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Abridged Daily News Columnists

I have been researching a story, doing interviews and all that good stuff most of the day. But I’ve holed up in a coffee shop to bring you Abridged Daily News Columnists!

Ronnie Polaneczky: I actually said “good idea!” when I saw Polaneczky had written about selling her gold and getting cash. Selling gold has exploded in popularity (or at least Google popularity) since 2006 and the local news has noticed. But is Polaneczky the only columnist who has actually sold her own gold? Right: Who cares!

The column is standard stuff with a cute anecdote at the end. It’s a nice touch, though, that one of the places she goes to sell her old jewelry is a gold dealer who set up at Hampton Inn in Bensalem. Right across from the Woodhaven Mall!

Stu Bykofsky: Do I have a rule that I don’t abridge stories about bureaucratic tussles in animal control? I do now, but I’d really encourage you to study the lead carefully:

WITH PACCA in its grave and PSPCA decapitated, local animal-lovers fear that innocent animals will pay with their lives for the uncivil war between the agencies that has raged for some 18 months.

Were all of the animals really innocent? Are we to assume none of these dogs assaulted people, stole bones or sold drugs on the side?

I get that Bykofsky really cares about animals, and I’m sure he’s heartbroken. I know he’s also hoping to paint the animals as sympathetically as possible. I really don’t think we need innocent to modify animals there, though. Of course they’re innocent! They’re animals! I know: Whatever. But I think it’s detrimental to the column. It’s not that it’s bad writing; columns are most convincing when the writer is clear and clean and makes solid points. Let the story carry the column! I dream of a world where no one in the media uses the phrase “innocent animals.”

Or maybe stuff like that resonates. And Bykofsky has won a lot of awards for writing about animals. I dunno.

John Baer: Baer interviews Allyson Schwartz, who says she will maybe run for Arlen Specter’s U.S. Senate seat. Baer thinks otherwise. Hm. Analysis, opinion, and the worst modifier I can find is “tough statewide run.” Excellent.

Michael Smerconish: Hmm. Smerconish is praising CNBC’s Rick Santelli for complaining about “losers’ mortgages” and yelling, “President Obama, are you listening?” on air. Sigh. I’m probably wrong. Going shamelessly over-the-top works. Anyway, the American populace is suddenly concerned about rich people stealing their money. Eh.

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.

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

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.

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: Last year, Jill Porter helped get Hershey’s to pull candy stamped “ICEBREAKERS” from the market because it sort of looked like crack (but not really). (It’s okay, Wired’s website agreed.) Anyway, Porter wrote about Michael Phelps and why marijuana should be legal. Color me surprised and proud.

Ronnie Polaneczky: Hey, here’s the story of the cantor at police funerals at the Basilica.

John Baer: Now that Ed Rendell wants to legalize video poker to help get some money for the state (more on this later), some lawmakers have shot back with calls for legalized prostitution and marijuana. Yes, yes a million times yes! Oh, apparently they’re saying it as a joke. Sadness.

Michael Smerconish: Before the Internet nobody attempted to make money off a celebrity doing something stupid in public. Smerconish is all about narcing when he sees a drug deal, though, which is something that actually has real consequences (as opposed to selling a tape of Christian Bale being angry or whatever).

Stu Bykofsky: Oh, man, Stu Bykofsky has responded to the Phillymag article about newspapers with his own plan for how to save newspapers! The idea: Sue Google for sending the websites free traffic!

Publishers sowed the seeds of their own destruction - pre-Tierney - by stampeding to the Internet and giving away their content for free, overturning a business model that had sustained them for centuries.

We must stop the insanity - now! It’s time for some brave publisher - Hello, Brian - to stand up and howl: “No more free content!”

This company should charge online visitors a small fee, maybe $5 a month, for our content - which is copyrighted, then sue the pants off anyone stealing it.

Should Google “pick up” (steal) our stuff, if we successfully sued them for $1 billion, two good things happen: 1) Our money problems are solved; 2) everyone else will stop stealing our content.

Apparently indexing a site and sending readers its way is highly illegal. Or, rather, it would be if the site was behind a pay-wall. Which is why ESPN Insider is currently suing Google for giving away its content for free. Oh wait!

Bloggers can’t replace newspapers.

No one says they should, are or will. You sure stuck it to those non-existent people! This column was written in 2003. Maybe earlier. Bykofsky just decided to run it now.

The million bloggers comment mostly on what was revealed by resource-rich newspapers. No matter how many eyeballs they attract, blogs rarely “break through” because they are so many and so scattered. They lack newspapers’ broad-based public square, where the masses assemble. They also lack the public megaphone and spotlight, which may be the print press’ most important weapons.

Blogs are also not news-gathering organizations. This is like saying, “No way can one actor make a movie. It takes a lot of people! YouTube should be ashamed of itself!” This article is a giant strawman made of smaller strawmen, then lit on fire at Burning Man.

And, on a side note, how dare Burning Man think it can replace all other forms of recreation!

Was it a blogger who turned a spotlight, and publicly shamed, the Postal Service for dumping mail? No, that was the Daily News. Did a blogger have the resources in time, talent and staff to drag DHS onto the front pages and into the grand-jury room? No, that was the Inquirer. Every day newspapers run stories that would not otherwise be told.

Yes, and the other way around, too. Blogs cover stories newspapers can’t, won’t or don’t cover.

Do all (any?) bloggers have the training or the inclination to post only what is verifiable? Working for a newspaper means you have been vetted by virtue of education or experience, and you hew to ethical norms of accuracy, honesty and objectivity. Do we always succeed? No. But almost all of us make an honest effort, and we have angels on our shoulders (called editors) to ensure that we do.

Fun fact: The Daily News runs more corrections than most blogs — and not because the blogs write something stupid! Of course, that comparison is dumb, but I’m working with what I’m stealing from the newspaper here.

That’s why I’ll trust the Associated Press’ reporting of President Obama’s recovery plan over anything I’ll read at or

Good job, cherrypicking two random sites, one where anyone can post, and another that’s a cesspool of nonsense. That’s why I trust’s reporting on BatBoy’s wedding more than anything I read in the Weekly World News!

As Volk writes from his smug platform, doesn’t he realize that maybe half the stories in each issue of his magazine had their genesis in earlier newspaper reporting? We also provide the material for WIP and other talk radio to gab about all day, not to mention providing leads for TV-news-assignment desks. I’m not bragging or complaining. It’s just true.

There’s a rule in advertising — I know a lot about advertising, I’ve seen both Trust Me and Mad Men — that if you’re the big fish, you don’t attack the smaller ones. It’s why you usually don’t see ExxonMobil doing attack ads against BP. So, yes, newspapers have been the most trusted and dominant news medium for a long, long time now. Everyone knows that. You don’t get a bonus for pointing it out.

But what makes it even funnier is Stu’s most recent column on Monday was about something he heard on the radio. How dare he take information from someone he heard on a radio broadcast! They ought to charge for radio, and if Stu writes about it, radio can sue.

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

John Baer: It’s a crisis! It’s time for bipartisanship! Just like in the run-up to the Iraq War! Oh wait, that didn’t work out so well! Anyway, Baer has some pretty awesome examples of how hilariously corrupt government in general is, though:

A small example: Rendell’s budget address next week was pushed back a day because many lawmakers plan to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa, and because a Steelers win means celebrations Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

Not that pushing the people’s business back just 24 hours makes much difference. It’s more the message it sends about priorities.

Another small example: In the midst of a hiring freeze and possible layoffs of up to 2,000 state workers, Rendell hands a newly created, $95,000 job to defeated Democratic lawmaker Dan Surra, of Elk County, to be an adviser on forest and games lands, backpacking and trout fishing.

Which reminds me: Check out this list of press releases, and search “Conti.” We’re sure getting quite a good deal out of the CEO of the Liquor Control Board!

Stu Bykofsky: Stu opens today calling a local meteorologist — no one in particular — a “weatherdoll.” Sexist? Hmm, I’m not sure. Let’s go with “strange and outdated” instead. Especially since the best-known weather forecasters in this town are a guy in a bow tie and a dude with slick-back black hair. Anyway, here’s his hilarious joke of the day:

AccuFeather, Shmoppler, EarthItch, Watchamacallit, it’s all the same.

Ha ha, EarthItch!! Oh, mercy.

Ronnie Polaneczky: I hope we’re all in agreement that people who complain when someone does something “wrong” with the flag — such as the 82-year-old who is pissed about flags at half-staff at a local charter school — are people we should not listen to about anything, ever. And, hey, what do you know! Polaneczky criticizes Imhotep Charter School for lowering the flag to half-staff for that studen shot by a cop. Duh. Can’t these people grieve or cope in an approved socially acceptable way?!

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.