- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

No surprise entertainment industry markets to kids

Government agencies and bureaucrats don't get it right very often, and when they do, it's most often the sort of thing that makes you say, "Well, duh."
After a year of study, the Federal Trade Commission has concluded that the entertainment industry markets its products to youths. Now I know people thought the elderly made up most of the video-game crowd and soccer moms secretly were buying all those rap CDs. But now it's official. The federal government has spoken. Entertainment companies market to young people. Well, duh.
The FTC Web site (www.ftc.gov) contains a downloadable report that is quite revealing. First, it explodes the myth that voluntary rating systems accomplish anything. For years, most Americans thought the R rating on a movie kept youngsters from seeing it. More recently, many have felt assured that an explicit-lyrics sticker on a CD meant that children could not buy it. Neither of these impressions is true. The FTC reports that though entertainment companies have taken steps to identify content that is not appropriate for children, their next step has been the opposite of what it should have been. Rather than keep that content from youngsters, the entertainment industry aggressively markets it to them.
Stickers on music recordings are particularly ridiculous. Record companies decide which recordings to sticker, if any, and what the stickers will say. There are no consequences for promising stickers and not delivering or for refusing to protect youths from harmful material. The FTC report shows that not only are stickered recordings freely available for purchase by youngsters, but more than 25 percent of them are directly and intentionally marketed to young people.
The FTC report also contains nearly a dozen appendixes with valuable information about the impact of media violence on the values, attitudes and behavior of young people; media consumption patterns; First Amendment issues; and how the entertainment industry is organized and does business.
When this FTC study was released, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore waved it around, expressing his outrage over entertainment violence, and vowed government action if the industry does not clean up its act. Will the real Mr. Gore please stand up?
Last year, after Congress passed Sen. Sam Brownback's legislation to launch this FTC study, Mr. Gore told his Hollywood buddies he had had nothing to do with it. The Los Angeles Times reported Mr. Gore's groveling to the big-money entertainment moguls, telling them it was all Bill Clinton's idea.
This was not the first time. After Mr. Gore's wife, Tipper, first led the fight against violent entertainment in the mid-1980s, Mr. Gore crawled off to beg Hollywood's forgiveness when he ran for president in 1988.
I don't quote the New York Times very often, but I agree with Maureen Dowd's column published a week after the Columbine massacre last year: "After Al Gore and Jeffrey Katzenberg hugged, after Tipper soft-pedaled her crusade to raise PG kids in an X-rated society for a decade after Hollywood honchos told her husband it would hurt fund raising, they should spare us their opportunistic outrage."
THOMAS L. JIPPING
Director of the Center for Law & Democracy
Free Congress Foundation
Washington

Metro should improve its reliability if it wants to retain commuters

In your Sept. 11 editorial "Off track," Metro General Manager Richard White claims that riders should be satisfied that Metro provides 97 percent reliable rail service. Let us examine this statistic: There are serious mechanical difficulties only 3 percent of the time, that is, for only one subway trip out of 30. That is the number of trips made in a three-week period when riding Metrorail to and from work each workday, so one should expect serious difficulties once every three weeks.
If my automobile had serious mechanical difficulties so frequently, I would stop using it.
VICTOR J. SLABINSKI
Arlington

Insightful column on Venus Williams; athlete should vote Republican

Kudos to Kenneth Smith on his Op-Ed column, "Game, set, tax," regarding Venus Williams and her unfortunate $320,000 "gift" to the federal government (40 percent of $800,000) for winning the U.S. Open. Maybe it should be called the Internal Revenue Service Open.
I suggest that Mr. Smith consider contacting Miss Williams to ask if she is a Republican or independent. If she is a Democrat and intends to vote for a Democratic ticket in the election, she should quit complaining about paying high taxes. Democrats are supposed to like paying high taxes, or at least they pay lip service to the cause. She should know that the best way to fight socialist-confiscatory i.e. Democratic tax rates is to vote for those who believe in freedom, in this case the freedom to keep one's own money. Usually, this means voting Republican (like Pete Sampras). She could further help her cause by contributing some of her hefty winnings to candidates who support a free market.
ROBERT BRANTLEY
Arlington

Voters who value right to bear arms should choose Saunders in Maryland

I was pleased to see that The Washington Times covered the political incorrectness at the Takoma Park Folk Festival ("Takoma fair features guitars and gun locks," Sept. 11). I'm talking about the appearance of the Shackles to Swords program, sponsored by the Maryland Citizens Defense League (www.mcdl.org), in which law-abiding people could turn in their obstructive trigger locks so they could be recycled into instruments of useful self-defense.
What the story did not cover, however, was that a candidate running for office was present at the event, in which his wife participated by turning in her trigger lock. The candidate is Brian Saunders, who is running to unseat Rep. Constance A. Morella in Maryland's 8th District. It is refreshing finally to have a choice in this district after years of having a representative who opposes the interests of those who believe in the right of lawful people to keep and bear arms.
Law-abiding gun owners who live in Maryland's 8th District should vote for Mr. Saunders in November if they are interested in preserving the right to protect their lives, liberty, families and property. They can find out more information on the candidate by visiting his Web site at www.saunders4congress.com.
MICHAEL KOLLER
Germantown

America should give thanks to Air Force on 53 anniversary

Today, Sept. 18, marks the 53rd anniversary of the U.S. Air Force. A day like today should be a day of thanks and gratitude to the men and women of the Air Force (active, guard and reserve) for maintaining America's air supremacy throughout the world.
Sadly, today's celebration will go largely unnoticed by a majority of Americans. Instead, the gratitude exhibited by a nation with a $9 trillion gross domestic product will be underwhelming, to say the least. Our Air Force installations around the world must resort to flying antiquated aircraft. Our B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers are more than 40 years old. Nor should we forget the men and women of the Air Force who are receiving food stamps, living in decrepit military housing and working in buildings that were constructed during World War II leaky roofs and all.
This nation and its dot-com economy can and must do better for its Air Force. One obvious remedy to the readiness woes caused by aging aircraft, lack of spare parts and shortage of ammunition is to invest a greater percentage of our GDP into rebuilding the Air Force and its four sister branches.
Approximately 2.9 percent of our GDP is spent on national defense. If this percentage were increased by just one percentage point, the Air Force would reap handsome dividends, such as new aircraft, ample spare parts, enhanced quality of life and all the ammunition needed to defend our great country.
JIM DOLBOW
Arlington

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