In 2009, Congress gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco. The FDA responded with gusto:
The Food and Drug Administration wants large, graphic warning labels to scare smokers, but tobacco companies say that violates their right to free speech.
Diseased lungs, gnarly rotting teeth, even what appears to be the corpse of a smoker are some of the images that accompany the bold new cigarette labels the FDA requires to cover half a pack of cigarettes, front and back. The written warnings include: “Smoking Can Kill You” and “Cigarettes Cause Cancer.”
As you might expect, the cigarette companies fiercely oppose this approach, and the federal courts are grappling with this issue.
In Australia, the High Court just ruled that the cigarette companies must place gruesome labels on their packs of cigarettes.
The High Court rejected a challenge by tobacco companies who argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed if they are no longer able to display their distinctive colors, brand designs and logos on packs of cigarettes.
The 2012 Missouri primary had several important lessons to impart. The first, which I may have discussed in previous election years, is that the way to bring the “correct” voters to the polls is to have an apparently innocuous but important candidate or issue and a loud, contentious issue or candidate that only seems to matter to one side.
In this primary cycle, there was a preponderance of hotly contested Republican seats, and a very dangerous, never advertised Tea Party constitutional amendment. Republicans came out to vote overwhelmingly, and the Amendment passed resoundingly.
The full body of the amendment is at the bottom of this article.
Basically on the ballot it read as if it was just reinforcing the first clause of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- In reality, it says that people have the right to worship the (singular, Christian) Almighty God (but not all those others) including to pray whenever their conscience dictates (such as during science classes).
- Public meetings can now be started with exclusionary prayers as long as the officiant is invited by someone.
- I have not yet figured out how the mandatory publishing of the Bill of Rights in schools will be twisted, but I expect as a precedent to posting the Ten Commandments adjacent (as an alleged inspirational source)
- Students cannot be punished for refusing to do assignments that might conflict with their faith (evolution, geology, astronomy, etc).
So I expect Missouri to soon be incurring legal fees on the order of replacing several major bridges, or (more likely) in lieu of funding science education for a decade.
[More (Including the language of the Amendment)]
For the last few weeks I’d been receiving approximately daily post cards protesting the electric company considering a rate hike of more than a few percent in order to finance and build future power plants to replace some of the nearing dangerously obsolete ones. Some mailing came from a very liberal local politician with whom I generally agree. Someone is spending bales of money to encourage people to not-want to spend more for what they are already getting. Seems like sweeping the water downstream, to me.
But I’m a Tanstaafl skeptic: Rebuilding infrastructure without incurring crippling debt does not seem like such a bad idea, my knee jerks. Also, local electric rates are lower than when I was in college, when adjusted for inflation, so it seems about time for a rate hike, anyway.
Yesterday I finally got a rebuttal mailing that describes the finances behind this odd campaign: PAC affiliated with aluminum corporation at play in state Senate primaries. Yep, an aluminum company fears that it will have to raise prices, because a major part of the process of making it requires megawatts of electricity.
Here’s how aluminum is made, if you are at all curious:
So now we know who has the profitability to outspend a huge power company on a campaign to make people do what they want to do anyway, and things are making sense, again.
What do you do if 10,000 of your own people have been killed in your brutal crackdown, which is broadcast worldwide? According to this article by the NYT, you hire a sophisticated PR firm and get your pretty wife out front:
In March 2011, just as Mr. Assad and his security forces initiated a brutal crackdown on political opponents that has led to the death of an estimated 10,000 Syrians, Vogue magazine ran a flattering profile of the first lady, describing her as walking “a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles,” a reference to her Christian Louboutin heels. Fawning treatment of world leaders — particularly attractive Western-educated ones — is nothing new. But the Assads have been especially determined to burnish their image, and hired experts to do so. The family paid the Washington public relations firm Brown Lloyd James $5,000 a month to act as a liaison between Vogue and the first lady, according to the firm.
On his most recent show, Bill Moyers discusses the heightened polarization in the political discourse with Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who runs the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, including the sites FactCheck.org (which monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players) and FlackCheck.org (which tracks patterns of political deception). This is a high-quality discussion well worth watching.
The starting point for the discussion was the defeat of Senator Lugar, who was accused by his more conservative opponent of working with Barack Obama to dismantle the world’s stocks of aging nuclear weapons to make sure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Cooperating with the enemy (in this case, a member of the opposing political party) has become a mortal sin. The result is, politically speaking, we cannot any longer talk with each other. Jamieson spreads the blame in many directions; this is not your typical polarized pundit who aims her arrows only at the other party. For instance, Factcheck.org has challenged Barack Obama’s Life of Julia illustration as being based on “some false or dubious assumptions.”
According to Jamieson, the following questions should be the focus of our budget disputes and the upcoming election: “How do we afford this level of government, if we want to keep it? Do we want to keep it? How are we going to pay for it? If we’re going to cut, where are we going to cut?”
The campaigns of Obama and Romney are mostly devoid of economic facts, “depriving us of the common ground we need.” She explains that if this trend continues, massive damage will be done to this country. What do you do to force these issues? The media needs to take charge: These questions regarding spending priorities need to be repeated endlessly at debates until they are actually answered. (min 12). Check out the simple questions that need to be asked, but usually aren’t, and are never answered in political debates (last half of min 12):
That’s what we need to do in the presidential debates. We’re going to have them. When they don’t answer the question, the next person up should forgo his or her question and ask the question again. And if the entire debate simply has to ask the question then let’s ask, what about Simpson-Bowles don’t you like, Mr. President? You know, Governor Romney? What about it do you like? Are you ready to advance– to say that we should move the Social Security age to 70 in some kind of a phased-in structure?
Should we be doing means testing in some ways? What are your alternatives? When you say you’re going to reform the tax code, is that an excuse for saying you’re going to do nothing? How much money can you get out of the reforms that you were offering? And what are you going to eliminate and what are you going to cut? Right now we’re playing this game. Right now you’ve got the Ryan budget proposal.
BILL MOYERS: Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Uh-huh. And to his credit, there is a proposal there. The first thing the Democrats did a response was to say, “Ha, we’re going to assume he’s cutting everything across the board.” So they started pushing on the assumption that this good thing is going to be cut. This good thing, this good thing by “X” percent.
Congressman Ryan responds, “No, I’m going to get rid of some things entirely, and I’m going to preserve some things entirely. And I’m going to cut some things.” That’s actually the beginning of a productive exchange. Now the question is what for both sides? And let’s get the public on board to accept that there’s some things we take for granted now we’re not going to have. There’s some costs we’re not now paying that we’re going to have to pay. It’s necessary to preserve our country.
Jamieson came to this discussion with ideas for improving our deplorable situation. I very much like this one:
I would like to see a proposal that Harvard floated a number of years ago, that we devote Sunday nights, from the beginning of the general election period through the election, to intensive discussions with presidential candidates about the serious issues of the day. I think you’d find an attentive audience for that. And I think the person who’s elected would find that he was better able to govern if the public had had that opportunity. The public isn’t stupid. The public actually is smart in some important ways.
Moyers asked whether our political system is close to collapsing “of its own absurdity.” Jamieson doesn’t mince her words (min 16):
We’re close right now to having a campaign run on attack and irrelevant arguments that are highly deceptive and, as a result, make it extremely difficult to solve the problems facing the country, which is what all the concern about money and politics is well justified and why we ought to worry about trying to vigilantly hold the super PACs and the third-party advertisers accountable.
Now, what are the consequences of high level of attack? You don’t have a reason to vote for someone. You’re only being told why to vote against. Hence, no projection of what the alternatives are and no understanding of the trade-offs in government . . . We’re going to have high level of attack; hence, no relevance to governance and votes against. And that we’re going to have high level of deception; hence, people who feel betrayed once they see actual governance or who vote against a candidate they might otherwise support.
The problem with modern political advertising is not framed properly by the use of the phrase “negative advertising”:
I don’t like to use the word “negative” because it conflates legitimate and illegitimate attack and because negative to most people means duplicitous. [The big problem occurs] when there’s a differential in spending and a high level of deception tied to a high level attack because now you have the worst possible consequences.
Today is that time again when about 1.5% of the world will be watching a particular ball game in America, The Superbowl. Although Superbowl madness has been addressed on this forum, I’d like to put forward a couple of observations.
The Superbowl is the culmination of the 20th century adaptation of sports to mass media. The packaging, production, and marketing of this one game is a major profit center based on what is essentially a sedentary activity. There are 22 players on the field, and 100,000,000 people watching, most in comfy chairs via television.The game play is nominally an hour long, but the coverage lasts many hours. This includes pre-game and post-game coverage, plus the three hours needed to watch the sixty-minute game.
Worse than just sedentary, a predictable large fraction of the audience will be eating badly and drinking immoderately during the event. The advertising in all the media up to and during the event panders to and fosters this market segment. The message is clear: If you are not eating fried things and washing them down with booze, you are a weenie. If you are not buying these things for the family, you are not a good provider.
So let’s take a look at the activity itself. You have nearly two dozen buff young men in shiny tights periodically thrusting their bodies together to accomplish the explicit task of firmly holding a tapered cylinder with the goal of placing it repeatedly into the opponents end zone.
The result of this “scoring” is brief solo dancing and many a manly fanny patted.
What do I do on Superbowl Sunday evening? I go to a contradance. I spend the evening with a couple of dozen women in my arms, moving in rhythm and breathing hard. And the jocks in school called me gay.
I’ve been wondering this for years, as the USPS has been struggling to subsidize the Congressionally mandated 75 years in advance retirement plan during the worst downturn in the economy since the Great Depression. In order to continue, they have to shut down stations, limit deliveries, and eliminate next-day mail. Or be in violation of a Federal Unfunded Mandate.
Note that the Post Office receives $0.00 in taxpayer money, yet Congress gets to tell it how much it is allowed to charge, how much it has to pre-pay on all its benefit programs, and even how many free perks it has to give to members of Congress. In my lifetime, the price of a First Class stamp has gone from the price of a cup of coffee (5¢) to less than a third of that. We pay less for postage now than ever before in history, in terms of coffee, movie tickets, ounces of gold, or any hard measure.
Yet Congress in its wisdom has been steadily adding burdens and removing permissions in the last decade. And I have been wondering, why? Sure, the answer is clearly pandering to the lobbyists. But whose? Who really wants to kill the only company that delivers to every house in the country? Last night, I think I got my answer.
I was watching the news, flipping through the networks, and every outlet covered this story: Record online holiday sales trigger record shipping day.So which stations covered which shipping company? Who covered this story for the USPS? For DHL? For UPS? No one.
But FedEx was given minutes of free advertising (as an in-depth story) on every network. Thus my wacky conspiracy theory of the day is: FedEx is behind the lobbyists who are behind the legislation that is gutting the post office.