Word of the Day: Fuffle

The inimitable Dmitry Orlov posts another clarifying gem of a concept for our times: fuffles.

A fuffle is an artful fake, an artifact specifically made to fool, beguile, seduce, or intimidate people into paying for it. Ideally, the initial transaction serves as the basis of a permanent arrangement, with the victim roped into an installment plan, which keeps the payments flowing even after the fuffle itself has crumbled into a pile of dust. An even better fuffle is one that grows over time. Since a fuffle is, in essence, a fake, its useful properties, should it have any, are largely irrelevant, and so its abstract (which is to say, financial) properties come forth as being the essential ones. The most important such property is, quite obviously, size, and indeed fuffles tend to get bigger and bigger over time. This is a telltale feature of fuffles that makes them easier to identify: if something gets bigger and bigger over time while delivering the same or lesser value, then it is quite likely to be a fuffle. Also, fuffles breed: as a fuffle gets larger and larger, it produces offspring of other fuffles, which also grow. Examples come from many realms.

Automobiles, which started out as mere historically, economically, and ecologically naive boondoggles, have long since passed over into blunt, planned corporate capitalist fuffledom, as Orlov suggests.

Read his full post here.

As in the case of private-sector medical “care” and financial “investing”, President Obama is making the extension of the automotive fuffle, to which corporate capitalists are quite literally addicted, a central project of his increasingly disastrous, ideology-driven Administration.

Quote of the Day: Truth for the Animals

Dmitry Orlov says it’s boondoggles chasing boondoggles.  The late, great Marvin Harris simply labeled it “intensification.”

Either way, the point is that overclasses do one thing and one thing only — pursue the tactics and strategies that carried them to the top of the societies to which they dictate the terms of life.

Alas, as both Orlov and Harris argue, this reliance on doing the same-old-same-old only gets stronger after class decrepitude arrives and the underlying conditions for further exploitation (and further life for the proles) begin to erode themselves.  Just when they most need fresh ideas, established overclasses instead only redouble the old ones.

Any brush with the news of the day provides ample proof of this thesis.

My task for today is to pass along the sub-news that the point applies to big business marketing as well as to macro-economic policy and geo-politics.

Consider this comment from Douglas Brooks, Senior Vice President of the Aegis Group’s Media Marketing Assessment unit:

When the fish get finicky, it makes you a better fisherman.  The presentation of the bait and how it’s delivered — getting it in the right spot at the right time — becomes critical.

This quote comes in a February 23, 2009 Advertising Age column reporting on how television marketers are seeing the effectiveness of their profit-seeking behavior-modification efforts increase, despite the times.  [Article title: “Guess Which Medium is as Effective as Ever: TV”]

Notice the reduction of the supposedly holy and wholly sovereign “consumer” here.  In this case, it’s to “fish” swimming past baited hooks.  Just as often, it’s to dogs, frogs, pigs, or chickens.

Them’s the terms of the trade inside the leading institution of cultural planning in America, folks…

Of Boondoggles and the Memory Hole

Remember way back in 2008, when the federal government had to rescue the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, both of which had ruined themselves by making too many mortgage loans during the inflation phase of the housing bubble?  Remember how, way back in 2008, there were campaign promises that the lax lending would be restricted, in order to prevent a recurrence of the implosion?

Guess what.  That’s right:

Seeking to stabilize the foundering housing market, President Obama is offering a plan to help as many as nine million families refinance their mortgages or avoid foreclosure, according to a summary released by the White House on Wednesday morning.

Included in the package is a move to ease some restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which guarantee millions of home loans. Generally Fannie and Freddie cannot guarantee refinancing on mortgages valued at more than 80 percent of the home’s worth.

But the president’s plan would remove that restriction on mortgages the lending giants already own or guarantee.  [The New York Times, February 18, 2009]

Dmitry Orlov is right:  The USA’s ultra-decrepit overclass is completely out of real answers.  All it can do is throw new capitalist boondoggles on top of the craters left by the collapse of the old ones.

And, as they do this, they are displaying a truly Orwellian capacity for forgetting yesterday’s ancient history.

Meanwhile, the cravenness and market-totalitarian stupidity of the Obama Administration, which starts right where the buck supposedly stops, is yet more solid proof that, as the great Noam Chomsky says, we live in a one-party state.  There is the Business Party, which has two wings, called “Republicans” and “Democrats.”

Batten down the hatches, folks.  The worst is yet to come, and the flood will be very deep…

Barack O-Boondoggle

He’s technically smart, especially compared to the Texas Vegetable now in office, but he does NOT get it.  He talks of the historic nature of our present socio-economic crisis, but has zero understanding of where we stand in history.  Parroting the usual one-sided self-flatteries about American hard work, optimism, and creativity that pass for mainstream history, he can only imagine finding new ways of doing more of the same.

The core goal and promise is also the core impossibility: “fuel[ing] long-term economic growth.”

That simply ain’t gonna happen, and would be a complete disaster if it did.  The planet is past Peak Oil, Peak Water, and Peak Farmland.  It is also past the point where slight changes can make a difference in climate change, species loss, pollution, etc.

The only way forward, the only way to preserve political progress and modern society’s primary benefits is to create an economy capable of not just tolerating but leading toward economic contraction.  And that ain’t capitalism, which must always grow, without end.

Instead of acknowledging the dire need for public industry, Obama is going to do what Dmitry Orlov observes all leaders sponsored by decrepit and outdated overclasses do: promulgate new and expanded elite boondoggles.

This, of course, is insanity writ large:  Using the most powerful office in the world to do the same old things, while expecting different results.

A great many Obamaniacs are going to be massively disappointed…

Big Brother was an Amateur

In his fantastic new book, Reinventing Collapse, Dmitry Orlov observes that the US overclass now enjoys “an arrangement over which Soviet central planners would surely have salivated profusely.”

Consider Quividi, the new marketing service that is placing video cameras inside the proliferating legion of video-screen being deployed to beam corporate advertising into stores, airports, bus stations, restaurants, etc., etc. etc.

Quividi describes itself to its prospective employers thusly:

With Quividi’s solution, however, the days of blind advertising are over: VidiReports and VidiCenter are the ultimate way to measure and to add value to public space media.
By deploying an inexpensive video sensor in the vicinity of the monitored media and by taking advantage of the extra, unused computing power of standard signage players, Quividi’s software provides you with key metrics on your signage installation:

* An estimation of the opportunity to see; (OTS)
* A precise count of actual viewers;
* Various aggregate inidces on viewership such as dwell time, attention time, “face minutes”;
* Precise viewership demographics;
* Precise correlation between viewership and content, via the inclusion of playlists in VidiCenter.

If you doubt the Orwellian nature of the endeavor, look here.