aced with widespread injustice and a judicial system sorely lacking in direction and oversight and a growing national debt millions agree that it is time to re-evaluate our priorities in government spending, and to channel funds only toward those programs which are necessary and productive. Who wouldnt be willing to pay for government services which were valuable and meaningful? And who wouldnt want their tax dollars to go only to such programs and services?
But Freedom found a corrupt clique which sees exactly the opposite.
Shortly before the acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health appeared before the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee of the House of Representatives in mid-1995, requesting a 1996 research budget of $600 million, someone let the cat out of the bag.
In fact, the cat was accompanied by a whole menagerie of creatures let loose from earlier NIMH research projects.
With Congress looking for ways to live up to its pledge to balance the budget, NIMH acting director Rex W. Cowdry found himself having to respond to evidence of NIMHs long-running history of severe and even fraudulent wastage of taxpayer funds.
Among the NIMH projects Cowdry was asked to explain were:
* A study of the brain circuits which control mounting and receptive sexual behavior of the unisex whiptail lizard. In nine years, this project cost $1.4 million.
* A five-year study of red-winged blackbirds to determine how humans make choices of mates, dwelling, reproductive areas, escape routes and foraging areas. Cost: more than $539,000.
* A five-year study of the hormonal mechanisms in the brains of rats which make them want to eat salt. Cost: $5 million.
* A study of tree frogs communications to their mates to determine the development and maintenance of speech communication in humans. Cost: over $91,000.
* A 12-year study in which the jaw muscles of pigeons and rats were monitored electronically to determine which brain mechanisms could be linked to eating disorders in humans. Cost: over $545,000.
And many, many more.
Explaining how NIMH researchers could spend so many years studying the jaw muscles of pigeons, Cowdry told the subcommittee that pigeons happen to be an excellent animal in which one can pursue the biological foundations of eating and develop an animal model to study the motivation to eat, the patterns of eating, and specifically the state of motivation. Interestingly, by measuring the pigeons jaw muscles, you can assess their very distinctive responses when their appetite is elevated.
The subcommittee members did not seem to find this particularly interesting. In fact, Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Oklahoma) appeared entirely unconvinced. He told Cowdry, I would appreciate it if you could provide for the record what characteristics the following animals [subjects of NIMH research] have in common with humans: unisex whiptail lizard, monkeys, rats, red-winged blackbirds, tree frogs, pigeons, horses, quail, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, gerbils and the golden mantled ground squirrel.
Possibly to give himself time to think, Cowdry literally began with a rambling eulogy about the glories of science and followed with a propitiative agreement that it is understood that I think for this committee to ask questions like this is totally appropriate.
But by this stage, Cowdry had apparently hypnotized the committee with his unintelligible psych-speak because nobody noticed that he never got around to answering the question.
Two months after the hearings, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) wrote to Cowdry on behalf of a constituent, expressing the same concerns about NIMH wastage and querying the validity of expensive animal experimentation as a means of understanding people.
Cowdry replied that NIMH supports animal research as a way of gaining a clearer understanding of the basic biological roots of various mental disorders.
Apart from the fact that the biological basis of mental illness is far from established and is disputed even by other psychiatrists, what scientist in any other field could possibly get away with asking for $600 million to continue studies such as these?
Why does the American taxpayer have to support decades of phony research to keep a few psychiatrists employed?
In his letter to Senator Feinstein, Cowdry defended the NIMH research projects by saying that NIMH supports only the most outstanding research projects submitted, and that only two out of every 10 applications are approved and funded.
What are the outstanding research projects which the NIMH has approved?
* A 19-year study of the affectionate, sexual and aggressive responses in monkeys, costing more than $1.6 million.
* A one-year study to determine why some transsexuals who apply for sex-change surgery follow through with it while others dont. A bargain for only $7,236.
* A 25-year study of the effects of psychedelic hallucinogens on the brains of rats, at a cost of over $2.9 million.
* A 17-year study of slang terms used by Puerto Ricans in New York City when under stress. Cost: over $4.7 million.
* A six-year study of pigeons and humans to determine the response to delayed punishments or rewards when given a decision to make. Cost: more than $500,000.
* A five-year study in which rats were given electroshock treatment to compare its effect on their brains with the effects of drugs. Cost: more than $543,000.
* A four-year study in which drugged rats were startled by sounds and electric shocks to determine which drugs block the fear mechanism. Cost: over $300,000.
Bearing in mind that for every two studies approved, the NIMH rejects eight applications, one wonders what the remaining psychiatrists are attempting to study.
Continuing to defend the research expenditures at the appropriations hearing, Cowdry insisted that not all NIMH research involves animal experimentation.
Indeed, it does not.
According to Tom Schatz, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers should be angered and appalled at some NIMH-funded research.
Schatz cited a four-year, $1.3 million study conducted by the South Florida Mental Health Department in which known child sex-abusers were stimulated with pedophilic and other pornographic films and then allowed to move freely about the community, reporting to the researchers on their sexual activity. The research was conducted under strict confidentiality, barring the researchers from sharing any information about a subjects potential crimes with anyone, including law enforcement officials.
In a paper produced the day before the appropriations hearing, the NIMH attempted to deny earlier criticisms of the Florida program by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which revealed that known child molesters were allowed to prey on children without law enforcement officials being notified.
The NIMH fact sheet denied that local children were put at risk, but went on to say that the sex offenders enrolled in the program were warned that if they provided details linking to a specific sex crime, this would be reported to the authorities.
The duplicity of this statement was revealed in the appropriations hearing when Congressman Istook read from a memo directed to staff of the Florida program. The memo instructed the staff: Do not ask a client about the specifics of any illegal act, e.g., a victims name or address, description of victim, specific behaviors of a victim, statements by the victim or details of any act that could directly connect the client with a particular crime.
The reason was obvious: If the NIMH researchers could not identify the victim, they would not have to report anything to the authorities.
The NIMH fact sheet stated that, As far as can be determined, the project resulted in no additional risk to the children of the community. (Emphasis added.)
In other words, 100 known child abusers, continually excited with pornographic material over a four-year period, were let loose into the community and as far as the NIMH could determine there was no added risk to innocent children and adults.
As Tom Schatz said, No research goal, especially one with such dubious methodologies, can be justified when the lives of children are at stake. Innocent children should not serve as unsuspecting guinea pigs for government research. Its time to part the veil of secrecy and esoteric semantics surrounding some of the NIMH grants and let the taxpayer know what kind of whacky, even sinister science-fair experiments theyre paying for. We want the NIMH on a very, very short leash.
Rex Cowdrys most candid statement came at the end of the appropriations hearing. After attempting to shake the serious questions in a blizzard of psychiatric mumbo-jumbo and completely unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable claims about the successes of psychiatry, he said of mental illness in general, We do not know the causes. We dont have methods of curing these illnesses yet.
Congress was on the right track when it started hearings to drastically cut NIMH funding, but didnt go far enough. It is time to review the issue anew, and continue the process until all waste, abuse and criminality is slashed from the federal budget and the NIMH exposed and dismantled as the sham it is.