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Columns

January 22, 2011

Recent epiphanies on scams, thugs and errors

The men in the Pollak family live their lives by this simple philosophy.

“Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down?”

As you might imagine, this sort of lifestyle governance lends itself not only to the hardening of every artery in our bodies, but to time well-spent in profound thought. Herewith, profound or not, are several of my recent epiphanies:

• I’ve noticed that all of those TV deals for food slicers, absorbent rags, laundry cleaners, etc., seem to have the same scam going. “But wait! If you call right now, we’ll DOUBLE your order. Just pay separate shipping and handling.”

It’s that “separate shipping and handling” _ usually about seven bucks _ that gets you to buy twice the product you want, assuming you even want the stuff in the first place.

Oh, and people such as Vince Shlomi _ the ShamWow character who was arrested for allegedly punching a prostitute _ and the late Billy Mays, whose cocaine use was a “contributory cause” of his death, have your credit card number.

• On the subject of scams, who has a better one than the National Rifle Association and the industry it supports?

Two years ago, the organization got its members and other gun owners so worked up over the election of Barack Obama that they bought up every bullet in sight, fearing that with a Democratic president, the government would come in and take their guns away.

Seriously, target shooters, hunters and others couldn’t find bullets for many of their weapons, such was the bullet-buying fervor drummed up by the NRA.

The NRA did the same thing, of course, when Bill Clinton was elected. Meanwhile, no law-abiding citizen had his gun or bullets taken away by Clinton and none has had his gun or bullets taken away by Obama.

It has been reported that sales of 9mm Glocks like that used in the recent Tucson shootings have been booming, thanks to people fearing they won’t be able to buy them anymore.

Someone, by the way, is going to have to explain to me why anyone needs a gun that fires 30 bullets in rapid succession instead of — say — one with a 10-bullet magazine.

I’m not buying the old “slippery slope” nonsense about one reasonable restriction leading to a total ban on guns, not when perhaps a 10-shot handgun instead of a 30- shot one might _ just might _ have spared the life of that sweet 9-year-old girl killed by the madman in Tucson.

• When it comes to Sunday’s American Football Conference championship game _ with the winning team going to the Super Bowl _ I’m having a tough time figuring out which team to root for. Do I cheer for the sideline player-tripping New York Jets, with their obnoxious coach, or the Pittsburgh Steelers, with their quarterback who was suspended for four games this season because of accusations from a 20-year-old college student that he sexually assaulted her? Gee, the lout or the thug? Some choice.

• Everybody makes mistakes. I just happen to work for a place that makes them in front of many thousands of readers. In case you might be wondering, finding out in the morning that you’ve screwed up _ and knowing the paper will be out there all day long and there’s nothing you can do about it other than fixing the online version _ is not a good feeling at all.

We do, of course, print corrections for all the mistakes we know about. Some aren’t totally our fault in that they’re based on erroneous information provided to the newspaper, but most of the boo-boos are ours.

The thing that surprises me every year is how consistent our number of corrections turns out to be. In 2010, The Daily Star ran 178 of them, down from 187 in 2009 and just slightly up from 174 in 2008 and 176 in 2007. Most folks who let us know when we’ve messed up are very nice about it. Others can get downright snarky. But believe me, no one is more upset than I am when we make an avoidable error.

Where that is concerned, we’ve already got a running start on 2011. Just this week, in an editorial, we managed to refer to the current New York governor as “Mario Cuomo.” If we were writing between 1983 and 1994, we would have been right-on. However, in 2011, the governor is Mario’s son Andrew.

We regret the error, and all the others we shall make in 2011.

And how to keep them to a minimum is certainly something to think about.

SAM POLLAK is the editor or The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.

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