Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

McCain calls out federal census for $2.5M Super Bowl ad

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2010

Senator John McCain wants to know why the federal government is spending $2.5 million on a 30-second commercial to air during the Super Bowl. The commercial is to remind people about this year’s 2010 federal Census.

McCain said, “The census happens every 10 years. Everybody knows it happens.” While that may not be entirely accurate among the non-political crowd, the simple fact is that the Census is not optional. We are required by law to participate. Why should the feds be spending $2.5 million to convince us to do what we have to do anyway? It’s like airing an ad that says, “Remember, tax day is April 15, don’t forget to pay your income taxes.”

Given the state of our economy, couldn’t we either have refrained from spending the $2.5M that we don’t have, or at least spent it on something helpful? In McCain’s words, “We shouldn’t be wasting $2.5 million taxpayer dollars to compete with ads for Doritos!”

Of course, this is red meat for conservative voters, and McCain is facing a conservative challenger in the Arizona Senate primary. But it’s also right up McCain’s alley as a long time spending hawk.


Posted in Current Events, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Supreme Court considering major campaign finance overhaul

Posted by sanityinjection on September 8, 2009

Politico reports that the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments this week in a case that could have major ramifications for US campaign finance law. Specifically, the court is considering weakening existing restrictions on political advertising by corporations, unions, and non-profit groups.

Under current law, these groups are allowed to fund advertising on specific issues such as health care reform or climate change, but they are not allowed to fund ads for or against a particular candidate for office. Although many changes have been made to campaign finance law over the years, this particular aspect has been with us for over 100 years, as concerns about the power of corporations to influence the federal government were already being raised in Teddy Roosevelt’s time.

Opponents of campaign finance restrictions have consistently argued that spending money on political advocacy is the equivalent of free speech, and that such restrictions are a violation of the First Amendment. In the past, the Court has been skeptical of this argument, but recently the Court seems to be more open to loosening restrictions.

One point that I have not heard discussed much in relation to this issue is the question of foreign influence. Foreign citizens are prohibited by law from contributing to US political campaigns. But suppose you have a corporation, based in the US, but whose Board of Directors are all citizens of some other country – China, for example. Wouldn’t allowing such a corporation to spend freely on ads backing or opposing candidates essentially allow rich foreigners – or worse, foreign governments – to evade the law and exert unwanted influence on US elections?

I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. As a general rule I support fewer government restrictions on how individuals and groups are allowed to spend their money. But I have seen the potential corrupting influence of special interest groups in action, and I believe there is a compelling public interest  in combating that. On the other hand, I do think that corporations, unions, and other groups have the right to be heard on issues that are important to them – which they can be under current law. I am not convinced that current campaign finance restrictions are serving to muzzle free speech in practice. Witness the controversial op-ed piece by the CEO of Whole Foods opposing the House health care reform bill.

There is also an argument to be made that the Court is engaging in “judicial activism” and going beyond its mandate in expanding this case to rule on the broad scope of campaign finance restrictions. I haven’t reviewed the facts of the case closely enough to say whether I agree with this charge, but I do think those of us who oppose judicial activisim have an obligation not to dismiss it out of hand.

What do you think?

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Sorry, Europeans: No more lingerie ads for you

Posted by sanityinjection on September 5, 2008

In the latest outbreak of idiocy among our European cousins, the Women’s Rights Committee of the European Union has proposed banning any advertising “deemed to portray women as sex objects or reinforce gender stereotypes.

Speaking in the European parliament in favor of the proposal, Swedish member Eva-Britt Svensson urged European nations to use existing equality, sexism and discrimination laws to control advertising, and to create new regulatory bodies to monitor ads and introduce a “zero-tolerance” policy against “sexist insults or degrading images”.

It’s no wonder so many Europeans think the EU is a waste of space if this is what they spend their time and money on. I mean, is this really the biggest problem facing Europe today? Heck, most Europeans have a far less Puritan attitude toward sexuality than we Americans do anyway. Britain already has something called the Advertising Standards Authority, and even they said “Although the ASA supports the overall objectives of the report… the approach suggested is inflexible and impractical.”

It would be easy enough to dismiss this silliness, if it weren’t for the absolute *certainty* that there are morons in the US who would not hesitate to propose the same idiocy here. Speaking for myself, I often am disgusted by TV and print advertising that I find pointlessly sexualized.  It would be nice if they would hold themselves to a higher standard, just as it would be nice if magazines like Vanity Fair actually considered whether it was appropriate to feature 15-year old Miley Cyrus gratuitously naked, regardless of the artistic pedigree of the photographer. However, the tastelessness of these materials does not even come close to rising to the level of warranting government censorship of the media.

I agree that the over-sexualization of teenage girls is a bad thing, but if those girls’ parents were doing their jobs properly, there would be no problem. If we want to criminalize this behavior, I would suggest the focus should be not on the media but on those parents who, like Billy Ray Cyrus in the case mentioned above, shamelessly pimp out their daughters’ bodies in the media. On the other hand, you can’t reasonably prohibit a lingerie brand like Victoria’s Secret from advertising their product with an image of an adult model actually wearing it, provided the images are not blatantly obscene. There is a difference between being sexy to sell a perfume and being sexy to sell children’s toothpaste.

Posted in Current Events, Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »