“…but Does He Really Owe Damages?” That’s what the U.S. Department of Justice will claim, at least. “Perhaps most curiously, how will the court assess damages on behalf of the Postal Service? Has the brand of the USPS actually been harmed by Armstrong’s years-late confession?” [Brad Wieners, Bloomberg Business Week]
As part of the wrangling over remedies imposed by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, the federal government is demanding that tobacco companies be made to run ads declaring that the government was right and they wrong on various controversial issues, and in particular that they confess to having lied on purpose. A demand for judicially imposed self-denunciation, and in particular a demand that private actors be ordered to assert ideologically charged propositions that do not reflect their actual inward beliefs, should disturb civil libertarians, it seems to me, even if it does not disturb the U.S. Department of Justice. I’m quoted at 4:47 in this report by the BBC’s Ben Wright.
On Sunday the New York Times published a long, breathless screed attacking food company marketing (“Inside the hyper-engineered, savagely marketed, addiction-creating battle for ‘stomach share.’”) The article itself furnishes an example of empty, hype-fueled journalistic calories, or so I suggest in a new op-ed at the Daily Caller.
11 inches is more like it, according to a bunch of lawyers who’ve filed class actions [ABC News, Chicago Tribune, ] Ron Miller is not too impressed.
P.S.: “I trust every member of the class will be able to prove that their foot is longer than their sandwich” [@eggs_over_easy]
Class action lawyers have filed suit saying that contrary to its marketing, the popular beverage doesn’t actually “give you wings.” [Reuters, ABA Journal] Meanwhile, the same scientific observation that underlies the lawyers’ action — that pharmacologically, the drinks don’t seem to deliver effects readily distinguishable from those of a strong coffee — is hard to square with the oft-expressed fear that Red Bull et al pose unusual risks to consumers, although the New York Times does seem to manage to keep both ideas in its head at once. [Jacob Sullum]
More: Ron Miller, in comments (“this completely mischaracterizes the lawsuit”).
If you’re going to arrange a would-be class action on behalf of buyers dreadfully shocked that a ready-to-drink cocktail marketed as all-natural in fact included trace quantities of sodium benzoate, be sure your client does not lack “typicality.” [Alison Frankel, Reuters] Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid, a spoilage retardant which occurs naturally in cranberries, plums, apples and other foodstuffs, but is typically synthesized for food use.
A new Oregon law forbids employers “to advertise a job opening if they won’t consider applicants who are unemployed.” [CNBC] Earlier on efforts to make jobless persons into a new protected class under discrimination laws here, here, etc.
Taking advantage of the media bubble arising from the announced shutdown of Hostess snack-cake operations, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is back with a bill proposing to deny the deduction as ordinary business expenses of money spent advertising kids’ snacks. Kay Bell and Kelly Phillips Erb apply deserved ridicule (via Paul Caron/TaxProf).
Plus: Baylen Linnekin on Denmark’s planned repeal of a pioneering fat tax (earlier) and the rejection by voters in two California cities of soda taxes.
ABC takes very seriously a complaint filed by a photographic model that Swedish automaker Volvo improperly degraded her image by allowing play-on-words copy into a promotion. She had signed broadly worded releases. [Good Morning America]
Raised on Hoecakes catches a NHTSA impaired-driving program telling a whopper:
“THE DAYS OF BEATING A DRUNK DRIVING ARREST HAVE BEEN RULED EXTINCT….
“If you are arrested, you will be prosecuted and likely lose your license, money and car.”
As Raised on Hoecakes says:
“Cool, huh? Only one problem: it isn’t true. Someone missed the memo telling judges to make arrests for DUI a resulting conviction 100% of the time.” In Florida, to take one state he says is representative, there were 55,722 DUI tickets and 33,625 DUI convictions in 2011, and although not all cases are closed the same year they begin, the estimated conviction rate still must run closer to 60 percent than 100 percent. Nor is it true that all arrests result in prosecution: prosecutors decline to press some charges where they deem the evidence in hand to be weak, and almost everyone, with the possible exception of certain hosts of TV crime shows, agrees that’s as it should be.
I suppose the generous way to interpret untruths like the ones on this poster would be as a fancier way to say, “Don’t drive drunk, you’ll get caught.” But they also send a rather more disturbing message: “If arrested on DUI and you believe the government’s case against you is weak, better not fight, just take a plea. Because it doesn’t matter how strong your defense is, a judge won’t save you.”
Presumably that second message is unintentional. [More: Scott Greenfield]
Columnist Debra Saunders quotes me on the Federal Trade Commission’s extraction of $40 million from a shoe maker for hyping its sneakers in its ads. As Saunders points out, we rely on Washington, D.C. for help on issues like this since if there’s anything the political class is earnestly opposed to, it’s overpromising. [San Francisco Chronicle]
In the face of substantial Congressional opposition (although an earlier Congress had helped push for the idea in the first place) the Federal Trade Commission may be easing off its zeal for tougher federal oversight of cereal ads and the like. [Glenn Lammi, Washington Legal Foundation]
An Arizona lawmaker has proposed (how many regrettable stories begin with that lead-in!) a crackdown on looks-enhancement in advertising. “House Bill 2793, proposed by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, would require advertisers who alter or enhance a photo to put a disclaimer on that ad alerting customers that ‘Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved.’” [Arizona Republic via Coyote, earlier (and compare)]
A Los Angeles couple have been gaining publicity for their proposal to require publications to disclose with warning labels when pictures of models have been Photoshopped, the better to help the bodily self-esteem of readers who may feel inadequate when contemplating the skinny/curvaceous images or airbrushed complexions. [CBS New York] “After complaints from Liberal Democrat MP Joe Swinson, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned two digitally enhanced ads starring prominent celebrities for ‘exaggeration and being misleading.’” [Diana Denza, Betty Confidential; earlier on parallel developments in France as well as Britain]
Incidentally, I’ve now compiled a long-overdue tag for posts on photography.
A plaintiff’s-oriented group crusading for such legislation managed to come up with only a relative handful of employer advertisements exhibiting supposed bias against the unemployed. And on scrutiny not all of those ads turned out in fact to be “exclusionary”:
For example, national recruiter Kelly Services placed the following ad in the St. Louis area: “Currently employed but lacking growth in terms of responsibilities and technical proficiencies? If so, Kelly IT Resources-St. Louis wants to talk to you!” NELP zeroed in on “currently employed,” counted it as discriminatory, and ignored the rest of the posting. Common sense dictates that marketing to the currently employed looking to advance does not signal a rejection of the unemployed.
[Michael Saltsman, Wall Street Journal, earlier here, etc.]
Beyond satire: “Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month. …NHS health guidelines state clearly that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day.” [Telegraph] A writer in the Guardian defends the ban.