Blow and Kristof

In “Suicide of a Dishonest Officer” Mr. Blow says sometimes bad people simply do bad things. Not everything in real life fits neatly into a narrative.  Mr. Kristof considers “Drugs, Greed and a Dead Boy” and says Andrew Francesco was a boy who needed help. For pharmaceutical companies, he was a source of revenue.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

There is no way to fully process the betrayal by Charles Joseph Gliniewicz, a police lieutenant in Illinois who an investigator said Wednesday had committed a “carefully staged suicide” after years of stealing money from a local youth group that he ran.

He betrayed his family, he betrayed his fellow officers, he betrayed the public he served, and he betrayed the children in the program.

Shortly after Gliniewicz’s death, his widow took the stage at a vigil in his honor, flanked by the couple’s sons, and read a statement that said:

“We all lost somebody yesterday. A husband, a father, a son, a brother, a mentor, a leader, a role model and a friend. And of course, a brother in blue. Joe was my best friend, my world, my hero, the love of my life for the last 26 and a half years.”

She continued: “My world got a little bit smaller with his passing, and he will truly be missed by all of us.”

Her sense of pain was palpable; her sense of loss raw. And yet, her dead husband had set her and everyone else up with a lie.

Senator Dick Durbin even tweeted on Sept. 2: “Officer Gliniewicz of#FoxLake exemplified what it means to be a law enforcement officer&was a true mentor to his fellow officers&community.”

But according to authorities, that mentor was also a thief. As The Chicago Tribune reported, authorities say the amount of the theft was “in the five figures.” And, the paper reported last month, the cost of the investigation into his death topped $300,000.

This is an exponential tragedy, and there is only one person at fault here: Officer Gliniewicz, the officer lovingly referred to as G.I. Joe. His family and his community bear no guilt here. They, too, are victims.

But there are others for whom that claim cannot be made. They are the people who from the beginning went further than any evidence would support in trying to link Gliniewicz’s death to so-called anti-police rhetoric and presidential politics.

On “The Kelly File,” the host, Megyn Kelly, said that it was too early to know the exact circumstance of the “murder” of Gliniewicz, “but it clearly comes just days after Deputy Darren Goforth of the Sheriff’s Department was shot execution-style in an attack that his boss linked to the, quote, ‘dangerous environment created by the Black Lives Matter movement.’ ”

Gov. Scott Walker, of neighboring Wisconsin, wrote on that Gliniewicz had been “assassinated” as “people responsible for keeping us safe are targeted because they are law enforcement officials.”

He continued: “In the last six years under President Obama, we’ve seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric. Instead of hope and change, we’ve seen racial tensions worsen and a tendency to use law enforcement as a scapegoat.”

Immediately following Gliniewicz’s death, a former United States Secret Service agent, Dan Bongino, went on Fox News and, as images of the search for Gliniewicz’s phantom killers played on the screen, said of President Obama:

“The man has been a complete disgrace when it comes to dealing with police officers, and it really gives me no joy in saying that. I know people can engage in hyperbolic statements here, but it’s just the truth. I mean, how many people are going to have to die, how many police officers, before President Obama has that Sista Souljah moment President Clinton had and he comes out and says ‘enough is enough’?”

In an October interview with Crime Watch Daily, even Gliniewicz’s widow lamented that she had not heard from the president and said, while sobbing, “When our officers can’t go home without being shot at, then there’s a problem.”

This case illustrates the ultimate danger of reactionary narrative-building and rabid hashtag orthodoxy.

In the same way that not every black life taken is taken with malice, or without an awareness that it matters, not every police life taken is the result of a hostile policing environment in which calls for justice translate into a call for retribution.

Sometimes bad people simply do bad things. Not everything in real life fits neatly into a narrative. And indeed, trying to force everything pushes out the legitimacy from otherwise honorable pursuits.

The people who sought to politicize Gliniewicz’s death should feel chastened and embarrassed. Rather than simply mourning his death, empathizing with his family and waiting for the results of the full investigation — the very same thing they ask of those unsettled by the deaths of people at the hands of police officers — they pushed an association that didn’t exist.

So eager — or at least too recklessly willing — were they to add another tick mark to the tally of officers fallen in the supposed war on the police, and to ding protesters and the president, that they built a sham argument on a sham murder. Shameful.

Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Andrew Francesco was a rambunctious, athletic and joyful child, but also a handful. When he was 5 years old, a psychiatrist prescribed Ritalin. As he grew older, he disrupted classes and was given a growing number of potent antipsychotic and other medications.

These didn’t work, so he was prescribed more. Pushed out of one school after another, Andrew grew frustrated, unhappy and sometimes alarming. His parents hid the kitchen knives. Then his mother died at 54; the family believes that the stress of raising Andrew was a factor.

When Andrew was 15, the medications caught up with him and he suffered a rare complication from one of them, Seroquel. One Friday he was well enough to go to school; on Sunday he was brain-dead.

That’s the story that Steven Francesco, a longtime pharmaceutical industry executive and consultant, tells in “Overmedicated and Undertreated,” his harrowing memoir of raising Andrew, his son. He makes clear that the larger problem — even from his view as an industry insider — is a sector that sometimes puts profits above public well-being.

Here’s the central issue: Children with emotional or mental disorders have become a gold mine for the drug industry. Psychiatric medicines for children account for billions of dollars in sales annually, and the market has boomed.

Between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s, prescriptions of antipsychotics for childrenrose about sevenfold.

And now the industry is getting even greedier. It is pushing for a First Amendment right to market its drugs for off-label uses, a path that would leave children like Andrew with mental health issues particularly vulnerable. You may think of free speech as a citizen’s right to dissent; pharmaceutical executives see it as a tool to market drugs for unapproved uses.

Two courts have ruled for the drug companies. That’s the triumph of an ideology that sees corporations as virtuous players endowed with individual freedoms, and regulators as untrustworthy Luddites.

“The recent court decisions could erode the F.D.A. approval process — put in place to protect the public — and threaten public health and patient safety,” warns Dr. Margaret Hamburg, until recently the Food and Drug Administration’s commissioner.

Experts on mental health fear that these rulings could lead to “terrible trouble by confounding science with marketing,” says Dr. Steven E. Hyman, a Harvard expert on psychiatry and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Already, 80 percent of the psychiatric medicine administered to children is “off label,” Francesco estimates, meaning that the F.D.A. hasn’t approved its use for that purpose. Sometimes, off-label use makes sense, but it must be done with care, not just as a result of aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies simply aiming to boost quarterly profits.

“Children, because their brains are still developing, are not just small adults,” Hyman notes.

The pharmaceutical industry repeatedly has shown why “regulation” shouldn’t be a dirty word in American politics:

■ In the early 1960s, many countries allowed the “wonder drug” thalidomide to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. A heroic female doctor at the F.D.A., Frances Kelsey, resisted industry pressure to approve thalidomide in the United States, thus averting thousands of horrific birth defects like those it caused abroad.

■ In the mid-1990s, pharmaceutical companies argued that doctors systematically under-treated pain, and as a solution the manufacturers aggressively marketed opioids. The companies’ behavior was sometimes criminal (executives of the company that made OxyContin pleaded guilty to criminal charges), but also hugely profitable. This helped lead to a crisis of addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin; today, drug overdoses kill more Americans than guns or cars do.

■ In a recent column, I recounted how Johnson & Johnson deceptively marketed an antipsychotic medicine called Risperdal, concealing for example the fact that it can cause boys to grow large, pendulous breasts (one boy developed a 46DD bust). J&J got caught, pleaded guilty and paid more than $2 billion in penalties and settlements — but also registered $30 billion in Risperdal sales. The executive who oversaw this illegal marketing effort was Alex Gorsky, who then was promoted to chief executive of J&J. If you’re a pharmaceutical company, crime sometimes pays.

It’s true of course that pharmaceuticals are, literally, lifesavers; indeed, they may have saved my life from malaria. Steven Francesco says that while one drug killed Andrew, another seemed to help him, although he also says that animal therapy, in the form of a dog, seemed to help him more. Children’s mental health in particular is complicated, with difficult trade-offs, requiring oversight.

Think of cars: They, too, offer a huge benefit but still require careful regulation.

So if you agree with today’s politicians thundering against regulation, or if you think that pharmaceutical companies should enjoy a free speech right to peddle drugs, then talk to a family fighting opiate addiction. Or a parent of a thalidomide child. Or consult the grieving family of Andrew Francesco.


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