Sunday, November 25, 2007


The Washington Post Magazine today has an article about research on MDMA in treating post-traumatic stress. MDMA is a psychedelic drug known on the street as Ecstasy. The story is interesting for its exploration in some detail of how MDMA allows subjects to recover the sense of inner peace and safety that was lost during the trauma. One researcher was quoted about what the limited studies to date actually demonstrate. “The plural of anecdote is not data.” The difference being, to my analytical mind, confidence that what you see actually represents reality.

That’s a good thought to bear in mind because all too often what we have are anecdotes. Real data is hard to come by, requiring careful planning, execution and analysis. Real data is expensive and depending on the market we cut corners. For the health and safety market like drug research and approval we cut fewer corners (supposedly) than say, in the political market, where anecdotes and image make up much of the media content.

The distinction is also important to me as an auditor/evaluator. I’m somewhat hesitant to use the auditor title since most think it means accountant. The word has other meanings, my favorite being those related to the Latin verb audire, to hear. To listen. My skill set is investigation, analysis and reporting. I can track down and piece together a story. Anecdotes (ie, interviews) aren’t worth much as evidence. What counts are facts. What Is. What you can demonstrate and prove. Someone may give you a heads up but that tip is worthless for proving anything. There has to be something there. Finding what’s there makes the work interesting.

Speaking of work, now that I am properly relocated, I am seeking work so that I can finance this adventure. I applied for a research position that looks interesting, maybe even worth working full time. I am networking to see what freelance work I can find. I will also market my skill as an investigator, analyst and writer to anyone looking to solve problems. That’s what my career as an analyst/auditor taught me to do.

Thirty-three years ago when I began working as an assistant legislative analyst for a newly-formed investigative committee, my colleagues and I called ourselves “bureaucratic guerrillas”, a small, elite band of investigators working behind enemy (ie, the Commonwealth’s various departments and agencies) lines, fighting waste and fraud in government. The years since have taught me that other state workers are not the enemy and that truth is elusive in government. I still like the idea of the bureaucratic guerrilla as someone who can fight through the maze of regulation, obfuscation and stupidity that seems inherent in so many human endeavors and certainly in government.
My first assignment is a volunteer one. I hope to work with the local Veterans For Peace chapter here in Olympia in establishing a veterans advocate program. This is a program where advocates are trained to assist veterans and GIs in securing benefits they have earned that the military seeks to deny them. I only know a little about the program but think I’ll be a natural for it. I’m a veteran. I know government. I believe my country–that is, me–owes this generation of veterans a great debt. I will do what I can to help. After all, I am a bureaucratic guerrilla.



Blogger PJ said...

Your comments re Health and Safety and not cutting corners are interesting. I thought it was just us Brits that were so fastidious.
A Safety Consultant

4:42 AM  
Blogger Scorpio said...

Ah. Frank Herbert wrote a couple of books with a character named Georje McKie. He worked for the Bureau of Sabotage, or BuSab. Their mission was to track down branches of government that could be pruned.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Roger said...

I liked reading this article.

11:35 AM  

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