A one trick pony does his one trick

It's funny, but it's only been one week since I expressed extreme skepticism that that wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post, had reformed itself. The reason, of course, was that HuffPo had announced that it was starting a science section. Even though on the surface it seemed that HuffPo was making the right moves, recruiting real scientists to blog for it, even asking Seth Mnookin to write an pro-vaccine article that was the very antithesis of the antivaccine idiocy that has run rampant at HuffPo from the very beginning and, with only rare interruptions, continuing during the nearly seven years that Arianna Huffington's little project has been in existence. Indeed, HuffPo's support for antivaccine pseudoscience and other forms of quackery led to not infrequent descriptions of HuffPo's "war on medical science." Given HuffPo's history, it's probably not surprising that I scoffed at the very idea of a HuffPo science section when it was first proposed and remain very, very skeptical that HuffPo will do anything other than segregate decent science there and continue publishing quackery and pseudoscience elsewhere.

Oddly enough, I saw something that made me wonder if maybe I had been a bit hasty in my judgment, something that made me wonder whether perhaps HuffPo really has started to turn over a new leaf. What I saw came, even more oddly, from the Boy Wonder of the merry band of antivaccine propagandists at the crank blog Age of Autism. Yes, I'm actually referring to Jake Crosby, the young epidemiologist wannabe whose ambition in life seems to be to follow in Andrew Wakefield's and Mark Geier's footsteps and become the vanguard of the next generation of antivaccine pseudoscientists. When last we left Young Master Crosby, he was trying to hone his pat answers to skeptical questions about vaccine pseudoscience. This time around, our one trick pony is performing his one trick (i.e., spinning conspiracy theories based on "six-degrees-of-separation"-style links between vaccine defenders and various pharmaceutical companies in order to smear them as having unreported conflicts of interest), but in doing so he does something I hadn't expected. He expresses worry about HuffPo right in the very title of his post, The Mnookin Virus Infects CBS and HuffPo.

Here's what I mean. Not surprisingly, Jake is very, very unhappy about HuffPo's having allowed Seth Mnookin to write a provaccine article for HuffPo. But it was more than that; it was a provaccine article that criticized HuffPo for its long history of antivaccine fear mongering dating back to its very beginning. Jake doesn't like that. No, he doesn't like that at all:

Seth Mnookin has spread his deceit to CBS and The Huffington Post, with the help of accomplices from both sources.

It is amazing just how much Seth Mnookin continues to be propped up as having credibility he simply does not possess. Now, thanks to two fellow opportunists - David Freeman and Neil Katz - we see that pharma's censorship has taken over CBS and The Huffington Post, both of which have now welcomed the vaccine industry's shameless pusher, Seth Mnookin.

Given that Jake has become the lapdog of the antivaccine crew at AoA, wagging his tail and spewing out outrageously logic- and fact-challenged screeds in return for a pat on the head and a treat, I can't help but wonder if he's expressing a fear that's shared in the leadership of AoA and Generation Rescue. Jake also notes the new leadership at HuffPo, including its new news editor Neil Katz and the editor of its new science section, David Freeman, both of whom used to work for CBS but were recently hired by HuffPo thusly:

Accompanying it was an article by Freeman's colleague and then-cbsnews.com executive editor Neil Katz (just before he was hired by The Huffington Post as its new executive news editor). The title:

What autism, climate change and Obama's birth certificate have in common

It was posted on the very same CBS HealthPop blog that Freeman started and edited with Katz, to which Freeman also contributed biased blog posts riddled with vaccine industry talking points.

Katz's hiring at HuffPo came right after David Kirby's piece about the Pace Law Review - ignored by CBS - titled, High Rates of Autism Found in Federal Vaccine Injury Program: Study Says More Answers Needed. There hasn't been another article like Kirby's on HuffPo since.

And New York Times writer Carl Zimmer, who I saw share a stage with Seth Mnookin in New York City last summer, blogged about Mnookin's piece for Discover Magazine, in an entry titled "Huffington Post + Science. A New Leaf?" The implication being that The Huffington Post will become the latest addition to the vaccine industry's collection of propaganda outlets.

Jake writes that as though it were a bad thing.

Actually, it would be a great thing indeed if David Kirby's clever paeans to antivaccine pseudoscience were to appear no more in HuffPo (or in any other mainstream media outlet, for that matter) and instead be relegated to where it belongs, conspiracy theory and quack websites like Whale.to, AoA, NaturalNews.com, and the like, but whether that will happen remains to be seen. In any case, the specific study touted by David Kirby was an execrable, unethical study that didn't prove anything. That's not surprising, because David Kirby has a history of touting crappy studies. I'm not sure, however, that Katz's appointment as news editor or Freeman's appointment as editor of the science section has anything to do with Kirby's deemphasizing vaccine-autism pseudoscience. That trend began long before Katz or Freeman was ever hired. For instance, for at least a year before the article referenced by Jake, Kirby had been using his HuffPo blog to flog his book on factory farming. Even before that, he had appeared to me to be losing interest in the whole vaccine-autism claim and mercury militia pseudoscience. If you're going to argue that HuffPo has given up antivaccine pseudoscience, pointing to David Kirby is not a strong argument. Correlation does not equal causation. Of course, given how prone the antivaccine movement is to confusing correlation with causation, it's not surprising that Jake does that here now.

Jake's worry that HuffPo is going all wobbly on the "evils of vaccines" is also how he inadvertently gave me hope that HuffPo's change away from pseudoscience might be for real. Katz' article that so disturbed Jake is actually spot-on. It was about how Americans are prone to believing pseudoscience and myth, no matter what the evidence shows otherwise, and anthropogenic global warming denialism, vaccine rejectionism, creationism, and the "birther" movement are all excellent examples of this phenomenon. Each is either myth or pseudoscience that isn't supported by evidence, and each is widely believed by a large segment of the American population. Jake, of course, falls into the group of believers in the myth that vaccines cause autism, which is no doubt why he so detested the article, so much so that later in his post he titles a subsection "Neil Katz + David Freeman + HuffPo + AOL = No More David Kirby?"

I actually found this part rather amusing because it echoed what quacks thought when AOL purchased HuffPo. Indeed, Mike Adams saw a business opportunity to expand his quackery empire by trying to recruit what he apparently thought would be an army of displaced quacks leaving HuffPo for what he represented to them as greener pastures. Maybe there was something in that, although the continued presence of homeopaths Dana Ullman and Judith Acosta as regular HuffPo bloggers rather argues against a sudden hostility towards quackery. However, maybe there is a change in emphasis when it comes to vaccines. Jake actually noticed something I hadn't:

While David Kirby remains a contributor to the site for which he has written an article as recently as November, he has not contributed a single piece on the vaccine-autism controversy since Neil Katz became executive news editor. In fact, no thorough investigations of this debate have run on the site since Katz' hiring. There has been nothing from Jenny McCarthy or Age of Autism's managing editor, Kim Stagliano. It was McCarthy's past contributions to HuffPo which were lambasted in Mnookin's hit piece.

Again, I say: Jake writes that as though that were a bad thing. I certainly hope that it's true that HuffPo has given up on antivaccine pseudoscience, and, indeed, I had a hard time finding any antivaccine posts on HuffPo since last spring. That's several months without something as hideously stupid as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s fear mongering, Jenny McCarthy's brain-dead defense of Andrew Wakefield, or Jim Carrey's Fire Marshal Bill-worthy rant against vaccines. For HuffPo, that's a near-miracle. If it reaches the one year mark in May, I might start to believe that, when it comes to vaccines at least, HuffPo might have changed. Given that HuffPo was as recently as late December publishing "personal cases" about homeopathy written by a homeopathy, it's oing to take a hell of a lot more to convince me that HuffPo has given up quackery. However, given how much Jake, who is certainly tied in to the antivaccine crankosphere, seems to fear that HuffPo has been co-opted, maybe it has been to some extent, and that would be a good thing.

On the other hand, it is Jake, Master of Half-baked Conspiracy Theories.

I was half-tempted to stop my post here and be uncharacteristically brief, but I can't help but take a quick look at some of the rest of Jake's post. The reason is that Jake seems to think that it's not just HuffPo that's been "corrupted." According to him, CBS News has also been "silenced" when it comes to publishing The Truth about vaccines and autism. His rationale? He's unhappy that resident antivaccine reporter for CBS Sharyl Attkisson hasn't produced a "vaccine investigation" for a long time now in a section entitled "Scott Pelley + Pfizer + CBS Evening News = No More Sharyl Attkisson?" Here's the reason:

One change in television news that garnered much less attention than it deserved was the replacement of Katie Couric as anchor of CBS Evening News with 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley. Within weeks of the announcement that Couric would be leaving CBS to become a correspondent for ABC, CBS posted Seth Mnookin's talking point gallery along with Neil Katz's complementary article.

Pelley's journalism on vaccine-related topics is troubling to say the least. Hosting 60 Minutes, he played a major part in inflating the swine flu scare. And that is reflected in the program's sponsorship. Before the 60 Minutes report even begins, you have to stare at nothing but a Pfizer logo for seven seconds.

Sharyl Attkisson, as you recall, has made a name for herself for kissing Andrew Wakefield's posterior, stories engaging in antivaccine fear mongering, and a tendency to falling for pseudoscience in other areas, such as breast cancer. Her most recent foray into antivaccine apologia occurred nine months ago. She was even caught apparently passing documents to someone in AoA.

So what, according to Jake, is the cause of Attkisson's apparent nine month silence on vaccines and autism, a silence that doesn't strike me as any longer than at least one previous period of inactivity? To Jake it's Scott Pelley, whom Jake suspects and despises because he has the utter gall to be on...well, let's let Jake tell it:

But most disturbing of all is Pelley's personal relationships. He sits on the board of directors of the International Rescue Committee, a non-profit organization which is, in-part, dedicated to the vaccination of children in the third world. Sitting on the board of directors with Pelley is Susan Susman, director of external relations for Pfizer, which sponsored Pelley's 60 Minutes report on H1N1 vaccine production.

The cad! He wants to see children in Third World countries protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, and he's even gone so far as to get himself onto the board of directors of an organization dedicated to doing just that! Bastard! How dare he work with a nonprofit organization dedicated to emergency response, child and youth protection, protecting women, the development of civil society, economic development, and refugee resettlement! Oh, and responding to outbreaks with vaccination campaigns in refugee camps. You'd think from Jake's description of the IRC that almost all it does is vaccination. Its charitable activities go far, far beyond that, but to Jake, because the IRC also does vaccination, it's obviously completely in cahoots with big pharma in trying to maximize profits by pushing vaccines. To an antivaccine loon like Jake, vaccines contaminate everything. No matter how much good an organization like the IRC does, to Jake it's corrupt because it vaccinates.

Believe it or not, I can't resist finishing my post by quoting Jake. The reason is that I laughted out loud when I read this part of his post, and I think you'll be amused by it too:

Of course, if HuffPo and CBS choose to censor genuine journalism like that of David Kirby and Sharyl Attkisson in favor of agenda-driven pseudo-journalism and blatant lies by vaccine industry pushers like Seth Mnookin, then that is CBS and HuffPo's choice. But positions like Mnookin's are unsustainable and bound to fail.

Jake owes me yet another irony meter, given that it's positions like that of AoA that are unsustainable. In any case, if Jake really believes that David Kirby and Sharyl Attkisson do good journalism with respect to vaccines and autism, his judgment is even more warped than I thought. Of course, he's been working with Dan Olmsted for the last few years; I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Conspiracy mongering aside, though, wouldn't it be cool if Jake were actually correct that HuffPo and CBS News are no longer promoting antivaccine pseudoscience? Certainly, I'd rejoice, but not yet.

ADDENDUM: It looks like HuffPo is credulously covering the quackery known as facilitated communication. All is as it has been before: HuffPo has a long way to go to convince skeptics that it's not anti-science to the core.

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Crosby is the poster boy for a cult, something that's clearly evident from the isolationist "everybody who doesn't agree with me is evil and dangerous and wrong" mentality.

Antivaccine isn't a pseudoscience, it's a religious sect - and I mean that quite seriously. Last month I talked to someone who'd almost been sucked into a sect when younger and, while we were talking about a neighbour inflicting post-vaccination 'detox' on a foster child, she pointed out parallels with the woo industry which were extremely disturbing.

Jake's no different from the anti-abortion loons who boycott international aid organisations because they endorse abortion as part of womens' health care. In fact the anti-abortionist fringe could be fairly included in the list of delusional conspiracy-mongers.

(Uh-oh, I think I may just have derailed this thread. My apologies, and prepare for incoming....)

@ anarchic teapot

"Crosby is the poster boy for a cult, something that's clearly evident from the isolationist "everybody who doesn't agree with me is evil and dangerous and wrong" mentality."

That is so ironic it made me spit out my coffee. Anyone who disagrees with Orac is evil and dangerous and wrong.

Thanks for the laugh, but you owe me a new monitor now.

By NotTelling (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Well, the odious Ben Stein is legally on record now that Kyocera deciding against hiring him as their spokesman because of his anti-AGW lunacy is a case of "religious discrimination", so I guess it's officially a religion now.

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

@NT - we aren't the ones claiming some giant international conspiracy is the reason their positions aren't being either listened to or supported.....in fact, I find your post to be comical in light of the lack of any credible evidence presented by the other side other than these "6-Degrees of Conspiracy."

I don't recall anyone who agreed with Orac saying "Anyone who disagrees with Orac is evil and dangerous and wrong."

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

"I don't recall anyone who agreed with Orac saying "Anyone who disagrees with Orac is evil and dangerous and wrong."

But anyone who disagrees with Davey-boy is anti-vaccine/anti-science/anti-whatever. Aren't those, by his own arbitrary definition, evil and dangerous and wrong?

By OracIsAQuack (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

It seems blatantly obvious to me that mainstream media are abandoning the anti-vaccine movement bit by bit because some honest investigation quickly reveals it is baseless nonsense. Maybe mainstream journalists have realized that this alarmist garbage may sell more newspapers but it can also do real damage. I hope so.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Since we are on the subject of the things that Huffpo publishes, I was sent this by one of my more alarmist friends: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/youre-appointing-who-plea_b…

It sounds like so much scare-mongering to me, but I don't seem to be able to find many sources for verifying/refuting the claims made about GMOs etc. The article on Quackwatch is sadly 12 years old. Can anyone help me find something that is more recent?

Many thanks in advance.

Jake's no different from the anti-abortion loons who boycott international aid organisations because they endorse abortion as part of womens' health care. In fact the anti-abortionist fringe could be fairly included in the list of delusional conspiracy-mongers.

With respect, I do have to say that there is a difference. Those who oppose vaccines generally do so on grounds that can be proven factually wrong: that they contain monkey pus and formaldehyde; that they have caused an epidemic of autism; that they don't actually provide any protection against disease; that the risk of side effects is worse than the disease itself; etc. etc.

By contrast, those who oppose abortion generally do so on grounds that can never be factually settled: when "life" begins, when a fetus stops being an assemblage of cells in someone else's body and becomes a person itself. The only antivaccine position that I can think of that's truly parallel is T***gy's insistence that "infection" occurs whenever an antigen that occurs as part of a pathogenic organism enters the body, even if the antigen in question was synthetically produced and was thus never even in contact with anything pathogenic.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Okay, we have had some fun exchanges with the trolls/sock puppets...let's now just ignore them.

Jake's rants and conspiracies have gotten so much worse as of late...he goes right to the "Six Hundred Degrees of Separation"...without bothering with the "Six or Sixty Degrees of Separation"...and without passing "Go" and collecting his $200.00. Perhaps there is development of a new "board game" in Jake's future?

BTW, I've posted a number of times, responding to the anti-vaxers (Anne Dachel and "jened") and a new anti-vaxer that showed up yesterday, to comment on Mnookin's article. There are quite a few comments from "white and nerdy" and "Dyson" who are pro-science. Some of the RI "regulars" (Ren and palindrom), also post at Ho-Po.

But anyone who disagrees with Davey-boy is anti-vaccine/anti-science/anti-whatever.

Or are simply misinformed, having been deceived by the leaders of the cult. A point Orac REPEATEDLY makes with respect to the majority of the parents who are concerned/confused about the issue.

No, those are pretty accurate definitions. And in addition, I shouldn't have to point out that there's a difference between just blindly labeling everything you disagree with as wrong and dangerous, and actually making a reasoned argument, with supporting evidence, as to why something is dangerous and wrong. For example, antivaccine positions are pretty clearly dangerous, as they tend to lead to lower immunization rates, which can cause outbreaks of diseases that we haven't had to deal with in decades (see the California whooping cough outbreak, for example.) And I've never seen Orac attempt to smear someone simply for the fact that they have at some point in their career worked for a particular organization, or known someone who worked for that organization, or used research from that org. . . you get the idea. Actually, you probably don't, but whatever.

By captainahags (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Months ago, I was struck by his vehemence when he descended upon us here. A clinically-oriented psychologist wrote about people whose "constructs" were "impermeable", i.e. they are like containers with air-tight seals that keep out infiltration by foreign substances. Right on target.

He's such a contrast to other students I know- while I can't discuss clients- I was asked by my (late) cousin to "be there" for his daughter after he was gone: she's now a grad student, Jake's age, who is trying to break into the professional world as she acquires her education and training- I try to provide a really wide angle lens for her as much as I can. We have great conversations about *everything*: like many people in their early twenties, she welcomes the new- new ideas, new topics, new methods.

Jake is currently spinning wheels as he spins his unsubstantiated tales of crime and treachery that take off on the slightest *hint*: actually, his writing is probably solely useful for illustrating how human associative memory works: when you free-associate, words clump together by meaning ( including antonyms)- "dog/cat", "black/white". Because you *imagine* a connection between events, based on intrinsic similarities, doesn't mean that a connection exists! However, he is encouraged by his mentors who interpret reality in precisely the same fashion!

Thinking the world his oyster, he rambles on incessantly, believing that there's a future for him as an advocate of what we know is a *failed* hypothesis. Perhaps he's setting his sights on becoming another Mike Adams, Gary Null, Alex Jones, "whistleblowers" all - he's certainly got the makings of it- unrestrained, mindless anger at various "establishments" based on ire and no data.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Matt Tabibi wrote a great book called "The Great Derangement," which goes deep into the "fringe" conspiracy elements of US Society (including fringe evangelical groups, anti-FEMA / NWO groups, 911 insiders, and other conspiracy groups) and why they believe what they believe and how they got there.

In general, when individuals feel so cut off from the mainstream and feel that they have no means of affecting change, they tend to gravitate towards fringe beliefs that give them a higher sense of purpose.

In the case of Jake, he has built this entire fantasy world of international conspiracy & he gets to play the hero, attempting to bring the "TRUTH" to the masses. It gives him self-worth and a means to operate in a world that he feels is completely against him.

I would definitely recommend picking up the book - a very worthwhile read in these circles and understanding their psychology.


So you say. However, the actions and responses from he and his regular sycophants speak otherwise. But, whatever. You clearly are unable to see the hypocrisy in Dave's words and actions because you agree with Dave's words and actions. Which makes David's mumbling dribbles all the more hilarious. He ridicules those he vehemently hates for doing things that he does daily.

But, you obviously won't see my point. Please, all...continue sticking your noses up his ass and taking a big whiff whenever Dave breaks wind. I and others will continue to rightfully mock you for your idiocy, and he will continue to prove that his mental hershey squirts that he craps here daily contradict what this site is truly about.

By OracIsAQuack (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

I'm sure HuffPo will find some way to continue to promote woo in autism. They had a post extolling the virtues of FC yesterday.

However, an end to their anti-vaccine agenda driven posts would be great.

Antaeus @10

I think you've framed the central issue underlying ethical abortion policies wrong--the question isn't "When does life begin?" After all, we kill living organisms (fungi, bacteria, plants, insects, etc.) daily without charcterizing it as an act of murder. The central issue instead is "At what point during gestation must the zygote/embryo/fetus be considered to represent a human being?"

I think that question can be addresssd factually. We have developed guidelines, after all, to determine when a organism that previously did represent a human being although still living no longer represents a human being and may be ethically removed from life support (the absence of detectable, characteristic human brain waves) as the result of traumatic injury. Seems to me that if the absence of such neural activity is sifficient to determine when something that did represent a human being no longer does that same logic argues that absence of that activity demonstrates the developing zygote/embryo/fetus has not yet become a human being.

The earliest neural activity that can be associated with brain function has been measured was at 12 weeks of development. It however displays none of the characterisitics of actual brainwaves seen on a normal EEG. R. M. Bergstrom stimulated the fetal brain stem directly and recorded random bursts of electrical activity, which looked exactly like the bursts produced by fetal leg muscles when they were so stimulated.

At 17 weeks gestation Bergstorm reports finding "primitive wave patterns of irregular frequency or intermittent complexes from the oral portion of the brain stem and from the hippocampus" in the midbrain, measured by EEG. None of the fetuses Bergstrom studied, however, displayed "brain waves" or other kind of signal from the cerebral cortex as late as 150 days post-fertilization ( the oldest fetuses studied). [Bergstrom RM. Development of EEG and unit electrical activity of the brain during ontogeny. In: Jilke LJ, Stanislav T, eds. Ontogenesis of the brain. Praha, Czech: University of Karlova Press, 1968:61-71.]

When we do begin to see actual brainwaves originating from the cortex--sustained, bilaterally synchronous waves, characterisitic sleep spindles, etc., the kind of brainwaves whose absence is prima facie evidence that a victim suffering traumatic injury is brain-dead--is around 26 weeks gestation.

âFunctional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns...First, intermittent electroencephalograpic bursts in both cerebral hemispheres are first seen at 20 weeks gestation; they become sustained at 22 weeks and bilaterally synchronous at 26 to 27 weeks.â [âPain and Its Efffects in the Human Neonate and Fetusâ Anand et al, New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 317, Number 21: Pages 1321-1329, 19 November 1987]

"He ridicules those he vehemently hates for doing things that he does daily."

Yep - he ridicules AoA for censoring critical comments, while at the same time deleting every critical comment that anyone dares post here. You never ever see any comments here from anyone who dares disagree with Orac, or from anyone who doesn't compliment him at every turn. The very idea of a comment that dares insult Orac being allowed to remain undeleted is inconceivable.

I'm with BA - antivaccination is just one drop in the HuffPo's Olympic-size swimming pool of woo. There's homeopathy and cancer woo and nutrition BS and Mercola and... all right, I'm depressed again. Especially since so many of my lefty see HuffPo as a progressive mouthpiece. It makes us look bad.

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Roadstergel...don't be disheartened about Ho-Po. I frequently post on medical topics other than vaccines. And, I have posted frequently about politics...as a "lefty".

LOL - irony just brought the irony in its own statement.

"Yep - he ridicules AoA for censoring critical comments, while at the same time deleting every critical comment that anyone dares post here."

It seems that Orac bans only the most egregious fools, but those like Jake can still post here as sockpuppets, can't they?

Irony is ironic.

Sockpuppetry to get around bans is something Orac doesn't allow. But I don't believe Jake needs to, since I don't recall him being banned. Normally he's just a fool, not actively disruptive, and it takes a LOT to get Orac to ban somebody. (Witness the Thing, for example.)

Oh, and I'm pretty sure Irony is being sarcastic. Not ironic.

> He ridicules those he vehemently hates for
> doing things that he does daily.
> Posted by: OracIsAQuack

Jake Crosby and JB Handley are performing cancer surgery??? Holy shit! Someone sure ought to say something about those quacks before they kill somebody.

By ConspicuouisCarl (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

The very idea of a comment that dares insult Orac being allowed to remain undeleted is inconceivable.

Which, of course, is why every trace of OIAQ has been scrubbed right away, amirite?


Yep - he ridicules AoA for censoring critical comments, while at the same time deleting every critical comment that anyone dares post here. You never ever see any comments here from anyone who dares disagree with Orac, or from anyone who doesn't compliment him at every turn. The very idea of a comment that dares insult Orac being allowed to remain undeleted is inconceivable.

And yet, there's your post. And looking at other threads, I see plenty of comments that disagree with Orac.

Oh, I get it. You're being sarcastic and poking fun at places like AoA. Okay. Carry on.

Lilady @ 11: "Okay, we have had some fun exchanges with the trolls/sock puppets...let's now just ignore them."

I agree, with these provisions:

1. Trolls that just do the "I know you are but what am I?" grade-school gambit without even attempting to back up what they say with actual evidence (see also: "NotTelling"): Ignore. (Maybe laugh at, or ask them to back up their statements, but generally just ignore.)

2. Trolls that try to do an argument that is likely to fool a layperson: Debunk as necessary. (Bear in mind that while Oprah's a household word, PubMed is not; you need to let folks out there know about the existence of legitimate resources the celebrity-obsessed mass media tends to ignore.)

3. People who aren't trolls, but simply confused and well-meaning persons: Same as #2, just a bit more kindly.

Jake may be on to something.

As evidence of a world-wide conspiracy, consider that the âwhistleblowerâ claim of Wakefield defender David Lewis stems largely from unfavorable internal review at EPA of Lewisâ biosolids article, which tenuously linked (no control group!) infections to exposure to biosolids; at the time of that internal review (in North America), Lewisâs article was rejected (in Europe, birthplace of Rupert Murdoch) by the Lancet. Now, vaccine apologists may choose to believe that the Lancetâs decision to reject Lewisâ paper was reached by the editorial staff based on the advice of independent reviewers with no input from or interaction with the EPA scientists that had negatively reviewed Lewisâs paper. BUT:

Wakefield and Lewis were both mistreated by the Lancet and by their peers. Do you think that that is a coincidence?

Rupert Murdochâs media empire includes The Times, which published the results of Brian Deerâs investigation of Wakefield. Murdoch and his son are on the board of GlaxoSmithKline, which, along with Merck, advertise in the Lancet. The Lancet both withdrew Wakefieldâs MMR article and rejected Lewisâs biosolids article. Merck, like GlaxoSmithKline, makes an MMR vaccine. Merckâs Millipore division makes filters to remove pathogens for the biosolids industry.


@ brian


Proof of what, besides a complete failure to think logically? Or proof of deciding that there's a conspiracy and looking for connections that "prove" that there is one?

@ArtK - I believe Brian is simply pointing out that if you look hard enough, everyone is connected to everyone else, so you can craft these weird conspiracy webs, but they only exist in a tortured mind's fantasies.

Perhaps proof that a sarcasm meter needs calibrating?

antivaccination is just one drop in the HuffPo's Olympic-size swimming pool of woo.

Ah, but the homeopathic effect makes it STRONGER.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

@Babroella: Loved the nonsense. Oh noes! They found bacteria in some sick people and also some healthy people! Vaccines are evil!!! We should do PCR on everyone before they get vaccines!!!!!

Yipes. I won't be going back to that site. I need brain bleach.

Sorry, ArtK, I tried to make my imitation of Jake's connect-the-dots articles so far over the top that it would truly resemble his nonsense.

@ brian

Ooops. Poe's Law in effect, I guess. Take my comment as directed at Jake, then!

@MI Dawn, if only the FDA would let us test the globe's hypercarnivores for Sutterella, we could proove the hypertrophism hypothesis of autogenisis properly.

By Babroella (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink


By Babroella (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Are you people claiming that if we examine the "phylogenetic relationships of S. stercoricanis sp. nov. and its close relatives" in that Lab feces* paper, we'll eventually link the organism to AoA contributors?

Thanks, but that's one biosolids connection I'd rather not think about.

(in case anyone's interested, I've got enough poop from a healthy female Labrador out in the back yard to provide ample research material.

*excuse me, faeces.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

"Do Labrador dogs count as hypercarnivores?"

Time now for a "brave maverick veterinarian" to study the presence of the bacterium in autistic Labradors versus non-autistic Labradors.

in Europe, birthplace of Rupert Murdoch

I don't think even Jake would relocate Melbourne to Europe.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

autistic Labradors versus non-autistic Labradors

Yet Sutterella has not yet been reported from cats, so the explanation does not account for my Siamese cat's* obsessive nature and insensitivity to social cues.

* Evil scientists gotta have cats. It's traditional.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

herr doktor bimler @45

Proof that this is really a world-wide conspiracy: it now involves THREE continents!

@ herr doktor bimler: Your cat may be harboring a dangerous bacterium...have your Siamese also tested for the presence of E-coli bacterium as well.

I see that Kent Heckenlively Esq., AoA's resident legal columnist has weighed in about the pending lawsuit:

Dr. Wakefield And The Problem of Pseudo-Courts

Take a look at John Stone's first comment at the bottom of the page and his second comment...he does a classic flip-flop about what he "heard" during the last day of the GMC Hearing.

Antaeus Feldspar @10: Please note that I was careful to say "loon" and "fringe". The the anti-abortion extremists espouse some wacko ideas. For example, they compare abortion to the Holocaust because its a plot by whitey to wipe out the black race (Don't believe me? Go to blackgencocide.org or thebirminghamletterproject.com. These wackos also routinely lie about how abortions are performed - according to them, babies are chopped up alive or burned inside the womb. Plus, they lie about the effects of abortion. And they talk about the unborn child with religious reverence, as some holy thing.
Conspiracy theories, lies, misinformation, religiousity. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Re Sutterella: A few months ago, Desulfovibrio was the gut bacterium being blamed for autism (rather than earlier candidates like Clostridium and lactobacteria):

But research has moved on, and Sutterella has the advantage of novelty and shininess.

I remember speculating at the time about the

number of reports -- sadly, control-group-free -- of positive effects from administering Vancomycin to autistic subjects (effects which stopped when the treatment stopped). There seem to be a number of research groups looking for new applications for vancomycin at the moment, now that it has lost its status as the antibiotic of last resort in cases of antibiotic resistance. A cynical person would look for Big Pharma as the source of research funds.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

NotTelling and OracIsAQuack only seem to throw out random insults. Neither has added anything worthwhile to the discussion, nor have they provided any real evidence to support their beliefs. Because being a Wakefield fanboy/girl is not just a calling, but a religion.

Labrador is a cold place so Labrador dogs are cold-adapted (large and hungry). Neanderthals were cold adapted. CNR1(-/-)knockout mice prefer a high fat diet.

Not really ;)

By Babroella (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

"Oh, I get it. You're being sarcastic and poking fun at places like AoA. Okay. Carry on."

Quite right - I thought I laid it on thickly enough to make my intent clear, but maybe I should have added a smiley.

Babroella at 32: For me, this is the highlight of your link:
authored by researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York Cityânot in some foreign country.

Which makes it REAL RESEARCH.

Checking the Sutterella paper itself, the authors include Mady Hornig (of "autistic mice" infamy), and Lipkin whose best-funded project at the moment is a search for the known-to-be-nonexistent XMRV virus in CFS patients. Oh dear.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

lol, the Hebrewists only built a university in Jerusalem so they could subvert the true course of western research!

Chakrabarti's mice, naturally.

By Babroella (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

whose ambition in life seems to be to follow in Andrew Wakefield's and Mark Geier's footsteps

He wants to have his license to practice medicine revoked on two continents?

@ ken:

"whose ambition in life seems to be to follow in Andrew Wakefield's and Mark Geier's footsteps"

I see that nuanced analogies are not part of your skill set.

"He wants to have his license to practice medicine revoked on two continents?"

Ahem, Andy Wakefield only his licensed revoked on one continent. Mark Geier is only licensed on one continent.

I thought Ken's joke was funny

"Ahem, Andy Wakefield only his licensed revoked on one continent. Mark Geier is only licensed on one continent."

But if Jake wants to follow in the steps of both of them, he'll have to get licenses on both continents (and the way things are going for Geier, get both licenses revoked)

in Europe, birthplace of Rupert Murdoch

I don't think even Jake would relocate Melbourne to Europe.

Ahh, but you see, "Melbourne" contains ALL the letters that are in "Europe" (if you flip up the p to become a b to compensate for Australians doing things upside down).

What more evidence do you need of the pervasive global anti-Wakefield conspiracy?

Re Sutterella: Did they use the same PCR and lab they said found measles virus in the gut?

Ah, my apologies; I thought Geier's case had already advanced to the seemingly-inevitable conclusion.


By Slutterella (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Re Sutterella: Did they use the same PCR and lab they said found measles virus in the gut?

The authors (Williams, Hornig, Parekh & Lipkin) talk about a "novel PCR-based methods" in the title. They refer to a previous paper in which they ran PCR analyses on biopsy samples from 23 autistic and 8 control children (both with gut dysfunction); tested for differences in every microbe they could think of; and found that Sutterella differed most in frequency between the two samples. In other words, a fishing expedition. Calling it "junk science" is probably too strong, despite the vanishingly small sample sizes.

In the references they cite earlier fishing expeditions including Finegold's 2002 and 2004 papers (which reported autistic / control differences in the frequency of lactobacteria and clostridia respectively) as precedents for the idea of gut abnormality in autism, even though those reports *could not be replicated* (and indeed are disproven by the present study)... which is why Finegold moved on to studying Desulfovibrio bacteria and publishing in Medical Hypotheses.

It's an embarrassingly weak study, even if its only purpose is to bump up the authors' publication counts.


By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 13 Jan 2012 #permalink

Thanks Dr B, but it was a smiley post really.
Perhaps they used the Mikovitz lab techniques then?

I don't think Ken is the same person as ken. ken wouldn't have talked about Fakefield and Geier losing their licenses without injecting some comment about "kangaroo courts".

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 14 Jan 2012 #permalink

in re: recent confusion over sarcastic/parody posts --

Friends don't let friends Poe without smileys.


By Scottynuke (not verified) on 14 Jan 2012 #permalink

Hi can someone help me please? I am looking for a master list or database of phenotypical correlates for ASD. I'm not interested in environmental risk factors. Thank you, Gon.

@ brian:
@ dt:

re- "three continents","flip up the p to become a b"

Thank you so much for your brilliantly clever re-creations of *scientific speculation by free association* which has intrigued me for quite a while. Significantly, we are able to conjure up a reasonably decent facsimile of their style whereas they are unable to reproduce- even through outright mimesis- anything that vaguely resembles how we speculate- which speaks volumes to me.

There are other characteristics that distinguish their style of theroy-and-conspiracy-building which I'll have to leave off for now: gallery, dinner, and discussion of JMW Turner over drinks awaits. Lucky me.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2012 #permalink

Oops..."theory-and-conspiracy building"

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 14 Jan 2012 #permalink

@Gon, ironic post? No smiley!

By Babroella (not verified) on 14 Jan 2012 #permalink

This is tangentially relevant, which is to say, not at all.

In honor of the Huffington Post's new (and likely doomed) science section, I've created the HuffPo Headcrash Drinking Game [pdf]. It's fairly flexible, so it should work with any of your favorite maligned topics at HuffPo. It's no good against Deepak Chopra, but then again, nothing is.

Suggestions for improvement are cheerfully accepted; if you give it a try, let me know how it works out.

Bob @#72: I needed that laugh. Thank you.

By Pinkamena, Pan… (not verified) on 14 Jan 2012 #permalink

@66: Ah, was that the problem? I'm the Ken of #56 and #61, nothing else in this group of comments. Except this one, of course.

@Ken - sometimes the trolls have issues with capitalization (either too much or too little).

@ Bob: I've played that game somewhat at the Ho-Po...but then I get disgusted with the posters who are truly stupid. I love the "point" schedule that you devised.

@ (Capital K) Ken: Apologies for the snark...it was meant for (lower case) ken.

@ Gon: "Hi can someone help me please? I am looking for a master list or database of phenotypical correlates for ASD. I'm not interested in environmental risk factors. Thank you, Gon."

Google: Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)

At the bottom of the page, click on "SFARIbase". There will be an online demonstration for access to their database, on January 20, 2012 at 12:30 PM EST.

I believe the database is the largest in the world...containing about 4,000 phenotype families.