Saturday, April 30, 2016

Distraction Watch

It was Friday, so I walked around the trapline to see if the Stupid Traps had snared anything. And oh yes, there was Stupid aplenty, enough for everyone, but of such a nature that I find myself working the Retraction Watch side of the street.

1. Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?

RW blogposts have sometimes focused on the long delays between the appearance of a flawed paper and its eventual expulsion from the academic literature, and its transferral into the hands of the secular branch to be consumed in cleansing fire.

At the other end of the spectrum, one hears less often of negative delays, where the paper is criticised, condemned and withdrawn even before it appeared in press. If only because the Temporal Continuity Police look askance on that kind of chrono-anomaly and CODE PALIMPSEST dangling causality pointers (which require no end of temporal-continuum re-knitting and recompiling from the source code, and you wouldn't believe the paperwork, while the Temporal Continuity Accounts auditors are notoriously humourless on the concept of "overtime").

But none of this stopped one Jake Crosby, anti-vaccine campaigner, in the throes of a Category 4 Butthurt, from demanding the pre-emptive retraction of a paper that hasn't been published, and currently exists only in the fertile imagination of another anti-vaccine campaigner (who in turn claims to have heard about it from the author's lawyer,* because that's what lawyers are for).
In short, it is Schrödinger's Manuscript, in a superpositioned state of potential publication, and Jake wants to collapse the wave-function to a state of unpublication, for he is convinced that if it were written it would violate his belief system.

To that end, Crosby asks his readers to
(a) Stalk the potential author.
(b) Contact the potential author's employers.
(c) Contact the P.N.A.S. (which he believes to be the target journal IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPHECY) and warn them not to publish the potential paper.
(d) Denounce the P.N.A.S. to the Committee Of Public Safety On Publication Ethics.**
Please write and call Dr. Thompson at the following numbers and email address and tell him to withdraw his “reanalysis” and that he will face ethical complaints against him due to the ridiculous nature of his claims.
[redacted]@cdc DOT gov
(404) xxx-xxxx (office) Liz writes: the number published is incorrect
(404) xxx-xxxx (cell) Liz writes: the number published is incorrect

Also contact the journal publishing his paper as well and tell them withdraw his paper and that they too will face ethics complaints for publishing it. Here is the email for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, where the “reanalysis” will likely be published. You should let the journal know that it too will face an ethical complaint for publishing Thompson’s analysis and should withdraw it from press: [redacted]@nas dot edu, Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx redacted for charity

Also make a complaint to the Committee on Publication Ethics. Let them know you complained to both the author of the piece and to PNAS:
* "Mr. Richard Morgan, Esq. [sic], Dr. Thompson’s whistle blower attorney, stated that Dr. Thompson will be publishing a paper in May, 2016". Actual attorney is Mr Frederick "Rick" Morgan.

** Crosby is perhaps unaware that a key part of the COPE mission statement is "Do not criticise dues-paying members of COPE".

2. He who lies down with dogs should take a long spoon. And being smeared all over with peanut butter beforehand, turns out not to be such a good idea.

Dear Health Ministry people,
This is what happens when you go into partnership with the Police and NZ Customs to establish a National Drug Intelligence Bureau -- which with three bodies and a single head is going one step better than a T'ao T'ieh. You find your name signed onto a mendacious clickbaity 'report', stuffed full as a bad- taxidermy walrus with fabricated claims and numbers about social costs, gateway drug, dangerous potency of marijuana today, hospital emergency admissions. A report that served the police well back in 2008, when it was mysteriously though promptly leaked to the media and churnalised into editorials about the need to press on with the War on Drugs.

Then when the report's tendentious and self-serving nature comes to light eight years later, and you seek to retract it for fear that 'making shit up' will not reflect well on the joint agency's reputation as a source of impartial reliable information, the police will veto that retraction, for fear of damaging the NDIB's reputation. Remember, they come from a culture in which the only shame in fabrication or chicanery comes from admitting it.

Also (a) there is nothing to be gained from recriminations after so many years; (b) the report is long forgotten; (c) it was of little importance and was only used to dictate public policy; (d) the Drug Analyst who wrote it is no longer in the NDIB, after promotion elsewhere for a job well done.
In a letter dated October, 2013, national manager of intelligence Detective Superintendent Stephen Vaughan said the report had been removed from the police website and the internal police intranet.
He said the report was no longer referenced, "due to the fact that it is over six years old", there had been "significant changes" to intelligence practices and processes within the NDIB, and none of the current staff were in their roles when the report was released.
"The issues that you raise ... would not occur in the current intelligence system," Vaughan wrote, saying there was no need for further action.
Bonus T'ao T'ieh
This description of Stuart Dawson's five-year exercise in accessing the actual number of drug-related hospital admissions makes for interesting although repetitive reading, in which phrases recur about "file destroyed". Apparently the custom of the day was to maintain no hard-copy back-ups for crucial dispositive data, and only a single easily-corrupted electronic copy.

HA HA, "joint agency", you see what I did there?

3. He sounds nice.
Bonus Anti-Vax Loon: Christopher Savage!
These reports give the impression that Savage is actually in New Zealand, dispensing toxic prescriptions in person (rather than across the Interlattice), but this may be a misunderstanding of the District Health Board's warning. He only recently returned to Australia, fleeing Bali one step ahead of the Indonesian authorities. Indonesians were not well-pleased with the medical treatments he was offering there to treat autism and heart disease -- a form of homebake chelation, administering intravenous magnesium chloride to flush that heavy-metal 'calcium' out from blood vessels and bones and muscles.*

Savage has previously earned some notoriety in certain circles as an apologist for infanticide, popping up to defend the parents whenever a child dies of broken bones and internal bleeding, offering his trained opinion that these are really the side-effects of vaccination. Savage's medical expertise being the many years he spent as a police constable before leaving under a cloud when his truculence, incompetence and laziness became too much for the Queensland Police DON'T LAUGH. Savage is inclined to blame the QP themselves for the two weeks he took off work to spend in bed, for subjecting him to vaccination (against Hep-B) as a requirement of his continued employment.

Anyway, Chris Savage also turns out to be a homicidal gun-licker:
Savage declares that he wants his guns back, granting us some retrospective succour in the knowledge that, in 2012 at least, Savage was not in possession of firearms
...and an antisemitic, holocaust-denying, white-supremacist unabashed neo-Nazi. Nevertheless, he remains persona grata to the "Australian Vaccination-skeptic Network" and to the "Vaccine Resistance Movement", whose members flocked to the comment threads of Australian news-sites to condemn the actions of Indonesian authorities and the media who report those actions. If "flocked" is the correct term to use for groups of flying monkeys.

The idea that apparent cases of infanticide are really the sequelae of vaccines is not uncommon in anti-vax circles. Three schools of thought can be adduced. In one form of the theory -- this is Röver and Scheibner's preference -- the toxicity of any vaccine depletes the infant's bodily reserves of Vitamin C, causing a kind of instant scurvy or Barlow's Disease, with internal bleeding and fragile bones that break even under the lightest discipline.
OR the vaccine destroys the body’s reserves of Vitamin D (I am not so clear on the mechanism here), and therefore instant rickets and skeletal fragility. This seems to be Buttram’s preference.
On the gripping hand prehensile tail, we shouldn't forget Innis, who theorises that the particular micronutrient destroyed by vaccines is Vitamin K. No need to worry about the mechanism because it leads inexorably to the same end-point of internal bleeding and broken bones.

Don't worry, none of this will be on the test.

* Savage has progressed from his earlier on-line scam where he spruiks "superoxy" for curing cancer, i.e. "stabilized electrolytes of oxygen" -- "the extra Oxygen goes to work cleaning and healing the cells and indeed the entire body". That is to say, industrial bleach for oral or intravenous administration.

Am I alone in wanting a Sexy Fascist Octopus costume for next Hallowe'en?

4. Protraction Watch

Via Stat, here is the heart-warming tale of the Faithful Little Archive. A collection of data that languished in a basement for 45 years, mouldering away on punched cards and magnetic tapes, without so much as a 5-1/4 floppy disk in sight, and did it complain? DID IT BOGROLL, for it knew that one day when THE STARS ARE RIGHT the world would be ready to hear the message it contained. See, other neglected data, be of good cheer, your time too will come.
The message being that reducing the animal-fat component in the diets of a cohort of subjects lacking any choice in the matter -- substituting vegetable fats instead -- does not reduce their rate of dying by heart disease, contrary to the conclusion that the data were collected with the intention of proving. Also contrary to most dietary advice of the last half-century... for the animal-fat / heart-disease paradigm became Received Wisdom anyway, even without that expected support. 

But Official Advice in its magisterial grandeur is too important to be swayed by the whims of mere empirical evidence. It matters more that official advice remain consistent, thereby retaining the childlike faith of the masses, than correct. We learn that the anti-fat genre of advice should remain in the official canon, for although the animal-fat / heart-disease link may lack for evidential support, nor have enough data piled up for overwhelming proof of the absence of a link. Apparently "not offering advice at all if the data are equivocal" is not an option.

Not only are the Basement Tapes not dispositive, they were collected a long time ago, under conditions of dubious ethicality, when confounders were not adequately controlled. One could say much the same of those studies which did support the link and the advice, but that's different, shut up that's why.

But the Stat story buries the lede, leaving this until the penultimate paragraph:
The coleader of the project was Dr. Ancel Keys, author of the Seven Countries Study,* Time cover subject, and the most prominent advocate of replacing saturated fat with vegetable fat. “The idea that there might be something adverse about lowering cholesterol [via vegetable oils] was really antithetical to the dogma of the day,” Bob Frantz said.
That is, Keys knew in 1970 that his public policies were empirically wrong, but he had invested too much in anti-fat crusading to change.
[h/t Retraction Watch for link to Stat]

* The Seven Countries Study started out as the 21-Countries Study, before the extraction of countries which did not support the desired relationship between diet and heart disease. Even for those seven data points, recent re-analyses that took confounders into proper account found the main dietary driver of cardio-vascular disease to be sugar.

1 comment:

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Suppressive Persons? Why do I see the hand of L. Ron Hubbard behind that phrase?