In Hawaii, school's out for recession

President Obama wants kids to spend more time in class.
But Hawaii, his home state, apparently didn’t get the memo.
Hawaii has created the nation’s shortest school year under a new union contract that closes schools on most Fridays for the remainder of the academic calendar. The deal prunes 17 days from the school year for budget-cutting reasons. Hawaii’s public school students now find themselves with only 163 instructional days, compared with 180 in most districts in the U.S.
Paradise just got even sweeter for Hawaii’s kids, whose faces likely lit up like happy pumpkins upon hearing the news.
However, education advocates are incensed that Hawaii is drastically cutting the academic calendar at a time when it already ranks near the bottom in national educational achievement.
After seven trips to Hawaii, I’m not sure education is all that essential there. It seems everybody there is either a surfer or a waiter.
A graduate degree is just dead weight when you’re surfing the pipeline.

Black Sunday for the Eagles

If daylight is about to crawl through the front windows of the Eagles’ season after today’s inexplicable 13-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole, I can’t see it.
There can be nothing but a dark void in the souls of the Birds as they now take flight back to the East Coast.
It was not just an upset. It was a betrayal of biblical proportion.
The Raiders’ season had looked like something in a black cape with a disfigured face.
Until Sunday.
Oakland QB JaMarcus Russell had been worse than atrocious.
Until Sunday.
He set season highs for completions (17) and passing yards (224) against the Eagles a.k.a. Quakers.
The Eagles’ defense had more holes than a baker’s dozen donuts. The Birds continue to get gashed by tight ends. Zach Miller caught six passes for 139 yards, an average of 23.2 yards per catch. Of course, a whopping 86 of those yards came on a touchdown jaunt on which linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was abused.
The Birds allowed a team that hadn’t gained more than 200 yards in the last three weeks to wrack up 325 yards of total offense.
The Philly offense was just as terrible. If folks back home hadn’t been preoccupied worrying about tonight’s NLCS Game 3 between the Dodgers and the Phillies, they would have been throwing up their cheesesteaks and choking on their shots and beers.
The Eagles’ O seemed to become an Oh when left tackle Jason Peters was felled by a knee injury in the first quarter. He was replaced by somebody named King Dunlap, not be confused with 1960s Eagles backup QB King Hill.
After Peters capsized, the Philly OL sprung more leaks than the Titanic after hitting that freaking iceberg.
The offensive line did a marvelous impersonation of a sieve, allowing six sacks as Donovan McNabb threw the ball like a man with a gun pointed at his back. Under siege, he was uncorking balls all over the lot — going 22 of 46 for 269 yards and a season-low 66.3 passer rating.
Everybody had been running through the Raiders all season like rush-hour commuters through subway turnstiles. So the Birds, in their divine wisdom, opted not to run.
No wonder the Eagles were a horrible 2 for 16 on third down.
And David Akers, who is in obvious decline, blew two field goals.
All against the pathetic Raiders.
This all boggles the imagination.
Don’t know about you, but I keep hearing the Stones perform Paint It Black in my inner ear.
I hate that damn song.

Oh, boy! Did balloon boy's father take all of us for a ride!

Forgive me for being a cynic. Once upon a time I was a journalist and it came with the territory. Especially when we ink-stained wretches had to use typewriters before Al Gore got around to inventing computers.
Therefore, I personally think the father of the 6-year-old boy who was thought to be in a helium balloon that floated away Thursday pulled off a helluva hoax.
I know he has denied on every TV network he could get his face on that it wasn’t a publicity stunt.
But ace reporter Zeke ain’t swallowing his Kool-Aid.
While television networks were airing eerie footage of the family’s homemade helium balloon that looks like a UFO floating through the Colorado sky, 6-year-old Falcon (with that name, he was born to fly) Heene was up in the air — hiding in the rafters of the family garage.
His old man, Richard Heene, and the rest of the family made the rounds on three television networks this morning. And wouldn’t you know that Falcon got sick twice when he and his father were asked during separate interviews what he meant when he said that “we did this for a show?”
Hence, further cementing my sincere suspicions this was a well-orchestrated hoax.
Give Richard Heene a baton and he could have enough flair to lead the New York Philharmonic.
By the way, Richard and his wife Mayumi are storm chasers who appeared twice in the ABC reality show “Wife Swap.”
Yep, just a regular Joe and Jo Sixpack.
Granted, Richard Heene eventually will come clean and claim something bizarre, like he heard voices telling him to do it. Perhaps he will confess he heard Obama whispering in his left ear and Rush whispering in his right ear.

The Climate Prediction Center basically has this to say about the impending winter weather here: Your guess is as good as ours

Whether we admit it or not, weather stokes our furnaces.
Everybody sweats the weather, especially when the earth has turned into frozen terra firma and the whipping winds are colder than a Popsicle.
For those of us sentenced to live in the Northeast, winter weather (unless we decide to spend the winter vacationing in St. Moritz or searching for the ruins of Troy), always is on the front burner.
Such angst is ever draining of the soul.
After all, one must know when to remain in one’s underground command bunker during a blizzard. And one must know when to stock up in advance on bread, milk, toilet paper and Scotch.
Granted, forecasters usually have batting averages even lower than the Washington Nationals. I still agree with Bob Dylan that you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Nevertheless, long-range winter forecasts sometimes have merit.
Note I italicized sometimes in the previous sentence.
To expound on that, the federal Climate Prediction Center today said El Nino should bring a warmer-than-average winter to the upper Midwest, the central and northern Plains, the northern Rockies and the Northwest.
Good for those folks. But who cares? We live here.
Well, the Climate Prediction Center is waffling on our winter weather. The climate center reports that winter weather in the Northeast is driven primarily not by El Nino, but by climate patterns over the north Atlantic and Arctic, which evidently are difficult to predict more than a week or so in advance.
So the climate center forecasters essentially don’t have a clue what winter has in store for us.
Not to be pessimistic or anything, but I forecast a winter in which snowstorms spread like blotches and cause all of us to put less ice in our adult beverages.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if Reading could lay off criminals instead of cops?

OK, we all know by now that Mayor Tom McMahon’s proposed 2010 budget of $60.9 million, down from $69.2 million in 2009, is tighter than an elite triathlete’s buns.
Which has left our city’s bean counters stalking about like the troll underneath the Three Billy Goats Gruff’s bridge.
So as they take carving knives to Reading’s expenses, 45 cops could wind up being sliced from the 209-member department.
In a city riddled with crime, the mere thought of a depleted force is turning complexions the shade of a peeled cucumber.
According to an internal memo, Reading police are considering how the department will operate with fewer officers — including prioritizing crimes based on the chances of solving them.
Police Chief William M. Heim said the proposals are not definite and doesn’t want the public to sweat such changes since they may not happen, depending on the final number of layoffs.
According to sources who have seen the memo, crimes such as burglaries would not be a priority to solve unless there is a suspect, good evidence left behind or a rash of a certain crime.
That understandably will leave some robbery victims with faces the color a carbuncle.
And give criminals a green light to have at it in Reading.
Soon the eulogists will be speaking in soliloquies, not sound bites, about a town gone to hell.
Just a hunch, but they undoubtedly will be raising their voices above the sigh of a coyote.

Snowe falls on the side of health care reform

Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine (with a name like that you just know she ain’t from Mississippi) apparently senses that history is galloping by, awaiting only her to mount it.
So she spurned her party and voted yes in support of health care reform today in a Senate finance committee meeting.
The Democrats had courted her with pit bull ferocity and now they can pound the obessional drum beating that the push to pass Obama’s health care legislation in Congress is a bipartisan effort.
Snowe was the bill’s last hope for bipartisan support. Dems hope Snowe’s support can magnetically move reluctant moderate Democrats to their side.
“Is this bill all that I would want?” Snowe commented. “Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls.”
Republicans feel history would judge said health care reform as the worst scam since gabardine.

The tunnel vision of zero tolerance in schools sticks a fork (figuratively) into a 6-year-old

Since my birth date falls somewhere between the discovery of dirt and the Chinese invention of fireworks, I realize a few things have changed since I was in elementary school.
Back then, if a kid wanted to take a multi-purpose camping utensil that served as a knife, fork, spoon, toenail cleaner and fancy-Dan toothpick into school, he could do so without the wrath of the law descending upon him like the hounds of hell.
I know because when I was a Cub Scout I took such a utensil into St. Catharine of Siena’s in Mount Penn and none of the nuns went screaming to the bishop or made me say three dozen rosaries or doubled my donation to the pagan babies fund.
But that was then and this is now.
Six-year-old Zachary Christie took a camping utensil to school in Newark, Del., last week, so excited about joining the Cub Scouts that he wanted to use it to eat lunch with.
Beats a regular knife and fork, that’s for sure.
But times have changed and little Zachary is in the soup because of his utensil. School officials concluded that he violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons. Zachary was suspended and now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school.
In the post-Columbine and Virginia Tech world we inhabit, many school districts around the country have adopted zero-tolerance policies on the possession of weapons on school grounds.
But in light of all this, is common sense out to lunch?
It seems fear graces every page of school manuals today because administrators and teachers are understandably battle-fatigued.
In our violence-prone society, threats are as glutinous as our fast-food appetites. They have become as ubiquitous as cell phones. So school officials have to be like cobras in a perpetual state of readiness. Sadly, I guess we are about a half-dozen exits past the placid days of common sense.
I miss the good old days.

Donovan and Jeremy a couple of Big Macs as Eagles bop Bucs

Granted, all of this transpired against a Tampa Bay team gone softer than butter left out of the fridge. These Bucs are up to their shoulder pads in despair and should walk the plank immediately and plunge to Davy Jones’ locker.
Donovan McNabb, his broken rib no longer throwing stiletto-like pains into his side, completed 16 of 21 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns and also had a team-high 30 yards rushing as the blitz-crazy Eagles pranced to a 33-14 victory today at the Linc despite drawing a whopping 10 penalties for 111 yards.
McNabb’s passing rating of 157.2 was the second highest of his career and seemed to signal Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb not to entertain any delusions of grandeur.
Rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin, despite a training camp holdout that pundits thought would leave penetrating roots that were intractable, snagged six balls for 142 yards, including TD bombs of 51 and 40 yards.
Maclin is no impressionable, in-awe kid. He is the first rookie in the history of the franchise to have two 40-yard touchdown receptions in a game. Clearly he is a precocious young man of formidable potential.
Teamed with DeSean Jackson (who was uncharacteristically quiet Sunday with one catch for 1 yard) at wideout, the Birds have the receivers to make all our jaw muscles lose their grip and raise all our voices an octave — no matter whether it’s NcNabb, Vick, Kolb or yours truly flinging the pigskin.

You can walk on the lumps of shrapnel bursting from the bombshell that Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize

Needless to say, the startling news today that President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize has left a lot of folks, especially those whose holy right is to only go to their right, rather shell-shocked.
Indeed, I hate to suggest the Nobel committee is dumber than an ashtray, but it is definitely premature.
I will concede that Obama has launched initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism. But none of this has yet to yield concrete achievements.
Furthermore, one cannot overlook the fact Obama quarterbacks wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has launched deadly counter-terror strikes in Pakistan and Somalia. So he’s not a guy who exactly is giving peace a chance at the moment.
Nevertheless, the Nobel folks evidently are bedazzled by Obama’s star-making machinery.
Unlike others, I’m not ready to concede that Obama’s mystique is built on smoke and mirrors and that his presidency is tanking.
But I will admit that so far he seems more style than substance.

Even soccer moms who live by the gun can die by the gun

For some reason soccer moms in this country have become a prime demographic.
So when a soccer mom in nearby Lebanon, considered to be a sane plot of the Earth, had a loaded handgun in plain view holstered on her hip during her 5-year-old daughter’s game last year, folks and the media took notice.
That soccer mom, Meleanie Hain, was shot dead Wednesday along with her husband Scott in what appeared to be a murder-suicide, police said.
The couple’s three children were home at the time but weren’t hurt, police said.
Such news leaves all of us with a bleached look to our eyes.
Guns do kill. And when they do, a flat gravel wail pierces the stretching silence of sanity.
Even in Lebanon.