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Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: Ms. Polaneczky got a letter from an incarcerated woman who says her son got a pistol from an older friend. (There’s more, but that’s the gist of it.) This column is her attempt to help the kid. All well and good.

Here’s what I don’t really get, though. After being “so floor[ed]” by the letter, she writes:

I search the woman’s criminal record and learn that she’s doing time for assault, theft, forgery and other charges. So it seems that, before the “system” failed her son, she herself did, by blowing her chance to continue parenting him.

This might sound weird: Is this really necessary? The extra information about the woman’s background is fine. But because the woman writes that “this situation shows who the system fails,” Polaneczky needs to note that she, for one, thinks the letter writer should have stayed out of jail for her son. Agreed. I don’t think anybody in America suggests that parents should immediately go out and get incarcerated upon the birth of a child.

But it’s just an aside. The column isn’t an admonition of parents who commit crimes instead of committing to their children. (Oh, that previous one was an 8.6!) I read a lot of newspaper columns, and there are a decent amount of writers who insert in these little asides in every column. That sometimes works for humor, but for serious news columns it’s almost always distracting. This isn’t a particularly egregious example, but I think that is the case here.

I’ll grant there’s a chance that, if Polaneczky hadn’t put in this line, Daily News readers would flood the lines with calls about how she let this letter writer off the hook. Actually, that sounds probable. Hmm.

Elmer Smith: Now that the state might legalize video poker machines in bars, we might be on the slippery slope to table games in casinos! Smith isn’t happy about this. Fair enough, I don’t think he’s a big fan of gambling (or at least our current corporate-controlled form of gambling in casinos here in Pennsylvania). But, actually, adding table games to casinos is a great idea.

I guess the idea is that a person can lose a lot of money in a single gamble at a table. But current slot machines offer the ability to string consecutive plays together with virtually no time wasted; a person can lose a lot of money playing the slots. Slot machines make up around 70-75 percent of a casino’s profits. Slot odds are stacked completely in the casino’s favor. The house always wins, but the house always wins at slots.

Yes, part of the reason slot machines make more money for owners is they’re cheaper to run; table games require dealers and pit bosses and more floor space. As such, there are more slot machines. But slots aren’t glamorous or fun, and the people who play them tend to spend their entertainment dollars on casino trips only on slot machines.

Table games attract customers who spend money outside the casino. Their entertainment dollars are going to things other than gambling. They can spur new construction (say, in a new hotel a casino builds in an attempt to woo these customers). From everything I’ve read and know about casinos, I think adding table games to Pennsylvania’s casinos would improve things on the whole. Adding table games to the casinos already in Pennsylvania is certainly a better idea that video poker terminals in a bunch of bars.

Dave Davies: This is getting long. Let’s just do a pullquote:

Most of my bright and informed friends who read the New York Times and listen to public radio could name the top strategists of the presidential campaigns last year, and can rattle off several Cabinet members today.

But they can’t name three members of Philadelphia City Council or their own state senator.

It took me a while to remember that Larry Farnese is my state senator. I can name all the City Council members, though. I think.

Here’s a trick if you need to just name three: Pick former mayors! There’s a good chance a son with the same name is in City Council.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: Here’s the charming story of a man who wants to trade an old Charlie Manuel (a lifetime .198 hitter) baseball card for an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Phillies game, essentially. What a heartwarming story!

Michael Smerconish: It’s 2009, which means everyone is a (pardon the term) citizen economist.

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Jhn Baer: Pennsylvania’s legislature has more staffers than anywhere else in country. Woo-hoo, we’re number one!

Jill Porter: “But my math is simple: The more guns in circulation, the more that find their way to the dregs of society who casually assassinate cops.” You going to look that up, Ms. Porter, or maybe cite something, or… no, you’re just going to go with your gut and not bother to find out if it’s true or not? Okay, fine, but it might be nice to have some facts to back up your opinion and… oh, nevermind.

More importantly: How the hell is that math?!

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: It’s a profile of a man with this part-time job: Making t-shirts in memory of police officers killed in the line of duty. Oof, not the most fun thing in the world.

Elmer Smith: And here’s another column about the police officer who died late last week. The kid was only 25 and had a pregnant wife; very sad.

Fatimah Ali: And, hey, a domestic violence column! Boy, it’s a trifecta of fun today. Fatimah Ali doesn’t even really write anything hilarious today, even, though she does plug her own forthcoming memoir and mention a book called, “How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved.”

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Stu Bykofsky: Like everything else in Philadelphia, the collection of money from tickets from red light cameras — coming to City Hall soon! — is done incompetently.

(Be sure to read the comments on this one, which currently mention the lack of cleanliness in the city, and suspended Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero.)

John Baer: Arlen Specter hired Joe Torsella’s wife, and Torsella hired Specter’s wife. (This is just like how Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, etc.) And now they’re going to run against each other for a Senate seat! John Baer thinks this will lead to a kinder, gentler campaign, which it will — until the parties realize a Senate seat is on the line and they break out the attack ads.

Deborah Leavy: Oh, man, the honeymoon is over for Barack Obama! As it should be, he’s been president for almost a month. But, yes, everyone is super annoying and partisan and oh, no, the world is going to end.

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Stu Bykofsky: Stu, who I believe covers the “cute ‘n’ cuddly” beat for the paper, writes about the local SPCA chief, who resigned Wednesday. He also notes the SPCA, which just recently got the animal control contract from the city, hired a spokesman from the “high-profile Bellevue Communications Group” to answer questions about the resignation. Good use of money there, fellas!

Elmer Smith: I am always up for a column making fun of the number of commissions the mayor puts together to pretend to address problems. (Street was a big fan of commissions, too.) I particularly liked this part of Smith’s column today, “We created a whole category that could be called ‘commissions to appease the often overlooked.’ You had your Mayor’s Commission on Native Americans, the Mayor’s Commission on Latino Affairs and the Mayor’s Commission on Women, not to be confused with the Mayor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities.” Do you think there’s a Mayor’s Commission on Native Americans in Cleveland, and do you think they spend all their time on Chief Wahoo?

Jill Porter: On the witness stand yesterday, Vince Fumo did not look all-powerful, since he’s facing a (de facto) life sentence if he’s convicted. Porter also writes, “I like Fumo and respect the government.” The former? Certainly defensible, I suppose. The latter? No way, especially in Pennsylvania.

Christine Flowers: This is a column comparing different Italian operas to Vince Fumo’s life. But wait, Flowers writes! “Ironically, though, the opera that most closely tracks the destiny of South Philly Vince isn’t even Italian.” Move over, Alanis. Somebody has used ironic in a way worse than you did.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: I don’t abridge octuplet stories.

Stu Bykofsky: Sweet! Another octuplet column I don’t have to read. (Well, okay, I did read it. My favorite part at the end is when Stu writes she needs Norplant.)

Michael Smerconish: Aww, nobody paid attention to Smerconish’s “exclusive interview” with Pakistan’s president! So now he’s writing about that woman who got the record for biggest breast implants.

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John Baer: The guy who’s the governor is still in good spirits, but the guy on trial and possibly facing a de facto life sentence is not!

Ronnie Polaneczky: Hey, a column that sort of touches on the arbitrary distinction between an 18-year-old being an adult but a 16-year-old being a helpless child or whatever. Not bad.

Elmer Smith: Hey, it’s the pilot who safely landed that plane in the water! What makes this column really fun, though, is all the words in strange, unnecessary quotes.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Stu Bykofsky: Man, who ever would have thought that the people who write the laws would be treated with kid gloves by the people who enforce them?!

John Baer: Did you know there are places in Pennsylvania that have the same names as corporations?!

Dave Davies: Wait, you mean Vince Fumo did things for certain people and that’s why he got re-elected all those times?!

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Jill Porter: Aw, cute, a couple had their wedding photos taken at the Broad Street Subway’s Walnut-Locust stop. Here’s the gallery. Dude has got to lose that mustache, though.

Elmer Smith: Still no arsonist caught in Coatesville.

Christine Flowers: Yes! It’s Christine Flowers on Women’s Studies programs! Turns out it’s pretty boring, actually, as she drops the topic immediately to complain about something else. It ends with a nice strawman, though.

A tough Roe to hoe

Some unhinged woman gets a bunch of docs to implant her with eight embryos so she can impersonate Mother Goose. Critics are in an uproar because no one stopped her from making her own reproductive choices.

Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

Ha, ha, get it? Because people in favor of abortion rights occasionally make this argument, and other people are making this argument in this different case! And maybe they’re on opposite sides of the argument! We don’t know, of course, because Flowers doesn’t give any examples of pro-choicers saying the state should have forcibly aborted those babies or stopped the embryos from being implanted or whatever wacky solutions people have come up with. It might be an argument if Flowers wanted to call an individual person on his or her hypocrisy, but instead it’s just a pointless attack of “critics.”

Oh, yeah, and there’s also this hilariously bad/awesome letter to the editor in today’s Daily News about a recent Flowers column. And it’s headlined “A trip into the dark soul of Christine Flowers.”