Meetings R Us … movement on the Bush tax cuts as still as the sun

Talk about diminishing the moment, removing the spark.
Yet it was so Washingtonian.
President Obama and congressional leadership agreed today that the best way to resolve differences on the soon-to-be-expired Bush tax cuts would be to hold additional meetings.
So much for the imperatives of the matter. Gulls descending raucously upon bread crusts show more energy.
In a Barnum and Bailey world, they could send in the clowns to every meeting.
Hot air in the Beltway, it seems, is every bit as expansive as my bar tab.

Tips of the day: Don't buy a prepaid debit card from the Kardashians or wrestle a Victoria's Secret runway model

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but the holiday shopping season likely will continue by Santa’s mandate.
Just don’t buy a prepaid debit card from the Kardashians or wrestle a Victoria’s Secret runway model.
The sisters are cutting ties with the card after the Connecticut attorney general called the card’s fees predatory.
Of course, who possibly could be surprised by this? Anybody who buys a Kardashian debit card has to have the financial acumen of a poodle.
For the record, the Kardashians’ stepfather is Betty Jenner, who as Bruce in his pre-facelift days edged out yours truly for the Olympic decathlon gold medal.
Speaking of jocks, Justin Gelband is the poor bloke who got stuck with the dirty job of training the bodies who will strut down the runaway tonight on The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show before two billion eyeballs (assuming each viewer has a pair) on CBS.
Apparently Gelband builds bodies that aren’t just eye candy to sell enough bras to cover the entire global land mass. Judging by the photo below, these babes can pump some serious iron.

Time to caulk WikiLeaks

Don’t expect the White House to invite Julian Assange of WikiLeaks over for dinner anytime soon … unless, of course, they’re serving him as the main course.
The White House hates Assange more than anybody in the world right now, by a country mile. In fact, administration insiders claim Assange is the worst human being since Judas.
The Obama administration moved forcefully today to contain damage from the release of more than a quarter-million classified diplomatic files, branding the action as an attack on the United States and raising the prospect of legal action against online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the material. She said the Obama administration was taking “aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. would not rule out taking action against WikiLeaks. Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration would prosecute if violations of federal law are found in an ongoing criminal investigation of the incident.
The White House ordered a government-wide review of how agencies safeguard sensitive information. Clinton said steps were already being taken to tighten oversight of diplomatic files. That action would follow a similar move by the Pentagon after leaks of military files.
Gibbs says President Obama was briefed on the size and scope of the document leak by national security aides last week. Gibbs says it would be an understatement to say the president was “not pleased” to hear that the information would be released.
Not pleased? How about the president wanted to carve “666” into Assange’s forehead?
The weekend release of documents, Tolstoy in length, reflecting unflattering assessments of world leaders has caused embarrassment to the administration.
Some of the assessments of world leaders in the classified material are churlish and contain raw comments normally muffled by diplomatic politesse, such as Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah pressing the U.S. to “cut off the head of the snake” by taking action against Iran’s nuclear program; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is compared to Adolf Hitler; Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev are Batman and Robin, respectively; Italy’s sex-scandal-plagued Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is “feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader;” French President Nicolas Sarkozy is “an emperor with no clothes;” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is dismissed as “risk averse and rarely creative.”
Pretty cool stuff, huh?
Well, not if you’re trying to run a government and save the world, free or otherwise.
Assange is a nihilist who traffics in stolen information. By directly leaking thousands of pages of purloined diplomatic correspondence, he has made conducting American diplomacy more difficult than walking a tight rope in high winds from Washington to Moscow to Teheran.
The immersion of this correspondence into the public domain has thrown American diplomacy into a crisis of confidence.
I say the White House should have the CIA kidnap Assange and lock him into a bathroom where the plumbing leaks like a ruptured artery.
That will teach him the meaning of true leakage.

The Eagles get a merciless mauling from Da Bears

The Eagles received a reality wakeup call Sunday — from a bunch of ornery Bears.

Chicago knocked off visiting Philadelphia 31-26 in a game that really wasn’t that close.

Still, Eagles’ fans should refrain from jumping off the Ben Franklin and Penn Street bridges. It’s a week-to-week league and this coming Thursday the Birds could be spectacular again.

For stretches of the game, Eagles’ fans had to shiver with revulsion, as if a snake had just crawled out of their beer bottle.

The sudden downshift in the game was so startling it had to be orchestrated by a Formula One driver.

It happened right before the half and it reduced what the Birds hoped would be a downpour of points to raindrop strength.

The Eagles were on the Bears’ 4, trailing by 14-13, when Michael Vick’s pass into the end zone, intended for Jeremy Maclin, was tipped in the backfield by defensive tackle Tommie Harris, intercepted by safety Chris Harris (Vick’s first pick this season) and returned to the Bears’ 37. Six plays later, the Bears scored on a 6-yard pass from Jay Cutler to wide receiver Earl Bennett.

If you do the math, what could have been a 20-14 Eagles’ lead suddenly was a 21-13 deficit. The intermission didn’t change the landscape of the algebra. When the Bears took the second-half kickoff and Devin Hester returned it 46 yards, and then Hester got 34 more yards on a catch-and-run play, and then Cutler hit tight end Greg Olsen with a 9-yard touchdown over the outstretched hands of cornerback Dmitri Patterson, well, the rout was on (seriously depleting my supply of commas in the process).

The Eagles ran down like a $2 alarm clock after that as the Bears performed with a fiendish gleam in their eyes.

In contrast, the Birds played like sweet-natured, considerate Christians — loath to offend and slow to command.

Missing injured cornerback Asante Samuel, who could pick the Pope’s pocket during Christmas Midnight Mass, the Eagles made Cutler look like a marksman for a change. He threw for 247 yards and four TDs on just 14 completions.

Meanwhile, Vick took a heavy flogging from a relentless Chicago pass rush. While still flashing some memorable moments, he was rather ordinary much of the time as he missed some throws, seemed reluctant to squeeze the trigger at other times when he appeared to be reading schemes by Braille, and was chased down twice from behind by defensive end Julius Peppers on scrambles. To be fair, Peppers is more fleet than a hippopotamus.

Granted, it wasn’t all dark and sullen until the end. The Bears were willing to trade yards for time, and Vick chewed up acres of real estate by throwing underneath. He finished 29 for 44 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. And when he rifled a 30-yard TD bullet to tight end Brent Celek, who somehow caught it in the midst of a crowd, the Birds were within 31-26 with 1:48 to go.

Could it be? Could the Eagles suddenly pull a miracle out of the muck?

Uh, no.

So what's with all the lip about Obama's hoops mishap?

Everybody seems to be having fun with the fact that President Barack Obama needed 12 stiches in his upper lip after taking an errant elbow from Rey Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, during a pickup basketball game Friday morning with family and friends visiting for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Personally, I would rather have a president who plays with a basketball than a cigar. And I would rather have a president with a split lip than a forked tongue. I just hope Russia, Iran, China and North Korea don’t start to elbow Obama around, thinking he’s now easy meat.
With the Sixers having even a worse year than the Democrats, it’s smart for Obama to be working on a second career option. He could be the first president to dribble straight from the White House to the Wells Fargo Center.

Telling people in Reading not to squeeze the trigger is like telling tigers not to snarl

Bang the drum slowly. Muffle the cymbals. Kill the laugh track.

It’s raining bullets in Reading. And nobody is singing in the hailstorm of hot lead.

Bullets keep killing people in our city. Happened twice Wednesday. The day before Thanksgiving. Cops look for clues. People, fear oozing from every pore, clam up tighter than misers.

And the vicious cycle keeps spinning and spitting out corpses.

A Reading man was shot and killed late Wednesday outside his West Douglass Street home by a man who had come to his front door about 11 p.m. Eric Bastien, 47, was shot during what investigators said was the second homicide in the city Wednesday. Jason Rodriguez, a 19-year-old Reading High School student, was fatally shot Wednesday afternoon — two days before he was to get married — on Spring Street while he was walking home from school.Life is cheap on our city streets. People die young. People die senselessly and violently. People who never again will they see a sky full of stars, moonlight on the water, the tips of a royal flush peaking out as they fan out a poker hand, the miracle of children, the beauty of sunset, snow-capped mountains, faces on Christmas morning.

Does anybody care out there anymore on Desolation Row this Thanksgiving Day?

Pass the turkey and the ammunition.

Harold Leifer kept breathing life into downtown Reading until his final breath

Generations of people who dined and drank at Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar & Restaurant should be raining tears into their beer.

We have lost a gentle giant.

Harold Leifer has passed from our midst at the age of 86.

Not only did Leifer and his family build The Peanut Bar into an iconic establishment, but the man himself became an icon.

He was a mass of energy, charm and graciousness. Someone lit the pilot on the blue flame of his work ethic at an early age and it never went out.

By all metrics of measure, he was the consummate businessman and family man.

But he also was a tireless ambassador for downtown Reading.

Our town, as you know, has stood smack on the edge of failure for sometime. But it has yet to fall into the abyss because Harold Leifer always was there to yank it back. He was an extraordinary advocate for downtown.

Now the torch has been passed to Michael, his son and best friend.

Thank God for all of us that the acorn in this case didn’t fall too far from the tree.

On the eve of the Great American Turkey Feast, it's time we had a real butterball again for president

Since tomorrow is Turkey Day and we’ll all stuff ourselves until our belt buckles moan, today is a good day to weigh in on corpulence in presidential politics.

As you may have noticed, most presidents are as thin as dowels. Barack Obama is built like a 9-iron. George W. Bush is no skeleton but is light from the neck up. Bill Clinton just missed being a porky by about one cheeseburger.

As Americans pig out and plump up, is it time for a portly president to waddle onto the American scene and crater it?

After all, tons of calories have been consumed since William Howard Taft tipped the scales at 332 pounds and got stuck in a White House bathtub. Apparently aides had to butter Taft first before he could squeeze through the door to the Oval Office.

Which brings us to chubby Republican presidential contenders such as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Imagine the damage that quartet could do on the rubber-chicken circuit as they eat their way toward Fat Tuesday in November 2012.

Perhaps our legislators and judges can donate their raises to impoverished Reading

This time of year shafts of the early sun slant through our windshields and cast shadows of gold across our faces on our morning commute to work.

Not that many of us see a pot of gold at the end of our payday. With the economy being what it is, the only raise a lot folks get is when they sit on an air hose.
Of course, then there are Pennsylvania’s legislators and judges. Those lucky blokes are getting a cost-of-living pay raise of 1.7 percent, thanks to a 1995 law that made such adjustments automatic.
What a sweet gig. They can collect their raises without having to vote on them. Imagine that. That way they escape accountability and can feign grumping and glowering every step of the way to the bank.
Is it just me or do you think our officials are doing a lawn job on us?
Speaking of lawn jobs, how about the people who live or work in Reading. They’re getting mowed under by killer economics even though there hardly is a patch of grass in town anymore.
Not that I blame City Council for raising the property tax by 20 percent, increasing the earned-income tax paid by city residents to 2.1 percent, and adopting a new commuter tax of 0.3 percent on out-of-towners who work in town.
The city needs money desperately or soon tumbleweed will be blowing all over a ghost town.
There’s nothing ignoble about being broke. But it sure does blow.

I believe in yesterday and the promise that JFK pitched like a major league fastball

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy doesn’t mean as much to this generation. Understandably so. The passage of time always grows scar tissue over gaping wounds.
It is hard to believe that it’s been 47 years today that JFK was gunned down in Dallas, a national tragedy that left a nation crestfallen and pursuing assassination conspiracy plots with ardent passion. They might as well have been chasing shadows across the moon.
The point was moot. JFK was dead and so was Camelot. And the promise of tomorrow.
The prism and perspective of time have revealed that Kennedy was a flawed man, an average president.
Of course, in the early years after his death he was lionized like no other. And deservedly so.
Kennedy changed the culture of America in the 1960s, shoving aside the farty fifties and ushering in the sexy sixties.
He was young and fearless and not yet experienced enough to avoid the rash mistakes of intemperate youth.
While a physical wreck in reality, none of us sensed that at the time. The media was not the probing monster it can be today. JFK had a swagger like no other. He looked like a stud who could lash lasers from the tee and at the Soviet Union, strike iron shots with majestic trajectory and pristine precision — whether they were headed for the flag or Cuba.
Jack and Jackie Kennedy were captivating and mesmerizing. It was the best of times to be young and proud to be an American … a distant time before Vietnam, the race riots, the assassinations of Jack, Bobby, Martin and John brought the killing fields to our homes and hearts.
In the syrupy shadows cast by the dust and pallor of nearly a half of century, I still can see images flickering in the whispering pines of John F. Kennedy’s hitch-up-your-pants-and-kill-it daring.
In contrast, today’s American leaders seem too mirthless, mind-numbing and lugubrious.
The man who served less than a full term in office still casts a long shadow over American politics and culture.
If only he had been given more time.