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Mark Blaxill on the Geiers: they do sloppy work

13 Oct

Mark Geier and, more recently, his son David have been active promoting autism as vaccine injury for over 10 years (Mark Geier has been active as an expert in, and been criticized for his lack of quality work, the vaccine court on non-autism issues for about 20 years). They have written multiple papers, ranging from bad to worse, attempting to argue the case that vaccines (and especially thimerosal) are a primary cause of autism.

There are multiple discussions over the years of the Geiers here on Left Brain/Right Brain, Respectful Insolence as well as many other places. The best work was done by Kathleen Seidel at Neurodiversity.com, but due to a server crash much of that content is not readily available. (although it is worth searching for the cached versions or the versions on the Wayback Machine).

The work of the Geiers is so poor that it has always been a wonder to me that no criticism has come from anyone promoting the idea that vaccines caused an epidemic of autism. It isn’t that those promoting the vaccine-epidemic idea are not bright, leaving me wondering if they are too biased by their beliefs or just unwilling to speak publicly against an ally. But, recall, these are the same people who closed ranks around Andrew Wakefield in the face of clear and proved ethical violations.

If we are to believe Jake Crosby, former writer for the Age of Autism blog, it appears that the tacit approval of the Geiers has, at least in part, been a case of “circle the wagons”. I.e. people defending an ally over speak their opinions. Mr. Crosby has blaxillwilliams and quotes more emails where Mark Blaxill (former board member of SafeMinds and a long-time proponent of the idea that mercury in vaccines are a primary cause of autism) expresses his views about the Geiers to Mike Williams (attorney involved representing the families in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding).

In an email image on Mr. Crosby’s blog, Mr. Blaxill is reported to have stated:

In the interest of full disclosure. I thought you might like to see my critique of the Geiers’ latest work on VSD. I have not been a big fan of the Geiers. I worry they do not represent our side well. They do sloppy work.

In another email (quoted by Mr. Crosby, the link to the original is nonfunctioning) quotes Mr. Blaxill as stating:

“As to the Geiers, I may be a bit of a minority voice here, but I worry very much that they can do our cause more harm than good. They are not very good scientists, write bad papers (both writing badly and reporting in sloppy fashion) and attract too much attention to themselves as individuals. In this last regard, they don’t show nearly as well as Andy Wakefield but they’re trying to play the same role. Frankly, if I were on the other side and were asked to critique their work, I could rip it to shreds. I’m surprised they haven’t been hit harder. So I think you are wise to diversify.”

Mr. Crosby’s stance is that this constitutes “interference” in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding. I.e. Mr. Crosby seems to imply that the Geiers are not sloppy scientists whose work is poor, but that the Geiers should have been allowed a more active role in the Omnibus.

In this case I find myself agreeing, in part at least, with Mr. Blaxill. The work by the Geiers is poor. Where I don’t agree is Mr. Blaxill’s decision to hold back on making those statement public. Not just because it’s hard to take the stance that one is a only “…interested in the quest for the truth” when one holds back on key information like an entire critique of the Geiers’ VSD paper. No. It goes deeper than that. The Geiers’ junk science went beyond promotion of the idea that thimerosal is a primary cause of autism. The Geiers ran a clinic for many years. Mark Geier was a licensed physician, David Geier worked in the clinic (and has been accused of practicing medicine without a license). Through their papers and their talks at autism parent conventions like AutismOne, the Geiers became well known. One of the “brand name” autism clinics. They reached this level of respect within their community because no one within that community dared to speak out.

I’ve noted on Left Brain/Right Brain many times before that these parent conventions differ markedly from real science conferences in that no one ever seriously challenges the speakers. They can present almost any theory or idea, especially if they tie it to autism as vaccine injury, without anyone standing up and saying, “that makes zero sense”. These aren’t science presentations, they are advertisements. It would be interesting to see how many of these conventions Mr. Blaxill attended and yet remained silent on the “sloppy” work that could be “ripp[ed] to shreds” that the Geiers presented. Instead, parents were presented a view that the Geiers were good scientists who suffered unjust criticism for their “brave” stance on vaccines.

The Geiers were promoters of chelation as a treatment for autism. Not only does chelation have no scientific basis to be an autism treatment, a study just out this week using rodents states that chelation could be harmful if there is no real heavy metal toxicity:

Finally, we also found that succimer treatment produced lasting adverse neurobehavioral effects when administered to non-lead-exposed rodents, highlighting the potential risks of administering succimer or other metal-chelating agents to children who do not have elevated tissue lead levels. It is of significant concern that this type of therapy has been advocated for treating autism.

It is highly likely that Mr. Blaxill would disagree with the statement that chelation has no good scientific basis as a treatment for autism. He’d be wrong, but that’s been covered over and over before. The Geiers moved on from standard chelation to stranger, more dangerous therapies. As an aside, if chelation was a successful treatment one has to wonder why the Geiers were prompted to move on to using Lupron as an autism treatment. Lupron is very serious medicine and it shuts down sex hormone production in the body. Why Lupron, one might ask? The Geiers convinced themselves (or convinced themselves that they could pass off this explanation) that mercury bound itself to testosterone in the brain, making it hard to chelate. They cited a paper showing that if one heats testosterone and mercury salts in benzene, one could form these mercury/testosterone complexes. They actually claim (yes, they tried to patent this idea to make money off it) that this paper shows that “It is known in the art that mercuric chloride binds arid forms a complex with testosterone in subjects”. The “subjects” are beakers of benzene, not animals and not people. Add to that the lack of an explanation of how shutting down hormone production would break up these complexes. The Geier “science” supporting Lupron would be laughably bad if it wasn’t used to subject disabled children to Lupron injections.

Lupron clearly has no basis as an autism therapy. In fact, the “lupron protocol” played a major part in Mark Geier losing his medical licenses. One has to ask, how did the get such traction for such an obviously bad idea? For one thing, the Geiers were considered respected scientists in the vaccine injury/alternative medicine autism community due to their previous and ongoing work trying to link thimerosal and autism. Work which Mark Blaxill considered “sloppy” and worthy of being ripped to shreds. But instead of sharing his views on the Geier papers with the public, Mr. Blaxill shared them privately within his own circle.

It’s worth noting that the email quoted above was written before the “Lupron Protocol” was developed. We don’t know if Mr. Blaxill was alarmed by the emergence of the “Lupron Protocol”. I can’t find where he spoke out against it. We can see that his blog (under a different writer) promoted the idea as “MERCURY, TESTOSTERONE AND AUTISM – A REALLY BIG IDEA!“. Mr. Blaxill doesn’t seem to have commented there. For all the papers the Geiers have published, Mr. Blaxill only mentions them once in his book “Age of Autism. But as we’ve seen, tacit approval (silence) may not be the same thing as real approval.

Mr. Blaxill had the courage to testify before a congressional hearing last year. A hearing where the politicians had been lobbied in advance to be favorable to his cause. When it came to disagreeing with one of his allies, that courage was lacking. He allowed “sloppy” science from an ally to go unchallenged. An example of the fallout of such a decision, in my opinion had he stood up he could have slowed or even stopped the “Lupron Protocol”, a therapy which in my opinion amounts to the abusive treatment of disabled children in an uncontrolled and unapproved experiment.


By Matt Carey

Jake Crosby abuses man with psychiatric disorder

21 Mar

Today at Age of Autism Jake Crosby – man who has a psychiatric disorder himself – took it upon himself to disparage a man who also has a psychiatric disorder and encourage the Age of Autism readers to do the same:

Seth Mnookin – a former drug dealer and burglar who bit a police officer…

Geez oh Peet! Offit picks the lousiest spokespeople, doesn’t he? First Amanda “don’t listen to me” Peet and now this former heroin addict.

Starting on Page 191, the DSM IV diagnoses Substance-Related Disorders:

The Substance-Related Disorders include disorders related to the taking of a drug of abuse (including alcohol), to the side effects of a medication, and to toxin exposure. In this manual, the term substance can refer to a drug of abuse, a medication, or a toxin. The substances discussed in this section are grouped into 11 classes: alcohol; amphetamine or similarly acting sympathomimetics; caffeine; cannabis; cocaine; hallucinogens; inhalants; nicotine; opioids; p hencyclidine (PCP) or similarly acting arylcyclohexylamines; and sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics. Although these 11 classes appear in alphabetical order, the follow ing classes share similar features: alcohol shares features with the sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics; and cocaine shares features with amphetamines or similarly acting sympathomimetics. Also included in this section are Polysubstance Dependence and Other or Unknown Substance-Related Disorders (which include most disorders related to medications or toxins).

What Crosby has done is no different than someone coming up to him and abusing him based on his autism. Its shameful and deeply offensive. This is the 21st Century and Crosby has taken it upon himself to ridicule and abuse a man who has the strength of character to overcome his personal demons and carve out a successful career for himself as an exemplary investigative journalist. If Age of Autism need proof of the calibre of his work they should take a look at the reviews The Panic Virus garnered and compare them to the calibre of the 5 reviews Dan Olmsted could round up for Age of Autism – The Book.

Age of Autism has revealed its truly nasty and shallow depths by abusing a man with a psychiatric disorder. Maybe they should think twice before attacking someone based solely or partly on their disorders in order to whip up negativity in their cult members and start to realise the consequences of their actions. I would wish shame on them but they’ve proven time and time again that shame and self-reflection is an alien emotion to them.

In support of David Gorski

22 Jun

To whomever it may concern,

You have probably recently had to deal with a handful of vitriolic comments regarding the online activities of David Gorski. You will probably have been pointed to an online essay by a young man called Jake Crosby in which he makes a series of claims regarding David Gorski and his ‘ties’ to vaccines/vaccine manufacturers and other entities.

I urge you to read these comments and this essay very, very carefully. Once you do I am in no doubt that you will see what the rest of us clearly can – that this work is the work of a highly impassioned young man who believes that he is right. He believes that vaccines cause autism to state it clearly and he believes that by having some kind of – any kind of – tie to a pharma organisation means that David Gorski is ‘tainted’. But what really annoys master Crosby is the fact that David Gorski regularly blogs in support of the science that clearly shows vaccines do not cause autism and blogs against the pseudo science that attempts – and continually fails- to draw any kind of a link between vaccines and autism.

So this, in master Crosby’s eyes, is David Gorski’s crime – supporting the science and decrying the bad science.

In order to cast some kind of suspicion over David Gorski’s support of science, Crosby has ‘discovered’ that Gorski is conducting research into ways to reuse some types of drugs – drugs developed by Sanofi-Aventis who of course also manufacture some vaccines. And that, despite another few hundred words from master Crosby is that. That is the sum total of his ‘investigation’ and the sum total of David Gorski’s crime.

The only real eye-opener on this issue is that Jake Crosby managed to wring out as many words as he did on this total non-issue.

I have known David Gorski online for a number of years. We often quote one another and link to one anothers posts. We regularly email each other and I was disappointed to be unable to meet him for drinks on a visit to the UK he took a few years ago. In my experience of the man he is rigorous, almost fanatical with regards to accuracy and brings these traits to many areas of blogging and online writing including the investigation of bad science.

Why does it matter to me? It matters because I have an autistic child and an autistic step child. When my autistic child was first diagnosed I firmly believed that her autism was caused by vaccines. It was only through being exposed to writings of David Gorski and his peers on the science of autism and the bad science of the autism/vaccine connection that I eventually saw for myself what was obvious: vaccines don’t cause autism and never did.

Scientists such as David Gorski often blog and write online anonymously. They do this because to be exposed to the sort of people Jake Crosby colludes with often means being exposed to harassment and threats. David Gorski is now finding that out for himself. I hope that you as his peers, colleagues and employers will see how vital it is that David Gorski continues blogging and that you will support him in both his work and his blogging.

The American Rally for Personal Rights – bit of a damp squib

27 May

Yesterday was the American Rally for Personal Rights (an anti-vaccine rally) held between 3pm and 5pm in a park in Chicago, US. In attendance was ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield in whose honour the rally was held.

Hoping for thousands, the organisers got what looks like a hundred or so (click for full size).

including one young man (A certain J. Crosby, Age of Autism Editor) who carried the sign ‘Autistics for Wakefield’

I’m not entirely certain who the autistics were. I mean I see Jake but no one else. Also in attendance were Wade Rankin, Erik Nanstiel, Boyd Haley, Bob Krakow and Jim Moody and for ‘name’ anti-vaxxers that was it. No Jenny McCarthy, No Jim Carrey, No Generation Rescue, No Age of Autism bigwigs (aside from young master Crosby of course).

Of course for bloggers such as I, this is a tad disappointing. There’s not really a lot to talk about when nothing much happens, nobody of any consequence shows up and the whole thing resembles a rain-soaked firecracker.

On the bright side, there were The Refusers who I’m pretty sure would’ve been good for a very hearty laugh. Aside from that – nothing really to tell. The sun was out, some anti-vaxxers waved a few signs around and the world collectively yawned.

See ANB’s take on it, he actually attended the rally himself.

Response to Jake at Age of Autism

14 Jan

Jake Crosby has written a fairly humdrum piece about me which contains a few errors (as do some of the comments), most notably his claim that he’s tried to contact me. I’ve not recieved any contact from him at all either to my personal email nor via the Feedback widget. If Jake wants to contact me to discuss his piece I’m more than happy to do so – you can get me at kevleitchATgmailDOTcom.

The piece itself is a rehash of some of the early comment threads on here – I used to think vaccines caused my child’s autism, then I changed my mind. Jake speculates about why that might be without coming to any firm conclusion.

Bob Wright snubs autistic adults, the same group who live in poverty

23 Nov

The New York Post reported on Autism Speaks founder Bob Wright having a grumpy slap at adult autistic people who were protesting the fact that Autism Speaks still has no autistic representation on its Board.

Bob Wright had harsh words for protesters who tried to muck up the A-list benefit concert he put on at Carnegie Hall on behalf of autistic kids.

“The protesters are lucky,” said Wright. “They’re well off enough, healthy enough, to do it. I wish my grandson were able to join them.”

Wright runs Autism Speaks, which has raised over $200 million for research into a disorder that afflicts mainly children.

That didn’t stop a clutch of sign-carrying adult protesters from descending on Carnegie Hall Tuesday night, trying to disrupt a concert attended by Donald Trump, Howard Stern and Martha Stewart. Protesters complain that there’s not one autistic person on the board of the org, which produced an “offensive” ad suggesting that autism was a fate worse than death.

Wright, whose grandson cannot talk because of autism, said the disorder is exploding among young kids who can’t speak for themselves.

“This is serious business,” he said.

Note how the reporter states that the benefit was for autistic kids and further states that autism affects mainly children. This should give some insight into the silly one dimensional world that the Wrights, and by extension, Autism Speaks inhabit. Of course autism doesn’t affect mainly children. In fact, it would seem that the reverse is true.

I would like to suggest to Bobo that what is serious business is blindly misrepresenting autism either purposefully or (more likely) out of ignorance. I would also like to suggest that its about time Autism Speaks walked the walk and got aome autistic Board level members. I would further suggest that Bobo wakes up and smells the coffee. Young autistic kids definitely find it difficult to talk for themselves. Most kids of his grandsons age might find it difficult to form coherent opinions on high level concepts like the right to be who you are. In the meantime, having an autistic Board level member would be a step in the right direction. I’d happily accept Jake Crosby or Jon Mitchell. Two men who I vehemntly disagree with yet who’s opinion on autism I respect due to their diagnosis.

Maybe Bobo might take a look across the pond if his cheeks aren’t still smarting from the slapdown he got last time he came over here. Maybe the reality of life for autistic adults over here might cause him to get a bit of a reality check as to where his research priorities should lie. As he continues to steer Autism Speaks down the increasingly stupid looking anti-vaxx hypotheses,

A THIRD of Wales’ autism sufferers are unemployed and living in ‘poverty’ without benefits, a charity has said.

9,000 autistic adults are surviving (sort of) on handouts from friends and family. Not only are they subject to ignorance in job centres, they are not made aware of _how_ to make a claim:

She [Shirley Parsley] said: “It is scandalous, therefore, that thousands of people with this serious, lifelong and disabling condition are being consigned to poverty by a complex and counter-productive benefits system.”

This is the reality of life for autistic adults. Abandoned by a state system and also abandoned by Autism Speaks, an organisation focussed solely it seems on people of Bob Wright’s grandchilds age. Whilst Bobo complains about how autism is ‘exploding amongst kids who can’t talk for themselves’ (a factoid for which there’s no valid science), the adults he and his organisation turn their backs on are literally starving.

Asperger Syndrome is not a disability, just ask Lenny Schafer

6 Aug

Lenny Schafer wrote one of the most insulting comments I have seen on the Age of Autism blog in a long time. This is actually old news–the comment was made on Luly 13th. I missed the comment, but how did I miss that it was, no kidding, picked as an award winning “comment of the week” by the “editors” of the Age of Autism blog.

If you didn’t see it, here is Mr. Shafers, award winning comment from the Age of Autism blog:

“Disability” is not a literary term open to subjective interpretation. It is a forensic, legal term defined in documents like the DSM-IV for the parsing of government entitlements and insurance compensations. Asperger Syndrome is not defined as a disability. Those with Aspergers do not get Social Security Disability benefits. They are not entitled to most state entitlement disability programs and are not qualified to park in disabled parking zones. Those with Aspergers ARE disadvantaged and deserve support and our advocacy for them, but not at the same levels for the disabled. Let us stop interchanging the term “disability” with “disadvantage”.

Also, the term “high functioning autism” is a street jargon misnomer and has no clinical definition, despite it widening use. It is a term that also trivializes autism. It is oxymoronic. Autism is defined by disability, lack of function. Is there such a thing as high-sighted blindness? Or high-hearing deafness? Perhaps “HighER Function Autism” might make more sense because it is not self-contradictory. (We then wouldn’t need the redundant “Low Functioning Autism” label either.)

The whole autism spectrum labeling is a mistake, in any event, for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. However, we are stuck with it. Let’s get clear on related word meanings. Lack of good communication skills is a definite disadvantage, but not necessarily a disability.

And let us hope that the upcoming DSM-V gets clearer about defining autism only as a disability — and kicks the high functioning ND autism squatters onto the personality disorder spectrum where they belong.

There is so much that can be said, point by point, in response to Mr. Schafer’s comment. But my guess is that most readers of this blog need no commentary to realize what a grossly insulting statement Mr. Schafer made.

What boggles the mind even further is that this was a comment to Mr. Jake Crosby’s piece, “Autism, Asperger’s: Who is Truly Disabled?“, a piece all about how Asperger syndrome truly is a disability. Mr. Crosby’s concluding statement in that piece was:

Unfortunately, that is what’s happening, but as a person with Asperger’s I can tell you that I am truly disabled, albeit much more mildly than others with autism.

While we have disagreed on some points, Mr. Crosby and I have been having a good discussion in the comments of this blog. I believe we both agree that Asperger Syndrome is a genuine disability. I couldn’t see him agreeing with Mr. Shafer’s comments, so I went digging to see what comments Mr. Crosby made.

Here are two comments by Mr. Crosby in response as posted to AoA:

I’m a contributing editor to this site, but played no role in Lenny Schafer winning the “comment of the week.” His comment isn’t just grossly offensive to parents of those on the higher end of the spectrum, but also to those of us ON the higher end of the spectrum.

and

Schafer’s post is wrong on so many levels. It is the comment of the week alright, the worst comment of the week.

I almost didn’t post Mr. Crosby’s comments. I didn’t want to go for the easy, “look there’s dissension in the ranks at AoA” message. As I said above, Mr. Crosby and I don’t see eye-to-eye on all subjects. But I can still recognize and respect the courage it took to speak out like that. Mostly, it is worth noting that Mr. Crosby doesn’t share Mr. Shafer’s opinion.

The Age of Autism has officially closed comments to Mr. Crosby’s piece and to the “commenter of the week” post.

I’d love to see the comments they deleted.