High-Tech Snake Oil?

If you pay attention to the news, you’ll have noticed the breaking scandal over anti-cholesterol medicines. One, Vytorin, turns out to be at least half fake. The other, Lipitor, has VERY deceptively employed “Dr.” Robert Jarvik, the Harvard Med School student who never completed his training, and is not a physician and cannot prescribe medicines, but invented the artificial heart.

Turns out “Dr.” Jarvik — who looks every inch like a marathon-running vegan — probably didn’t start taking the Lipitor he says in his ads that he’s been personally using thankfully “as a doctor, and a dad” until after he started shilling for the Pfizer corporation, Lipitor’s peddler.

This, of course, raises the obvious follow-up question about whether Jarvik has actually ingested the pills or merely flushed them down his heated, gold-plated crapper.

But whatever the details of these two huge, well-researched medi-frauds may prove be, the most important points are certain to go unmentioned. Among these are:

1) The human meaning of the fact that there was $4.8 billion spent on U.S. drug advertising last year. That sum is greater than the GDPs of each of the Earth’s 45 poorest countries. And $4.8 billion is only the ADVERTISING number, meaning it’s only the tip of the iceberg. As is known by those who take the trouble to comprehend what corporate marketing is and how it works, advertising is merely the endpoint of the marketing process. Before it comes targeting, marketing research, and “product management.” Those processes are much more expensive than even advertising, which, per minute, is by far the most lavishly-funded form of video and pictorial drama, Hollywood blockbusters included.

2) The amount of fraud and waste in the capitalist medical-industrial complex. This cholesterol fracas suggests the share of naked snake-oiling going on is far bigger than even most single-payer advocates have suggested. How affordable could we make single-payer if we also ended these criminal schemes?

3) The profound irrationality of the corporate capitalist health destruction/care process. The amounts big business investors spend on drug marketing are beyond dwarfed by the megabucks they allocate to selling fast food, junk food, television-watching, and automobile-owning/driving. It’s the perfect racket: With one hand, you create the epidemic dangers; with the other, you profitably throw (often fake) pills at the symptoms. It is what Joseph Schumpeter famously called “creative destruction” — but the entity involved in the process is none other than the supposedly (and actually) sacred human life/body. Can you say “blasphemy”?

Newsflash: Of Horses and Carts, and the Ordering Thereof in Our Post-Peak Oil Epoch

As James Howard Kunstler reports — and The New York Times and other major news marketers do not — General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner yesterday gingerly admitted that:

The demand for energy around the world is growing faster than supply.

Peak Oil, in other words, is now beginning to be publicly — albeit only in semi-insider fora such as the Detroit Motor Show — acknowledged as an existing reality by the highest planners in the auto-industrial complex.

Undoubtedly, this is part of a larger plan to begin incorporating the belated admission into corporate marketing and PR campaigns.

Given the genuinely radical and dangerous implications of Peak Oil for said industrial complex and the overall corporate capitalist system, you can bet your bottom dollar that extremely great care and generous funding are going to be devoted to this emerging spin game. Mishandling it (or waiting much longer to launch it) could lead to — horror of all horrors! — public comprehension of the elementary facts and the attending suicidal stupidity of trying to perpetuate the inherently wasteful and dangerous practice of using private cars as the main mode of daily personal transport. The bosses simply must get their story down and out before Joe and Jane Sixpack start to realize that the price of gas is not rising because of OPEC or even Exxon-Mobil, but because of the long-denied limits of Mother Earth.

Henceforth, all corporate (and, hence, also all corporate-political/Republican-Democratic/”bipartisan”) efforts will be devoted to stymieing, short-circuiting, and continually massaging such public awareness.

This is why I find the following additional recent comment by another high GM officer (I told you this is a planned managerial transition here) to be even more newsworthy than Mr. Wagoner’s (perfect name, no?) commencement of overclass admission of Peak Oil:

Senior GM executive and engineer Denny Mooney said: “We need a range of alternatives and ethanol is a step that will get us to the electric car.

Once we get to the electric car, we can then make truly big gains with the environment by improving how the electricity is generated,’ Mr Mooney, who returned to Detroit last year, said.

Now, this tells you precisely what you need to know:Once we get to the electric car” — then and only then — we can turn to talking about our basic energy situation.

In other words, the very urgently needed democratic discussion of the Earth’s finite energy supply will be permitted only after the reign of the automobile is reconfigured so as to make it a non-debatable, already-on-the-ground premise for such discussion. Spending on cars a gigantic share of whatever (certainly smaller and probably progressively declining) energy supplies we can muster from here on out, you see, will simply be dictated to us by our glorious “free market” “entrepreneurs.” Rest assured: Open choices on this ordering of priorities as between profits and the possibility of continuing to build decent, sustainable human societies can be neither permitted nor even hinted at. And, if the overclass gets its way, they will not.

None of this, of course, means that investors’ dictated arrangement will be practicable or sustainable. On the contrary, hindsight now suggests very strongly that the construction of automobiles-über-alles in America has always been a the prelude to a disaster.  From the vantage point of thermodyamics (a.k.a. the laws of physics), the hope for its permanent existence now reveals itself, despite the huge importance of this delusion to the powers-that-be, to have been a blatant pipe-dream.  As such, the longer we permit its thoroughly addicted primary beneficiaries to continue to impose it upon us, the smaller will grow our chances of snatching victory from the jaws of onrushing socio-ecological catastrophe.

And this insane insistence on cars-first is not just a conspiracy. It is built into corporate capitalism itself. The horseless carriage is the only horse our investing class can permit us to choose, barring their massively unlikely voluntary renunciation of the powers and privileges to which they are accustomed. In order to sustain the economic arrangements from which they draw their cash flows, the immense, but exquisitely profitable waste comes with the reign of cars is quite literally necessary. No other mode of transport could hope to replace its money-making magic, and the removal of the reign would cause intractable national and global Great Depressions. Hence, to the Richistanis who run the nation and the world, genuine economy, decency, and human survival can never be more that the cart behind their horseless carriage. That horseless contraption, itself a cart behind the rule of Money, is beyond stubborn.  Whether we ever start publicly seeing this or not, it is galloping us all straight over the abyss.

Your Overclass at Work

The human race will need every synapse of its collective brain-power to figure out a way to escape the twenty-first century with its decency and some of its modern technology.

Meanwhile, how are our glorious corporate entrepreneurs laboring to serve our pressing needs in this coming struggle? In the usual manner: by trampling on them.

At the political level, they are absolutely obstructing us, as success in snatching decent survival from the closing jaws of the status quo will, of necessity, be very bad indeed for big business and the established fortunes it exists to serve.

As if this weren’t enough, however, as I’ve reported before, corporate planners are also busily using their own neocortexes to build “emotionomics” into the marketing operations by which they conduct the crucial day-to-day process of selling us products. Here is how they are learning to understand the human brain:

The business message being learned and applied, thanks to new advances in neuro-biology, in ever-greater detail is that:

Emotions are central, not peripheral, because they drive reason more than vice versa. In other words, we’re not nearly as rational as we would like to think we are. Our neuron-biological legacy means that emotions enjoy pre-emptive, first-mover advantage in every decision process. Conscious thought is only a small portion of mental activity. [Even] recall is emotional. [Dan Hill, Emotionomics]

The idea inside the marketing juggernaut that utterly dominates the way we ordinary Americans spend our “free time” is that the subordinate biological place of rationality is a very good thing, as it leaves so many openings for profit-seeking manipulation of the underlying population of “targets.” Bang, bang — out go the lights! Hence, SOP in corporate enterprise is to strive to ensure that the sway of reason remains small and secondary.

History, should we survive this still-growing assault on our most basic need, will not look kindly upon the sponsors and practitioners of “emotionomics.”

2009 Corolla: Product Degradation in Action

trashonomicsNot living in one of the two or three U.S. cities where car ownership is plausibly optional, I have a 1998 Toyota Corolla. For American road conditions, where you have to confront a sea of huge trucks and SUVs and travel a high percentage of miles on curvy, undivided high-speed suburban and rural roadways, I consider this to be the most rational auto. It has 120 horse-power and an EPA miles-per-gallon rating of 32 city and 41 highway. The only time it is ever even arguably under-powered is on the steepest final approaches to mountain-pass ski areas. Even then it’s fine, really.

I say all this to give you a base for judging corporate capitalists’ familiar claim that they use big business marketing to understand buyers’ needs and improve products. This lie is exposed yet again by Toyota’s forthcoming release of the 2009 Corolla.

The 2009 Corolla will be a substantially INFERIOR product to my 1998 version. As we listen to Al Gore accept the Nobel Peace Prize for his tepid movie about climate change, all signs suggest that we live directly atop the peak of the long-predicted Peak Oil curve. By the time the 2009 Corolla get released, gas may very well be selling for $4.00 a gallon in the United States. By the time the warranty on the 2009 Corolla expires, it may be $10.00.

So, with full knowledge of this impending reality, what has the seller of the Prius done to the engine of the 2009 Corolla? The standard horse-power will now be 132, and the miles-per-gallon will DROP BY ALMOST A QUARTER to 27 city and 35 highway!

This shocking degradation of the product and egregious dismissal of the most important need of prospective buyers is the opposite of an accident. It is marketing-era corporate capitalism in normal action.

Since small cars mean small profits, even the green-flag waving Toyota Corporation hates and resents them. Like all other car-makers, it uses it marketing operations to discover new ways to sell its customers “more car.” This is partly done by exploiting people’s irrational admiration of superfluous horse-power and acceleration. Ergo, the worsening of the Corolla’s fuel-efficiency.

It is also done by the newly “e-accelerated” gambit of promoting of ever-expanding lists of junk “equipment” on the interiors of the ever-more insane gas guzzlers that remain the compulsory core mode of mobility in this, the land of the “free market.”

Standard features

The all-new Corolla will come with a long list of standard performance and convenience features. All models will be equipped with a heavy duty rear window defogger, AM/FM/CD audio with four speakers that is also XM satellite capable, auxiliary audio input jack, air conditioning with air filter, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and 60/40 split folding rear seats.

The sporty S grade will feature standard P205/55R16 tires with full wheel covers, color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, fog lamps, front sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, black headlamp housing, chrome exhaust tip and AM/FM/CD XM capable audio with six speakers.

In addition to S grade features, the XRS grade adds a rear deck spoiler, P215/45 R17 tires with alloy wheels, sport strut tower brace, VSC with TRAC and an off switch, XRS scuff plate, leather-trimmed shift lever and knob, cruise control and an interior chrome accent.

Options Optional comfort and utility features include AM/FM/six-disc CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, satellite radio (subscription required) and six speakers, a power package that includes power windows and door locks. Additional options on select grades include JBL Audio system with AM/FM six-disc CD changer with eight speakers and Bluetooth, Navigation system with AM/FM CD with MP3/WMA playback capability and XM satellite radio with XM NavTraffic capable with six speakers, leather-trimmed seats and shift knob, tilt and slide moonroof, VSC with TRAC and cut-off switch.

If we let it run its course, such is the detritus with which this decrepit system will carry humanity over the precipice.

Unilever Runs on Lies

Unilever, the multinational mega-corporation that markets the utterly horrendous, unneeded, and wasteful Axe Body Spray, is under attack from feminists and parents. Seems that, at the same time it’s peddling Axe via waves of super-sexist mind-conditioning campaigns targeted at teenage boys, it’s also trying to curry favor with women and girls by running “viral” marketing videos suggesting Unilever favors mass appreciation of “real beauty,” a.k.a. females who are sane enough to found their self-esteem on something more substantial than how closely they resemble the “aspirational” super-models and man-chasing bimbos portrayed in most corporate advertisements and commercial media.

Caught playing it both ways, Unilever made this statement:

The Axe campaign is a spoof of ‘the mating game’ and men’s desire to get noticed by women and not meant to be taken literally.

This is the most howling of lies, the exact diametrical opposite of the truth, which is that Axe’s entire “brand strategy” is to further commodify teenage boys’ self-interpretation by training them to think that using Axe will raise their chances of getting into girls’ (a.k.a. dimwitted vagina-bearers’) pants. By thus worsening the already awful post-feminist, Britney-Lindsay-Paris-and-Hillary Duff ideological climate, Unilever is selling perfume to boys, who would obviously laugh in your face if you tried an honest approach.

Unilever is not unique, of course. Studied, systematic, multi-layered dishonesty is absolutely essential to all big business marketing. If you bother to look, you see that the art and science of is now the rapidly-expanding stock-in-trade of big business marketers everywhere.

Marketing and Market Totalitarianism

For ordinary people in our proto-democratic age, life has three sectors: 1) employment/work, 2) personal life/free time, and 3) politics/the state.

Together, the first two comprise what scholars call “civil society.” In a democracy, free time is actually free, and nourishes independent citizenship, which then in turn governs both state and economy.

As we all know, the antithesis of democracy is totalitarianism, which Merriam-Webster defines thus:

Main Entry: 1to·tal·i·tar·i·an
Pronunciation: (")tO-"ta-l&-'ter-E-&n
Function: adjective
Etymology: Italian totalitario, from totalità totality
1 a : of or relating to centralized control by an autocratic leader or hierarchy : AUTHORITARIAN, DICTATORIAL; especially : DESPOTIC b : of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (as censorship and terrorism)
2 a : advocating or characteristic of totalitarianism b : completely regulated by the state especially as an aid to national mobilization in an emergency c : exercising autocratic powers : tending toward monopoly

So, here’s the quiz question: Why is subordination to the state part of this definition?

The answer, of course, is that this unnecessary qualification distracts attention from the other possible source of totalitarian control — namely, the “private” economy.

And that is exactly what we now have in the United States — market totalitarianism, a political-economic regime based on subordination of the individual to the big business class and its strict control of all aspects of life.Bentham's Sketch

The state? Everybody who pays attention has long since known that the Money Power owns American governments.

Work? No need to even comment on that topic.

But what about “free time?”

Corporate marketing, the trillion-plus-dollars-a-year juggernaut of managerial manipulation, is the main vehicle by which our overclass dominates “free time” here in the United States. And this domination is far subtler and deeper — and far less recognized — than state-totalitarian methods, horrific as they are, have ever been.

In truth, thanks in no small part to big business marketing, market totalitarianism in the United States is both real and much more effective than state totalitarianism could ever hope to be. Where state despots are all thumbs, big business marketing is a thousand dextrous hands. What’s more, because the system’s single purpose — maximum further profit for the already rich — is pursued by genuinely competing institutions rather than a central Politburo, and because the henchmen of these institutions aim to control the practical circumstances and private communications of civil society rather than public rules, market totalitarianism has enjoyed far greater “deniability” than its more famous, state-centered cousins ever did.

The true bottom line? Unless wesoon wake up to this reality, we (and the world we still dominate) are just as screwed, albeit more slowly, subtly, and (sometimes, somewhat) more pleasurably, as recent history’s other boot-crushed masses.