The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder:

The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.

Behind that growth has been drug company marketing that has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits. Advertising on television and in popular magazines like People and Good Housekeeping has cast common childhood forgetfulness and poor grades as grounds for medication that, among other benefits, can result in “schoolwork that matches his intelligence” and ease family tension.

A 2002 ad for Adderall showed a mother playing with her son and saying, “Thanks for taking out the garbage.”

Talk about passive-aggressive marketing. But there are even worse, more insidious “Joe Camel” kinds of advertising that Big Pharma is engaging in.

Companies even try to speak to youngsters directly. Shire — the longtime market leader, with several A.D.H.D. medications including Adderall — recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that tries to demystify the disorder and uses superheroes to tell children, “Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!”

Comic book superheroes? Adderall Man? Leaps tall buildings in a single bound (while acing his SAT’s and reading “War and Peace”)? If that isn’t a Joe Camel issue, I don’t know what is…big business selling drug addiction. And it’s very successful.

Profits for the A.D.H.D. drug industry have soared. Sales of stimulant medication in 2012 were nearly $9 billion, more than five times the $1.7 billion a decade before, according to the data company IMS Health.

Now targeting adults, Shire and two patient advocacy groups have recruited celebrities like the Maroon 5 musician Adam Levine for their marketing campaign, “It’s Your A.D.H.D. – Own It.” Online quizzes sponsored by drug companies are designed to encourage people to pursue treatment.

One of my favorite methods of ADHD diagnosis is the online quiz. Because theoretically, if you had ADHD, would you be able to complete the quiz?

Adults searching for information on A.D.H.D. encounter websites with short quizzes that can encourage normal people to think they might have it. Many such tests are sponsored by drug companies in ways hidden or easily missed.

“Could you have A.D.H.D.?” beckons one quiz, sponsored by Shire, on the website everydayhealth.com. Six questions ask how often someone has trouble in matters like “getting things in order,” “remembering appointments” or “getting started” on projects.

A user who splits answers evenly between “rarely” and “sometimes” receives the result “A.D.H.D. Possible.” Five answers of “sometimes” and one “often” tell the user, “A.D.H.D. May Be Likely.”

Isn’t that great…you don’t even have to complete the quiz for us to diagnose you. And you have Big Pharma spokesmen like Adam Levine, who himself is walking ADD trip wire (meaning when I see or hear him sing, my own ADD kicks in and I reach for the remote…own it!) and Ty Pennington (another reason to change the channel) making it all cool to be f’d up. Or something.

A medical education video sponsored by Shire portrays a physician making a diagnosis of the disorder in an adult in a six-minute conversation, after which the doctor recommends medication.

Like most psychiatric conditions, A.D.H.D. has no definitive test, and most experts in the field agree that its symptoms are open to interpretation by patients, parents and doctors. The American Psychiatric Association, which receives significant financing from drug companies, has gradually loosened the official criteria for the disorder to include common childhood behavior like “makes careless mistakes” or “often has difficulty waiting his or her turn.”

Which is, like, every single child or adolescent under the age of 18. All of them. And they should be because their pre-frontal cortex’s are still under construction during childhood and adolescence. You can view impulse control as being a normal developmental stage, or an “illness” that requires the synapses to be zapped with medication.

Also, as I’ve written about for years on this blog, the symptomology has become so broad and extensive (net-widening in other areas of corrections) that virtually any child or adult with a pulse could now be suffering from ADHD (or any other virtual psychosomatic condition). Look at the creation of Adderall itself.

Modern marketing of stimulants began with the name Adderall itself. Mr. Griggs bought a small pharmaceutical company that produced a weight-loss pill named Obetrol. Suspecting that it might treat a relatively unappreciated condition then called attention deficit disorder, and found in about 3 to 5 percent of children, he took “A.D.D.” and fiddled with snappy suffixes. He cast a word with the widest net.

All.

For A.D.D.

A.D.D. for All.

Adderall.

“It was meant to be kind of an inclusive thing,” Mr. Griggs recalled.

[sound of crickets chirping]

And then they enlisted their army of pushers in lab coats to take these drugs for all to the streets.

Adderall quickly established itself as a competitor of the field’s most popular drug, Ritalin. Shire, realizing the drug’s potential, bought Mr. Griggs’s company for $186 million and spent millions more to market the pill to doctors. After all, patients can buy only what their physicians buy into.

As is typical among pharmaceutical companies, Shire gathered hundreds of doctors at meetings at which a physician paid by the company explained a new drug’s value.

For which the psychiatrists receive ongoing kickbacks for every dispensation.

Many of the scientific studies cited by drug company speakers involved Dr. Joseph Biederman, a prominent child psychiatrist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2008, a Senate investigation revealed that Dr. Biederman’s research on many psychiatric conditions had been substantially financed by drug companies, including Shire. Those companies also paid him $1.6 million in speaking and consulting fees. He has denied that the payments influenced his research.

Of course. And then there are the Big Pharma-funded advocacy groups (again, long written about on this blog) like CHADD whose job it is to ensnare anxious parents into the web of dismay.

The primary A.D.H.D. patient advocacy group, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or Chadd, was founded in 1987 to gain greater respect for the condition and its treatment with Ritalin, the primary drug available at the time. Start-up funding was provided by Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Ritalin’s primary manufacturer. Further drug company support helped create public service announcements and pamphlets, some of which tried to dispel concerns about Ritalin; one Chadd “fact sheet” conflicted with 60 years of science in claiming, “Psychostimulant drugs are not addictive.”

A 1995 documentary on PBS detailed how Chadd did not disclose its relationship with drug companies to either the Drug Enforcement Administration, which it was then lobbying to ease government regulation of stimulants, or the Department of Education, with which it collaborated on an A.D.H.D. educational video.

A.D.H.D. patient advocates often say that many parents resist having their child evaluated because of the stigma of mental illness and the perceived risks of medication. To combat this, groups have published lists of “Famous People With A.D.H.D.” to reassure parents of the good company their children could join with a diagnosis. One, in circulation since the mid-1990s and now posted on the psychcentral.com information portal beside two ads for Strattera, includes Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo and Socrates.

LOL. Not only do we over-diagnose this condition today, we can magically go back and retroactively diagnose historical figures who “had trouble completing projects” like the Civil War, or discovering several planets in outer space.

Anyway, last point, and where it ties back to sociology and learning theory for me.

Because studies have shown that A.D.H.D. can run in families, drug companies use the children’s market to grow the adult one. A pamphlet published in 2008 by Janssen, Concerta’s manufacturer — headlined “Like Parent, Like Child?” — claimed that “A.D.H.D. is a highly heritable disorder” despite studies showing that the vast majority of parents of A.D.H.D. children do not qualify for a diagnosis themselves.

A current Shire manual for therapists illustrates the genetic issue with a family tree: three grandparents with the disorder, all six of their children with it, and seven of eight grandchildren, too.

Lost on these dopes is the idea that symptoms such as those associated with ADHD might in fact be simple learned behavior. Like alcoholism or suicide and family history…it’s not in the genes, it’s in the environment, the learned behavior.

Regardless, go and read this article. It’s as if Alan Schwarz the NYT reporter read my blog cover to cover as he pursued his writing, because these are issues I have been howling about for over a decade in the classroom and on this blog since 2007.

The control that Big Pharma and the psychiatric-industrial complex exercise over society is astonishing in both its breadth and scope. And it’s not a “conspiracy theory” to suggest that social control, capitalism and corporatism win out over the army of robots being created on a daily basis via these insidious diagnoses.

Cross Posted from The Power Elite

(Via Motherboard)

Yup, Nutella, the goo of unholy mixing of chocolate + nuts. At least, that is what an OECD trade policy paper highlights in a report on global value chains (GVC).

What is a global value chain?

“A value chain identifies the full range of activities that firms undertake to bring a product or a service from its conception to its end use by final consumers. Technological progress, cost, access to resources and markets and trade policy reforms have facilitated the geographical fragmentation of production processes across the globe according to the comparative advantage of the locations. This international fragmentation of production is a powerful source of increased efficiency and firm competitiveness. Today, more than half of world manufactured imports are intermediate goods (primary goods, parts and components, and semi-finished products), and more than 70% of world services imports are intermediate services.” (5)

How does Nutella fit into this?

“About 250 000 tons of Nutella are produced each year. Nutella® is representative of agrifood value chains. The food processing company Ferrero International SA headquartered in Italy and has nine factories producing Nutella®: five are located in Europe, one in Russia, one in North America, two in South America and one in Australia. Some inputs are locally supplied, for example the packaging or some of the ingredients, like skimmed milk. There are however ingredients that are globally supplied: hazelnuts come from Turkey, palm oil from Malaysia, cocoa from Nigeria, sugar from Brazil (but also from Europe) and the vanilla flavour from France. Nutella is then sold in 75 countries through sales offices.” (17)

This illustrated visually in the map below, also from the policy paper:

nutella-map

Moreover:

“The location of production is close to final markets where Nutella® is in high demand Europe, North America, South America and Oceania). There is no factory in Asia so far because the product is less popular (another Ferrero delicacy, the “rocher” is however more popular in Asia and manufactured in India). In agri-food business value chains, there are more developing and emerging economies involved, as can be seen with countries in Latin America and Africa in the case of Nutella®.” (18)

Actually, the main reason why Africa is even involved is because of the need for cocoa. This seems to fit the competitive advantage of that has been so popular in institutions of global governance — countries focusing on what they are really good at, their niche on the world market rather than import-substitution, which was more popular with newly independent regimes after decolonization.

Of course, such destructuring of production chains was made possible by development in technologies of transportation and containerization as well. Then, cultural globalization fosters the development of a taste for this.

Killing Fields of InequalityThis is the quote I will be using to start my unit on social stratification and social inequalities, from Goran Therborn, at the very beginning of his latest book, The Killing Fields of Inequalities:

“Inequality is a violation of human dignity; it is a denial of the possibility of everybody’s human capabilities to develop. It takes many forms, and it has many effects: premature death, ill-health, humiliation, subjection, discrimination, exclusion from knowledge or from mainstream social life, poverty, powerlessness, stress, insecurity, anxiety, lack of self-confidence and of pride in oneself, and exclusion from opportunities and life-chances. Inequality, then, is not just about the size of wallets. It is a socio-cultural order, which (for most of us) reduces our capabilities to function as human beings, our health, our self-respect, our sense of self, as well as our resources to act and participate in this world. (1)

The US Census Bureau has released a series of recent maps showing the wealthiest and poorer counties, nationwide, using data from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program.

First, median incomes (for all, click on the images for larger view):

Median Income_001

The Northeast metropolitan corridor is pretty striking: where the power elite is. As the report notes:

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that five of the counties or county-equivalents nationwide with the highest median household income in 2012 were located in Northern Virginia. Among them were Arlington County, at $99,255, Fairfax County, at $106,690, Falls Church (an independent city), at $121,250, Loudoun County, at $118,934, and Stafford County, at $95,927. Falls Church and Loudoun also had among the lowest poverty rates in the country.”

Then, poverty rates:

Poverty Rates_001

Now, one can see a Southeastern corridor of high poverty, with a few other spots (the tips of Texas, and parts of South Dakota).

Thirdly, child poverty:

Children Poverty_001

The patterns are a bit harder to distinguish (partly because of the color scheme), but you can clearly see that the east coast wealthy corridor is very white and that the same Southeastern corridor is there as well.

Finally, shifts in median income:

Change in Median Income_001

Now, one can see a red (as in increase) crossing the central part of the country, from North to South. If I remember correctly, this was also the region least affected by the economic recession and high unemployment (especially the Dakotas). The Southwest is impressive in its decrease (the West overall, but really, the Southwest, especially).

As the report states, again:

“he findings also show that median household income is higher in nearly half of the counties in the Dakotas now than it was before the recession began in 2007. Between 2007 and 2012, 55 of the 119 counties in North and South Dakota experienced a statistically significant increase in median household income. In contrast, of the remaining 3,023 counties or equivalents nationwide, the same was true of only 56 of them. Of all the U.S. counties with a statistically significant change in income relative to 2007, 89 percent experienced a decline.

Emphasis mine.

Via The Guardian:

Amnesty International executions around the world

Click on the image for a larger view.

There are no big surprises there (although, frankly, I thought the US had more executions). However, it seems rather clear that most Western countries have no longer the death penalty, which is, at this point, a phenomenon of developing countries and non-democratic (or nominally democratic) regimes. The trend is definitely downwards, in terms of numbers of countries still having it on the books and using it.

It is also interesting to see the types of crimes that lead to death sentences. But no doubt that China is in a class of its own.

A while back, Dave Mayeda posted a great series of posts applying sociological theories of deviance to the TV show The Wire. So, I just thought I’d list them all here so you can all go read them as they were really great.

I found the visualization below to be a very striking illustration of the concept of medicalization:

As you can see, the growth of the DSM perfectly illustrates the range of behaviors that come to be labeled as pathological, and therefore, under the normative purview of the medical profession.

This is also further illustrated by the rise of diagnosing conditions (which is, of course, connected to what is in the DSM):

“The diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is on the rise in American children, with an estimated 2 million more kids receiving a diagnosis of ADHD and 1 million more taking medication for ADHD in 2011 than there were in 2003, according to new data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

In a 2011 national survey of more than 95,000 U.S. households, the CDC found that 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 — or 6.4 million children nationwide — had received a diagnosis of ADHD, a disorder characterized by hyperactivity, trouble controlling impulsive behaviors and difficulty paying attention.

Among those children who had been diagnosed with ADHD, 83 percent were considered to currently have the disorder, or 8.8 percent of all kids nationwide. And among the children who currently have the disorder, 69 percent are taking medication to treat it — which comes out to 6.1 percent, or 3.5 million kids nationwide, the researchers said in the CDC report released Friday.”

And one can see the correlation between power dynamics and social control:

“Overall, the prevalence of childhood ADHD increased by 42 percent between the years 2003 and 2011, and the frequency of children taking medication for ADHD increased by 28 percent between 2007 and 2011.

“This suggests an increasing burden of ADHD on the U.S. health care system,” the authors of the study wrote. “Efforts to further understand ADHD diagnostic and treatment plans are warranted.”

The researchers did not indicate why ADHD among children has increased, but offered a few potential reasons: significantly, an increase in parental reports of their kids’ ADHD, or “better detection of underlying ADHD, due to increased health education and awareness efforts,” the authors wrote.

The researchers noted that the “prevalence of ADHD medication use also increased despite an overall downward trend in pediatric medication prescriptions,” and that the study’s data suggest that “the impact of ADHD may be increasing.”

The demographic groups most affected by ADA included boys — 15.1 percent of them had ADHD, versus just 6.7 percent of girls. Nearly one in five high school boys and one in 11 high school girls were diagnosed with the disorder.

In addition, children who were white, who lived in the Midwest, and kids whose families lived above 100 percent of the poverty line were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

In terms of regional trends, children living in the West were least likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD; state-based estimates of ADHD frequency ranged from 4.2 percent of kids in Nevada and 5.9 percent in California to 14.6 percent of children in Arkansas and 14.8 percent in Kentucky.”

It is amazing that there is no questioning whatsoever of the validity of the label for this condition. It is just accepted as an objective medical diagnosis, and therefore, the only question is how to treat it. The fact that the explanation for the increase is roughly limited to greater reporting rather than greater social awareness that a bundle of behavioral markers have been given a medical label and medical treatment options. There is also no real questioning of the demographics: boys, white, non-poor, that is, people who have access to the medical profession. Boys, of course, are more subject to behavior sanctioning in the school system, that is not new. But instead of being given detention, they get a medical diagnosis.

On this topic, the Very Public Sociologist, PhilBC, does a good job of unpacking the social construction of disorders that are currently in fashion:

“Why have Autism and Asperger’s only recently been codified as a social concern? It could part be media curiosity, part the growth and spread of the internet, and part visibility attained by the disabled rights movement. The inescapable trope of the autistic genius might have a role, too.

But I think something deeper could be going on, something to do with structural shifts in the advanced capitalist countries. Short-sightedness and Dyslexia were not social concerns prior to industrial capitalism. The point came when the demands of capital required something more than able bodies to work in its dark, satanic mills – it needed basic education to record and pass on information at all levels. Since then, particularly over the last 30 years, manufacturing has taken a battering. The old industries have fallen back and in its place are what we used to call tertiary industry: the service sector. This sector, from retail to investment banking, from call centres to consultancies, all absolutely depend on social relationships. Of course, thus it ever was. But now is different – the direction of travel clearly is capitalism’s growing dependence on the wealth that can be mined from relationships. Hence the massive values of social media firms who’ve yet to make a single penny of profit. Hence the obligatory ‘person spec’ placed alongside graduate job adverts. Hence the growth of consultancies selling team-building experiences. Hence the concern with Autism and Asperger’s.

For Autistic and Asperger’s people, the economic shift to service finds them singled out as disabled individuals. In front of the new emphasis on relationships, on the complexity of social cues and the (personal and commercial) premiums on networks; they are the newly dis-abled. And this is a very recent shift.”

But PhilBC makes another connection that is also important: what gets considered a crisis and how it is dealt with within the current social arrangements:

“There is an alternative explanation, but again related to changes in political economy. We know Britain is in the midst of a mental health epidemic. One-in-four of us suffer with a mental health problem during the course of a year. Thankfully, the stigma attached to mental health is beginning to lift and it is starting to be talked about. Partly, this is because these problems are so widespread. Why should we be surprised that more insecure and pressured work situations lead to stress, anxiety and illness? That low wages, crushing debts and attacks on social security screw people up? It is reasonable to assume that more job security, more stability would have the effect of decreasing incidences of mental ill-health. But also, with capital’s emphasis on relationship and service, any health problems impacting on its capacity to do business on that basis is bad news. It’s a concern. A social problem. So, is it possible that the relatively recent problematisation of Autism and Asperger’s is a subset of a wider recognition of a crisis around mental health?”

Emphasis mine.

But, of course, whenever something is defined as a problem, the way to deal with said problem has to be framed within the parameters of dominant ideologies and practices. And so, when mental problems are seen to be increasing because of precarious (or liquid, as Bauman would say) social conditions, then, the remedies are not to be found in changing the social conditions. No, under the norms of advanced capitalism, remedies have to be individualized, medicalized, and fit within corporate power.

Hence, this:

Doctors across Europe are warning that the soaring use of antidepressants is down to growing pressure to “medicalise” unhappiness, complaining that a lack of time and meagre availability of other therapies meant that physicians reach for the prescription pad far too often.

In response to a questionnaire devised by the Guardian and five leading European newspapers, the vast majority of almost 100 European doctors and psychiatrists who replied said there was a “prescribing culture” in their country because other help for people with depression was inadequate.

Many of the doctors – from the UK, France, ItalyGermanySpain, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands – said they believed antidepressants were an effective treatment for cases of severe depression. But dozens expressed frustration that limited time and even more limited resources mean that they often feel pressured to prescribe pills in less-urgent cases.

We are medicalising common situations: conflict, separation and the vicissitudes of life,” said Gladys Mujica Lezcano, a Barcelona-based hospital doctor.

“They are prescribed much too easily,” added Alain Vallée, a psychiatrist from Nantes in France. “If you take an antidepressant and it doesn’t work, you don’t think it’s because you might not be depressed, but that you need to take a stronger one.””

And if the vicissitudes of life widen, as socioeconomic conditions deteriorate, and insecurity increases, then, individually-prescribed medical remedies are the proper solution and recourse.

This is especially interesting when one considers current discourse on health care: rising costs, over use, etc. So, a lot more behaviors have been medicalized, requiring pharmaceutical treatments prescribed individually (something that is often presented as a freedom: patient rights, etc.), but at the same time, then rising costs will demand potential cuts in health benefits (see: Medicare upcoming “crisis”). Double whammy.

A last piece of the overall puzzle has to do with the fact that US physicians tend to make more money than their counterparts in other high-income countries, but are also fewer in number (see the data at this post by Echidne):

Doc pay

Echidne argues this has to do with market controls: access to the profession is guarded by gatekeepers, whether medical schools or physicians’ professional associations. And there may be very good reasons for this (medical services are not like other consumer markets). And such greater control turns into greater social power not just in who can join the club, but regarding what is considered the prerogative of the medical profession. Which gets us back to my initial visualization on the DSM.

Strict controls over access and numbers in the profession + expanded territory = power ← this goes both ways, of course, in mutually reinforcing dynamics. And as more socially-based pathologies occur, they “naturally” come under the purview of the currently powerful group dedicated to dealing with pathology in general (as opposed to priests, 300 years ago in Europe, for instance).

The risk society is a medicalized society.

While I’m at it, I might as well link to my previous posts on The Walking Dead (in chronological order, from oldest to most recent):

It’s been a while since I have blogged about The Walking Dead (well, since last season). So, half of season 4 has come and gone and it’s time to review what, I think, has been the most consistent thread of the show: its misogyny. Fear not, unlike most of the human population, in TWD, misogyny is alive and kicking and it was on special display this half-season.

Last season ended with one of the best and most mistreated female character, Andrea, dying after the collapse of Woodbury. The Governor decided to evacuate, then massacred most of his followers and took off with a bunch of his lieutenants. The survivors were rescued by Grimes group and brought to the prison. That is where the new season picks up. We don’t know what happened to the Governor but Michonne is looking for him. Ok. So, now the prison has a bunch more people and children. It is pretty obvious that they are all non-entities, therefore, most likely, they will meet a red shirt fate.

walking-dead_3But there is this thing: Carol plays teacher to the bunch of kids the group has inherited. But in addition to storytime, the kids (boys AND girls) get training in weapon use, because, you know, it’s a useful skill to have in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Enters the sociopath-in-chief, Carl, and Carol is quick to tell him “don’t tell your father”… Why? Grimes (whose death I would pray for at every episode if I were the religious kind) would, of course, not approve, and even though he’s no longer technically in charge, well, the patriarch’s opinion still matters more than a woman’s action (more on that later).

Of course, we all remember that Grimes did not want grown women to have guns, in the earlier seasons, but was ok for Carl to learn to use them (with the results we know).  It’s the men’s job to do the protection thing, as Lori used to remind Andrea in Season 2. And, of course, we all know that Carl will tattle. At the same time, it is pretty clear that Carol is in love with Daryl. Whether that’s fully reciprocated is not clear.

As you remember, when the show started, Carol was a battered wife, weak and submissive. At the show progresses, and after the death of her daughter, and especially this season, Carol has become a much stronger character. She seems to have figured out what times like these require and is no-nonsense about it. She’s becoming a leader, preparing the kids for their future when the current adults are gone, one way or the other.

Well, of course, we can’t have that.

Some flu-like bug infects the prison and secondary characters die like flies, including Karen, Tyreese’s girlfriend, who gets attacked by post-infection zombie after refusing to have sex with Tyreese (see what happens to women who don’t submit their male superiors?). Karen will later be murdered by some mysterious killer (along with another sick and close to death “patient” and their bodies burned. The fate of his property girlfriend will drive Tyreese to a fit of rage (even though the super-flu was guaranteed to kill Karen and turn her into a walker). Note: when Grimes discovers the crime scene, he sees a bloody handprint that is child-size (hint!!).

But, he confronts Carol and she confesses to the murders and provides a very rational explanation: they were going to die anyway, they were contagious and putting others in danger. But that’s a problem because the other men have promised Tyreese swift punishment for whoever committed the murders.

CarolBut, and this is one of the most vile moment of the show, even though it’s pretty clear Carol is taking the wrap for someone else, Grimes is an idiot, and, on their next supply run, he makes the unilateral decision to send Carol into exile, back into the zombie apocalypse, on her own (but she has a car and supplies!).

That is one of the most disgusting patriarchal plot of the show, and it is pretty clear that Carol is being exiled as potentially competitive leader, what with all her work with the children. And in TWD, women can’t be leaders. Even if Carol had killed the sick people, Grimes and the others have done way worse (including, for Grimes, killing Carol’s zombified daughter).

Throughout that supply run, Grimes keeps quizzing Carol. And when they run into a couple of other people, young man and woman who offer to help, Carol is the one who accepts and Grimes refuses, but she prevails. That means, of course, that decision will necessarily turn out to be a bad one, for which Grimes will blame her. And, as they wait for the young man to return, it is Carol who is rational about the fact that they need to leave, he’s probably dead and they need to get back to the prison. After all, if the young man and woman had listened to Grimes instead of Carol, they might have survived (how did they survive all along??). But Grimes uses that as his final reason to exile her.

Interestingly enough, somehow, he, alone, gets to make that decision, without the council that was created at the prison and that was supposed to handle all the decision-making. What follows is even worse: as people at the prison learn of Carol’s exile, none of them basically care, not even Daryl. No one question’s Grimes prerogative to have made such a unilateral decision. No one wants explanations beyond Grimes’s version of events. Patriarchal words carry all the power and no questions are asked.

So, that is the first patriarchal and misogynistic thread of this half-season. The second one has to do with the return of the Governor.

Lilly TaraWhen last season ended, the Governor and his acolytes just drove into the sunset. When we pick up, the Governor has been abandoned by them. He wanders all alone, long hair, beard, etc. Until he meets a small family of two sisters (Lily and Tara), their elderly, sick and dying father, and one of the sister’s daughter (Meghan, can this be even more heavy-handed).

We might as well name that storyline “the miracle of the patriarchy”. For instance, obviously, these two sisters have done pretty well for themselves so far, what with surviving this whole mess, keeping their father alive, and living in relative comfort. But somehow, as soon as the Governor (renamed Brian) shows up, the sisters become all powerless to do the things they obviously had to have been doing all along, like putting the disabled old man to bed, getting him a re-supply of oxygen, etc. All of a sudden, they need a man to do all the basic survival stuff (kinda reminiscent of the young man and woman in the previous thread). Not only that, but the little girl, Meghan, is described by her mother as not very talkative, but opens to the Governor. Is there anything that a patriarch can’t do?

Anyhoo, even though, they seem to have a stable situation, the sisters decide they need to leave and have the Governor guide them to wherever, after the old man’s death (you would think that would make their situation easier, but go figure). No surprise, Lilly and the Governor start having an affair. And, of course, the sisters turn out to suck at walking away from a decent place, one twists her ankle, so, of course, the Governor has to save the little girl. Really, women can’t do anything right.

As they meet the former acolytes of the Governor, and a group of survivors they have teamed up with (how original), the Governor returns to his murderous, pathological self and takes over the crew because that cannot be left to a bunch of Latinos. Long story short, the Governor wants the prison and riles up the crowd to get them to agree to go take it.

They go, mini-war starts where the Governor’s group uses a tank, thereby demolishing the very prison they want to occupy, which makes a lot of sense.

Interestingly enough, Tara, the soldier sister, turns out to be lesbian (and her lover is also ex-military… geez), but, despite her military experience and training, turns into a puddle of fear at the first exchange of shots. It’s so ridiculous.

But the main point of this whole plot is this: CLASH OF THE PATRIARCHS, that is, Grimes and the Governor having themselves a real man fight, with no weapons, just fists, dammit, because that is how real men fight each other. That is what this entire half-season has been about.

The only good thing about this half-season: Hershel is dead, thank goodness. No more pompous pontificating.

But as I mentioned, the misogyny of the show, unfortunately, is alive and well.

I bumped into this article from Ioan Grillo in the New York Times today (I read his book a while back. It was very informative but I don’t really like disjointed narratives, I’m more of a linear thinker):

“As we enter 2014, we are in the midst of a fundamental shift in thinking on drug policy across the Americas. It’s the biggest change in direction since the region started down the road to prohibition with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. That U.S. law kickstarted the Latin American drug trade in the form of traffickers smuggling opium poppies north from Mexico’s Sierra Madre.

As the American drug market grew through the hippie Summer of Love and the cocaine disco generation, the U.S. war on drugs became more intense, as did the pressure on Latin American governments to fight supply. Subsequent generations of cartels became ever more violent; we went from talking about a war on drugs to drug wars, culminating in Mexico’s bloodbath, which is perhaps the most costly drug war in world history.

But the discussions on the issue are shifting course at breakneck speed. For decades, any talk of drug legalization was viewed by politicians across the hemisphere as a toxic vote-loser, pooh-poohed by pundits as a nonstarter. Now, active or former presidents of Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico are all calling for a rethink of prohibitionist policies.”

Which may have to do with this (from an earlier article):

“The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy said its report suggested the war on drugs had failed.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal Open, looked at data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems.

Its researchers said it was time to consider drug use a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.

The seven drug surveillance systems the study looked at had at least 10 years of information on the price and purity of cannabis, cocaine and opiates, including heroin.

The report said street prices of drugs had fallen in real terms between 1990 and 2010, while their purity and potency had increased.”

The report is here. Some of their results below.

Heroin:

Heroin purity

Cocaine:

Cocaine purity

I find it interesting that there is an uptick in price right when the recession started in the US.

Cannabis:

Cannabis purity

And finally:

Illegal drug price timeline

And as I discussed a while back, Portugal seems to be leading the way in terms of decriminalization (unless imposed austerity messes it all up).

And for the deleterious social effects of the war on drugs, see this older post as well.

Now, as I always tell my students, when a public policy seems to be a failure and yet, discussing this failure and potential policy changes is out of bounds, ask yourselves, who benefits. Who were the main beneficiaries of the war on drugs (and still are), and if one finds groups with big political clout, this is the answer to why failing policies are not changed or repealed. In this case, the beneficiaries are rather obvious: the prison-industrial complex (especially private prisons), various law enforcement agencies (which is reminiscent of the way these same agencies went from enforcing prohibition to creating a moral panic about marijuana, including, the awesomely awful old film, Reefer Madness), politicians (both federal and state), as well as anyone whose job is connected to the enforcement of the war on drugs, such as probation officers, etc.

But it is certainly interesting to see an ever-so-subtle tide changing.