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Posted: Aug 23, 2002 12:00 AM
At Harvard, according to one news account, "one of every two grades awarded in recent years has been an A or A-." At Harvard (and elsewhere) just about everybody is either equally brilliant or equally equal - except those who are more equal than others. Did they go after Microsoft, a company that rose to a value greater than the GDP of Turkey, just because it is big? Think A&P, think AT&T, think Standard Oil. British historian/commentator Paul Johnson recalls "the classic statement of judicial opposition to bigness," with specific reference to Standard Oil, by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: "I have considered, and do consider, that the proposition that mere bigness cannot be an offense against society is false, because I believe that our society, which rests upon democracy, cannot endure under such conditions." (1) NBC has given Katie Couric a contract worth $60 million, (2) CNN has given Larry King a contract worth $7 million per year (parity with Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw) for a show that draws hardly more than half the viewers as Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, and (3) CNN briefly promoted its heft with a 15-second spot asking, regarding its own Paula Zahn: "Where can you find a morning news anchor who's provocative, super-smart, and - oh - just a little sexy?" And yes, there are those who still contend this is all about serious journalism and not entertainment. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, has put the flap over whether ABC would replace Ted Koppel's Nightline" with a show starring David Letterman or some such in just the right perspective. The truth, Lichter says, is that "TV news is entertainment. When a show's a hit, you're a star. When the audience moves along, the ax falls." A reader sent in a George Orwell observation from "1984" regarding "media buffoon" Dan Rather's defense of the perjurous Bill Clinton as an honest man. "Double think means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies - all this is indispensably necessary." Maybe you saw the story - and maybe not. Following an engine-room fire aboard an Indonesian tanker hundreds of miles southwest of Hawaii, the crew was rescued but not the Taiwan captain's terrier. About $50,000 in private funds were spent to rescue the dog (to no avail) because the captain said he would like it back, and the Coast Guard spent many thousands more. Dogs are wonderful, but at what cost to taxpayers? Several months ago the mail brought a (Dis)Appointments Calendar from the leftist legal group, Earthjustice. The calendar consists principally of 13 photographs - of President Bush and 12 leading members of his administration (e.g., Christie Whitman, Gale Norton, Ann Veneman and John Ashcroft) whom the group says have insulted the environment, or something. One assumes (hopes?) the group is registered as the Democratic lobby it so conspicuously seems. VMI Superintendent Josiah Bunting, on a federal judge's ruling that VMI's supper prayer is an unconstitutional religious exercise because it is coerced: The prayer is of the sort heard every day at military ceremonies and in civilian settings (including the midday meal at the U.S. Naval Academy). ... Hearing a brief prayer before supper is no more the establishment of religion than the singing of 'God Bless America,' a prayer set to music. As the Supreme Court observed in approving prayer by salaried chaplains, such prayers are no more than a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.' Surely a military institute, preparing adults to defend this country, can tolerate exposure to such prayers too."