the starting job along with John Beck, Miami’s second-round pick last year, and veteran Josh McCown, a free agent addition who has played with mixed success at various NFL depots.As for the Eagles, they will have to wait until next year to see how their first-round pick works out.The Birds, supposedly so talented even though they are a non-playoff team that they can afford the present to bleed out in favor of the future, traded their first-round choice, the 19th pick, to Carolina in exchange for the Panthers’ first-round pick next season and second and fourth-round selections this year. The Panthers took Pitt offensive tackle Jeff Otah with that pick.Reid’s decision to deal out of the first round for the second straight year raised the Eagle Nation’s voices an octave or two. Apparently Otah didn’t shift Reid’s salivary glands into third, which was surprising. Andy, after all, covets offensive linemen even more than he does calories.Evidently Reid lost his appetite for an offensive lineman in the first round after he failed to trade up to land Virginia O-lineman Branden Albert, who went to Kansas City with the 15th pick after the Chiefs traded with the Detroit Lions.But when the Eagles finally did sit down at the draft trough in the second round, they didn’t do badly. Of course, they landed two situational players, not guys expected to make full-time contributions.After also trading the second-round pick they received from Carolina to Minnesota, the Eagles finally selected Notre Dame defensive tackle Trevor Laws with the 47th pick overall. Laws, who had a stellar season while the Fighting Irish were having a pathetic season, is projected as a backup who can pressure the quarterback from the middle.Two picks later the Eagles took DeSean Jackson, a wide receiver/punt returner from California who can run holes in the wind but is no bigger than a fruit fly. He should upgrade the Eagles’ special teams and should give Donovan McNabb a vertical dimension in the passing game. But the kid likely is going to be preyed upon by all the Bug Zappers in the red zone.The Eagles also traded a fourth-round pick to the Dolphins yesterday in exchange for running back Lorenzo Booker, whose skills somewhat mirror those of Brian Westbrook. Considering Westbrook is as fragile as fine china, Booker could prove to be a valuable insurance policy. And if Westbrook remains healthy, pairing Westbrook and Booker in the same backfield could allow the Birds to concoct some intriguing offensive components. Gone without saying, by the way, is for the second straight year the Eagles won’t have to pay anybody first-round money.I imagine Jeff Lurie’s wallet likes that, especially in this Bush-depressed economy.

Andy Reid picks linemen more than frequently than he does his nose

You know, it’s hard to get excited about what the Eagles are gonna do with their first-round pick tomorrow in the NFL Draft.Because you just know they’re likely to pick an offensive lineman, probably a tackle, and then they’ll redshirt him for a couple years.The Eagles didn’t even make the playoffs last year, but apparently none of their current starters is a stumbling ignoramus. Hence, no need for an immediate impact player.Yeah, right.I know Andy Reid was a lineman, but he has to realize there are other positions worth stockpiling some talent at — such as wide receiver, running back, tight end, cornerback and safety. As Steve Patton points out today, 15 of Reid’s 74 draft selections over the years have been O-linemen.Why? Because Reid watched Groucho Marx’s “What My Line?” growing up?Nah.Because the Eagles want to protect the passer since they throw more often than the Phillies’ bullpen. The theory is, I guess, if they keep Donovan McNabb in one piece their passing game can spend the whole game up there in the crisp sky where neither the Dallas Cowboys nor the New York Giants nor a squadron of fighter planes can stop them. Stay tuned to see if the Birds can fly the friendly skies this season. And to see if they have anybody who actually can go get the ball in the red zone and the end zone.Now there’s the catch!

We've all come back from the dead

There are 6.6 billion people in the world, give or take a few the census folks may have missed when they blinked.It wasn’t always so. Apparently human beings were perched on the very edge of extinction 70,000 years ago.The human population may have numbered as little as 2,000 back then, with our forefathers reduced to small, isolated groups in Africa.So much for those among us who speak wistfully of a past when practically everything seemed better than it does today — except, of course, for air conditioning.Then again, there certainly was no shortage of parking or any signs of suburban sprawl sprouting like dandelions 70,000 years ago.So what made mankind almost buy the farm as a species way, way back in the Time Machine?It wasn’t because of a shortage of Gucci outlets.Our ancestors just caught Mother Nature in a foul mood. And evidently in no mood to craft designer weather. Drought was the culprit. I don’t know about you, but I’ve now begun to hoard bottled water.

Let's get ready to rumble

OK, if you do the math (I won’t because I got too tired messing with reading and ‘riting to get around to ‘rithmetic when I was a kid), Hillary Clinton has no shot at winning the nomination unless a brokered convention has all the delegates going bonkers.However, if Barack Obama is to avoid getting knocked out by John McCain in the fall, he finally has to show he can finish off Hillary. Clinton’s Rocky-like resolve in PA yesterday now makes it paramount that Obama stop acting like a groveling wimp and start acting like a menacing warrior.Obama simply has to do something to finish off Hillary, even if he has to drown her in her crawfish bisque.So look for him to get so negative that he even removes the positive terminal in his tour bus battery as he motors through Indiana and North Carolina in an effort to finally KO her in those primaries.

Can PA be Hillary's lifesaver?

For six weeks Hillary and Barack have been going toe-to-toe in Pennsylvania.And with Judgment Day upon us, they’ve both lost all their toenails from all the campaign friction. So what could Election Day in PA prove? Well, our state’s electorate could determine whether Hill’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination sinks or swims. I guess we could crown ourselves kingmakers. Or queenmakers.

Berks voters likely to descend upon the polls with all the restraint of seven-year locusts

If you’re voting Tuesday — and if you’re not, look into the mirror and ask the face staring back at you why the hell not? — get there early.With Pennsylvania having a presidential primary that isn’t a mere mulligan for a change, and with Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton actually finding their way to Berks County even though many of the highways surrounding us are screaming for angioplasty, election fever is raging hot enough to burst thermometers.Consequently, the lines at the polls should stretch all the way from Birdsboro to Bethel. So you might want to pack a sandwich and a change of underwear.