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Mass-Marketing Goes Platinum

From Other Words: http://www.otherwords.org/articles/mass-marketing_goes_platinum

Hawkers of consumer products are embracing the growing gulf between rich and poor Americans.

  By Jim Hightower
August 29, 2011

Published under Creative Commons License

In today’s fast-moving world of consumer styles, when you’re out, you’re out. Not just out-of-style, but so far out that you no longer interest the big marketers.

Thus it is that advertising authorities have deemed the middle class itself (roughly 60 percent of us, depending on where you draw the income line) to be unworthy consumers. We’re too poor to matter, they say.

Indeed, even though America’s workaday majority has produced a phenomenal rise in wealth during the past decade, that majority’s income has shrunk — and there’s no improvement in sight. Where did the gains go? Practically all of the new wealth flowed straight up to the richest 10 percent of America’s people, who own more than 80 percent of all stocks and bonds.

Instead of deploring this widening disparity, major hawkers of consumer products are choosing to embrace it. Advertising Age, the marketing industry’s top publication, has curtly declared that “mass affluence is over.” Nearly half of consumer spending today is done by the richest 10 percent of households, and the richest of these richies are deemed to be the most desirable of consumers.

“Simply put,” says Ad Age, “a small plutocracy of wealthy elites drives a larger and larger share of total consumer spending and has outsized purchasing influence.”

The magazine goes on to inform us that households with less than $200,000 in annual income are henceforth on the outs, holding little interest for advertisers. Sure enough, corporate executives in such diverse businesses as airlines, movie theaters, banks, and health care are focusing more and more on platinum-level customers.

Gosh, does this mean they’ll stop inundating me with ads and a flood of other come-ons? I could live with that.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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Ministers back anti-abortion lobby reforms

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/28/anti-abortion-lobby-reforms

Charities warn of ‘distress and delay’ as they are stripped of principal responsibility to counsel women seeking a termination

Polly Curtis
guardian.co.uk
, Sunday 28 August 2011

The government has caved in to calls from anti-abortionists to overhaul existing protocols and strip charities and medics of their exclusive responsibility for counselling women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The Department of Health confirmed that it would change the rules to ensure that women are also offered counselling “independently” of existing abortion services. Its announcement was made in advance of an attempt next week led by the Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries to amend the health and social care bill to force such a requirement. Dorries says that the charity-run abortion services – including the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and Marie Stopes – have a financial conflict of interest in advising women seeking terminations. She says that by offering independent counselling, 60,000 of the 200,000 abortions each year could be prevented.

The charities say that another layer of counselling could cause distress by delaying access to abortions. They also say that the counselling they offer is continuous throughout the process of seeking a termination and that there is no evidence they are biased in the care they provide.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the government’s decision was based on prejudice rather than evidence.

The DH confirmed that it wanted to change the rules to offer women independent counselling in addition to that currently offered by abortion services and said it was consulting on the precise method to use, with sources acknowledging that it was a direct response to lobbying from backbenchers.

An aide to the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: “We remain of the view that we can do this without legislation but we aren’t shying away from a parliamentary debate. We want women to have the offer of independent counselling, independent of the abortion provider.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/28/anti-abortion-lobby-reforms

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Ugly? You May Have a Case

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/opinion/sunday/ugly-you-may-have-a-case.html?_r=1

By DANIEL S. HAMERMESH
Published: August 27, 2011

Daniel S. Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of “Beauty Pays,” published this month. 

BEING good-looking is useful in so many ways.

In addition to whatever personal pleasure it gives you, being attractive also helps you earn more money, find a higher-earning spouse (and one who looks better, too!) and get better deals on mortgages. Each of these facts has been demonstrated over the past 20 years by many economists and other researchers. The effects are not small: one study showed that an American worker who was among the bottom one-seventh in looks, as assessed by randomly chosen observers, earned 10 to 15 percent less per year than a similar worker whose looks were assessed in the top one-third — a lifetime difference, in a typical case, of about $230,000.

Beauty is as much an issue for men as for women. While extensive research shows that women’s looks have bigger impacts in the market for mates, another large group of studies demonstrates that men’s looks have bigger impacts on the job.

Why this disparate treatment of looks in so many areas of life? It’s a matter of simple prejudice. Most of us, regardless of our professed attitudes, prefer as customers to buy from better-looking salespeople, as jurors to listen to better-looking attorneys, as voters to be led by better-looking politicians, as students to learn from better-looking professors. This is not a matter of evil employers’ refusing to hire the ugly: in our roles as workers, customers and potential lovers we are all responsible for these effects.

How could we remedy this injustice? With all the gains to being good-looking, you would think that more people would get plastic surgery or makeovers to improve their looks. Many of us do all those things, but as studies have shown, such refinements make only small differences in our beauty. All that spending may make us feel better, but it doesn’t help us much in getting a better job or a more desirable mate.

A more radical solution may be needed: why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/opinion/sunday/ugly-you-may-have-a-case.html?_r=1

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How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the Ultra-Rich

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/story/152173/how_the_surveillance_state_protects_the_interests_of_the_ultra-rich/

As a global protest movement rises and spreads within the US, expect surveillance tactics honed in the “war on terror” to be used in the defense of wealth.

By Sarah Jaffe
August 29, 2011

In the aftermath of the riots that rocked London this summer, the Conservative prime minister’s first response was to call for a crackdown on social networking.

Despite data collected by the Guardian showing a strong correlation between poverty and rioting, the government denied that its brutal austerity policies contributed to the desperation and rage of its young people. A  researcher found that the majority of rioters who have appeared in court come from poor neighborhoods, 41 percent of them from the poorest in the country—and 66 percent from neighborhoods that have gotten poorer between 2007 and 2010.

Of course, we don’t have widespread rioting or in the US yet. But even at a relatively calm, peaceful protest in San Francisco, Bay Area Rapid Transit shut down cell phone towers in the subway system in order to stymie a mass action planned after another shooting by a BART police officer. (It was the police killing of a young man that kicked off London’s riots as well.)

The techniques that were roundly decried by Western leaders when used by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against his people’s peaceful revolution are suddenly embraced when it comes to unrest at home. Not only that, but techniques honed in the “war on terror” are now being turned on anti-austerity protesters, clamping down on discontent that was created in the first place by policies of the state.

Glenn Greenwald noted this connection in a recent piece, writing:

“The last year has seen an incredible amount of social upheaval, not just in the Arab world but increasingly in the West. The Guardian today documented the significant role which poverty and opportunity deprivation played in the British riots. Austerity misery — coming soon to the U.S. — has sparked serious upheavals in numerous Western nations. Even if one takes as pessimistic a view as possible of an apathetic, meek, complacent American populace, it’s simply inevitable that some similar form of disorder is in the U.S.’s future as well. As but one example, just consider this extraordinary indicia of pervasive American discontent, from a Gallup finding yesterday.”

That Gallup finding was that only 11 percent of Americans are content with the way things are going in the country.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/story/152173/how_the_surveillance_state_protects_the_interests_of_the_ultra-rich/

 

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Al Gore compares climate change skeptics to racists

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A Real Obscenity: For Five Figures, That Look of Celebrity

I think the poor should be issued licenses to hunt any one crass enough to carry a 30,000 dollar hand bag at a time when so many people are unemployed, have sky high student loans or have lost their homes.

This obscenity only goes to illustrate that the rich have way too much money and that our present day economic structure resembles that of the French Aristocracy in the late 18th century or that of Czarist Russia in the early 20th.

Why is it permissible for the rich to wage class warfare on the hard working people who create the wealth?  Why are they permitted to escape being taxed at a level which would start to pay for the programs they have so lavishly benefited from?

I say, “Class war should no longer be just for the rich.  Time for the working people to engage in some serious class war, starting with severe austerity programs for those who flaunt their private jets, million dollar cars, palaces and 30,000 dollar hand bags.

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/fashion/celebrities-make-appearances-in-five-figure-fashion.html?ref=fashion

By Austin Considine
Published: August 26, 2011

IS a celebrity imprimatur on a handbag worth as much as a new car?

When Victoria Beckham announced this month that her fashion line was releasing an alligator-skin handbag costing nearly $30,000, the price tag might have seemed shocking, if not, perhaps, for the $34,000 alligator-skin backpack revealed in July by The Row, the design outfit of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.

In the past, celebrity branding has targeted a decidedly more down-market clientele: teenagers, the movie-star-obsessed and shoppers seeking some affordable piece of Hollywood glamour. Jeans by Jessica Simpson and athletic shoes by Kim Kardashian have been inexpensive and accessible, to say nothing of clothing lines for Kmart and Wal-Mart by teenage idols like Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus, respectively.

Ms. Beckham and the Olsens are not the first celebrities put their names on more serious, and expensive, pieces. Chloë Sevigny has $400 shoes for Opening Ceremony, and Katie Holmes-branded suit jackets are $2,950 at Barneys, for instance.

But until now, celebrity brands have mostly stayed away from five-figure fashion. Indeed, do women who are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a designer bag really care about (or even want) pop celebrity branding? Why not a Hermès, Delvaux or Balenciaga, luxury bags with impeccable sophisticated reputations?

Snip…

“It’s a luxury market, and it’s not about the price tag,” Mr. McDonald added. “It’s about what they can’t have that they must have.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/fashion/celebrities-make-appearances-in-five-figure-fashion.html?ref=fashion

Sorry, Richard Branson – we didn’t care about your blaze

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/28/richard-branson-rihanna-alex-ferguson

The British, at long last, are showing a healthy indifference to the ways of the super-rich

The Observer, Sunday 28 August 2011

Did anyone feel for Richard Branson and his Necker Island inferno – sympathy, empathy, anything? If not, why not? The story had all the compelling ingredients. Lightning striking the £60m private island, fire raging through the Agatha Christie-sounding Great House. Guest Kate Winslet carrying Branson’s 90-year-old mother to safety. Branson racing towards the burning house, stark naked. Perhaps too much information with that last one. I hope his hot-air balloons weren’t damaged.

Here was a story with everything. By “everything”, I mean, billionaires and Oscar winners in peril! We’d have lapped this up in decades gone by. Fabulous, brave Kate, and her soot-smudged cheeks, carrying Granny Branson through the flames to safety – wow, it’s like Titanic, only hotter.

And yet no one I’ve come across seems that fussed about the Necker fire. Which seems surprising, even cold. Don’t the rich burn like the rest of us? Moreover, this story was akin to a 1970s disaster movie. One almost expected the late Liz Taylor to waft on to “set” in mink and pearls, until becoming engulfed in flames and falling off a balcony, still clutching a martini glass. Indeed, maybe this (the feeling of fictional characters playing movie scenes) was part of the problem. Times are hard and getting harder. These people who are richer, bigger, “better” than us – it’s as if we don’t have the energy for them anymore.

It seems to me that we’re sick of them – “them” being the super-rich and/or mega-famous. After all this time, the penny has finally dropped that most of them wouldn’t, well, piss on us if we were on fire. All that escapism was a con, a sedation of the masses. This is interesting on several levels.

Where celebrity is concerned, I’ve long thought that the public had been played for suckers. We are constantly and loftily informed that we are obsessed with celebrities, when it stands to reason that those most obsessed with celebrity are celebrities themselves. After all, they’re the ones who fought, schemed and scrabbled to become celebrities. However, in this instance, celebrity may be the ultimate pan-cultural, socioeconomic red herring. Recently, it’s the rich who’ve been flushed out, exposed as “different”, in various unflattering ways F Scott Fitzgerald, that big suck-up, probably wouldn’t have considered.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/28/richard-branson-rihanna-alex-ferguson

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There is No Moral Case for Tax Havens

From The Independent UK: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/paul-vallely-there-is-no-moral-case-for-tax-havens-2345096.html

They are the epitome of unfairness and injustice, leaving ordinary citizens to foot the bill for multinational corporations

By Paul Vallely
Sunday, 28 August 2011

There is a building in the Cayman Islands that is home to 12,000 corporations. It must be a very big building. Or a very big tax scam. Tax havens are in the spotlight since the Chancellor, George Osborne, did a deal the other day with the Swiss authorities to slap a levy on secret bank accounts held there by British citizens. Opinions are divided on the move, which could net the Treasury £5bn, but which tacitly legitimises bank accounts kept secret from the Inland Revenue. It is a de facto amnesty for those guilty of tax evasion crimes. And they will pay less than they would if they declared their income to the British taxman.

Are there any legitimate reasons why anyone would want to have a secret bank account – and pay a premium to maintain their anonymity – or move their money to one of the pink dots on the map which are the final remnants of the British empire: the Caymans, Bermuda, the Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands?

The moral case against is clear enough. Tax havens epitomise unfairness, cheating and injustice. They replace the old morality embodied in the Golden Rule of reciprocity – that we should do as we would be done by – with a new version that insists that those who have the gold make the rules.

The old view, the neocon American Christopher Caldwell wrote recently, subscribes to a religious understanding of money that was universal in the Christian world before the rise of Protestantism, which acknowledges that people are alive but money is not, making it wrong for the latter to take precedence over the former – a notion as outdated as usury, he suggested tartly.

But what is the moral case for tax havens? We can dispense with the argument advanced by their administrators that if they didn’t take the money it would simply move to more distant locations; that is the self-serving logic of a man who sells torture equipment to an oppressive regime. Apologists insist that tax havens protect individual liberty. They promote the accumulation of capital, fair competition between nations and better tax law elsewhere in the world. They also foster economic growth. So much so, the Institute of Directors has said, that Britain should not curb tax havens but emulate them, promoting the growth of more hedge funds in the UK.

Yet even if all that were true – and it is not – does it outweigh the ethical harm they do? The numbered bank accounts of tax havens are notoriously sanctuaries for the spoils of theft, fraud, bribery, terrorism, drug-dealing, illegal betting, money-laundering and plunder by Arab despots such as Gaddafi, Mubarak and Ben Ali, all of whom had Swiss accounts frozen.

The corruption spreads contagion, as the financial writer Nicholas Shaxson showed in Treasure Islands, his book about offshore finance which exposed secrecy, corruption and intimidation in places as seemingly innocent as that land of milk and money, such as Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Continue reading at:  http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/paul-vallely-there-is-no-moral-case-for-tax-havens-2345096.html

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