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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: 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: 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

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

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.”

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Elmer Smith: Is there a more boring story on news programs than “woman has lots of babies”? Anyway, this column is headlined, “Who to blame for octuplets?”

Ronnie Polaneczky: Oh, look, it’s a column quoting the dictionary definition of the word sacrifice. Sorry I’m not going to spend much time on the other two columns today because Fatimah Ali is next, and she’s calling for the assassination of Rush Limbaugh.

Fatimah Ali: I have to admit, this is a hell of an attention-grabbing lead:

THERE IS truly only one way to silence Rush Limbaugh.

Take him out.

I’m willing to bet that second line is not an Offspring quote.

But before you call the cops and accuse me of putting out a hit on America’s favorite angry conservative, let me explain.

I predict this explanation will be thoughtful and convincing.

The fact that anyone as mean-spirited as Limbaugh will reportedly earn nearly $400 million over the next eight years as he continues to spread his venom should give every American pause. It says volumes about his employer, Clear Channel, which just months ago signed him to a $38 million-a-year deal, then chose Inauguration Day to fire 1,850 of his colleagues.

Yes, that sucks for those employees, but this is American capitalism. You can’t just go put a hit out on everyone you don’t like on the radio. And if you’re going to put a hit out on annoying radio hosts, you start with WIP.

Ali then does a summary of the evils of Clear Channel. And then:

So when I say take him out, I’m not suggesting that we send a hit man to find Limbaugh (I actually think he’ll burn himself out).

Is she predicting Rush Limbaugh will shoot himself like Kurt Cobain? (”It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” etc.) That’s the only real explanation. She’s not suggesting someone kill Limbaugh because he’ll burn himself out (and kill himself). Yeesh, pretty harsh.

I’m actually talking about dollars and cents. The only way that anyone as mean-spirited as Limbaugh is has managed to stay on the air for two decades is that he’s making a lot of money for his bosses.

So the way to silence him is to stop listening and boycott his sponsors. If they go, so does he.

I now expect Rush Limbaugh to live forever.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Christine Flowers: Christine Flowers is sad that the Eagles didn’t make the Super Bowl. Hey, we agree on something!

Jill Porter: The best (worst) part of this story is how school administrators never contacted the family of the kid beat up at his high school. Good job, guys!

Elmer Smith: Oh, no, the analog TV switchover wasn’t pushed back! But now it’s going to be pushed back anyway, probably next week!

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Ronnie Polaneczky: Best sentence in this column: “Community College of Philadelphia deserves props for Earleena’s rebirth.”

Elmer Smith: Best sentence in this one: “THOSE WHO took part will remember the mayor’s citywide ‘whup me, beat me, spank me tour’ as a rare opportunity to dropkick a public official.”

John Baer: Here’s how old Arlen Specter is: The article wondering if he’s run for more elected offices than any other politician ever mentions Harold Stassen. I guess that doesn’t necessarily make him old, but trust me: Arlen Specter is old.

I also enjoyed this comment on the column:

Tell the Senator he may be enjoying the stay of execution that God gave him…but he is not going to survive this world and his legacy will blow away like the dust he is made of….Be humble you far from perfect Politician!!

Michael Smerconish: Noted Pakistani foreign policy expert Smerconish had dinner with the former president of Pakistan! It’s funny that Smerconish writes “[w]e’ve outsourced the hunt for Osama to Pakistan,” which is basically what John Kerry said during a debate in 2004 (though I believe he was talking about warlords instead of Pakistan). Still: Smerconish taking rhetorical cues from John Kerry! Pretty awesome.

Abridged Daily News Columnists

Michael Smerconish: First point in today’s Smerconish column, which is about Sunday’s inaugural concert (topical!): “Sasha and Malia will provide significant insulation and political cover for whatever rocky times might come to their father’s administration.”

Elmer Smith: First reality TV show references made today by Elmer Smith: “Ozzy Osbourne or Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown.” Last time either of these shows aired: 2005.

(Oh, yeah! We’re finally getting public access! I predict within 2 or 3 months, Philadelphia Will Do will be doing nothing but posting clips from this.)

Christine Flowers: First point made in Christine Flowers’ column today: “We non-Obama voters shouldn’t be bullied into supporting our new president.” A…greed, I guess? I have no idea how one could be bullied into supporting Obama. Did Barry open the conservative capitalist gulags yet?!

Abridged Daily News Columnists

There are three Obama columns today from three different columnists. Oh God.

Elmer Smith: This is your standard ‘go talk to older black people about Obama’ story, but Smith gets some good quotes and talks with a 103-year-old woman.

John Baer: Good point in Baer’s column about people saying the speech wasn’t that good (he says it was okay): Who cares, the whole event was quite a spectacle.

Ronnie Polaneczky: Polaneczky went to DC for the inauguration and was moved.