Archive | Books RSS feed for this section

I am Bonnie Offit!!

16 Nov

AoA have a hilariouslybizarre post up this morning.

Is Dr. Bonnie Offit masquerading on the web as an autism parent and prolific blogger named “Sullivan”?

And why do AoA think this?

The primary answer seems to be that they found a comment from Liz Ditz on Squidalicious blog that _seems_ (if you’re not too bothered about reading the context) to refer to Sullivan as ‘her’. In fact what Liz was doing was referring to the subject of the post she was commenting on – Holly Robinson Peete.

AoA’s next piece of evidence is that Bonnie Offit surfs the blogosphere late at night. Erm…so what?

Their third piece of evidence seems to be that Sullivan is a smart guy. This is undeniable. I’ve had the good fortune to chat to him via Skype and he is indeed one smart cookie. Is he a doctor of medicine as Bonnie Offit is? No. No he’s not.

Their fourth piece of evidence is that Sully defends Paul Offit. Well so what? I know of lots of bloggers, including myself, who defend Paul Offit.

Their fifth piece of evidence (why does this remind me of ploughing through Age of Autism the book) is that Sullivan appears to know Paul Offit. Again, so what? I’ll be frank, I’ve swapped emails with Paul Offit and charming man that he is, he’s always very friendly and courteous , going out of his way to be helpful and guess what – he gives proof copies of his books to people he think would be interested in reading them!! I have one myself. Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill et al also indulge in this practice. That takes care of another piece of ‘evidence’.

Yet another piece of evidence produced by AoA is that Sully goes to great lengths to clarify what Paul Offit earned from his vaccines. Let me give you a little lesson AoA – this is something called ‘clarity’ and it is coupled with something called ‘tenacity’. When you have these things, as Sullivan does, you are interested in the actual truth as opposed to the surface appearance.

Yet another piece of evidence (and we’re really scraping the barrel here) is that Sully didn’t discuss the suit against Paul Offit until the day it was dismissed, despite the fact that Orac had. Not really sure what to say about that one, except this is getting very silly indeed.

AoA closes this piece of hilarity with:

You know, I’m starting to hope this is Bonnie Offit, because if it isn’t we have one really, really troubled father on our hands. Get a life, father of a child with autism, Paul Offit is not going to help your child…unless Paul Offit is the father of your children, and then, once again, it all makes sense.

Which is a weird statement to make given that the author of this whole piece, JB Handley, said in an email to Sullivan:

…you are entitled to your own opinion, and I find your writing to be thought-provoking.

So on one hand Sully is a really, really troubled father and on the other JB Handley finds Sully thought provoking. Hmmm.

However, as I said, its plain to me that Sullivan is not Bonnie Offit for one clear and simple reason. I’ve spoke with HIM.

And there’s one other factoid AoA clearly missed. Sully can’t be Bonnie Offit because I am!!

Update:Orac claims he’s Bonnie Offit. Clearly this can’t be true because I AM!!!

Reading Age of Autism – All I can handle, I’m no Vladimir Nabokov

13 Nov

I read Dan Olmsted’s latest post on Age of Autism and was reminded I had yet to publish a closing post on my experiences with the book. Here’s a quote from Dan:

It’s doubly disappointing to see traditionally progressive outlets – from Salon to Daily Kos to The Atlantic to National Public Radio and PBS – ignore the evidence presented in our book and so many other places, twist the facts they can’t deny, belittle those who believe otherwise including beleaguered autism parents, and glibly trumpet tired reassurances that the concern over vaccines has been “asked and answered,” that “study after study” has refuted any relation, and that continuing to point out disturbing patterns of evidence to the contrary endangers children and infants.

Quick translation for you: “Waaah, nobody liked our book or thought it was valid. What a bunch of pooh-pooh heads!”

The embarrassing truth for Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill is that their book has been still-born. Take a look at the Amazon rankings compiled by Broken Link and its hard to come to any other conclusion. But why has this happened?

First off, the book is badly written. Its not an easy read in the way that Evidence of Harm was. Of course the style is different but Age of Autism is not even a well written poor story.

Secondly, the content is – well – embarrassingly one sided. Whilst B & O claim to be not anti-vaccine, the whole book – particularly part II is rife with anti-vaccine sentiments designed not so much to lead the reader to a conclusion but to batter the reader over the head with the conclusion B & O reached before sitting down to write even.

Thirdly, the content is old hat. There is literally nothing new in the book. For those of us who have followed the the whole story, AoA has nothing _new_ to add to the overall scenario. Whereas Defeating Autism, Autism’s False Prophets and Evidence of Harm all had something _new_ to add to the story, AoA merely dully repeats truthiness from 3 or 4 years ago and couples it with a retelling of historical speculation that simply reiterates what everyone already knew – mercury isn’t so good for you.

So thats that for me reading purgatory. I’m reading something very much better now that I think Sullivan and I will be blogging at length in the new year.

Reading Age of Autism Part 6 – everything old is new again

21 Oct

If I had to take a guess I’d say Part I of Age of Autism was written primarily by Dan Olmsted and (so far) Part II is written primarily by Mark Blaxill. Why? Well, Part I is well written bullshit with a decent narrative flow and is full of new (if wrong) ideas. Part II has so far regurgitated the Amish and Somali episodes and I’m in the middle right now of a really dragging account of how Andrew Wakefield got into the game during which I have actually groaned aloud twice and had to put down a few times and watch something more intelligent on TV – something like When Stunts Go Bad for example. A decent writer Mark Blaxill is not.

Part II is also very much more heavy on the out-and-out anti-vaccination rhetoric and if I want to give a dispassionate, honest review I’d have to say that the differences between Part’s I & II are more than glaringly obvious – they’re more obvious than a fluorescent painted whore in a Kansas Church. Its a shame really as I have a penchant for well put together bullshit and Part I was exactly that. Part II is badly constructed bullshit. Imagine a shanty town constructed next to St. Paul’s Cathedral and thats what Parts I & II of Age of Autism stand together like.

So everything old is new again, its like taking a trip back in time as we see Simon Murch et al get introduced and the concept of Crohn’s Disease being marketed as vaccine caused being touted around as a viable hypothesis (I’m not up to the MMR/autism thing yet).

Now don’t get me wrong I’ve nothing against a trip down memory lane but all the hallmarks of a bad writer and worse editing are here aplenty and its really not much fun reading about how Simon Murch is the leading etc etc. I’m sure he is – in fact I _know_ he is but I can’t help but imagine the uninvested reader would find this focussing on frankly dull fact as exactly that – dull.

So basically same old same old so far. I’m moving house soon and won’t have web access for a week (eek!) but I’ll be reading and note taking don’t you worry. To be continued.

Is there a point to blogging Age of Autism – the book?

18 Oct

Recently Sully asked if there was value in continuing to report of a certain AJ Wakefield’s exploits. It got me to thinking – is there continuing value on blogging Age of Autism, the book?

The most recent chapters have descended into very very familiar territory with the Somali and Amish episodes being regurgitated to seemingly little or no point. Are LB/RB readers of the opinion that this sort of material requires review?

Don’t get me wrong, I would continue to blog about _new_ material in the book but as I have come to the section of the book where phrases like:

The obvious risk that immigrants to any Western country face is over-vaccination.

Page 250

are tossed around without any reason or evidence to back up the implication that ‘over’-vaccination is dangerous, or indeed there is such a things as ‘over-vaccination’, then I begin to question the worth of this material to LB/RB readers.

What do you think Dear Reader?

Reading Age of Autism Part 5 – hodge podge of ideas

14 Oct

Chapters 5 and 6 are quite difficult to blog about. On the surface they carry a surfeit of information but somehow all that useful information gets lost in the authors determination to make the facts fit their ideas.

In Chapter 5 we’re introduced to the idea that ethylmercury in two forms was invented. Fungicide and medicinal. And thats about it. There’s little that’s contentious to blog about.

In chapter 6 however we finally start to meet Kanner and Asperger’s case study kids. This had the potential to be one of the most thrilling episodes of the book but from a literary standpoint it is badly botched and badly edited. It starts off reasonably well with condensed histories of a few of Kanner’s kids but then starts to degenerate into the realms of silliness desperately shoehorning the kids parents into two categories – ‘the fungicide cluster’ and ‘the medical cluster’. For example, Kanner’s Case 1 – Donald T – is placed by the authors into the fungicide cluster….why? Because he lived in the vicinity of Forestry work.

They have better luck with Fredrick W (Case 2) as his dad was a plant pathologist but even this is still not evidence. Correlation does not equal causation after all and the authors give no real insight into _how_ they think these kids were made autistic by ethylmercury, just offering some fairly scant evidence that one parent might have worked with mercury or that they lived fairly close to where fungicide was used.

The authors get going with gusto when they reach the medical cluster – why? Because now they can finally get their teeth into the _real_ source of their displeasure – vaccines.

The city’s residents were bombarded…

Page 180

…heightened risk of infant vaccination…

Page 181

One child had a mum who was a Paediatrician. However as they also state:

…there is an association in time – one we concede is speculative – with…the first thiomersal containing vaccine.

Page 184

Four of Kanner’s kids had dads who were psychiatrists. The authors claim this is more evidence as the standard of care for neurosyphilis was still mercury. But not, you’ll note ethylmercury. Blaxill and Olmsted have spent three chapters outlining the symptoms of mercury poisoning via neurosyphilis and hammering home the point that autism is _new_ with a _new_ set of symptoms and that various types of mercury poisoning produce differing symptoms. To go back all of a sudden and claim that now its _not_ new is more than a little duplicitous.

Four of Kanner’s kids have no connection to either fungicides or medicine via parent occupations. Blaxill and Olmsted attempt to explain these away by saying that these kids probably lived in areas where universal vaccination was in place. This is worse than speculative – its tenuous.

And speaking of tenuous:

Donald…underwent a series of treatments with Gold Salts that lasted several months…[which were]…the standard remedy for JRA [Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis] .


His arthritis cleared up…[b]ut something even more remarkable happened…the defining features of his disability lessened dramatically and permanently.

Page 197, inserts mine

What Blaxill and Olmsted fail to mention is that it would be _impossible_ to chelate mercury from the body using Gold Salts. Why? Because gold only dissolves mercury when both in their metallic state. Donald was administered Gold _Salts_ .

And lets look at these features of Donald T’s which defined his disability: nervousness, extreme anxiety and lack of sociability. The latter, yes, that’s obviously a clear autistic trait but the former two? What have they got to do with autism from a diagnostic _defining_ stance? The answer is nothing.

So here we have much ado about nothing. Donald was given a substance that could not _possibly_ have chelated him and even if it had, the most it did in terms of ‘curing’ his autism was to make him more social and even if it _did_ make him more social even the authors admit it only ‘lessened’ his unsocial nature, it didn’t remove it.

The book overall is starting to edge into familiar AoA (the website) territory now. Things that really shouldn’t be left unsaid are being so and things that are said are being squeezed dry of factual content in order to meet a pre-conceived agenda. Thats no good for a scientific approach.

Reading Age of Autism Part 2 – Mercury still not good for you

10 Oct

OK, so you might’ve seen by my tweets that I struggled a bit with Chapter 2. I hope the narrative picks up in upcoming chapters.

Anyway, the overall gist of Chapter 2 is that of Chapter 1 – mercury is bad for you, m’kay? To which the the retort is still – Holy Obvious Batman!

The tale of Chapter 2 is how the beginning of the Psychoanalysis movement (an easy mark, being bollocks) missed the ‘obvious’ signs – that Freud/Charcot/Breuer etc diagnosed hysteria when they should’ve diagnosed (you guessed it) mercury poisoning.

Now call me picky but isn’t this book, called The Age of Autism, supposed to be about ‘y’know, autism? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the authors are setting out a hypothesis here and doing a bit of scene setting but who really gives a shit these days if Anna O. Dora etc were really cases of mercury poisoning when what we’re supposed to be doing is linking mercury poisoning to _autism_ ?

In fact, this scene setting is doing quite a lot of harm to the Blaxill/Olmsted hypothesis. They go through some of the symptoms of the respective case studies in painstaking detail. Lets look at them in the context of _autism_ shall we?

Charcot diagnosed hysteria in a nurse called ‘Etch___’ a Nurse in Bordeaux. She was nearly raped and descended into a ‘nervous state’ and a convulsion a year later was attributed to the near rape. She returned to work (in Paris though) but suffered:

…repeated and more frequent convulsions, urinary retention, paralyses and other complications…

Page 66

Blaxill and Olmsted claim these as symptoms of mercury poisoning. They may well be. But I tell you what – they sound *nothing* like autism.

Charcort also examined another patient who showed the following symptoms:

…comatose for half an hour and in bed for two days; afterward he continued to exhibit classic symptoms of decreased sensation, twitching and vision loss…

Page 67

I mean, does that sound anything like autism to you?

Blaxill and Olmsted recount a myriad of other symptoms including limb paralysis, hallucination, a relentless cough, paresis and many many more. They’re unified in Blaxill and Olmsted’s minds by their obvious connection to mercury poisoning – maybe they are. But vastly more obvious to me, if not to them, is that they’re unified in presenting a medical picture that is about as far removed from autism as its possible to get.

Reading Age of Autism Part 1 – An Unhidden Agenda

10 Oct

The first chapter of Age of Autism (called The Age of Syphilis) could easily have been summed up in one short sentence: Mercury is bad m’kay? Well no shit Sherlock(s). We all know that.

Taking us an a tour (and the book _is_ reasonably well narrated and edited) through the insane asylums of various European countries, through the lack of association of mercury poisoning and indigenous races of various countries, the two authors end up in Vienna and (place tongue in cheek) in a bombshell moment of horror, reveal their idea that Mozart might’ve died of mercury poisoning. Hardly a new idea. According to Wikipedia, Mozart has been suggested to have died from over 100 different things but the most likely is acute rheumatic fever.

What makes Age of Autism different from most is that they posit that Mozart’s mercury poisoning (if he was which is in doubt) came about whilst he was trying to cure Syphilis. Indeed, you could get the idea from reading Age of Autism that just about everyone in the world from the 1600’s onwards died of mercury poisoning whilst treating syphilis.

Lurking underneath this first chapter with its autism-free mundane plodding from situation to situation is where the authors reveal one of the main themes of the book.

…the best medical minds in Europe were slow to realize…

Page 24

But the notion that medicine might have been that habit just didn’t occur to [them] – perhaps because it could only mean that doctors were causing the worst manifestation of syphilis. And that was simply inconceivable.

Page 29

Not using ‘recognized forms of treatment’…may have spared the American Indians the brain lesions symptomatic of neurosyphilis.

Page 30

Despite all the evidence and concern, the heart of the medical profession remained committed to mercury treatment, and mainstream physicians rose strongly to its defense.

Page 32

I’m sure you don’t need more examples but trust me – they’re there. Anyway, as you can see Age of Autism is not _just_ a book about mercury being bad (m’kay?) its also a book about mainstream medicine and how stupid and purposefully evil it is as well as how frickin’ great complementary medicine is. Take a look at those quotes again. “See?” B & O seem to be screaming hysterically, “See? Look – even back then they were useless, these ‘doctors’…its just like now with The Vaccines!!!”

I mean don’t get me wrong – the mercury treatments of Syphilis were frequently worse than the disease but lets compare the trace amount of mercury in paediatric vaccines these days to a passage from Age of Autism:

Patients coated in mercury often stayed wrapped in bedclothes for weeks…[t]hey sat in baths saturated with mercury or squatted on stools above a steaming cauldron of it…

Page 31

So lest we forget, these two medical procedures, one commonly known as a ‘targeted precise injection’ and one known as ‘slopping that shit on with a spoon’ are not really comparable. So far, this is one of the main (though not only) weakness of the book – its comparing apples with oranges.

My latest book

9 Oct

I’d like to thank the anonymous donor who sent me a copy of Age of Autism – the book. It arrived this morning. So for the next few days I’m going to put aside the unabashed joy of reading Under the Dome by Stephen King and take up this newer work of fantasy. I promise to blog everything I can.

The Age of Autism before thimerosal

28 Sep

Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill have written a book, The Age of Autism. It expands on Mr. Olmsted’s UPI series of the same name and uses the same logic: build a narrative that links mercury to illnesses and claim this as proof that mercury is the cause.

One can download the first 46 pages of the book for free on iTunes, buy the book, wait for it to come to your library or used book story (don’t count on the used bookstore route. Last report I got was only about 600 books sold in the opening time for this book). Or, one could just not read it ever.

If you want just an idea of what the book is about you can read a short excerpt on the publisher’s website. It starts with this simple statement:

We believe that autism was newly discovered in the 1930s for the simple reason that it was new.

Why was it new? If I understand the logic, the idea is that a new mercury compound was invented and tested around that time: thimerosal. From a recent interview, here are Dan Olmsted’s words:

What we did really was try to trace the rise of autism and that led us to look at the first eleven families who had children diagnosed in the 1930’s .. in the famous paper. We were able to identify seven of those first eleven kids, who were only known by their first name and last initial. When we did, we found what we thought was significant exposure of the family to mercury, in particular a new kind of mercury that came on the market .. that was used in fungicides for agriculture and in vaccines. So, we think as that happened, the first cases appeared. Then it seemed reasonable to believe that when the vaccine schedule that included much more mercury exploded in the 1990’s and so did autism .. there’s probably a connection that has been missed here.

First eleven kids? First studied or first with autism? They seem to be asserting that these are, indeed, the first autistics ever.

Thimerosal was invented in 1927
. What strikes me odd about the position of Mr. Blaxill and Mr. Olmsted is that ten years before the invention of thimerosal, someone was born who would later be diagnosed with autism and receive support from the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) under the label “autism”. I know this because the data are publicly available. The CDDS data have been used for years to promote the idea of a vaccine-induced autism epidemic. Of course Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill are aware of these datasets as their colleague David Kirby made use of them many times over the years in his promotion of autism as vaccine injury, starting with his book “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy.”

Here is a list of the birth year and the number of people for each birth year who were getting services from the CDDS (note that these data were from the 1990’s. Some or all of these autistics may have passed on):

Birth-year number of CDDS consumers under the autism label
1930 1
1929 2
1928 3
1924 1
1923 1
1922 3
1917 1

There were not a lot of autsitics born before 1930 and still alive receiving services in the 1990’s, this is true. But, the oldest person in that group was 78 at the time. That’s one year older than Donald T. is this year, for those following that story. .Be that as it may, there are a number of CDDS consumers who were born before thimerosal was invented. It would be unwise to assume that these are all the people born before 1930 who were diagnosed autistic. They are but an example.

From what I’ve read, Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill spent about five years looking for the origins of autism (the time since Mr. Olmsted’s original UPI series of articles). They traveled internationally and, from their description at least, appear to have left no stone unturned in their search.

I wonder, did they ever challenge their assumption that autism was new? Did they seek out autistics who predated thimerosal and/or those who weren’t research subjects of Dr. Kanner? Or did they merely rework and expand on Mr. Olmsted’s previous work on Kanner’s subjects?

In their statement attempting to distance themselves from anti-vaccine groups, Mr. Olmsted and Mr. Blaxill state:

We don’t want crops to wither, or houses to rot, or children to die of vaccine- preventable illnesses. We simply want to stop an autism epidemic whose origin we believe can be discerned from a careful examination of its environmental history.

“Careful” examination. I wonder.

Age of Autism – Amazon file wisely

8 Sep

We all know the new Age of Autism book is coming soon. Its stocked at Amazon for example where pre-orders for the book have placed the books ranking at the heady heights of the top 100,000.

However, whats most interesting is the cover art that Messers Blaxill and Olmsted have chosen for the Kindle edition of the book. In a refreshing turn of honesty, they selected the below (click for bigger) as the cover art.

You can also see it in situ at Amazon US store.

A brave and refreshingly intellectually honest move by Blaxill and Olmsted, I think you’ll agree.