Media Musings: Sure to bug the crap out of you

Editor’s note: This is another in my series of monthly musings on the news, published on the Sunday following the last Saturday of each month, except when it’s not.


© 2013 Tom Pfeifer

Current as of May 25, 2013


Welcome to Memorial Day weekend. The official start of summer.

Swimming pools. Barbecues. Picnics. Travel. Outdoor competitions. Reading a good book.

Giant bugs. Feces. Uncontrollable storms. Bridge diving. Terrorists.American flag

Ah, yes. What a summer we have planned for you.

Are you considering a swim in your local public pool this summer? Then I won’t tell you that half of America’s public swimming pools contain fecal matter.

You shouldn’t be surprised, really, because Americans have plenty of reason to be scared fecesless about summer fun.

How about a barbecue or picnic? Not if cicadas scare the feces out of you. In a science fiction movie gone real, huge, orange-eyed, flying cicadas rise from the ground by the thousands every 17 years when the soil reaches 64 degrees. Once released from their slumber, they fly aimlessly into unsuspecting humans while their sexed-up brethren emit a deafening whine akin to a flying saucer from a poor B-flick soundtrack. It goes on for months. There is no escape if you live in cicada country.

But perhaps you live in tornado alley. I was bemused when the day after Weather Channel storm chasers lamented the lack of tornadoes this year, Texas got clobbered. Shortly after, Moore, Oklahoma, was destroyed. Some evangelists believe it was God’s retribution for Michael Moore. If so, then the rest of the country can relax. If not, you’ll want to check the weather before heading out.

Oh, wait. That won’t help. Because of Congress’s and the White House’s decision not to decide how to solve the sequestration dilemma, the National Weather Service has laid off one-third of its meteorologists. One of the victims of the cutbacks was a pilot program aimed at helping local communities prepare for extreme weather events. The only silver lining to that cloud is the pilot program was based outside Washington, D.C., meaning Congress and the White House won’t know what hit them.

Unless the supercomputers they funded nail the super storms. While Congress’s and the White House’s inaction resulted in the layoff of its human capital, the NWS found the funds to upgrade two supercomputers. With these computers, the ability to better predict super storms like last year’s Sandy disaster is greatly increased.

Of course, that begs the question: If a computer issues a storm warning and there’s no one there to hear it, will New Jersey still be destroyed?

Fish have noticed this dilemma. That’s why for decades they have been migrating to cooler waters and away from the swirling warm waters that generate super storms.

I imagine they are also scurrying under bridges as fast as they can, or avoiding them altogether.

Because here’s your travel forecast for the summer: The Interstate-5 bridge that collapsed into Washington State’s Skagit River was considered structurally sound – if one doesn’t count the fatal flaw engineered into the design of that particular bridge. Hundreds of similarly designed bridges hang over Washington State, and perhaps thousands across the country. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007 was similarly designed.

A former transportation official confidently described the bridge design this way: “It doesn’t imply anything bad about the bridge. It just means that if a certain component fails, it can lead to the complete collapse of the bridge.”

Good bridge.

Let’s hope the Commonwealth of Virginia used a similar bridge design to bridge the gap for terrorists.

You remember Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He’s the eldest of the two brothers who planted bombs at the Boston Marathon. What you may not know is that he traveled to his boyhood home in Russia last year to solidify his jihadist views. The region that bore him is considered the most dangerous of Russia’s entrenched insurgent areas. His Russian counselor is known for his anti-government views and for his group’s torching of American and French flags. The New York Times headline announcing this development screamed, “Suspect in Boston Bombing Talked Jihad in Russia.”

Does the talk continue in Virginia? It’s possible. Tsarnaev’s body is buried there, where his remains can fertilize disturbed minds with the help of the University of Virginia. In what one can only hope is a bad comedic plot by a troubled comedic actor, Andy Kaufman, a lecturer and fellow at the University of Virginia, is teaching a Russian literature class to the juvenile delinquents at Virginia’s Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center. He hopes to expand the successful program to adult inmates. Russian literature is steeped in reactionary themes. Perhaps Kaufman can organize a visit to Tsarnaev’s grave as part of the class. That’s the bridge that’s missing.

What isn’t missing is your upcoming summer fun. So take a swim. Put another shrimp on the barbie. Take a nice, long drive. You don’t want to miss the excitement that befalls you. After all, it’ll be winter again before you know it.


This post is dedicated to the memory of my cousin, Kathie Haaf. I embrace our childhood memories.


Barry, Ellen. “Suspect in Boston Bombing Talked Jihad in Russia.” New York Times. 9 May 2013.

Bernstein, Lenny. “World’s fish have been moving to cooler waters for decades, study finds.” Washington Post. 15 May 2013.

Fears, Darryl. “Bug-phobic dread the looming swarm of Brood II cicadas.” Washington Post. 18 May 2013.

Lindblom, Mike, and Phillips, Cheryl. “Span wasn’t built to take critical hit.” Seattle Times. 24 May, 2013.

Samenow, Jason. “Hiring freeze hobbling operations at local Weather Service office.” Washington Post. 9 May 2013.

Samenow, Jason, and Achenbach, Joel. Steve Tracton and Brian McNoldy contributed. “Hurricane season comes with plan for better forecast.” Washington Post. 19 May 2013.

Svrluga, Susan. “Crime and punishment: Juvenile offenders study Russian literature.” Washington Post. 12 May 2013.

Tavernise, Sabrina. “Fecal Matter Found in Public Pools.” New York Times. 16 May 2013.

Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at


One response to this post.

  1. We live in a “shouldy” world. Could have, would have, should have. I like your article. 🙂



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