The taste of succulent albacore with a hint of wasabi and soy sauce… Eel perfectly laid out over rice… A tasty roll of crab, expertly wrapped in fresh seaweed. For many, sushi is a tasty way to break free from the tyranny of bland, generic American cuisine. But wait just a minute Ms. Sashimi! Before you have another bite, realize this: When you dine on sushi, you dine with the Reverend Moon!

That’s right, that tasty bit of fish puts you in league with the Unification Church, and it’s leader the enigmatic Rev. Sun Myung Moon. But what do you mean, Angry New Mexican? I don’t believe in mass weddings, the insufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice courtesy of John the Baptist’s failings or a literal kingdom of God on earth. I mean, I don’t even read the Washington Times, a redoubt of the Moonies since its founding. How can I possibly be in league with the Moonies?

My dear sushi-eating readers, you are in league with Rev. Moon, and I’m about to explain why. To start off with, none of this is “new.” The Chicago Tribune and the East Bay Express pointed this out several years ago. But time and time again, I’ve found the American people woefully unaware of their role in the New World Order [Moonie Edition]. You see, Rev. Moon’s route to your California roll was revealed to the world in 1980 with his speech the Way of Tuna. In it Rev. Moon outlines his plan to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth starting first with the oceans, hence the Way of Tuna. The means is simple — build a Korean chaebol, of the likes of Samsung or Hyundai (whose yes-men seem to alternate control of South Korea’s government), but build this chaebol in fish. The building of ships, fishing and distribution network in the US and Korea will all exist in one big happy (Moonie) family, under the guise True World Foods.

Rev. Moon started assembling his empire in the late 70’s, buying key companies and slowly taking over the town of Gloucester, MA. The Moonie fisherman have since also moved into Bayou La Batre, AL and Kodiak, AK. Gloucester does much of the processing and their 22 distribution centers are located in places like Elizabeth, NJ and Elk Grove Village, IL. According to The Trib, TWF brings in $250 million dollars a year in revenues. While not a monopoly, TWF does have a substantial market share, and taking direction from Rev. Moon, has played a key role in the sushi explosion in the US in the last 30 years. On the TWF site, I found a choice quote, I felt our readers would enjoy:

“What we believe makes True World Foods LLC unique in the marketplace is our corporate culture. Its underlying principles are that we look to live our lives for the sake of others, believe in the philosophy of oneness and instill the idea of teamwork to all our employees.”

Oneness indeed… how wonderfully Moonie. So before you have that next yummy California roll, just remember: The Reverend Moon thanks you for your investment.

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Aside: You may notice the “Hates America” tag. I have decided, following the Mildly Piqued Academician (in homage to Angry Midwesterner), to tag all my rants with “Hates America” from here on out. I give it a fig leaf of justification by noting that readers of the Washington Times are part of the Grand Neoconservative Conspiracy (TM), and therefore must hate America.

The current restaurant trend is tapas. For those of you who don’t dine out much at “nice” places, American-style tapas involves a bunch of small dishes of mostly quasi-Mediterranean “fusion” food ordered a la carte, which are sampled by everyone at the table “family style.”

Pah.

I don’t pay good money to have to pass a bunch of stupid little dishes filled with pretentious food I don’t understand around a table. Tapas can return to whatever culinary fad hole it crawled out of as far as I am concerned.

This rant is inspired by two recent events, my reading of this Dec. 5, New York Times article and my going to a Japanese “japas” restaurant with some relatives on roughly the same day. (I name no names to protect the innocent and guilty both.) I’d been to the restaurant a few years ago and liked it quite a bit, but the menu had changed from being more traditional Japanese restaurant, which always had a fair bit of a la carte on the sushi menu, of course, to “japas.” There were no entrees at all, just a long list of small dishes mostly priced between $3 and $8, with a few over that. No clue as to what they were, no clue as to what goes with what, how big anything is, and so on. The waiter was a useless ‘tard (both kinds). Now I’m not especially fond of Japanese food but can usually find something decent on the menu, for instance one of the Japanese adaptations to please the Western palate, shrimp tempura. There was a shrimp dish (“sweet shrimp”) which I ordered hoping that it was shrimp tempura… when the plate showed up with small shrimp in the shell with heads still on I realized the answer was a resounding no. Sure they were breaded and fried but definitely not shrimp tempura and definitely not satisfying either. I ended up ordering something else which was OK… but of course added to the bill, which added to my dissatisfaction. More on that below.

Basically, the whole phenomenon is just an upscale reinvention of an old American classic: the buffet. The big difference is that at a buffet, all your choices (as incoherent they may be) are laid out in front of you and are usually pretty simple stuff like mac ‘n’ cheese, steamed vegetables, overcooked roast beef, etc. With tapas, you’re sitting down at your table facing a menu with a blizzard of dishes. Some are straightforward, such as mixed olives or bread and olive oil, but most suffer with vague, pretentious fusion cuisine titles like:

  • “Roasted beets with goat cheese vinaigrette”
  • “Hazelnut-crusted wilted arugula with maple goat cheese vinaigrette”
  • “Rabbit with wilted arugula, goat cheese and nuts”
  • “Watermelon goat cheese salad with citrus vinagrette”
  • “Wild bighorn sheep sausage with blueberry mustard goat cheese vinaigrette.”

Goat cheese and vinagrette for EVERYONE! The standard tapas menu is the culinary equivalent of “feature vomit.” Given the questionable edibility of most fusion cuisine, it’s none too far from being the actual, honest-to-goodness kind, too, especially after one’s third Grey Goose appletini in two hours, coupled with those cigarettes “smoked only on weekends.” Unsurprisingly, the Spanish—inventors of tapas—practice it more sensibly. Basically, it’s bar food, something Americans aren’t exactly ignorant of. That’s right, tapas is just the Spanish version of buffalo wings, peanuts, fries, etc., except it’s olives, bread with toppings, etc., which restaurateurs in the US have convinced the public should cost a bundle. And who ever thought bar food was a good deal? 😉

Diners are, as the New York Times article linked above, supposed to like this because of Americans’ desire for more choice, whether we need it or not. As far as I’m concerned, tapas is just another way to fleece me out of my hard-earned money while making me agonize over picking a meal, but I’m one of those seemingly relatively rare people who hates shopping, and tapas brings all the joy of accessorizing to the dinner table. Behavioral economics tells us that, from the standpoint of the retailer, tapas makes sense: Many small transactions are more easily overlooked than larger ones and it’s easier to get diners to spend more thereby. Of course my discontent is also understandable—too many choices and too many transactions can be disconcerting. If you want a nice short introduction, look at Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz‘s little book The Paradox of Choice, which explains quite nicely why more choice isn’t always better for our own well-being. (Read this review for a short course.) In a nutshell, each choice we have to make involves cognitive effort on our part, and a comparison with all the other choices we could have made but ended up rejecting. All this comparison is tiring and opportunity cost is a stone-cold bee-otch, if you’re aware of it. Schwartz characterizes two basic ideal-type cognitive styles: maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers carefully compare their options. Satisficers, by constrast, are willing to settle for “good enough” and move on. Evidently I am a “maximizer” when it comes to meals at good restaurants… and, at least according to Schwartz, maximizers are unlikely to be happy about what they get because they spend more time comparing their options, paying attention to opportunity costs, and so on. Tapas is, therefore, pretty much guaranteed to piss me off. (I’m better at satisficing in other choices, fortunately.) I admit a lot of this is my descent to fogey-ism. I don’t like the “mix tape on steroids” that is the modern Ipod playlist and I never play albums on shuffle either. I hate surprise parties. I have a decidedly unfashionable desire for a coherent whole, be it an album or a meal, and tapas (of whatever variety) doesn’t deliver it for me. The fact that it’s a way to run up the tab just nails it.

The only good tapas experience I’ve ever had was a few years back in Minneapolis. The restaurant was not my choice, but I was with friends…. The waitress had the sense to suggest that we “course” the meal and let the kitchen take over. She asked us for a basic list of our preferences and went back to the kitchen. So “choice”—if you want to have a good experience, anyway—is an illusion, too.

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Aside: You may notice the “fascism” tag. I have decided—out of deference to Angry Midwesterner—to tag all my rants with “fascism” from here on out. I give it a fig leaf of justification with Spain’s experience under the dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco, the man about whom Adolf Hitler said “I would rather spend two hours in the dentist’s chair than have another meeting with him.” Franco would have enjoyed tapas. So there. 😛

In what appears to be continuing series in credit card malfeasance, I would like to preface by saying that it applies to one issuing bank/card marketing company and not necessarily to all such entities. However; card marketing companies are like lemmings — where one goes, they all follow, so I wouldn’t be surprised that what I describe here could be happening elsewhere.

The story starts in the typical manner: an offer letter shows up in your mailbox for a credit card. It may have a low teaser rate or may be an affinity card with your favorite sports symbol on it (“The Chief”). You decide that you will send it in. It says your rate may be “as low as” 3%. “As low as” means that if you pay all your bills in gold boullion, pay them before they are due, and add on every enhancement offered, you get the 3%, otherwise you pay the 24% like everyone else. What happens is that to generate a marketing list, card marketers go out to the credit bureaus with a set of criteria (say FICOs between 650 and 680) and get a list of names and addresses—the “pre-pull”. They make the offer and for those who return the business reply envelope, they do a post-pull and then give you the rate that the credit risk model says you deserve, taking into account allowances for things like the current interest rate margin (profit).

Now typically, (here is the cross-sell again), these offers for a credit card come packaged with a lot of enhancements like a) lost and stolen card protection, b) travel rewards, c) extended warranties, or d) discounts. These may be via opt-in/out boxes or actually packaged together. So when the application is sent in, you may be signing up for “enhancement products” on the card if you don’t read VERY carefully.

A recent trend I’ve noticed is for credit cards to be offered at a checkout counter. Now this is actually a good marketing strategy — using your existing relationships with a customer. This shift is occurring as marketing professionals scour for new ways to reach you. Five years ago, the direct mail response rate was 1.3%. The last time I looked it was .04%. Since it costs postage, printing, processing charges, etc. to send an offer, the CPA or cost per booked account is is getting larger and larger. If you are at a checkout counter at a store and the clerk says something like “Do you know you can get a 10% discount if you use The “Store Branded” Master Card —would you like one?” — well, that is pretty enticing.

So you apply for the credit card. This usually takes the form of a “take-one” application in industry parlance. In the particular case in mind, you fill out the application form, including your SSN, and hand it to the checkout or customer service person who enters the data into “The Program”. The application sails away to the issuing bank, who owns The Program, and they run the post-pull and model and presto, you have a credit card, often within minutes. The stores even have a card-not-present payment option to allow you to use it right away. The CPA for this type of offer is much lower than shotgunning direct mail out to the general population, which happens to own an average of five credit cards anyway. And even with the 10% discount giveaway added, the CPA is less than traditional direct mail marketing methods.

What about those enhancement products? On the form I obtained, in order to sign-up for an enhancement, you have to either sign a blank that says you want the product, or sign that you decline the product. This set of required signatures is, however, on another panel of the application tri-fold. I asked what happens if you ignore the blanks and turn in the application without signing either accept or decline? “The Program” won’t accept the application without one or another. [Note the positive reinforcement of the cross-sell opportunity rather than default to a no-sell.]

This, I presume, is meant to be a closed loop control but the customer service people are always busy and are under pressure to complete the application processing as quickly as possible. I asked if they ever just checked a box to get on with it —“No, That would be cheating” was the response. A particular person, of whom I have previously referred to in conjunction with credit cards, applied for a card in this manner, not signing up for the enhancement. She left both signature spaces blank. Strangely, the application, which was returned to her after the data entry procedure, had some handwriting which differed from hers. An accident?

I asked the checkout clerk, a young guy, if they received incentives for pushing credit cards. Yes they did. I asked whether they got cash incentives or the manager-will-beat-you less type. [My daughter , working in a department store as a clerk, was continually subjected to harassment for not meeting her ‘quota’ of store cards. She quit.] He laughed and said more like the second rather than the first.

At this point let me state that this is completely legal. The best marketing builds on existing relationships. The only caveat is that perhaps it’s not that good of an idea to have customer service clerks enter data under pressure and under incentives to meet application quotas. And further; it’s not a good idea to take applications and transfer data to their terminal where the customer really can’t view what is being requested in their name. Card processors do this by optical character recognition at high rates (and with low error rates) and leave out the human component. I also wonder where that application goes, the one with your personal data and SSN on it, after the data is entered into The Program.

That is how instant credit can work. Here is how typical direct mail applications work. The application arrives at card processing entity where the application is scanned, post-pulls are done, analysis run and card is priced (interest rate set). Plastic is generated and shipped to customer with sticky label that says “To activate card, call number 800-613-4395”. So far so good. Now the scam……

Let’s suppose that the customer, in an attack of buyer remorse, upon receiving his plastic decides that he doesn’t need another card, so he just cuts up the card. That is to say, the card is never activated.

20 days later he get a statement with a $29.00 or some such charge against his card. It might be for an extended warranty plan or a card protection plan, but the customer knows that he cut up and never activated the card. He disregards the statement. (Most likely he never opens it because he knows he doesn’t have that card.) After 30 days, the card gets hit with interest (e.g. 24%) plus $29 late fee. Balance is now $58.58. Second month passes — another interest and late fee. Balance is now $88.75. Account is deliquent 60 days, letter is sent. “Why is is this bank bothering me” — into the garbage. Another month, another late fee. Balance now $119.53, and so forth until you get a phone call. “I don’t owe you anything”. Suppose the card holder was sub-prime and they were given a credit line of $500. After a while, the accumulated balance exceeds the credit limit and they get both a late fee and an over-limit fee.

In the particular case I am speaking of, customers had run up balances of $1500 or more having never activated their card. Not to mention royally screwing their credit histories at the bureaus.

A regular merchant could never post a settlement against an unactivated card as this is a principle barrier against merchant fraud. But the issuing bank, who usually also runs either an enhancement business unit, or contracts for one, OWNS the cardholder masterfile. By masking out the activation character position in the master file by means of a COBOL program,they can run the enhancement sales orders against the master file and ‘force post’ the enhancement product sale. The pretense is that this is valid and legal because the customer indicated a desire to purchase the enhancement, even though the product is an enhancement against a non-active account.

Pretty good. Enhancement products can generate the highest profit margins at the bank, and drop right to the bottom line. Now if they could only convince the FTC and the lawyers litigating aginst them in class action suits.

Oprah Moment. n.
A defining point in time in which a person comes to some sort of revelation or truth about themselves [even if it is a lie prefabricated to sell].

In previous excursions I’ve alluded to the fact that these days a “compelling personal story” in which one has “overcome adversity” is needed to succeed. And, of course, cash in for the big bucks or power (think of politicians). Like the purported Age of Aquarius famous from the musical Hair, the Age of Oprah is insipid sh!te.

Oprah Winfrey seems to be an emblematic figure in this selling of emotional “reality.” She’s been busted before, the “million pieces” memoir-iste James Frey who turned out to have made the whole thing up and whose book went from bestseller to the remainder bin in record time being a very prominent example. James Frey is only a recent example of fraudulent autobiography, which is far from new—the most excellent short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is an excellent parody of a middle aged man’s fantasy life—but what’s interesting about Frey is the fact that he exaggerated not his accomplishments but his utter lack thereof. It was better to be a puking, drug addicted, jailbird than a nobody. Definitely better because it got his book published, though in the end he had to face the Wrath of Oprah when it was revealed to be bantha poodoo.

Of course, Oprah didn’t invent this, though she and her less successful fellow daytime talk show hosts profit from it immensely. (Oprah is the richest self-made woman in the world and the only African-American billionaire.) Instead it taps into a very deep strain of vulgar populism in the American psyche, rooted perhaps in the Protestant tradition of
testifying and the overthrow of nobility in the Revolution. (Or maybe it’s even older and broader spread? The telenovela is all the rage around the world, after all.) In short, I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, but the confessional populism of Oprah and her ilk is definitely with us. It has long since spread to the large quantity of people who like nothing if not a good cry… followed by a cheap happy ending, of course. If James Frey had written a book about his life while still a crackhead, I doubt it would have been so well received. Of course, there’s the get rich quick angle, which Oprah’s been into as well: she seems to have jumped her own couch pimping the newest self-help phenomenon The Secret. There is no secret: it’s just “the power of positive thinking” rehashed for the early 21st Century. Optimism in and of itself is a good thing, but again, taken too far, it becomes insanity.

Here are some other examples:

Celebrity Redemptions Britney “I should have gone into an alternate career in porn, where my name would have been perfect” Spears recent bizarrities, Lindsay “I’ve never seen a substance I didn’t want to abuse” Lohan’s constant trip to rehab, Paris “I’m the picture perfect post-modern star, famous for being famous for being in a homemade porn video released to the internet by my scumbag boyfriend” Hilton doing time, Mel “I’m a drunken bigot who has, at least, made some decent movies in the past” Gibson , etc. Rehab just seems to be part of the personal cost of making millions and millions of bucks.

Presidential Politics Our current president’s liking for a compelling personal story has led him to justify keeping incompetent fools around long past their sell-by date. Of course, his own compelling personal story of “overcoming” addiction (IMO by replacing one with another, but of course your mileage may vary) didn’t hurt him in the 2000 election compared to the relatively wooden Al Gore. Joe Average felt they could sit down and have a beer with GWB, presuming he drank beer anymore, as if that mattered for running a country. (I just don’t see George Washington walking into the local pub and knocking a few back with the boys.) This isn’t a partisan thing: Jimmy Carter pioneered it (in a 1976 interview in Playboy, no less) with his statement about adultery and Bill Clinton, the “Man from Hope [Arkansas]” was probably the recent master of the political confessional.

Motivational Speakers Nobody even vaguely famous ever retires. They just become motivational speakers, who incidentally, cost at minimum $10,000 to speak at your corporate event telling you about their personal struggle or whatever. Just ask their agents about the General of the age Tommy Franks, United States Army (ret.), KBE, and holder of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (a civilian award), or Erin Brockovich. Heck even former Presidents get into it. Both George I of the House of Bush and Bubba charge some tall bucks to grace select groups with their august presences and I’m sure George II will similarly charge tall bucks to talk to whoever is willing to listen to him. (Me? I’d rather hire Jefferson Starship to play my corporate event. I’d look forward to whomever they found to replace the retired Grace Slick wailing “eat your head… eat your head…” while making sure not to dislodge their Depends.) Even the British sailors released from the clutches of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Easter are selling their life stories (see here for a bit of discussion). I guess if Tommy Franks can get a book deal inspiring us with his dubious wisdom, why not Faye Turney with her lack thereof? Fair is fair, after all and if a ghost writer can spin an interesting enough book, she should go for it. In some senses, I can’t blame Joe Average for seeing his chance at a meal ticket way better than what he would otherwise make, but a guy like Tommy Franks probably doesn’t need the money. He obviously doesn’t care about the dignity.

Certainly there’s virtue to be found in having to struggle personally and that’s what the “compelling personal story” is all about. But when it’s become another currency, ambitious youngsters go through a lot of trouble to pack their resumes with appropriate life enriching experiences. What matters is accomplishment. To the extent that one’s life experiences help inform that, sure, but when struggle and redemption (or, rather, the appearance of struggle and redemption) has become a necessity to further advancement or a way to make a buck, what’s really going on?

When James Frey figures out a way to write a successful memoir about his time making a fraudulent memoir that got plugged by Oprah, we’ll know we have well and truly jumped the couch.

As astue readers have noticed, in addition to the usual weekend fare, we have a series of special posts today. Patience is apparently not our virtue, for a number of the authors have been badgering me to publish special “timely rants” immediately. Rather than trying to reason with my beloved co-authors, I’ve simply given in and allowed them to post their “special rants” throughout today. Let’s hope that they haven’t used up all their good ideas for the week to come!

For you, dear readers, it’s an unexpected bonus (at least if you like our rants). Our fondest hope that you appreciate today’s special addition—and that you’ll understand if tomorrow we’re back to a less hectic pace. Only time will tell whether this rush to publish is wise or foolish. Less is sometimes more, but perhaps more is sometimes more too! Scroll down, or check the latest post list on the right to enjoy—and check back frequently today!

Thanks to a book by former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw (very nicely satirized by Harry Shearer on Le Show: Book Bag: Tom Brokaw’s newest Greatest Generation works), we’ve been stuck with the term “Greatest Generation” for the past several years.

A few weeks back, Angry Overeducated Catholic (The Lamest Generation) accused Boomers of being narcissistic. Sure, no argument there. All you have to do is watch the once mighty Dennis Hopper laid low doing “Gimme Some Lovin'”-soundtracked commercials for Ameriprise Financial that scratch Boomer narcissism’s back just… that… little… bit… lower—right THERE!!!—down to see what I mean. I’d note, though, there seems to be at least some evidence that narcissism has only grown worse subsequently. Whether this is something inherent to human nature or a not-so-nice part of our culture I am not entirely sure. My hunch is that as our society has become wealthier and more egalitarian—generally good trends if you ask me—personality aspects for which spoiled rich kids have been notorious from time out of mind have descended lower and lower into our class structure. (It’s also important not to mythologize the past. People have always been rotten, venal self-centered jerks: read the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Holy Bible or Homer for millenia-old examples, if you need them. Altruism, generosity and humility are virtuous because they are rare.) A fuller examination of these points will have to wait for another day, however.

Do not misunderstand me. I deeply respect the sacrifice of the people who fought World War II, but crediting victory to one generation is downright silly. Leaders like FDR, Truman, Ike, Patton, McArthur, and Nimitz, just to name a few, were not GGers. The forgotten field-grade officers (majors, colonels and lieutenant commanders) and senior NCOs (the gunnies, master sergeants and CPOs) responsible for turning a bunch of green kids into a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude able to stand up to and eventually kick the stuffing out of the Wehrmacht (with help, of course) and the Imperial Japanese Navy in a few short years were not GGers. It may have a “common man” appeal to believe leadership means little, but that is a naive over-reaction to the great man school of history. Leadership matters. A lot.

Still, the GG deserves praise for rising to the challenge of WWII, so let’s give it to them, and then turn to other parts of the GG’s postwar record, which should infuriate both conservatives and liberals in some mixture:

    (1) Who was in charge during the Vietnam War? Whatever your opinion of the Vietnam War is (good idea badly executed or a stupid, immoral act from day 1), you have to agree the management of it left much to be desired. Boomers were young adults or children, not the decision makers, but somehow they get the blame for it.
    (2) Who was in charge when Great Society programs were built, i.e., when welfare as we knew it was built?
    (3) Who presided over stagflation of the ’70s and the “Me Decade” of the ’80s? These eras did a lot to undermine the (idealized) 1950s modern liberals and conservatives like so much (admittedly for different reasons).
    (4) Who presided over a giant shifting of priorities from the young to the old over the course of that time, leading to the giant gaping hole of “unfunded entitlement programs”? Again, conservatives love to hate organizations like the AARP… but who are the members?
    (5) Who presided over the development of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and later “Flexible Response,” holding the whole world hostage?
    (6) Who squandered America’s lead in technology and science, allowing our public school system to fall to third-world levels in many places?
    (7) Who left the inner cities to rot into squalid nests of grinding poverty and lead the building of Soviet-style high rises to replace what had been functioning neighborhoods?

Of course, they also presided over the end of the Cold War, which turned out pretty well. That just makes my point: things are a mixed bag with any generation. Characterizing an entire generation in a nutshell is doomed to failure. I’ve read stuff written by people like Strauss and Howe and went “yeah!” However, it’s the hollow, empty-calorie Twinkie-and-a-Coke-for-breakfast kind of “yeah” that comes with reading a horoscope: sufficiently vague to allow the reader to wrap his or her own interpretation into it no matter what it says. At least Strauss and Howe didn’t use the term “Greatest” (theirs is the GI Generation) and don’t get into hagiography like Mr. Brokaw. Pandering is pandering and we can do without Tom Brokaw’s belated generational reach-aro^H^H^H hagiography. Maybe he feels bad about giving his old man a hard time when he was a teenager? Or perhaps he feels he needs to share the narcissistic love his generation is known for, since I’m not really sure, based on the GGers I know, anyway, they believe the hype?

Just how gullible are the American people? Pretty damn gullible as I see it. Marketing companies have created whole new volumes of techniques to foist their products on people. The sad part is that these marketing techniques actually work.

I first became aware of this market making phenomena some time ago as I considered the television adverstising of feminine hygiene products. Now I will admit as freely as anyone that a woman , unwashed and unshowered for three weeks, is not the most delicate fragrance I’ve ever sniffed, but in fairness the same can be said, and more so, of a number of men. In fact, the time delay for men is about one day from unshowered to positively stinky. However, with the application of a regular course of hygiene (pay attention France), there is nothing overtly more smelly about a woman than a man. I am aware that some women are subject to unwanted excretions (or—as my daughter says—juices), but panty liners deal with that quite effectively. Why any woman needs to purchase a crotch deodorant is beyond me. Most of the deodorants smell much worse than ‘au natural’ and probably are mutagenic and carcinogenic as well. If there is a smell, it’s probably because of an infection and she needs an antibiotic not a perfume. So clearly, the television ads increase the self consciousness of an insecure person, about a mostly non-existent problem, and create a market. About $69 million annually according to Checkout.

So it is clearly possible to invent markets out of whole cloth. What is truly annoying is when drug companies attempt to sell their useless drugs by creating diseases using these selfsame marketing techniques.

Which brings us to Glaxo Smith-Kline. Seems as if they have a drug which was developed for Parkinson’s Disease but didn’t really meet the efficacy standards imposed by the FDA. There was an interesting effect however – the drug suppresses the “tingles’ that occasionally occur in muscles. So how does one recoup the millions of dollars of development expenses for a drug which doesn’t work? Create a new disease or syndrome, one which conveniently can be cured by the very drug under consideration. Voila: Restless Leg Syndrome. Next, lobby and get the FDA to approve the drug for the new syndrome. Create and fund a support group. Eventually, there will even be a natural vegan/organic solution. You’ve made it to the big time. Now you have created a multi-million dollar market for your screw-up.

And the American people (and Europeans also, it appears), actually buy into this. Astounding!

So the next television commerical you encounter – press that MUTE button. Skip over the ads in newspapers, and when someone presents you with an offer to buy something you just have to have, resist. But before all that, for God’s sake, clean out that medicine cabinet!