Same as it Ever Was…

senile egg Having lost its grifting, grafting hedge-fund-running czar, and having been relieved of its financial responsibility for the skein of toxic waste dumps it has left across North America, the “new” General Motors returns its attention to the true meat of its work. Yep, billion-dollar brainwashing:

DETROIT — Spending for General Motors Co.’s new Chevy advertising blitz that starts tonight during the World Series is expected to top the $685 million the brand spent in all of 2008, GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick said today.

Chevy television spots from Goodby featuring voiceovers from Michigan-native actor Tim Allen will air tonight when the San Francisco Giants host the Texas Rangers at 8 p.m. on Fox.

The campaign, which employs the slogan “Chevy Runs Deep” and the brand’s iconic bowtie logo, emphasizes the Chevrolet’s long history while touting new technology and safety.

Goodby called Chevy’s heritage a “tiebreaker” in competing with other automakers and said the cars are “beautiful, productive machines.”

One commercial shows a montage of old and new Chevy trucks with dogs, Hank Williams singing “Movin’ On Over” and Allen’s lone line, “A dog and a Chevy. What else do you need?”

And some say corporate capitalism has reached its senescence…

Feds Massively Subsidizing Electric Boondoggle

money flush The first 4,400 purchasers of General Motors’ new Chevrolet Volt hybrid car are receiving a free gift from the public in excess of $10,000. This takes the form of a $7,500 tax credit, plus a gift of a home charging station that starts at $2,500 excluding installation (and the installation requires an electrician rewiring part of your house).

This, in a nation with a pathetic, decrepit, elite-strangled and financially imperiled public transit system.

The Leadership Unit Known as OilBama

robot On the exceedingly remote chance that it might contain an iota of a useful policy alteration, I subjected myself last night to something I can rarely take — a Presidential speech, namely President Obama’s live Oval Office address on the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Knowing it was, in the coached-up words of The New York Times, “designed to convey a sense” that Obama is not a prostrate do-nothing corporate shill who is incapable of questioning the power structure even when its murderous nature is comparatively unadulterated nightly news, I had very low expectations.

They were too high.

The speech was historically terrible, in every imaginable way, even by the subterranean standards of this war-criminal nation-state.  If I were to think in its terms, the question I would have would be this:

Can we get a commission to look into the failure of political courage and candor? Led by a Harvard entrepreneur? Until we have that, I’ll essentially have a wrenching anxiety that my way of life may be lost.

What a wipeout.  If George W. Bush had been in office and delivered this rote and vacant verbiage, there would be a million green activists loading buses to go surround the White House.  As it is, all’s quiet, and we’re getting a commission.  A commission.

Tort Abortion

Guess what, kids?  That’s right:  Our laws were written to relieve corporate capitalists from paying for the true damages they cause.

Section 1004 of the Oil Pollution Act, passed by our lovely Congresspeople in 1990 as a strengthening of then-existing rules reads as follows:

§1004 The liability for tank vessels larger than 3,000 gross tons is increased to $1,200 per gross ton or $10 million, whichever is greater. Responsible parties at onshore facilities and deepwater ports are liable for up to $350 millon per spill; holders of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deepwater ports, are liable for up to $75 million per spill, plus removal costs. The Federal government has the authority to adjust, by regulation, the $350 million liability limit established for onshore facilities.

That means that, by law, British Petroleum is not only able to enjoy all the rights of the “fictitious individual” while not risking actual individuals’ bodily punishment exposures, but the maximum it can be required to pay for the ongoing Deepwater Horizon eco-tastrophe is $75 million — less than 5% of its 2009 reported net income; 0.3% of its total assets. As a financial punishment, this is a traffic ticket, literally.

And the official response of the liberal stylists among our allegedly concerned corporate politicians?  To eliminate the cap on such damages and force giant for-profit operators to face the risk of being liable, like you and me and everybody else who can’t afford a legal dream team, for what they actually do?

Nope. Of course not.  Not on the table.

Amen, Murray!

The excellent blog Climate and Capitalism recently reprinted a 1989 essay from the late Murray Bookchin.

I’m sorry I missed this piece back in 1989.  Seeing it would have saved me a fair amount of mental labor in trying to come up with a careful yet powerful way to penetrate the veil of “consumer” talk that prevails to this day not just in mainstream commercial communications, but also in purportedly social-scientific and radical analyses.

In any event, if you change the word “market” to “capitalist” and change “advertising” to “marketing” (and realize that that the latter is not just a matter of spin doctors in post-production agencies but of thoroughgoing corporate management), then Bookchin, contrary to flubby, obscurantist, privatizing flatulence like the Worldwatch Institute’s latest “State of the World,” hits this nail squarely on the head:

In this hidden world of cause-and-effect, the environmental movement and the public stand at a crossroads. Is growth a product of “consumerism” — the most socially acceptable and socially neutral explanation that we usually encounter in discussions of environmental deterioration? Or does growth occur because of the nature of production for a market economy? To a certain extent, we can say: both. But the overall reality of a market economy is that consumer demand for a new product rarely occurs spontaneously, nor is its consumption guided purely by personal considerations.

Today, demand is created not by consumers but by producers — specifically, by enterprises called advertising agencies that use a host of techniques to manipulate public taste. American washing and drying machines, for example, are all but constructed to be used communally-and they are communally used in many apartment buildings. Their privatization in homes, where they stand idle most of the time[*], is a result of advertising ingenuity.

To take growth out of its proper social context is to distort and privatize the problem. It is inaccurate and unfair to coerce people into believing that they are personally responsible for present-day ecological dangers because they consume too much or proliferate too readily.

This privatization of the environmental crisis, like New Age cults that focus on personal problems rather than on social dislocations, has reduced many environmental movements to utter ineffectiveness and threatens to diminish their credibility with the public. If “simple living” and militant recycling are the main solutions to the environmental casts, the crisis will certainly continue and intensify.

Ironically, many ordinary people and their families cannot afford to live “simply.” It is a demanding enterprise when one considers the costliness of “simple” hand-crafted artifacts and the exorbitant price of organic and “recycled” goods. Moreover, what the “production end” of the environmental crisis cannot sell to the “consumption end,” it will certainly sell to the military. General Electric enjoys considerable eminence not only for its refrigerators but also for its Gatling guns. This shadowy side of the environmental problem — military production — can only be ignored by attaining an ecological airheadedness so vacuous as to defy description.

Public concern for the environment cannot be addressed by placing the blame on growth without spelling out the causes of growth. Nor can an explanation be exhausted by citing “consumerism” while ignoring the sinister role played by rival producers in shaping public taste and guiding public purchasing power.

The social roots of our environmental problems cannot remain hidden without trivializing the crisis itself and thwarting its resolution.

* Getting people to buy products that remain mostly unused has been a key to perpetuating corporate capitalism.  In the case of the automobile, UCLA Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup reports that, in the United States, one of the system’s two anchor commodities, the private automobile, is, on average, sitting parked and unused 95 percent of the time.