Pierre Tristam on the Economics of U.S. Survival

Pierre Tristam is my favorite newspaper journalist. He has a great piece on his blog. It explains how expensive life has become in our ultra-commodified, automobiles-ueber-alles, corporate capitalist society. [Note: Tristam’s numbers do not include the costs of paying credit card bills and other modes of servicing past cost-of-living deficits.]

Capitalism’s Beverage & the Obesity Epidemic

The Los Angeles Times reports that Disneyland is retooling its boats-on-water rides because of the raging obesity epidemic in the United States, “to deal with the delicate problem of bottoming-out boats.

small world no more...

People are simply getting too fat for the existing rides, including the now satirically named “It’s a Small World”:

“Forty-one years after the whimsical ride debuted at the Anaheim park, Disneyland plans to shutter the attraction in January to give it a much-needed face-lift — and deal with the delicate problem of bottoming-out boats.

“Heavier-than-anticipated loads have been causing the boats to come to a standstill in two different spots, allowing for an extra-long gander at the Canadian Mounties and the Scandinavian geese, said Al Lutz, whose website MiceAge first reported the refurbishment plans.

“Disneyland is well aware of America’s expanding waistlines.

“In recent years, the park has redesigned many of its costumes and started stocking them in larger sizes to accommodate ever-expanding waistlines. Adult men and women are about 25 pounds heavier than they were in 1960, and 65% are considered overweight, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The average weight for men jumped from 166 pounds in 1960 to 191 pounds in 2002; women average 164 pounds instead of 140.

“Of course, this is a world of fantasy and the perfect place to forget about that diet for a few hours. So when somebody gets booted from the boat, Lutz said, Disneyland ride operators make sure the guests don’t leave disappointed: They hand them a food ticket.”

The primary cause of this epidemic (which is very closely and inversely correlated with individuals’ class position) is corporate capitalism.

As I explain in my book, as the system churns on, its normal operation compels all big businesses to extend and refine their marketing operations, which are neither more nor less than history’s most detailed and expensive behavioral-control campaigns.

As this generates an expanding marketing race, it increasingly commercializes and commodifies off-the-job life. Along the way, less capitalist-friendly practices and products give way to more capitalist ones.

One of corporate capitalism’s ultimate (and hence most important) products is soda pop: It preys upon human weaknesses for sugar and caffeine and sensory titillation. It is impossible to make at home or obtain for free. It is mildly addictive. It is highly packagable and marketable.

Along with the reign of the automobile (another of corporate capitalism’s core products), soda-pop is a chief cause of the horrifying obesity epidemic in the United States.

Soda pop has roughly 150 empty calories per 12-oz serving. In 1900, Americans drank the equivalent of 12 12-oz cans of soda per capita annually. In 1929, they drank 26 cans per person per year. 1949 = 158; 1957 = 200. In 2004? 535 cans of pop per person per year! Soda now far surpasses water as the #1 thing Americans drink. Between 1980 and 2005, its per capita ingestion in the United States increased every single year!

[An Aside: People in the mass media often puzzle over why French people are not as fat as Americans. Is it drinking wine? French mystique? A secret epidemic of French bulimia? Hell, no! It’s the cars and the soda pop, i.e. the unrestricted capitalism, stupid! The French have the Paris Metro and the TGVs and a forest of bikeable and walkable cities. And what was France’s 2004 per capita ingestion of soda pop? Just over 100 cans per person, about 1/5 of the U.S. rate. 400 cans of soda-pop, the number Americans drink over each year and above the French average, contain 60,000 calories. Q.E.D.]

As I like to say, the degree of control our ruling class has over us underlings would make Joseph Stalin purple with jealousy. We in America just simply live under market totalitarianism. Our habits are approaching complete commodification, with outcomes that deserve serious consideration by anybody wondering what kind of basis money makes for a purported civilization…

Big Business Marketing = Big Brother

Tivo, the increasingly popular programmable television recorder, has just launched Tivo Stop||Watch.  This is a new spying service that will allow its corporate subscribers to know in fine demographic detail exactly who is watching what shows and ads, on a second-by-second basis.  Tivo promises its corporate clients: “TiVo enables clients to track not only when a specific spot was viewed, but also whether variances in ad exposure can be correlated with changes in all kinds of consumption behavior….By observing variances in ratings based on these variables, it is possible to clearly determine how each influenced the effectiveness of the campaign and optimize the future return on similar investments.”

None of this, of course, is disclosed to the users of Tivo boxes.  That would spur avoidance and resistance, and is utterly forbidden.

Remember this completely logical and predictable and normal development the next time you hear the phrase “the free market.”  Cats everywhere are laughing their asses off.

My Last Click on Slate

Today, I have deleted my bookmark to slate.com, and, after checking out this link, I encourage you to do so as well. Let’s promise to boycott this bogusly “new” electronic shit-rag for the den of conventional immorality it has always been. This bullshit is just rank. Can you believe it? Applebaum’s pathetic McCarthyism is straight out of 1951 — except worse, because she never mentions the multiple elections Chavez has won (and the U.S. has attempted to subvert).

Clicking on slate.com generates incomes for the idiots who publish and write for it, as well as profits for their corporate sponsors. Don’t do it any more. To put it mildly, you won’t be missing much.

Flattery in Marketing

A columnist over at The Onion’s “AV Club” writes today expressing mystification about why the actresses on that brutal piece of post-feminist woman-on-woman sexism, the utterly horrible TV show “Sex and the City,” were not actually conventionally super-beautiful. After all, especially for women, looks remain one of the few avenues of conceivable social mobility into the kind of plastic, bourgeois, Manhattanite social spheres which that putrid turd of a program cravenly worshipped.

Why, then, the intrepid AV Clubber asks, such plain-Jane starlets on the show?

the starsThe answer is beyond simple, if you have any working knowledge of the controlling force behind this and all other commercial TV shows: big business marketing.

The marketing rationale for this apparent “mystery” is that “Sex and the City” is nothing more than a vehicle of flattering ordinary, average-looking women into believing they could, if only they were single and living in SoHo, be one of the friends of cigarette-smoking “Carrie,” the show’s supposedly “smart” and “sexy” central character.

You see, if the actresses were really as stunning as you would expect them to be, based on knowing how the real world actually works, they would be fantasy-killers and, thus, drive away viewers. Knowing this, the packagers of “Sex and the City” cast four comparatively homely lead actresses. The implanted reaction: “See? They’re not models. Neither am I! I could totally hang with Carrie!”

This implanted reaction was a piece of smart, effective, conventional marketing. The purpose of “Sex and the City” was (and is — it’s massively being re-run) to deliver the maximum number of female eyeballs to its sponsors’ advertising campaigns. To do this, its producers simply decided to make the lead characters “attainable” in both looks and behavior, so that the “girls” in the audience would indulge the show’s proposed fantasy of decadent, pampered, narcissistic shopping, dining, and man-chasing.

Of course, once the eyeballs get delivered, the more ordinary “aspirational” flatteries return: “Buy this cosmetic, and you will look like Halle Berry.”Halle Berry

The lesson here was stated well by my favorite ad critic, Leslie Savan. To understand corporate marketing, Savan says, “follow the flattery.” Once you do that, many “mysteries” evaporate.

Capitalism’s Complexes

Corporate capitalism operates via 6 core industrial complexes:

1. Military

2. Automotive

3. F.I.R.E. (finance, insurance, real estate)

4. Medical

5. Entertainment

6. Government (financial and ideological subsidy to capitalism)

The loss of any one of the huge spending streams flowing through these complexes would spell doom for the system.

With the possible exception of F.I.R.E., which sells its stuff mostly to the ruling class itself, all these capitalist-industrial complexes are now managed via the strategems and methods of big business marketing.

The strategems are coercion in several forms: lies, threats, flattery, and Pavlovian conditioning.

The methods are targeting and marketing research (i.e. corporate espionage on private citizens’ “free time”), product management (i.e. manipulative packaging), and sales communications.

The task ahead of us is to reclaim government from the corporate elite, then use it to rebuild our society away from these Six Deadly Complexes. Failure in this task promises us the Mad Max outcome we’re hurtling toward.

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