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At the other end of the spectrum, one hears less often of negative delays, where the paper is criticised, condemned and withdrawn even before it appeared in press.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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

They are the Mothers!
Do you fear?
The Mothers! Mothers! Strange the word I hear

The details of hipster fermentation, if done properly, are even ickier than I realised:
I don't remember that from the Philip Jose Farmer story.
Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes' fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neighborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spam, Spam, Spam, Pathos and Spam

The award for 'Most Embarrassingly Pathetic Plea for a Pity-Fuck from a wannabee predatory publisher' goes to...
Bio Accent!
From Renu and Ravi Kuppala, of Hyderabad. Not only naming their company like a laundry-powder additive; but also for contributions to fulsome flattery in the griftergram genre:
We, Bio Accent open access publishers came newly into publishing sector to provide a platform to the researchers, practitioners, students and professionals from both academia as well as industry to meet and share cutting-edge development in the field of Neurology.

We have found your profile from your institute; it seems you are a very good expert in Neurology. We don’t want to miss your appreciable work so, we are inviting you for manuscript submission in BAOJ Neurology.

We request you to let us know if you have any kind of research work to publish with us and please let me know your tentative date of manuscript submission.

We are expecting huge support from your side, so it will help us to get indexed & impact factor soon.

Awaiting for your positive response.


But "Fair words butter no more than 0.025% of parsnips" as we found in the course of rigorous research at the Riddled Experimental Cuisine Laboratory. A rough translation follows (courtesy of the Riddled Ktistec Machine):
Ktistec Machine
"The website collections of floor-sweepings, barrel-bottom scrapings, and jizzmop squeezings that we misrepresent as 'journals' are such contemptible trash that they are not indexed or impact-factored [and we can't be arsed buying a fake impact factor or fake indexing from one of the second-order parasites, or making up our own like the other low-lifes in the field]. It would benefit our scammy enterprise if we could steal reputation and prestige from established researchers. Please pay $650 each time you transfer your credibility to us."
From Oglaf
When this doesn't work, they will progress to the "Other Operation" (in which they offer not to publish my papers as long as I don't send them $650); and after that, to the "Other Other Operation" (in which they threaten to publish my papers, unless I send them $650).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Laughing Jack -- Not just a murderous clown from Creepypasta

Alternatively known as Laughing Jim, Giant Flamecap, Spectacular Rustgill and Prächtiger Flämmling, all of which are acceptable names for adventurers in a Fritz Leiber novel, singly or together.
According to one guide, "A yellow cortina covers the gills of the immature fruitbodies, breaking and shriveling to leave fragments around the rim of the cap and around the stipe." I think they're just making that up. "Fragments of cortina around the Stipe" sounds suspiciously like a re-make of that Sledgehammer video.
This time of year they sprout in impressive clumps from tree stumps or logs, or in this case from a piece of log that must have been ploughed just under the soil during the last round of landscaping.
Some are said to contain psilocybin, but they are also hideously bitter, and may contain a range of other neurotoxins, and there are some things even I won't eat. Now using them to flavour beer, that's another matter.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Letting the days go by, 365 of them since last ALaJVC Day

And you might ask yourself, How did I get here?
And you might ask yourself, Why am I dressed this way -- in the habit of a Cupatory Nun of the Littoral Dispensation, on the Isle of Varve in the Rhodomontane Reaches? Accompanied by a pair of the tutelary baboons essential to the votive duties of a Cupatory Nun, hoisting the Amphora of Holy Mugwump so that they might drink deep of the salted pineapple juice? And why does that costume appear to be modeled on the usual work clothes of Evangeline van Holsterin when she is barmaiding at the Old Entomologist?

And you might ask yourself, How is it that I address the baboons in this strange manner of speech, an idiom that is at once antic and lapidary and bombastic with braggadocio, as if intoned by Cardinal Bembo in the course of his secret career as a Landesknecht?

And then you remember, as if from a fading memory of a dream, that you allowed yourself to be cajoled and wheedled -- inveigled, even! -- into entering the immersive, multiple-player game that we at Riddled Research Laboratory commissioned from Space-Time Eddie. A game designed to celebrate International Act Like a Jack Vance Character Day,* and to make it easy by rephrasing all the players' interactions into the appropriate style.
And looking down at your avatar, you remember that the game assigns you a persona without offering a choice about the gender... any more than it allows a choice whether to be a mooncalf or a non-pareil. Eddie reckons that all the cool MMORPGs have gone this route of imposing an avatar's appearance, and it has nothing to do with making life easier for the programmers because of female characters in the Jack Vance universe generally having SFA to say.

You won't make that mistake again, will you?

* Don't worry, you still have until April 20 to mentally prepare.
Why is this not a MMORPG yet? In which guilds of crusading Librarians rampage from hexagon to hexagon of the infinite Library? The non-existence of "World of Lorecraft" is deeply disappointing.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowd-funding
[Serious stuff, not enough jokes]

Back in the days, someone with smarts and experience warned against goofling for "GcMAF + GoFundMe" 'unless you are in the mood for a long parade of sadness and exploitation, in which the phrase "rejected Western chemotherapy" recurs like a Wagnerian Leitmotif farted out on a tuba.'
Now let me extend that warning to searching for "Mexican + clinic + cancer + GoFundMe". For the result is a litany of despair and desperation that will destroy all will to live and turn your previously sunny, optimistic disposition into a fish dinner without illumination, a long dark night of the sole.

Ultimate blame rests with the combination of magical thinking and conspiratorial Truther ideation... is there anything it can't accomplish? Once someone has accepted that there must be a cure for cancer, i.e. for the particular cell-line within them that have adopted a new agenda of short-term growth, then it is evident that because hospitals do not offer this cure then it is being suppressed, for the benefit of the elite. Therefore it will still be available from sketchy individuals in countries where central government is too weak to enforce that suppression, on account of governance being 50% corruption and 50% criminal gangs (also yawning inequities of wealth, the official policies of therapy-suppression are unlikely to stop the billionaire elite from getting what they want).

At which point it suddenly becomes a plausible claim that some bunch of self-certified butchers or hairdressers, having converted a condemned public toilet into a 'clinic' by slapping on a fresh coat of paint, are now in command of cutting-edge therapies that are decades of anything that well-funded first-world researchers can offer at their state-of-the-art facilities. Hence Ukrainian stem-cell clinics, and the Mexican cancer-leech industry, and such as.

Professional-charity crowdsourcing companies have been a godsend to the cancerleech industry. They no longer need to limit their charges to what individual victims can charge; the net is now broadened to whatever their victims can wheedle from their social network and from the generosity of strangers.
'gofundme hope4cancer': About 2,120 results
gofundme hoxsey clinic': About 65 results
'gofundme "oasis of hope" mexico':
So please to welcome Peggy-Sue and Rusty Roberts, of "Cancer Research Awareness", who will say whatever they must to talk cancer patients out of receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy or surgery or any treatment that works; for they are recruiters and groomers for the Immunity Therapy Center of Tijuana and its panoply of worthless but theatrical ways of waving dead chickens modalities. Here in particular is Rusty, generously creating Annette's GoFundMe money-funnel. Annette cannot raise the $46000 that would undoubtedly save her life, but such is the philanthropic altruism of the Immunity Therapy Center, they are offering her a bounty for every patient she can persuade to come to them instead of to treatment that works.
The Peggy Sue special is will reduce treatment costs by $2000 for anyone who stays at the clinic for 6 weeks and contributes $200 or more to Annette’s campaign.
Oh joy, it is a pyramid scheme of mortality.

In a similar vein, please to welcome Amanda Mary, of Pearl Lodge (Bulgarian Ski-hotel-turned-quackcentre), giving of her time to set up a GoFundMe site for Anne Pharo, to help her pay the £15,000 demanded by Pearl Lodge for treatment. As of August 2015, with £3,486,
We are just £1,800 away from Anne being able to afford her treatment needed, we are so close and I just wanted to ask everyone to kindly share this information, maybe a little fundraiser or work raffle to help with the extra funds, we are so close now, all help will be well received with thanks x
but after that the site fell silent and was shuttered.

Now a challenger appears, in the form of Flor de la Salud!
They may not have GoFundMe charities that specify their name, but they do have Amanda Mary, wearing a white lab coat to reassure us that all is above board. I struggle to read the diplomas on the wall. Perhaps 'Caveat Emptor' is the assumed name of a clinician, a hommage to Dr Lecter.

Steve Kellogg asks your assistance for treatment.* He went to Flor de la Salud initially for stem-cell therapy for his metastatised prostate cancer, because stem cells are what plants bodies crave to destroy metastatic tumours [I don't understand that part either]. But now the clinicians are adamant that his cancer springs from a slipped cervical disc which must undergo surgical reconstruction before anything else will work, and he needs money for at least three more weeks there.
These internal and external protocols are unavailable in the U.S. Originally they planned to be there for 3 weeks, but after the doctors examined him and ran numerous tests this week, they find he needs surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. In addition to surgery, Steve is scheduled to have stem cell therapy.
As you can imagine, these extensive treatments and the extended stay comes at a cost they had not counted on.
Kellogg's charity is mainly of note because he is one of Amanda Jean's most enthusiastic cheerleaders. His Twitter stream is a paean of praise to the panaceal glory of GcMAF and credulous Tea-party politics and God.

Non-white people, always expecting hand-outs
Six months ago he was up at Pearl Lodge receiving the full protocol of GcMAF and bleach enemas, which totally cured his metastatic prostate cancer.**

It is not clear why the bonus surgery came as a surprise to Mr Kellogg, for the Grifter-in-Chief at Flor de la Salud is a slipped-disc carpenter who diagnoses and reconstructs nails slipped discs for everything... THAT IS WHAT HE DOES. All the other Alternative Modalities at the clinic, the ozone and chelation and Bach Flowers and the Magnetic Bed, they are just icing on the cake in case a patient still has money left over afterwards. But still, it's better than mainstream oncology with all that surgery, right?

When I learned that GoFundMe is owned by a private equity firm, and rakes off 5% of every donation, their uninterest in shutting down charities just because they're complicit in dodgy activities suddenly became less of a surprise.
* Mexico apparently lies beyond the reach of the Interlattice:
Due to the poor internet Steve has asked for me to withdraw funds and send him a check. I really would prefer to not handle it this way, but under these unusual circumstances I need to honor Steve's request.
"I have known Amanda Mary for a few years now. I attended her clinic in Bulgaria where I personally witnessed a very compassionate person. She helped people to obtain the recommended natural products for their illness, including mine. The restoration of health for nearly all was amazing. She has been so concerned about my health that she even used her own money to buy products for me, AT GREAT EXPENSE"
Bonus recruiting and grooming:
Andy Lewis at Quackometer notes that newspapers love these stories -- "plucky patient fights cancer IN OWN WAY, NEEDS OUR HELP".
It makes a good media narrative. It allows the newspapers and TV stations to present themselves as heroes in helping to raise the money.
[...] the media can be heroes both for sending this poor girl to Mexico and then bringing her home against all the odds when it has all gone horribly wrong.
Giving free advertising to the human tapeworms, collaborating with them, as well as professional courtesy, it has mutual benefits.