Saturday, January 19, 2008

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Penny Coleman writes Pentagon, Big Pharma: Drug Troops to Numb Them to Horrors of War, an article on veterans suicide and Propranol, and that she finds herself "... extremely anxious in the face of some of these new suggestions, specifically what is being called the Psychological Kevlar Act of 2007 and use of the drug propranalol to treat the symptoms of posttraumatic stress injuries. Though both, at least in theory, sound entirely reasonable, even desirable, in the wrong hands, under the wrong leadership, they could make the sci-fi fantasies of Blade Runner seem prescient."

COLEMAN: That report was followed in August by the Army Suicide Event Report (ASER), which reported that 2006 saw the highest rate of military suicides in 26 years. And last month, CBS News reported that, based on its own extensive research, over 6,250 American veterans took their own lives in 2005 alone -- that works out to a little more than 17 suicides every day.

---- There's a huge difference between "military suicides" and "veterans" suicide. I believe there were 99 military suicides among active duty last year, according to the ASER report. Veterans, former military, are the rates as reported by the CBS study; Ms. Coleman's 6,250 number.

I find the "epidemic" suicide rate among veterans by CBS questionable. Not just for the simple fact that data can be manipulated and "adjusted" to reach any foregone conclusion the researcher may hold but also because suicide is complex; veteran status does not necessarily prove the suicide was a result of military service or atrocities seen or committed. There are also too many cultural variables not included in the study. (Five states did not participate : Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska (only had 2004 data), Nevada and North Carolina.)

CBS assures me the statistician they selected, Dr. Stephen Rathbun, was not paid and has no connections to DoD or any federal agency. Other than that I've no idea which way Rathbun leans, his previous employment, whether or not he or any department he's connected to have or ever will receive Federal, foundational, or institutional funds; funds are the guiding principle$ in making a "scholarly" person lean left or right, especially underpaid professors with a lifetime shitload of student loans to repay.

But, the main gist of Coleman's Drug Troops to Numb Them article is on Propranolol and H.R.3256 Psychological Kevlar Act of 2007.

COLEMAN: Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., is the bill's sponsor, and I have no reason to question his genuine commitment to mental health issues, both within and outside of the military. Still, I find myself chilled at the prospects. The DoD is flirting with the idea of medicating soldiers to desensitize them to combat trauma -- will an army of unfeeling monsters result? .... I have thought a lot about the implications of "psychological Kevlar" -- what kind of "preventive and early-intervention measures, practices or procedures" might be developed that would "reduce the likelihood that personnel in combat will develop post-traumatic stress disorder." .... I cannot convince myself that what is really being promoted isn't a form of moral lobotomy.

---- Give me an effin' break. First of all, Propranolol is not going to lobotomize anyone or create unfeeling monsters. It does no more than any of a hundred other anxiolytic drugs (Xanax, Ativan, Valium). Or, for vets and non-vets alike there's always crack, cocaine, meth, (also supplied by government), alcohol and that perfectly harmless drug - marijuana - although I've yet to meet a consistent pot smoker who wasn't dumbed down and unmotivated.

COLEMAN: What they have come up with has already been dubbed "the mourning after pill." Propranolol, if taken immediately following a traumatic event, can subdue a victim's stress response and so soften his or her perception of the memory. That does not mean the memory has been erased, but proponents claim that the drug can render it emotionally toothless.

---- The American public has been taking Propranolol since the 1950s, and although much of the public is selfish, ignorant and unfeeling I'm not holding the government and drugs completely responsible - after all, we do have free will.

Do writers such as Coleman have any current in-depth contact with the military other than a few former vets who turned anti-war after seeking a higher disability rating whether they deserve it or not, or they're paid? She speaks as if she has spent her life among military veterans and their families. (She married a Vietnam vet who committed suicide decades ago so perhaps that's where her expertise comes from.) I guess I'm still amazed how easy it has become in the last few decades for anyone to write a book on anything and become an expert on everything. (Coleman's latest I believe is Village Elders, a book on the elder gay community in Greenwich Village.)

Having 4 children in the revolving Middle East door I can find plenty to bitch about as far as the Pentagoon and Big Pharma are concerned - but I'll be damned if I dance and sing hyperbole using the "reports" and "studies" which mainstream media produces. It is exactly this type of padding, stretching, and embellishment from the flunkies of the "left" corporate asscheek that turns me off.

Also, weighing in on creating the Army's cult of killing using Coleman's article is monkey-see monkey-do Chris Floyd Dead Souls: The Pentagon Plan to Create Remorseless "Warfighters", along with linking to himself on his past prose. Therefore, I will relink to this and oh, this.

And a friendly reminder folks, just because someone says what you want to hear - doesn't mean it's the truth.

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