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Don’t say I didn’t warn you

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By John Pawlak

Before you read this article, please read the fine print.
Well, there really isn’t any fine print. That is to say, the print is fine (whereas the content is as always questionable), but I have no way to reduce the font size. If that were possible, I could get away with saying lots of things that would otherwise place me in serious legal jeopardy.
Maybe what I need is a disclaimer like the ones you see on the bottom of your TV screen during commercials.
For instance, have you ever seen the insurance commercial where the guy uses a flamethrower to torch a twelve-foot ball of paper? A disclaimer appears on the bottom of the screen, “Don’t try this at home.”
Wouldn’t you know it?  I just happen to have a 12-foot ball of paper that I wanted to immolate!
Commercial disclaimers are amazing things and, if you read them, you’ll find all sort of interesting statements being made by the sellers.
Ah, but the key word here is “if.”  Even on an 80-inch screen, it’s almost impossible to read these things.  In the old days, we used to call that font “microfiche.”
It’s bad enough that you can barely read these disclaimers, but reading them can be just as irritating.
For example, a cholesterol medication warns, “you may experience mild discomfort, sleeplessness, joint stiffness, headaches, prolonged nausea, dizziness, debilitating pain, slurred speech, or death.”  Uh, yeah, thanks for the warning.
Or a car commercial that tells you, “the advertised price for this car does not reflect the $200,000 souped-up version you see driven in this ad. Oh, and by the way, you don’t get that leggy girl either!”
Well, OK, disclaimers usually aren’t quite this forthcoming. But seriously, who are we trying to protect, the idiots selling the stuff or the idiots buying it?
A commercial showing a guy licking chocolate frosting off an electric egg beater, while it’s running, bears the warning “Do not attempt.” A car insurance commercial shows a guy jumping up and down on a tree limb until it crashes down on a car.  The ad then warns, “demonstration only. Do not attempt.”
A cereal commercial warns you not to ride your dog like a horse. A burger restaurant commercial warns you not to put your fist in your mouth. A car commercial warns you not to shoot yourself from a 100-foot long slingshot. A deodorant commercial warns you not to jump out of an airplane with a shopping cart and then ride the shopping cart against traffic on a major highway. A car commercial warns you not to try to drive your car up the side of a skyscraper. A laxative commercial warns you not to attempt to pour their product down Old Faithful.
Here’s some more: a car commercial warns you not to drive your car off a pier. A fruit drink commercial warns you not to jump off buildings onto bubble-wrapped sidewalks. A superstore commercial warns you not to ride a pogo stick down a busy street while you’re blindfolded. A series of beer commercials provides several warnings, including not to use a nail gun to attach a flower on your suit, not to push people out of moving cars and not to let your dog drive.  
A nut snack commercial tells you that it’s wrong to commit arson (although roasted nuts are, in fact, delicious).  A car commercial warns you not to launch your car from an erupting volcano.
And a fast food commercial…well actually, it doesn’t warn you, but it should. Keep your kids away from that weird plastic-faced freak of nature wearing the king outfit!
All these product warnings got me thinking: perhaps we need warnings on other things. The upcoming presidential debates pose a real danger to the sanity of anyone foolish enough to watch them. So as a public service, I’m proposing the following be displayed in large font on all political commercials, shows, debates, and news shows:
Warning: The following program is for children only.  Contains strong violence, coarse language, and may damage the frontal lobe.

John Pawlak
Los Alamos Columnist