Now read this !!!
Television ratings system opens market for disclaimers to protect American public
Thanks to the tireless efforts of a few conscientious politicians, the American television has been made safe for the American viewer.

An intricate alphabet soup of warning and disclaimers has been constructed to classify any broadcast program from purple dinosaurs to foul-mouthed serial killers. Small disclaimers labeled "TV Y" (for young viewers) "TV M" (for mature audiences) have revolutionized the entertainment industry (and disgruntled actresses with political agendas).

Now that the cathode ray tube in the living room cannot attack the unsuspecting couch potato, it is time to similarly equip all areas of society. The evils of society are not confined to the 17 inch full-color demon with a coaxial cable, but extend much farther.

A quick scan of the daily paper will find dozens of people who are filing lawsuits because they were offended, attacked or embarrassed without warning. If scientists can put a broadcast station on Mars, surely they can protect the consumer from ever confronting the unsuspected again.

Several groups are working to adapt the rating system to the internet, but more work in more areas is essential.

The telephone is a good place to begin with this proposed reform. No one likes to receive calls from telemarketers or certain long-winded friends. Caller ID attempted to solve this problem, but failed. Despite its best effort, phone customers still face the occasional unannounced caller.

An improved system is essential. A small set of warnings would do the job: "AT&T L" for "Loud-talkers" would remind people to turn down the volume on their handset, "AT&T $" would warn about credit card companies or bill collectors and "AT&T X" would let customers prepare for the wrong number on the other end of the line. Who knows, perhaps other symbols could let someone know when they have been called without 1-800 COLLECT.

The next problem area is obviously the mailbox. "USPS J" should be printed on all junk mail, "USPS L" could give love notes a high priority, "USPS B" could indicate bills and "USPS B+" might announce overdue bills.

After removing surprises, it is time to address offensive behavior that people should be aware of in advance. Anyone likely to be offended can see the large disclaimer and avoid the situation.

Stand-up comedians could wear signs around their necks announcing whether their act will include tasteless jokes. Instead of banning books from grade school libraries, the cover could simply display a warning of content -- everything from inappropriate adult scenarios to racial slurs could be summarized into five-letter rating system.

After surprises and offenses have been eliminated, there are only a few areas left to take care of.

Lecturers could be rated on a scale of one to ten on the "Snooze Scale" indicating how boring their speech will be. Audience members can regulate their caffeine intake according to the rating system (a rating of two means a chocolate bar, but a rating of nine means the bottomless cup of powdered Vivarin).

McDonald's could avoid lawsuits by printing "Hot enough to boil steel" on its coffee cups. When Parking, Traffic and Transportation issues parking passes, the fine print could warn that "this permit guarantees neither a parking space, nor mercy from our uniformed forces."

Isn't it much better to be informed.

Of course, there is a tragic downside to the whole proposal. The effects would be similar to what has already occurred in other areas with ratings. Since the implementation of movie ratings, movies have become much more graphic because the studios can hide behind the ratings system. Hints of this trend are evident on television as well, and the only sites that use internet ratings are pornographic sites seeking some form of protection from the law.

Unfortunately an all-encompassing set of disclaimers and warnings would only give participants a license to abuse social mores. While ratings may warn the public of things they consider unacceptable, they also increase the need to be warned.

Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.