Anne Dachel okay with everyone else’s kids dying so long as her’s make it out

November 19, 2011
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It was inevitable that as soon as the NY Times released its short but devastating review of the latest anti-vaccine propaganda flick, The Greater Good, the folks at Age of Autism wouldn’t take it lying down and mount an assault on the critic.

And sure enough, Anne Dachel delivered in spades with this amusingly hyperbolic screed against a film critic for not liking their shitty movie. Not since The Brown Bunny has there been such a petty, childish response to a bad review.

Just how absurd, fundamentally dishonest, and hyperbolic is Dachel’s response? Look at the title of her piece:

New York Times Reviews The Greater Good Movie Tells Vaccine-Injured Children to Drop Dead

Um, did I miss that part? I read the review and it said nothing…NOTHING of the kind. What film critic Jeannette Catsoulis DID say was that the film was an “…emotionally manipulative, heavily partial look at the purported link between autism and childhood immunization” that “…would much rather wallow in the distress of specific families than engage with the needs of the population at large.”

Catsoulis continues by pointing out that the whole thesis and line of inquiry of the film is entirely “fundamentally flawed”, since “it fails to point out that even were such a link proved definitively, all that matters is that its victims number significantly fewer than those of the diseases vaccinations are designed to prevent.” In other words, the film sets up a total straw man argument by focusing on the wrong questions.

Catsoulis argues the film isn’t as balanced as it pretends to be as it didn’t show the suffering of children who contract the very diseases the vaccines prevent:

“A cost-benefit analysis is completely ignored. Also elided are the mostly forgotten horrors of measles, mumps, chickenpox and polio: instead of lingering at a graveside with grieving parents who believe vaccines killed their baby girl, perhaps the filmmakers could have unearthed some footage of children encased in iron lungs.”

Though a correction has been made to the review because apparently the film does show children in iron lungs, it’s quite clear from Catsoulis’ mistake that this is clearly not emphasized and certainly not given equal attention to the very few individual cases of alleged vaccine injuries the film is much more interested in feeding to the public.

But that’s where Anne Dachel’s whiny response takes an odd turn as she leaps many dimensions of logic to argue that it’s not reasonable for health practitioners to place greater importance on protecting the most lives because they should apparently only care about protecting Anne Dachel’s kids:

Phrases like, “needs of the population at large,” “cost-benefits analysis,” and “all that matters is that its victims number significantly fewer than those of the diseases vaccinations are designed to prevent” are really frightening to me. It makes me think of things like “peripheral damage” and “acceptable loss.”

That’s because you’re insane, Anne. The terms you describe come from military strategy, not medical practice. In fact, such behavior is considered highly unethical in medicine and could lead to losing one’s license to practice (ya know, like Dachel’s buddy Wakefield lost his license for his callous disregard for child welfare). Perhaps the single best example demonstrating that medicine doesn’t work that way is with organ donation. Doctors can’t just harvest organs from a terminal patient to save numerous other patients. Hell, if a person drops dead this very minute, doctors can’t just take the organs. The person would have to have volunteered to be an organ donor. So even if the fate of five other terminal patients rests on the organs of one dude who’s already dead, they still must respect that person’s wishes as best as they can. This is not something that is taken lightly. But yes, generally doctors have to play a numbers game and do the best they can to protect the most people. It’s almost like that’s their job or something.

But what this all comes down to is, exactly as the review says, a cost-benefit analysis. Doctors often have to make major life and death decisions, sometimes very quickly. This often means going with what has the best odds of a positive outcome paired with the lowest odds of making things worse. It’s not perfect. Sometimes medical procedures can fail or even make things worse. Nobody knows for sure how it will all turn out in the end. But keep in mind that even seat belts have been responsible for some deaths. So does that mean we should all stop wearing seat belts? No. That’s absurd because when you look at a cost-benefit analysis, it’s clear that seat belts save far more lives than they hurt.

Like seat belts, vaccines aren’t 100% safe. And everyone acknowledges this fact openly. That’s the whole point of Catsoulis’ criticism. Everyone already agrees vaccines CAN cause injuries. The only real point of contention if a legitimate one existed (it doesn’t) would be whether vaccines do more harm than good. And the answer to that question is absolutely not.

Lastly, Dachel exploits a common argument among anti-vaxxers, implying that vaccine requires some sort of child sacrifice. It does not, at least no more than saying automobiles require child sacrifice. The fact is that as long as we drive cars, some people will get killed in car accidents. But that’s not a requirement of society’s continued use of cars. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Same with vaccines though even more so. Cars kill thousands of Americans every year. Vaccines haven’t killed even one for at least the last two. Incidentally, 27 Americans died of lightning strikes in 2010 alone. So consider that while Dachel condemns them damned vaccines.

Meanwhile, millions of lives have been protected from deadly diseases. If looking at those statistics, Anne Dachel wants to side with the viruses at the expense of the human species, she’s welcome to do it but the rest of us sane people are going to mock her mercilessly for her pathologically terrible decision-making skills. Her child is much, much more likely to suffer at the hands of the diseases vaccines can prevent than the vaccines themselves. And if she wants to take her chances by not wearing a seat belt because seat belts too have caused injury or even death, she can do that too.

And how does Dachel defend this idiotic view?

Catsoulis isn’t troubled by the fact that there’s no way to tell WHOSE CHILD IS VULNERABLE. It’s just the chance we all have to take—for the good of the herd I guess.

It makes me afraid that in the end, when “a link [is] proved definitively,” to use the author’s words, we’ll be told that what happened to our kids is justified by the claim that vaccines prevented lots of other kids from getting sick.

Dachel isn’t troubled by the fact that there’s no way to tell WHOSE SEAT BELT WILL FAIL. It’s just the chance we all have to take–for the good of the people who might be hurt if our bodies get thrown from our vehicles during a car crash. Dachel would have people believe it’s a choice between protecting your kid or protecting other people; it’s not. Vaccines protect BOTH the vaccinated and those around them. There’s no need to pick and choose priorities. It’s a fuckin’ win-win situation for everyone. But if she wants to risk everyone’s lives on this appeal to hypothetical future evidence that will confirm her presently unjustifiable speculations–if that’s what she wants to hang her hat on–then I’m going to have to cite my own hypothetical future evidence that she’s certifiably insane. So just remember my warnings when future Anne Dachel is up in the bell tower massacring dozens of people with a shotgun while eating babies, stealing Christmas, and using magic to resurrect Hitler.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 10.27.11

October 27, 2011

1. Skeptical zombies ignored by James Van Praagh – In possibly the best PR stunt the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has ever come up with, their president, DJ Grothe led an army of zombies on a mission to get self-proclaimed “psychic” James Van Praagh to finally take the JREF’s Million Dollar Psychic Challenge. Not surprisingly, Praagh’s goons kept the zombies from meeting with him but of course that doesn’t matter as this story is getting a lot of press.

2. Church’s bogus AIDS cure causes 3 deaths – Though this is an isolated incident, this is precisely the kind of tragedy that can be expected in a culture that demands unquestioned belief and condemns skepticism.

3. 60 Minutes pisses off anti-vaxxers – As part of their Steve Jobs-centered episode this week, 60 Minutes ran a segment on the remarkable benefits that iPads and other tablet devices have demonstrated for people with autism. And somehow by simply highlighting an important, practical tool in helping autistic people communicate, they’ve pissed off Age of Autism. And bravo to Age of Autism’s commenters for declaring war on Temple Grandin of all people. That takes serious balls. Maybe their next target will be blind nuns, adorable puppies, and AIDS-infected orphans. I’m just shocked Age of Autism didn’t rant about the fact that Pfizer is a major sponsor of the show.

4. ‘Sybil’ admits she never really had multiple personalities – The most famous alleged case of multiple personality syndrome, or what’s now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder was based on lies and manipulations.

5. Atheists doing volunteer work – This is something I want to see more of in atheist groups. This is one of the ways we’ll change people’s negative stereotypes about atheists.

 

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Rethinking autism

October 27, 2011

Dana Commandatore is trying to change the conversation when it comes to autism. Like me, she was largely motivated to activism because of Jenny McCarthy. Below is an awesome talk she gave about the past, present and future of her site Rethinking Autism at the 2011 Autcom Convention.

Also, one cool thing I noticed was that one of her videos she shows during the talk includes actor Armie Hammer, who was phenomenal in last year’s The Social Network. So I’m happy to see him doing his part to help fight pseudoscience.


News From Around The Blogosphere 5.29.11

May 29, 2011

1. Murdering teen escapes punishment because she was possessed by evil spirits

Lorraine Mbulawa, 19, escaped jail after judge Mr Justice Keith accepted the girl had such strong beliefs in witchcraft and evil that she was acting upon what she was told to do by spirits.

2. Anti-vaxxers forcefully remove peaceful protester from their convention – Ken Reibel and Jamie Bernstein were both ejected from the anti-vaccine “Autism One” conference by 3 security guards and 4 police officers. Their crime: being recognized as dissenters of the movement’s ideology. This speaks volumes about the intellectual integrity of their movement. If anti-vaxxers attended TAM or NECSS, no one would kick them out unless they were actually disrupting the conference.

3. Catholic adoption agency shuts down rather than let gays adopt – Finally, a charity that has its priorities in place. Better a child grow up in an institution than risk that child being infected by evil, gay cooties. Good thinking there, Catholic Charities of Rockford! You guys are a class act all the way!

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Supreme Court rules to maintain National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, 6-2

February 22, 2011
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The Supreme Court just ruled to maintain the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA), 6-2. This is the Act that protects vaccine manufacturers from frivolous tort litigation, so of course the anti-vaxxers hate the decision because this means they’ve more or less lost their battle in the U.S. courts for good. Sure, another controversial case favorable to their position could end up in the Supreme Court in the future, but it’s not likely. So with their embarrassing defeat in the Autism Omnibus cases and now the Supreme Court standing behind the NCVIA, they’ve really got no place left to go.

And of course they’re bitching about this defeat over at Age of Autism, and as always, preferring to invent a conspiracy rather than acknowledge the actual facts. For instance, they still refuse to acknowledge regulatory compliance policies and other measures to reign in the vaccine manufacturers in favor of presenting a woefully naive version of reality where these companies are given total freedom to do whatever they want and show callous disregard for public safety when nothing can be further from the truth, as the Court decision makes clear. That’s where the Court of Federal Claims comes in. It compensates people by letting them petition the government directly. And if a vaccine is not prepared properly or doesn’t have proper directions and warnings, that is grounds for a legitimate lawsuit against the manufacturers. The only thing vaccine manufacturers are being protected from are unavoidably unsafe products.

So who dissented? Shockingly, Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg with Kagan abstaining. Which only makes me want to scream, WHAT THE FUCK?! It is truly a dark day when I’m forced to side with guys like Justices Scalia and Thomas over the more liberal Justices. Sullivan summarizes what this ruling means over at Left Brain/Right Brain here and at the Vaccine Times here.

The anti-vaxxers have been utterly defeated in the court of science and the court of law. And it seems even the media is mostly through pretending they’re not loons. I’d say we’re definitely beginning to finally turn the tide against this preposterous pseudoscience.

[UPDATE: Orac also covered this story here.]

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As so-called ‘Vaccine Danger Awareness Week’ ends, Bill Gates declares vaccine-autism link an ‘absolute lie’

February 5, 2011

Last year, the anti-vaccine community introduced what they called “Vaccine Danger Awareness Week,” (VDAW) where they devoted a whole week to doing what they do all the time anyway, churn out loads of propaganda for their minions to spread around. Well the good news is that this year VDAW passed almost without notice. In fact, I only heard about it a few days ago and I follow this issue much more closely than most. Age of Autism doesn’t even seem to be involved. As far as I know, this event is only being represented on Facebook.

But that being said, I found it very fitting that this week saw Bill Gates popping up on The Daily Show and now CNN discussing the importance of vaccination. And in the latter, he directly called out the vaccine-autism hypothesis as an “absolute lie.”

Of course Age of Autism responded in their usual way, by making outrageous libelous accusations against Gates, as Orac discusses here, but here’s the full CNN clip in all it’s glory:


Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Have you no sense of decency, Ginger Taylor, at long last?

January 26, 2011

I have to wonder at this point if the anti-vaccine community ever gets sick of using the same McCarthyist tactics over and over again. I’ve been debating them for years now and I don’t think there has been a single occasion where they didn’t either  accuse me of being paid off by the pharmaceutical companies without any justification or accused other critics of theirs of being paid by pharma. And I’m not being hyperbolic here. This accusation has been made on every single occasion. That alone should speak volumes about the intellectual honesty of their movement.

Now another drone from Age of Autism, Ginger Taylor, has written a piece where she explains how incredibly reasonable she and her cohorts have been to their critics…despite their critics being corrupt monsters who willing sacrifice the safety of children for their own profit.

That’s her version anyway:

I published an extensive piece detailing the problems I saw in the Skeptic movement (which I really now see as just the Contrarian movement, as they don’t seem to be skeptical of some assertions that someone from Missouri would demand proof of, but merely oppose anything our community says no matter how reasonable) and in “science writers” who act as mere functionaries of Pharma and their friends/sometime employees in public health. It was entitled:

Chris Mooney, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Lori Kozlowski, Rosie Mestel, Thomas Maugh, David Gorski, Virginia Hughes, Science Journalists, The Dying of the LA Times and an Angry Autism Mom*

It details my earnest attempts to get through to these skeptics/science journalists, and an effort to point out that they are shooting themselves in the foot with their actions, and that our children are collateral damage in their efforts.  Long story short… they are some pretty myopic people and not open to self-evaluation, so their tactics continue to loose them the vaccine/autism wars.

See,  she made earnest attempts to get through to these maniacs who have the repugnance to disagree with her, despite their evil and willful corruption. Of course she, like her cohorts and her predecessor Senator McCarthy, failed to present evidence of foul play by her critics at all.

The critics she mentions share the same position as every reputable health organization on Earth and their criticisms are quite substantive. But since Ms. Taylor doesn’t actually understand enough of the science to challenge their scientific criticisms, it’s much easier to just write off every criticism as mere contrarianism…a claim that she also doesn’t seem interested in backing up with evidence.

She does give one example of alleged conflict of interest though:

(*After I posted the piece, Dr. David “Orac” Gorski sent me a flattering email saying he had actually always respected me and asked me to remove the piece. When I declined, he let the insults fly again. So… not the most honest and straightforward guy.

A few months later, we learned that Gorski has spent the last several years developing a drug for vaccine maker Sanofi, which he had some how forgotten to mention in his hundreds of posts about these issues, so I do feel a bit the sucker for approaching him as if he was actually a somewhat disinterested party in this debate. Had I known I would not have wasted so many hours trying to have a real discussion with him, but live and learn I guess.)

I guess we’re just going to have to take her word about that first incident as she doesn’t seem to link to any evidence that it took place. I don’t know what happened and I certainly don’t see how that in any way refutes the conclusions currently held by every reputable health organization on Earth. And then just just repeats the “hungry lie” (to steal Handley’s stupid phrase) of Jake Crosby, citing his piece in the same blog she writes for. This is like if one of my fellow Gotham Skeptics wrote a piece accusing Ginger Taylor of being a drug dealer, a claim made by no other person, and then I wrote a piece in the Gotham Skeptic where I repeated the claim and cited by fellow Gotham Skeptic blogger’s unsubstantiated rumor as my source.

Of course, Gorski has already told his side of the story and called young Jake out on his libelous bullshit. But his refutation of the accusation wasn’t convenient to Honest Ginger Taylor here so she didn’t find it necessary to even mention it. Cause she’s such a fair and honest journalist. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Crosby and the rest of the anti-vaccine movement deliberate choose to not distinguish tenuous relationships with industry from real conflicts of interest. They also choose not to pay attention to regulatory compliance policies and how those policies discourage unhealthy relationships by making making it very costly to all parties involved while providing huge incentives to whistle blowers, as I discussed when addressing Jake Crosby’s hilarious accusation that John Stossel had a conflict of interest because he wasn’t an only child.

But back to Ginger:

…so I do feel a bit the sucker for approaching him as if he was actually a somewhat disinterested party in this debate.

No, anyone who thinks Ginger Taylor genuinely approached David Gorski or any critic of her warped ideology without actively searching for ammunition to launch a character attack as a cheap attempt to justify dismissing their position out of hand would be the sucker.

As Gorski began his rebuttal to Jake Crosby’s libelous blog entry:

One of the very favorite and most commonly used tactics to attack criticism in the armamentarium of pseudoscientists, cranks, and quacks (not to mention politicians) is the ad hominem fallacy. In this fallacy, rather than addressing the actual evidence and science that demonstrate their favorite brand of woo to be nothing more than fairy dust, the idea is to preemptively attack and discredit the person.

And indeed, Ginger Taylor has said not one thing in her entire polemic to even address the actual evidence and science. She doesn’t understand it and she’s praying you don’t ask her about it. Instead, she’d rather fling feces at her critics, crying that they’re all out to get her while pretending she’s fair, impartial, and genuinely open to engaging in civil discourse with her critics. Bullshit!

She says it all right here:

I hope you will take the time to read it, especially if you are someone who believes the media on this issue and  super especially if you are Matt Lauer, Anderson Coooper, George Stephanopolous or any other major news personality who has been handed a press release labeled “News” that was likely drafted in a Pharma conference room and told to get really angry at some guy named Andrew Wakefield.

That’s right. They’re ALL out to get her. Everyone in the position to disagree with her is in on the big conspiracy. I have not had one interaction with any members of the anti-vaccine movement that didn’t involve them accusing critics of being big pharma shills. Not one. And clearly Ginger Taylor has not broken that pattern.

There isn’t enough money in the entire world to pay off all the people Ginger believes are being paid off by Big Pharma to make people think vaccines are safe, let alone enough money for pharmaceutical companies to pay all those people off AND still actually produce the vaccines. Who made up this plan, Dr. Evil? This would have to be the most incompetent evil plot ever. How would pharmaceutical companies even hope to profit off the vaccines if they’re throwing so much money away just to convince people get the vaccines? And even if they could manage to at the end of the day make some profit, wouldn’t there have to be a much easier way to make a profit? Like couldn’t they must sell products that work and are safe that don’t require spending quadrillions of dollars sweeping public relations disasters under the rug?

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J.B. Handley is a libelous douchebag

January 26, 2011

Lord of the Douchebags

The question regarding the vaccine-autism hypothesis has been asked and answered; vaccines don’t cause autism.

I start my post by reiterating this fact not because it bares repeating (because again, it’s a fact), but because that walking advertisement for abortion named J.B. Handley insists that that sentence drives him nuts (funny because it implies he isn’t already nuts, but I probably shouldn’t say that as it might hurt a future libel case against him). And people as despicable as J.B. Handley ought to be unhappy as often as possible.

Well, Handley has just posted another piece of propagandist garbage over at the official home of propagandist garbage, Age of Autism. He begins by announcing that he’s going to teach his readers a little “Science 101”, ironic as he’s not a professional scientist, is by all measurable standards scientifically illiterate, and because every single reputable health organization on Earth completely disagrees with his now utterly discredited scientific beliefs, based largely on research that has proven both erroneous and fraudulent.

Handley’s attempt to get around this fact is to make an argument from authority, cherry-picking the small number of fringe individuals who agree with him, who happen to have the title of “doctor”, and who don’t have any professional background in a related field or relevant research published in a reputable journal. For instance, in this article, he cites Bernadine Healey, a cardiologist. Last I checked, neither vaccines nor autism were related to matters of the heart. But of course anti-vaxxers will point out that she was the former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Of course she also has a history of going against the scientific process and being wrong. She’s demonstrated a willingness to put politics ahead of her scientific credibility.  After being appointed head of the NIH, scientists started leaving in record numbers because of the politicization of scientific agendas such as the ban on fetal-tissue research because the Republican administration believed it encouraged abortion. She even lobbied against overturning the Bush Administration’s ban on fetal tissue research, despite her previous support of it. There were charges of her mishandling a scientific misconduct case. And of course she was also a member of The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC):

The Advancement of Sound Science Center (TASSC), formerly the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, is an industry-funded lobby group which promotes the idea that environmental science on issues including smoking, pesticides and global warming is “junk science”, which should be replaced by “sound science”.

Initially, the primary focus of TASSC was an attempt to discredit research on Environmental Tobacco Smoke [passive smoking] as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problem rates in the community—especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents. It subsequently advanced industry-friendly positions on a wide range of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates, and pesticides. Later still, they extended the role of TASSC to Europe using Dr George Carlo. TASSC used the label of ‘junk science’ to criticise work that was unfavorable to the interests of its backers.

So it’s quite ironic then that the anti-vaccine movement so frequently accuses their scientific critics of being like the scientists who were infamously in the employ of Big Tobacco in order to promote the tobacco industry’s propaganda while they happily cite the claims of so-called doctors who were in fact lobbyists paid to deny the environmental impact…of smoking!

Just let that one sink in for a minute.

This is the great doctor who J.B. Handley has decided knows better about vaccines and autism than every reputable health organization on Earth, a doctor who lobbied for the tobacco industry. And though I shouldn’t even have to point this out, what medical education does Handley have that equips him with the skills necessary to distinguish good science from bad? The answer of course is none. He’s got no greater expertise to make that call than I do. But whereas I recognize how the scientific process is designed to weed out false conclusions and I am humble enough to stand behind the conclusions of people with decades of professional experience who have earned great reputations for their work, Handley arrogantly believes he knows better than everyone and simply endorses anybody who happens to reinforce his bias…even if they were once paid by the tobacco industry to deny the environmental dangers of tobacco.

Moving on.

Next, Handley straight out libels Alison Singer of the Autism Science Foundation (ASF) and Dr. Paul Offit, singling them out as “liars” who feed “the hungry lie” as he calls it. Funny how at no point does he reference the fact that every reputable health organization on Earth holds the exact same position as them and so he is implicitly calling them all liars. He calls the ASF, “Alison Singer’s basement-dwelling autism organization” as he always does as if this is claim alone somehow discredits the facts she presents. It doesn’t. It’s just a classic J.B. Handley attempt to poison the well. He also claims Alison Singer was “fired” from Autism Speaks though I can find no record of anyone affiliated with Autism Speaks verifying that claim. And since only Singer’s ideological critics over at Age of Autism seem to be making such a claim, I’m inclined to write it off Handley and Age of Autism’s “hungry lie” that purely comes from their constantly operating propaganda spin machine. But if I’m wrong and this claim can be traced back to a legitimate source, someone please give me the source and I’ll happily make a correction.

Then he finally gets into his Science 101 portion. So he gives an example:

If you are trying to figure out if smoking hurts, helps, or kills people, you need a group of people who didn’t smoke

Or you just ask your friend, Ms. Healey who will probably tell you smoking doesn’t hurt people at all.

He continues:

And, here’s my first giant point:Without a real control group, the conclusions of a study on the potential harm of a drug are 100% useless.

Can we all just agree on that? If you have a study, and everyone either gets a whole pill or a half a pill, do you have a control group to compare the outcome to? Of course you don’t.

Yes, studies generally require a control group of some form but I can tell already that he’s about to use control group and double-blind synonymously as there are no shortage of studies with control groups that disprove Handley’s beliefs while there aren’t any double-blind studies, usually the gold standard, for good reason.

Question #1: Can vaccines harm some people?

You know the answer is “yes” and I’m sure some of you will want to qualify this answer by saying, “but it’s a really small number of people.” Whatever.

Wow, he HAS been listening after all! It’s miracle that it only took the guy ten years to recognize that medical science isn’t black and white. Of course you got to love that extremely articulate dismissal of the importance of this fact:  “Whatever.” What you and I would consider to be a rather important detail that makes the difference between one person in a million being seriously harmed and many orders of magnitude more than that Handley feels he can flippantly brush off as no big deal.

Question #2: If one vaccine can harm some people, do you think six vaccines given at the same time will do more or less harm?

Error. Not enough data. It’s not the number of vaccines that would make the difference but the amount of antigens and other ingredients in those vaccines. And we happen to know for the fact that the amount of antigens in the vaccines is much less now than it used to be. The immunologic load has dropped from 3000 components in the 7 vaccines used in 1980 to less than 200 in the 14 vaccines recommended today. I know, J.B.. I know. “Whatever.” Who needs actual details when you can flippantly brush aside any inconvenient facts.

OK, fine, I stacked the decks a bit on #2, but this is a point lost on many.

Yeah, it’s lost on people who actually care about the truth and child safety more than ill-conceived ideologies.

It’s exceptionally likely that if one vaccine can cause some harm, six vaccines will cause more harm to more people, the question is if that harm is exponentially or geometrically greater, and it’s perhaps the most important question of all.

No, weren’t you paying attention. The question is what is the immunologic load in the vaccines. That’s the most relevant and important question here. The first rule of toxicology is that dosage makes the poison. How many times do we have to explain this to you?

Question #3: Do we know the health outcome of children who receive the US vaccine schedule compared to a group of children who don’t? Said differently, do we have unvaccinated controls anywhere?

Um, actually that’s two questions. Can’t you even count?! But as J.B. would say with the maturity of the characters in Clueless, “whatever.” To answer the first question 3, yes, we do. And to answer the second question 3, yes, we do. From Steven B. Harris, MD:  in Japan—300,000 people simply stopped vaccinating with MMR until by 1993 they’d stopped vaccinating entirely. Not only did the rate of autism in the completely unvaccinated children fail to decline but it actually went up. Further, we compared vaccinated and unvaccinated populations in Denmark and found no distinction in autism rates. We also know autism is four times more prevalent in boys than girls despite both receiving the same vaccines on the same schedule. If one identical twin has autism, the other twin has an 90% chance of also being autistic, regardless of vaccination. Fraternal twins or siblings of individuals with autism have a 50% chance of also being autistic, regardless of vaccination. New Jersey has the sixth lowest vaccination in the U.S. but is number one in autism. And ever since we dropped thimerosal from most child vaccines, autism rates have seemed to increase. By every reasonable standard we can think of, we can find no relationship between vaccines and autism. If anything, our studies show vaccines may decrease the autism rate.

Of course, we AoA readers all know the answer here: a blazing NO, which makes those who repeat the hungry lie, like Alison Singer and Paul Offit, blazing liars.

Ha! That’s because Age of Autism readers are being systematically lied to by folks like J.B. here. That’s like basing your ideas of reality on what Fox News viewers think. And the “hungry lie” to borrow Handley’s silly phrase, is that the kind of studies he and his ilk demand are unsafe and unreasonable as they’d literally endanger the lives of thousands of children.

“Feigned exasperation” is the latest strategy from those feeding the hungry lie…

And earlier in his article:

This lie, it really drives me nuts. More, and I can say this and mean it, anyone who repeats this lie is immediately my enemy.

Oh, the irony!

– None of the studies compare anything but vaccinated children to other vaccinated children

False. I refer you again to those 300,000 unvaccinated Japanese and the Danish study as the two most famous examples. You know the Danish study, J.B. That’s the one you dismiss out of hand because one of its minor contributors happened to commit a crime that that is completely unrelated to the study itself. And they say McCarthyism is dead! And again, I refer you to this article by Leart Shaka that directly addresses your pathetic argument as well as your very next argument:

Of the 36 vaccines US children receive, only 2 of those shots (the MMR given twice) have ever been compared for their relationship to autism, and then only with otherwise vaccinated children.

First it was the MMR. So we studied it and found no link. So then you moved on to the thimerosal and we found no link there either. So then you just made up another vaccine-related hypothesis, and another, and another. The one thing that is consistent here is that it’s always about the vaccines even though no credible evidence suggests they have anything to do with autism.This is just a constant game of move the goalpost. We can never exhaust every possible combination of vaccines and vaccine schedules to satisfy the anti-vaccine movement. It’s just perpetual wack-a-mole when our resources would be better spent exploring real leads.

To quote Shaka in the article I just linked to:

This sort of tactic is similar to going up to a detective investigating a murder case and saying “I think you should conduct a search of that vehicle there” and if he agrees and nothing is found, you go back to him and say “OK, but did you search….that vehicle over there” and so on and so on, pointing to vehicles just because you think there may be something there. How seriously do you think you’d be taken by the detective?

But back to Captain Crankypants:

It’s absurd, really, how little work has actually been done, despite the feigned exasperation that’s oft-repeated.

Actually, autism research is arguably the health issue being studied the most right now. Handley, I should point out, isn’t doing any of that research. He’s just sitting on the sidelines complaining that it isn’t moving fast enough for him. Well sorry J.B. but science is a lot of hard work. It isn’t like dusting crops. It’s a trial and error process where scientists are mostly flying blind. We’ve been researching cancer a lot longer than autism and we still haven’t unlocked all the mysteries behind what causes all cancers.

But, really, please, do not take my word for it.

No really, don’t take his word for it. That’s the only thing Handley has said so far that I completely 100% agree with.

I’m going to now waste my time, and plenty of yours…

But that’s what you’ve been doing all along, wasting other people’s time.

nd go through every single study, in the order presented, that sits on the Autism Science Foundation’s site, and let you be the judge. Please, if you are a doctor or a scientist, please comment, feel free to argue and prove me wrong. Please, I mean it.

No, he doesn’t. What he means is that he’s going to editorialize as he pretends to objectively go through the studies that disprove his ideology and that every reputable health organization on Earth finds persuasive, and then he’ll demand that you reach the conclusions he’s attempting to impose on you while offering empty platitudes about not wanting you to just take his word for it, but if you then do disagree with him, he’ll do what he does with all his critics, accuse you of being a pharma shill, a liar, a baby-eating cannibal, and/or a whore who delivers oral sex to Dr. Paul Offit –all of these accusations have in fact been made or at least implicitly endorsed by Handley himself against various critics in the recent past.

Much as it pains me, I’m going to comment on each of the 20 studies

Actually, despite his claim that he’s going to waste his time (and apparently thinks educating others with his version of reality is wasting your–another thing I agree with though it’s odd for him to suggest that educating the public, what he claims to be doing, would be a waste of their time)–despite his claim that he’s going to waste his time commenting on every study, he’s really just recycling the already debunked pseudo-refutations he’s had up for years at his fourteenstudies website, a website so old that it was named fourteen when now the studies directly refuting the anti-vaccine claims is twenty.

Now if Handley isn’t really going to waste any of his time copy and pasting his old, debunked pseudo-refutations, I’m not going to waste my time refuting them when various science bloggers have already done so for most of those studies here, here, here, here, and here. And you can find responses to JB Handley’s response to one of those refutations here and here. But again, one thing Handley suggests that I agree with is don’t take his word for it. If you find any of his claims really compelling, contact Handley’s critics among the scientific community and ask them for a rebuttal to his claims. I’m sure Paul Offit would be happy to take a few minutes of his time educating an inquiring mind. And Steven Novella and David Gorski would definitely not mind taking the time to answer the criticisms. Someone makes a claim? Check the response from the other side. Then go back to the first party and get the rebuttal to that. Then go back to second party and get a rebuttal to that. Back and forth. That’s REAL research. Don’t take people on one side of an alleged controversy at their word.

Of course, Handley don’t really expect you to read everything he wrote critically. He apparently thinks no more highly of the intellect of his readers as I do:

I’d like to thank the AoA readers who made it this far, all three of you.

So yeah, he’s just drowning his mostly scientifically illiterate readers in what superficially seems like in depth scientific criticism but doesn’t actually either expect them to understand any of it or expert them to show the commitment to even read it all. But hey, it’s long and he says he’s debunking all these twenty studies that every reputable health organization on Earth finds compelling…so that’s good enough, right.

Oh, and then he lists his key points from the article, saying these points are things his readers “know for sure.” What happened to, “don’t take my word for it”?

Then he invites his critics to respond:

Haters, feel free to chime in.

…which is hilarious because Age of Autism is notorious for censoring all comments critical to their claims. And in fact, not a single critical comment can be found in that article, which is rather extraordinary when you consider the fact that every article addressing this issue on independent sites have no shortage of debating on both sides.

But what can you expect from a guy who posts as his actual scientific credentials:

J.B. Handley is the father of a child with autism, the co-founder of Generation Rescue, and a contributing writer for AoA.

Even I have a better bio line on my Examiner page.

So despite the dishonest  invite,  since I can’t comment on Handley’s piece on his page, I’d appreciate if someone could pass a message along for me. You tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden filth to go fuck himself!

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2010 This Year In Skepticism – January

January 2, 2011

Here is the first part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I’m just covering last January in this piece but I’ll try to cover more than one month in the next installment.

Yet another well-designed study hit another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism.

New smart phone apps emerge that debunk creationism

California said no to creationist curriculum

Pat Robertson blamed the Haitian earthquake on a mythical pact the nation never made with the devil–true story–thus earning him a nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

Vatican Bank accused of laundering $200 million.

Stephen Baldwin said he’d rather see his daughter die than lie about Jesus, earning him a solid nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

The arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

UK’s General Medical Council concluded that anti-vaccine prophet Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines and Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – both were big victories for public health around the world.

Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based suicide attempt – The 1023 campaign sparked a great deal of attention on this little publicity stunt and made homeopathy look incredibly stupid.

Star of Scientology orientation film gives farewell performance – Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of $cientology who starred in their orientation film left the cult.

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Oh brother, Jake Crosby is the walking embodiment of Poe’s Law

December 21, 2010

"Uh, durr. What's a regulatory compliance policy?"

I’ve written about Jake Crosby’s use of the “Big Pharma shill” gambit on countless occasions by now. So have lots of people, as evidenced from a basic Google search of his name. But it never ceases to astound me how often he uses the same one argument. This kid quite literally has no other argument but to apply his McCarthyist poisoning the well tactics on anyone who disagrees with him to the point that he’s a satire of himself.

Jake Crosby has absolutely nothing to say about the science of vaccines or the science of autism. Nope. He’s just going to accuse everyone he doesn’t like of being a commie…err, I mean a Big Pharma shill. And his recent application of this McCarthyism leveled against journalist John Stossel only illustrates how he doesn’t even understand what a conflict of interest looks like.

What relationship you might ask does Jake Crosby think constitutes a conflict of interest for John Stossel? Was he explicitly paid to use his medical credentials to endorse pharaceuticals? No. He’s not even a doctor. He’s just a journalist. Did a pharmaceutical company give him gifts? Nope. No, Jake Crosby thinks John Stossel has a conflict of interest because…

Wait for it.

Perhaps the answer best lies with the details surrounding his older brother, Dr. Thomas P. Stossel, a hematologist and professor at Harvard Medical School with direct ties to the pharmaceutical industry, which Dr. Stossel has heavily supported in controversies where it has been on the receiving end of well-deserved criticism.

WHAT?! His brother is a doctor and you think that’s a conflict of interest? Oh, the stupid! It burns!

First of all, all doctors have SOME relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, in the same way all librarians have some relationship with the publishing industry. That alone does not constitute a conflict of interest. That’s absurd. Federal and state regulatory compliance policies are quite explicit with regards to what constitutes an unhealthy relationship between medial professionals and industry. And no journalism regulations forbid journalists from covering medical news stories because they have the audacity to have siblings. That’s just asshole dumb.

Anti-vaxxers pull this pharma and government conspiracy crap all the fucking time and it’s blatantly obvious that they don’t know a damned thing about the regulatory compliance policies in place that are specifically designed to prevent such conflicts of interest. Just once, I’d like to hear an anti-vaxxer articulate their specific objections to the Federal Anti-Kickback Law and Regulatory Safe Harbors or the industry self-regulating phrma code on interactions with healthcare professionals, as well as the anti-vaxxers’ proposed amendments to improve the efficacy of those policies. I’d also like to know if they feel the notoriously strict Massachusetts compliance and disclosure system is acceptable or if they think even that is too easily breached. But you’ll never see that because the vast majority in the anti-vax movement aren’t doctors and so have never even heard of these policies, let alone have thoughtful opinions about them, while those who are doctors happily choose to play on the others’ ignorance of the policies.

And of course anti-vaxxers love to exploit populist paranoia about the government to suggest an bin Laden/Hussein-like alliance exists between the pharmaceutical companies and the government when such an alliance has grown utterly preposterous when you look at recent history. The fact is that more than ever, federal prosecutors are mercilessly leaning on pharmaceutical companies (which is not to necessarily say the prosecutors’ actions have been unjustified). Take for instance, the 2001 case over the drug Lupron, where Tap Pharmaceuticals was forced to pay $875 million.

I’ll repeat that number to help you wrap your head around it. Tap Pharmaceuticals was made by the government to pay the sum of $875 million. If these guys are friends and co-conspirators, I’d hate to meet Tap’s enemies. This was at the time the largest criminal fine ever in a U.S. healthcare fraud prosecution. Then there’s the Allergen case from this year where Allergen was forced to pay $600 million, not to mention the Pfizer case from just last year that ended with Pfizer having to pay $2.3 billion dollars. That’s BILLION with a fuckin’ B!!! Oh yeah, that government and Pfizer are the best of friends. Clearly.

Then there’s the unfortunate tale of Dr. Gleason who the government chose to make an example of. Gleason is a pretty prominent psychiatrist in Baltimore who was hired by a company to do promotional speaker programs. It was not independent. He’s a paid agent. So he traveled around the country at the company’s expense. It was during this promotional speaker program, that he specifically talked about off-label uses of their product. He gave one of these presentations in New York and while standing on a train platform in Long Island, he was suddenly swarmed by a half dozen federal agents who went as far as to actually handcuff him. He was charged with criminal violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for promoting unapproved uses for the product. Gleason filed a motion to dismiss based on First Amendment grounds, claiming the right to express his opinion but given that he’s a medical doctor, the law specifically limits his speech, so that argument was summarily rejected by the board. The fact was that under the law, a medical professional hired as a speaker for a company makes you an agent of the company, meaning you’re held to the same rules as a sales representatives.

The law takes these issues very, very seriously. So I’m sorry but anyone who claims the government is somehow in collusion with the pharmaceutical companies is either completely ignorant of the facts, is lying, or is delusional. Further, even if a reporter did have what would actually constitute a conflict of interest, if they’re reporting the consensus view of every reputable health organization on Earth accurately, as Stossel does, why should their relationship to industry matter? From now on, I absolutely refuse to accept the “Big Pharma” conflict of interest excuse from anti-vaxxers unless they’re prepared to discuss specific problems with the current regulatory compliance policies as well as their proposed amendments to those policies. Otherwise, I will take their refusal to do so as a tacit admission that they are not properly informed about what those policies say and how well they’re enforced, and therefore their objections are nothing but an excuse to deny the facts and a waste of everyone’s time.

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