Clearing Away the Rubbish

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue”
~Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor”
~Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of NEJM

Back in September, there was a scientific paper published in Clinical Cardiology, a peer reviewed medical journal that is “an official journal of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology” (Wikipedia). It got a ton of attention from news media, social media, and the blogosphere. The reason for all the attention is that, in the conclusion, the authors claimed that low-carb diets had proven the least healthy over a year period:

“One-year lowered-carbohydrate diet significantly increases cardiovascular risks, while a low-to-moderate-fat diet significantly reduces cardiovascular risk factors. Vegan diets were intermediate. Lowered-carbohydrate dieters were least inclined to continue dieting after conclusion of the study. Reductions in coronary blood flow reversed with appropriate dietary intervention. The major dietary effect on atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is inflammation and not weight loss.”

It has recently been retracted and it has come out that the lead author, Richard M. Fleming, has a long history of fraud going back to 2002 with two FBI convictions of fraud in 2009, following his self-confession. He has also since been debarred by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (But his closest brush with fame or infamy was his leaking the medical records of Dr. Robert Atkins, a leak that was behind a smear campaign.) As for his co-authors: “Three of the authors work at Fleming’s medical imaging company in California, one is a deceased psychologist from Iowa, another is a pediatric nutritionist from New York and one is a Kellogg’s employee from Illinois. How this group was able to run a 12-month diet trial in 120 subjects is something of a mystery” (George Henderson). Even before the retraction, many wondered how it ever passed peer-review considering the low quality of the study: “This study has so many methodological holes in it that it has no real value.” (Low Carb Studies BLOG).

But of course, none of that has been reported as widely as the paper originally was. So, most people who read about it still assume it is valid evidence. This is related to the replication crisis, as even researchers are often unaware of retractions, that is when journals will allow retractions to be published at all, something they are reluctant to do because it delegitimizes their authority. So, a lot of low quality or in some cases deceptive research goes unchallenged and unverified, neither confirmed nor disconfirmed. It’s rare when any study falls under the scrutiny of replication. If not for the lead author’s criminal background in the Fleming case, this probably would have been another paper that could have slipped past and been forgotten or else, without replication, repeatedly cited in future research. As such, bad research builds on bad research, creating the appearance of mounting evidence, but in reality it is a house of cards (consider the takedown of Ancel Keys and gang in the work by numerous authors: Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories; Nina Tiecholz’s The Big Fat Surprise; Sally Fallon Morrell’s Nourishing Diets; et cetera).

This is why the systemic problem and failure is referred to as a crisis. Fairly or unfairly, the legitimacy of entire fields of science are being questioned. Even scientists no longer are certain which research is valid or not. The few attempts at determining the seriousness of the situation by replicating studies has found a surprisingly low replication rate. And this problem is worse in the medical field than in many other fields, partly because of the kind of funding involved and more importantly because of how few doctors are educated in statistics or trained in research methodology. It is even worse with nutrition, as the average doctor gets about half the questions wrong when asked about this topic, and keep in mind that so much of the nutritional research is done by doctors. An example of problematic dietary study is that of Dr. Fleming himself. We’d be better off letting physicists and geologists do nutritional research.

There is more than a half century of research that conventional medical and dietary opinions are based upon. In some major cases, re-analysis of data has shown completely opposite conclusions. For example, the most famous study by Ancel Keys blamed saturated fat for heart disease, while recent reappraisal has shown the data actually shows a stronger link to sugar as the culprit. Meanwhile, no study has ever directly linked saturated fat to heart disease. The confusion has come because, in the Standard American Diet (SAD), saturated fat and sugar have been conflated in the population under study. Yet, even in cases like that of Keys when we now know what the data shows, Keys’ original misleading conclusions are still referenced as authoritative.

The only time this crisis comes to attention is when the researcher gets attention. If Keys wasn’t famous and Fleming wasn’t criminal, no one would have bothered with their research. Lots of research gets continually cited without much thought, as the authority of research accumulates over time by being cited which encourages further citation. It’s similar to how legal precedents can get set, even when the initial precedent was intentionally misinterpreted for that very purpose.

To dig through the original data, assuming it is available and one knows where to find it, is more work than most are willing to do. There is no glory or praise to be gained in doing it, nor will it promote one’s career or profit one’s bank account. If anything, there are plenty of disincentives in place, as academic careers in science are dependent on original research. Furthermore, private researchers working in corporations, for obvious reasons, tend to be even less open about their data and that makes scrutiny even more difficult. If a company found their own research didn’t replicate, they would be the last in line to announce it to the world and instead would likely bury it where it never would be found.

There is no system put into place to guard against the flaws of the system itself. And the news media is in an almost continual state of failure when it comes to scientific reporting. The crisis has been stewing for decades, occasionally being mentioned, but mostly suppressed, until now when it has gotten so bad as to be undeniable. The internet has created alternative flows of information and so much of the scrutiny, delayed for too long, is now coming from below. If this had happened at an earlier time, Fleming might have gotten away with it. But times have changed. And in crisis, there is opportunity or at very least there is hope for open debate. So bring on the debate, just as soon as we clear away some of the rubbish.

* * *

Retracted: Long‐term health effects of the three major diets under self‐management with advice, yields high adherence and equal weight loss, but very different long‐term cardiovascular health effects as measured by myocardial perfusion imaging and specific markers of inflammatory coronary artery disease

The above article, published online on 27 September 2018 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com), has been withdrawn by agreement between the journal Editor in Chief, A. John Camm and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The article has been withdrawn due to concerns with data integrity and an undisclosed conflict of interest by the lead author.

A convicted felon writes a paper on hotly debated diets. What could go wrong?
by Ivan Oransky, Retraction Watch

Pro-tip for journals and publishers: When you decide to publish a paper about a subject — say, diets — that you know will draw a great deal of scrutiny from vocal proponents of alternatives, make sure it’s as close to airtight as possible.

And in the event that the paper turns out not to be so airtight, write a retraction notice that’s not vague and useless.

Oh, and make sure the lead author of said study isn’t a convicted felon who pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud.

“If only we were describing a hypothetical.

On second thought: A man of many talents — with a spotty scientific record
by Adam Marcus, Boston Globe

Richard M. Fleming may be a man of many talents, but his record as a scientist has been spotty. Fleming, who bills himself on Twitter as “PhD, MD, JD AND NOW Actor-Singer!!!”, was a co-author of short-lived paper in the journal Clinical Cardiology purporting to find health benefits from a diet with low or modest amounts of fat. The paper came out in late September — just a day before the Food and Drug Administration banned Fleming from participating in any drug studies. Why? Two prior convictions for fraud in 2009.

It didn’t take long for others to begin poking holes in the new article. One researcher found multiple errors in the data and noted that the study evidently had been completed in 2002. The journal ultimately retracted the article, citing “concerns with data integrity and an undisclosed conflict of interest by the lead author.” But Fleming, who objected to the retraction, persevered. On Nov. 5, he republished the study in another journal — proving that grit, determination, and a receptive publisher are more important than a spotless resume.

Democracy?

I’ve previously written about stolen elections. The first election I voted in, 2000, happened to be the most blatant stolen election in US history. It went to the highest levels of power, involving a pivotal state governed by the brother of a major candidate and a partisan Supreme Court that decided to bypass democracy itself in order to declare the new ruler.

I don’t know what to make of it all. It really is messed up. Just another thing to make me despair. And heading into the new century was a time of my life when I didn’t need more despair.

It was my mid-twenties. Depression had hit me like a ton of bricks starting in my late teens. Leaving home for the first time, I was a lost cause and a lost soul. I dropped out of college and wandered aimlessly for a number of years, having endlessly contemplated suicide and one time attempted it. I eventually settled down, having permanently returned to my childhood home. At that point, I was in a slightly better frame of mind.

The turn of the century got everyone excited, with threats of the Y2K bug. It was a new century and a new millennium. We survived that with a sigh of relief, but the worst was yet to come. The coming decade of the aughts would not be a happy time. Even so, many looked to the new millennium with optimism, the Cold War having ended more than a decade before and the intervening years having seen a tech boom. The threat of terrorists and economic recessions weren’t yet on many people’s minds. The future seemed bright and ripe for change.

I remember that moment in time. I heard Nader give a speech on his presidential campaign. He gave me hope, as naive as that may sound. I can’t explain what an amazing thing hope can be when it has been lost for so long. Listening to Nader, it was beyond refreshing. It was inspiring. He was a politician who actually gave a damn. And the cynical partisan Democrats attacked the likes of me for voting my conscience, a silly thing to do considering that I wasn’t a Democrat and neither were most of Nader’s supporters, but that is always how partisan politics trumps all else, even democracy itself.

Following the Florida fiasco, the strangest thing in the world happened. Democrats rationalized it away, as their candidate rolled over and played dead (Kerry in 2004 followed Gore’s example, handing Bush a second term). The fullest recounts ever done showed that Gore won Florida (even more troubling developments happened in 2004), but no one wanted to know, especially not Democrats. To know the truth would mean having to admit the dark reality before us. And here we are still afraid of the truth.

Maybe there were good reasons for that fear. The powers that be were nothing to sniff at. I was reminded of this in coming across Clint Curtis’ allegations about vote rigging. What really caught my attention was the ‘suicide’ of an investigator, Raymond Lemme, who supposedly was about to bring info out to the public. There was also the suspicious death of a high-level Republican consultant, Michael Connell, after having been subpoenaed in a vote rigging investigation.

I don’t know what to do with this kind of thing. To most people, this is the territory of conspiracy theorists, ya know crazy paranoiacs. It should, therefore, be dismissed from thought and banished from public debate. The problem is that I’m psychologically incapable of ignoring inconvenient and uncomfortable facts. Call it depressive realism. I just can’t turn away, as if it doesn’t matter.

The whole thing is highly plausible, even though proving specific connections is difficult. I do know that a lot of unusual activity happened in the 2000 and 2004 elections. All of this comes back to mind during this campaign season, watching all the strange things going on with the Democratic caucuses and primaries: voters being purged, voter status being mysteriously switched, exit polls not matching voting results, etc.

The failure of our system isn’t necessarily what can be proved. Rather, it’s what can’t be proved that is problematic. Our present system is designed to lack transparency and accountability, to leave few if any paper trails and any other traceable evidence. I’d be glad if we could simply verify nothing illegal or immoral happened, nothing anti-democratic was involved, but that is precisely what we can’t do. The one thing democracy can’t overcome is secrecy, as that makes corruption inevitable.

I can’t help thinking that future generations will remember the beginning of this century as one of the darkest times in American history. It will be known as the era when the enemy within became more dangerous than any foreign power.

If you are one of the rare courageous individuals who wants to know what is going on in the world, then read Democracy Undone by Dale Tavris or one of the many other books about the topic. Or if you’d rather not read an entire book, you can find some info in the videos and links below. Your mind will be blown, your heart broken, and your sense of justice outraged—the proper attitude of any freedom-loving American.

This leaves us all with one question: If we don’t have a functioning democracy, what kind of country is this? Don’t just pass over that question. Let it sink in. Let yourself feel despair, to mourn what has been lost. Stop for a moment and consider what this all means. Look at what is before you with eyes wide open.

* * *

Did Expert Witness, Activists Thwart a Rove Ohio Vote Plot?
by Andrew Kreig

Who’s Stealing Your Vote? A Documentary
by John Wellington Ennis

How to Rig an Election
by Victoria Collier

How the GOP Wired Ohio’s 2004 Vote Count for Bush to Win
by Steven Rosenfeld

New Court Filing Reveals How the 2004 Ohio Presidential Election Was Hacked
by Bob Fritakis

New Evidence Of Vote Hacking Emerges In Ohio 2004 General Election Lawsuit
by Karoli Kuns

Why Was Uncertified ‘Experimental’ Software Installed on ES&S Tabulation Systems in 39 OH Counties Just Days Before Presidential Election?
By Brad Friedman

 

Clint Curtis
Wikipedia

Tom Feeney: Clint Curtis and vote fraud
SourceWatch

Michael Connell
Wikipedia

Mike Connell
SourceWatch

Programmers weigh in on vote-rigging idea, some details confirmed
by John Byrne

Death of Democracy
by Brad Friedman

Clint Curtis Investigator’s ‘Suicide’ Case Reopened By Georgia Police!
by Brad Friedman

The ghost of rigged elections past: New revelations on the death of Michael Connell
by Bob Fitrakis

These People Kill People You Know
by zapdam

Suspicious Deaths of Those Who Knew Too Much Under Bush’s Watch
by Diana Lee

You will know them by the trail of dead
Xymphora

Investigator’s Murder Cover-Up Straw That Broke Plot
by John Caylor

Global Eye
By Chris Floyd

 

 

 

Corporatocracy: More Fraud & Corruption… what’s new?

I know the libertarians like to blame everything on the government. But listening to the news it seems clear to me that the government is in the pocket of big business. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. My point is that, if libertarians got their way with less regulation and less taxation of the rich, we would exchange our present soft fascism corporatocracy for an outright fascist state. No thanks!


Paranormal Commentary and Strange Videos

Some interesting things I came across.

 

Facts, Fraud and Fairytales.
John Rimmer

From MUFOB New Series 9.

If however we consider fiction, hoax, and real experience as different parts of a spectrum of experience, a new set of patterns begins to emerge.

 

Invizikids: Imaginary Childhood Friends.
Mike Hallowell

From Magonia 93, September 2006.

What fascinates me more than anything else is that, despite the universal prevalence of the NCC phenomenon, it has attracted very little attention. Studies available on the Internet are almost all governed by the “psychological” approach, that NCCs are the product of the mind of a lonely child. 

People are normally disturbed by the idea that their house may be haunted, and yet they accept without the slightest reticence the notion that their child may be talking to an invisible entity. Is this because they don’t believe that their child’s “imaginary” friend really exists, or because they sense that the phenomenon, whatever its nature, is essentially harmless?

They say that “an only child is a lonely child”. Maybe, just maybe, there aren’t so many lonely children around as we’ve hitherto imagined.

 

Civilization – Marco Brambilla

From the Daily Grail blog.

This is a beautiful and evocative montage – comprised of over 400 video clips it takes elevator passengers on a trip from hell to heaven. See how many movie clips you can spot, but don’t let it distract you from the overall beauty of the piece.

 

Trance Captured on Video

From the Neuroanthropology blog.

A great discussion on the Medical Anthropology listserve focused on good films for trance. I’ve provided the list below, complete with links to the films, extra notes in brackets, and some YouTube clips.