Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Local Weatherman Sticks By Meteorological Overkill

Viewers of Washington, D.C. affiliate WUSA Channel 9 missed most of the Navy: NCIS season finale because of the station’s decision to interrupt the program in favor of an alert detailing a pending thunderstorm and rumored tornado. This decision so irritated viewers that Chief Meteorologist Topper Shutt made an appearance on Derrick McGinty’sUSA Tonight to justify the extended disruption of regularly scheduled programming.

Topper presented no new line of argumentation. Instead he reiterated the same reasons he emphasized the night before about how the FCC requires the station to take such action when danger to life and property is imminent. Ashame they are not as vigilant looking out for commonsense.

There is no sane reason why news about the storm had to take up the lions share of the hour. Much of the yammering was not even directly related to the threat posed by the particular storm in question. Instead, Shutt spent much of the broadcast lecturing the viewing audience as to the steps to take during severe weather and fixating on his radar’s colors as if he was on some LSD trip. Couldn’t this be done at some time other than prime time and during a season finale no less?

Viewers are not so much in danger from the forces of nature unleashed as from television news people run amok. With their fancy computerized toys such as doppler this and storm center that, weathercasters have grown dangerously fascinated by the sound of their own voices and I would not put it past them to exaggerate atmospheric conditions for no other reason than to maximize their own airtime.

Frederick Meekins

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

American Idol Outranks Navy: NCIS During Storm Coverage

It seems American Idol even outranks storm coverage here in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area.

While watching the NCIS season finale on the CBS affiliate WUSA Channel 9, the program was interrupted by severe thunderstorm and tornado alert coverage. One cannot argue that this is not important news, but I don’t see why a news ticker scrolling across the bottom of the screen could not suffice. Apparently, a modified version of such a warning was sufficient Friday night during the JAG season finale when the picture was shrunk half the size and a weather map placed off to the side.

No doubt as a result of getting numerous complaints, meteorologist Topper Shutt snapped the show just had to be interrupted pursuant to public safety and FCC licensing requirements and that the popular military crime procedural would be rebroadcast at a later time or date. Channel 7 WJLA with Doug Hill and Channel 4 WRC with Bob Ryan followed suit with the same overkill.

Channel 5 WTTG, the local Fox affiliate, at first did not alter their feed but eventually split the screen with a severe weather icon and a scrolling ticker. However, their regularly scheduled programming did not come to a screeching halt in favor of “the sky is falling and its the end of the world” style coverage.

Guess the management at Channel 5 would rather take their chances with a tornado than incurring the wrath of disgruntled American Idol fans. Given my recent run-ins with Idol worshippers, can’t say I blame Channel 5 for their decision.

Copyright 2004 by Frederick Meekins

Monday, May 24, 2004

Simpsons' Episode Assailing Patriot Act Will Rank Among Program’s Classics

The Simpsons is a series at its wittiest when it pokes fun at issues with broader social implications. Classic episodes that come to mind include the ones spoofing the Masons, the UFO cult, and Homer’s Drudge-style webpage. Joining these will no doubt be the one alluding to the Patriot Act.

The episode begins with the Simpson kids off to get their inoculations. Bart unexpectedly goes deaf from his and Homer inadvertently signs a waiver forbidding him from holding Dr. Hibert legally responsible. From there, the Simpsons become town pariahs as it is assumed a deaf Bart deliberately mooned the flag after a donkey ate his gym shorts.

Things get considerably more hilarious when ATF-style shocktroops raid the church and arrest the Simpsons for violating the Government Knows Best Act. The Simpson gang is sent packing to a prison camp euphemistically referred to as a “reeducation center”.

Though a poignant, timely episode in light of the danger posed to American liberties by certain governmental provisions claiming to fight the war on terror such as the Patriot Act and various executive orders making toilet paper of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the episode’s primary drawback stemmed from the fact that those interned were depicted as leftists of various stripes when in reality there are probably even more Conservatives and Libertarians opposed to such systematic infringements of our civil liberties. Yet even this skewered presentation was not without humor.

One inmate whined all he did was drive a truckload of explosives over the Canadian border. One old coot claimed he was the last registered Democrat. He then blathered, “Tax and spend. Tax and spend”, a clear indication he was out of his mind.

The Simpsons escape and are rescued by a French freighter whose captain remarks upon the irony of the French hatred of America despite being saved by the United States in two world wars. After living in Paris for a while, the Simpsons return to the U.S., observing that if there’s one group America will let in its immigrants without identification.

For years, Conservative interest groups have castigated The Simpsons as inappropriately subversive. Instead, Conservatives ought to look to the show as a source of satire occasionally allied with their movement exposing in a humorous manner the folly and stupidity regularly gaining an upper hand throughout society as a result of misguided policies and faulty assumptions inherent to the liberal way of life.

Copyright 2004 by Frederick B. Meekins

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Thoughts On “60 Minutes” Tribute To Don Heweitt

Watched the tribute to “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt. Was pretty well done. Have not watched “60 Minutes” in quite a while. Ed Bradlee looking bad, even worse with that earring dangling from his ear.

The show brought back quite a few memories as my grandfather use to watch it quite a bit. Guess the world has him to blame in part for sparking my interest in news and politics as I remember him watching “The McLaughlin Group” especially. As a kid, I remember that classic story about the bulbous crook who turned back the odometers. Also, the first time I remember seeing Bill and Hillary Clinton was on that “60 Minutes” post-Super Bowl Interview in about 1992 where they tried to gloss over Bill's infidelities.

Watching this look back at broadcast history, I wondered if fifty years or so hence if there will be a counterpart special honoring the pioneers of Internet news. We could sit around lauding Drudge or tooting our own cyberhorns in praise of our own contributions to this new medium.

These tributes or retrospectives are usually quite interesting. They also give me an idea for a cable or satellite channel airing nothing but old news and magazine programs. The History Channel is already one of the most popular stations on cable. I am sure such a channel would find an enthusiastic audience. Of course, the idea probably wouldn’t get too far since it would primarily appeal to the elderly, the educated, or family-oriented viewers and you know they don’t count as viewers anyway.

Copyright 2004 by Frederick Meekins

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Quotas Command Society Elites Answer To Everything

Leave it up to liberals to create new problems in their attempt to solve others of their own making.

Throughout the course of contemporary educational history, the phenomena of grade inflation has come to plague the assessment of students as academic standards are relaxed and professors grow reluctant to be overly critical of students for fear of various kinds of reprisals --- be they administrative, collegial, or even violent in nature.

Instead of applying a solution inspired of the rigors of the free market and the glories of individual achievement where professors increase the quality of their courses and where students must actually apply themselves to earn the grades they receive, leave it to a bunch of half-wit educators mired in untenable theories to devise a solution as devoid of commonsense as the useless courses most of them teach.

To combat the issue of grade inflation at Princeton, it has been proposed that the number of “A’s” be capped at 35% in any undergraduate course. Seems some people can’t get over the thrill of imposing solutions from above.

Like the socialism upon which the proposal is modeled with its appeal to centralized authority to solve all of life’s problems, grade quotas will be a flop in real life.

The primary concerns that arise are if the course content remains the same, what happens to students falling outside the 35% limit and how will it be determined on what side of the divide a student happens to fall if by objective assessment criteria more than 35% of the students actually deserve an “A”? Will it be alphabetical with tough toenails to those further down the list towards the middle and the end?

Even worse, those addicted to quotas in addressing other contentious social issues might apply their same specious reasoning to the matter of scholastic evaluations.

To get around growing opposition to minority preferences, the University of Texas has gotten around the issue by factoring race in what administrators characterize as a “holistic approach” in determining whether an applicant is worthy of matriculation.

In the minds of those favoring such nonsense, Blacks and other minorities are “more whole” because of the hardships these groups have endured and enjoy harping about to no end, thus making them more worthy of academic spoils than your run-of-the-mill White person. But why anyone thinks Bill Cosby’s or Jesse Jackson’s brats have overcome more adversity than an Appalachian hillbilly is beyond me.

Such an asinine train of thought could be utilized by professors constrained by the grading quota and with a penchant for social manipulation.

Since there would be only so many “A’s” to go around, race mongering academics might argue that no longer can they be dispersed solely on the basis of objective epistemological effort. Instead, high grades must be dispensed holistically to students from deprived and underprivileged backgrounds (code words meaning non-Whites of courses, primarily Blacks and Hispanics).

It’s holistic all right; those advocating this nonsense --- be it in reference to admissions, grades , or Affirmative Action in general --- are full of a whole lot of you know what.

Thanks to big government interference in America’s system of higher education, a college degree isn’t what it use to be with subsidies making such a credential available to almost anyone ---- whether they deserve it or not --- making a degree little more than a glorified high school diploma and next to worthless in setting the individual ahead of the pack in terms of employment prospects. It’s doubtful the nation’s colleges and universities could withstand anymore misguided tinkering.

Copyright 2004 by Frederick B. Meekins