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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 7, 2022 by Tony Wikrent   Restoring balance to the economy Becoming the Workers’ Party Again Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), August 5, 2022 [The American Prospect] …A toxic combination of shareholder capitalism and pliant politicians gutted our middle class, hollowed out our towns, and dried up opportunity for people […]
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Women are not simply the sum of their parts

Linda, a breast cancer survivor, explains where the body starts and politics end and where the Komen foundation got it so wrong by deciding to defund Planned Parenthood:

The problem, as I see it, is that the religious right has been extremely successful at reducing women to a collection of parts which they claim to have dominion over.  They’ve been successful because *both* parties have used Roe as a political football going for three downs before they punt it back to the other team.  Lately, the Republicans have been able to commandeer the airwaves to persuade clueless religious voters to vote against abortion in order to slip in legislation that is devastating to the social safety net.

As we saw a few days ago, applying peer pressure tactics can alter a person’s perception of reality.  People who care intensely about being with the group can not tolerate the “pain of independence”.  They aren’t even aware of how they’ve changed or how much they have been willing to swallow.  Personally?  I think appealing to religious voters to knock it off will have zero impact.  While they are surrounded by so much messaging, they are as remote and untouchable as Mars.  They are going to do what they’re told when they march into that voting booth.  I suppose you could attack their messaging machine but we’ve already tried that.  What we might expect is that many of them will meet their maker in the next couple of election cycles, thus reducing their numbers. Yeah, sure there are younger religious wingnuts but television starts to become less important the younger you are.

While we are waiting for nature to take its course, expect the Republicans to redouble their efforts.  It’s going to get ridiculous from now until election day.  But I think they only have a few more election cycles to affect the kind of permanent change they’ve been hoping for since FDR.  And Komen may have backfired on them.  This one is a bridge too far for most women who have been under constant attack ever since Obama and the Democrats pandered to the religious during the 2008 election cycle.

By the way, ladies, if you are ever given a choice to vote for a reasonable female politician again, even if she is not 100% perfect, tell the blogger boys to go Cheney themselves and vote for her.  No man, no matter what his ethnicity, is worth putting your own needs second.

********************************************

More on the religious right, this time in the area of counselling.  How would you like to go to a counsellor for a troubling personal matter with elements of sexuality only to find out that your counsellor was a born-again, evangelical, fundy who is going to tell you *exactly* how she feels about your immoral behavior?  Relax.  Julea Ward would never do that to you.  She would refer you to another counsellor before she would subject herself to the professional obligation to treat you with compassion and respect.

Unfortunately for Ward, her faculty supervisors didn’t think she understood what her future job entails and they filed disciplinary actions against her.  They expelled her:

A federal court dismissed Ms. Ward’s claim of religious discrimination. But on Jan. 27, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ordered the lower court to rehear the case, finding that Eastern Michigan “cannot point to any written policy that barred Ward from requesting this referral.”

According to the Sixth Circuit decision, written by Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, Ms. Ward counseled her first two clients without incident. But when she “reviewed the file of the third client, she noticed he sought counseling about a same-sex relationship.” Ms. Ward asked her faculty supervisor, Yvonne Callaway, “(1) whether she should meet with the client and refer him only if it became necessary — only if the counseling session required Ward to affirm the client’s same-sex relationship — or (2) whether the school should reassign the client from the outset.”

Professor Callaway reassigned the client, but then began disciplinary proceedings against Ms. Ward. During the proceedings, professors challenged Ms. Ward’s interpretation of Christianity, with one, Perry C. Francis, wondering if Ms. Ward could not give gay men and lesbians “the same respect and honor that God would give them?”

The Sixth Circuit decision turns on how common it is to refer patients to other counselors. Ms. Ward argues that one’s religious beliefs are a reasonable reason to refer a client, while the university argues that it has to train students to work with all kinds of clients. The American Counseling Association filed a brief asserting that to habitually refer gay clients would violate its ethical canon.

Ms. Ward referred questions to her lawyer, Jeremy Tedesco of the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal advocacy organization. Mr. Tedesco said that “if referrals are acceptable, including for many nonreligious-based reasons, they can’t deny someone who has a religion-based need to refer.” He said that Ms. Ward was not singling out gay men and lesbians, and that she would also refuse to affirm heterosexuals who sought counseling about their adultery.

 

This reminds me of the pharmacists who don’t want to fill contraceptive prescriptions.  It becomes a real problem when there is no other place to get the services or products you need.

I shudder to think about what would have happened to Ward’s patients when they went to see her about a non-marital relationship they were in.  Extra marital and pre-marital sex are absolutely verboten to the evangelical Christian.  There are no exceptions.  In fact, to some fundies, you shouldn’t have any physical contact at all before you’re married not even so much as a chaste kiss.  Maybe Ward could give out a little card describing her views before the first session and then the patient could decide which one of them was more emotionally disturbed.

What puzzles me is just what it is she was going to do during her counselling sessions.  I guess she could help people with phobias or work related issues.  But imagine how weird it would be if the patient came to her complaining of her nutty, religious fundy family who can’t think logically anymore and is extremely persistent about pushing their over the top religious beliefs down her throat and it’s driving her crazy.  Technically, it’s not a sexual matter.

Expelling her was a public service.

Friday: The Stupid Continues

More fallout from the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to kowtow to it’s noisy but small group of elderly ultra religious social conservatives (whose numbers are shrinking at an alarming rate) and drop funding to Planned Parenthood.  This bit from John Raffaelli, a board member, sums up just how smug the social conservatives have gotten:

Her comments directly contradicted those of John D. Raffaelli, a Komen board member and Washington lobbyist, who told The New York Times on Wednesday that Komen made the changes to its grant-making process specifically to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood. Mr. Raffaelli said that Komen had become increasingly worried that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would damage Komen’s credibility with donors.

Komen gave Planned Parenthood $700,000 last year — a tiny portion of its $93 million in grants — to finance 19 separate programs. A growing number of religious organizations had become concerned that donations to Komen would benefit Planned Parenthood and had advised members not to give to Komen. Rather than risk offending some donors with a relatively small portfolio of grants, Komen decided to largely cut off Planned Parenthood, Mr. Raffaelli said.

To Planned Parenthood, that decision amounted to a betrayal of the organizations’ shared goal of saving lives through breast screening programs. Ms. Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, said her organization was gratified by the support the controversy has brought.

“We provide care to one in five women in America, and over the last two days it seems we’ve heard from every one of them, through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and all sorts of ways, “ Ms. Richards said. “It’s a true show of women standing for women.”

Over 30 years, Komen became one of the most successful disease advocacy organizations in the world by making pink ribbons and the fight against breast cancer as prevalent a symbol here as baseball and apple pie.

Avoiding this kind of controversy was the very reason Komen chose a quiet ending to its relationship with Planned Parenthood, Mr. Raffaelli said. And he said Komen was bitterly disappointed that Planned Parenthood was using Komen’s decision to raise money.

Notice what is really outraging the board at Komen.  It’s not that they haven’t cured breast cancer or spared one woman the pain of losing her breasts or life.  No, the outrage is that Planned Parenthood is benefitting from the Komen’s ill-advised, boneheaded decision.  How dare Planned Parenthood not take defeat humbly?!  Don’t they realize that the most powerful breast cancer organization in the world has just given them orders to drop their abortion services or suffer the consequences?  Doesn’t Planned Parenthood recognize shame when it is shoved in its face?  Who do these (slightly soiled and socially unacceptable) people think they are by assuming they can raise money for their filthy deeds?

I think we can deduce the kind of people Komen mingles with.  They’re not the kind of people who would ever need to visit Planned Parenthood.  They’re the kind of people who see the breast cancer screening activities of Planned Parenthood as a small auxilliary activity of their pro abortion empire.  They’ve never been a poor college student or working class woman or even middle class woman with a gap in her health insurance coverage.  It is inconceivable why anyone would want to contribute money to THAT GROUP.  In their minds, and the minds of their friends, Planned Parenthood has a reputation that is roughly equivalent of a crack den or a massage parlor.  I think Komen is just now waking up to the fact that millions and millions of American women do not see it that way at all.  This is what happens when growing income inequality separates the moneyed from everyone else.  They just have no idea how the other 99% live.

Sadly, I know exactly the kind of people Komen is trying to appeal to.  I’ve had dinner with these people.  Some of them are pretty well off and are otherwise kind and generous.  They just have this weakness where social issues are concerned and a blind spot about who actually uses services like Planned Parenthood.  Their obsession with homosexuality and abortion tears churches apart and their wealth gives them the power to withhold their money from any organization that does even one teensy tiny thing they don’t approve of.

Komen should have held firm and told these people to back off.  If preventing breast cancer is the goal, all of the money in the world won’t work unless it is put in the hands of the people who can actually detect and prevent breast cancer.  There’s no point sitting on a pile of cash if you don’t intend to use it.

Which brings me to my next item…

Astra-Zeneca announced the layoffs of 7700 people yesterday.  AZ is closing their site in Montreal, Canada.  Pharmageddon is hitting Montreal pretty hard, which makes me more than a little concerned for one of my favorite Canadian computational chemistry vendors.  I wonder how long they can survive in this environment and am hoping they are working on a new business model.

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline covered the Astra-Zeneca layoffs yesterday and discovered this little nugget:

And AZ seems to be all but getting out of pain/CNS, cutting down to a few dozen people who will do external collaborations. Oh, and they’re buying back 4.5 billion dollars worth of stock, instead of spending that money on what the company tries to make a profit on. So there is that. If you’d like to hear AZ tell you how all this is making them more productive, here’s the press release.

Yes, you read that right, AZ is destroying the careers of almost 8000 scientists and support staff so that they can buy back stock.  Just concentrate that wealth even further.  Don’t dilute it.  And you know, I’m all for it.  I hope my 401K isn’t invested in AZ stock because the company isn’t going to grow any time soon.

Derek has a new post up today about AZ in Waltham, MA.  It looks like the shadow man is hanging over that site as well and AZ is playing the same game that Pfizer and other pharmas have done to their staffs:

Pfizer has done this to their people before, as have other companies in the throes of layoffs, and it’s the only way I know to actually push morale and productivity down even further in such a situation. You come to work for weeks, for months, not knowing if your, your lab, or your whole department is heading for the chopping block. All you’re sure of is that someone is. And will your own stellar performance persuade upper management to keep you, when the time comes? Not likely, under these conditions – it’ll more likely be the sort of thing where they draw lines through whole areas. Your fate, most people feel at these times, is not in your own hands. A less motivating environment couldn’t be engineered on purpose.

But that’s what AZ’s management has chosen to do at their largest research site in North America. I hope that they enjoy the results. But then (and more on this later), these are the people who have chosen to spend billions buying back their own stock rather than put it into research in the first place. It’s not like the score isn’t already up there on the big screen for everyone to see.

Been there.  Done that.  The shadow man hung over our site for about 2 years.  I don’t know what made us think the company would spare us.  In the final months before we were laid off, the lights were dimmed, the labs rearranged, whole departments were abandoned, their gleaming robotics collecting dust.  The hallways were darkened and we navigated our carts down allies cluttered with discarded lab equipment.  Chemists roamed the corridors with pale skin and dark circles under their eyes from lack of sleep, like zombies, with slowed gaits and unfixed gazes, turning inwards towards some bleak vision of the future.  No, I am not exaggerating.  My lab partner and I were so busy we hardly noticed the change around us until we met one of the living dead chemists in the hallway.  We were so caught up in our own research and making such good progress that we had no idea that we would be the first to go.  And no, it didn’t matter that our work was stellar or had gotten praise or that we had gotten Christmas bonuses for outstanding performance.  When the cut came, we were stunned.  But an email from the corporate guys up the street let us know that because our jobs were sacrificed, the company had met and exceeded its quarterly projections.  That was supposed to make us feel better.

There should be a law about sending out tasteless and painful email like that to employees you still want to work for you for four more months.  But it’s almost like the MBAs didn’t know we existed or that we had feelings and children we had to break the news to.  I understand that the AZ folks have been fully informed of the stock buy back program and must be feeling really peachy about it now.  Waltham folks should get their affairs in order.  When you start to work under the shadow man, your site’s days are numbered.

And here’s a little dark comedy production put together by a pharma chemist with YouTube handle ZombieSymmetry.  This is what passes for pharmaceutical research in this country these days.  It is trickle down Wharton MBA:

This is EXACTLY the kind of crap we had to put up with. And this:

I realize there are some smug and resentful liberal types out there reading this who have zero sympathy for pharma workers. Personally, I think you’re lacking a compassion component to your personality or are letting your political dogma interfere with your understanding of a crucial component of your country’s research infrastructure. I won’t call you stupid because that wouldn’t be nice because that wouldn’t be true. But your attitude is incredibly naive.

Pharmageddon should matter to you and you should see it as an opportunity to rejigger pharmaceutical research to work for YOU and not the small evil group that runs everything and to which no one we know belongs. Right now, the research community needs you to grow a clue and help them so they can help you. Without them, you are going to face rising costs in generic drugs and will become reliant on China for any new drugs that get discovered. Is that what you want??

Didn’t think so. Now, grab onto the research that is slipping away and pull hard.

*****************************

In case the politicians start singing about green shoots being just around the corner in yet another recovery summer, here is more evidence that it’s not happening in the pharma/biotech sector where the workers with the best educations are.  This layoff list is from FiercePharma and is just from *this year*.  We’re only three days into February and this is what we’re looking at:

If I were a politician in NJ, NY, PA, CT, MA or CA, I’d be shitting bricks right now.  The loss of highly paid, technical and biotech jobs has been enormous and we know that politicians have been sticking their fingers in their ears singing “la-la-la”.  Democrats haven’t done a damn thing to stop the job losses.  They have allowed the grasshoppers to hollow out these companies and take everything for themselves.  We’re left fending for ourselves in an environment when money for research is scarce and vulture capitalists are waiting to swoop down and take advantage of any new discoveries we can find from working our asses off.

Everyone will pay for this with higher drug costs, and fewer new and safer discoveries.  What has been allowed to happen is criminal.  Don’t expect us to reward incumbents with our votes.

Gratuitious ratings scheme or just good information?

Over at Townhall.com they’ve sparked a debate over whether Dr. Nancy, from MSNBC, was looking for a ratings boost or reporting on important information.  It stems from an on-air depiction of a breast-self exam demonstrated on a local news station, WJLA in Washington DC.  Dr. Nancy led her segment off with a clip of the exam, setting off a controversy over how necessary the clip was to her specific story.  Ironically, the Dr. Nancy segment was focused on the question of whether the timing of the local news segment was in fact a critical news piece done in conjunction with the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or was it merely to capture higher ratings at the end of a ratings period?

One of the arguments made concerned the fact that the woman shown was in her twenties, not someone in a higher risk factor age group; but, is it just as important to encourage young women to do these self-exams?  Are we as a nation too prudish and need to be “desensitized” as Elizabeth Edwards has said, or was WJLA and/or MSNBC pushing the ratings envelope just a bit too far?

Here is the WJLA story

Here is the WJLA video.
What are your thoughts?

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