Tag: Junk Science

The Affluenza Defense

In the latest twist in the fraud case against disgraced former head of Theranos Elizabeth Holmes, it appears that she is bringing in a high priced psychologist in an attempt to get out from under the charges against her.

This is pretty clearly an Affluenza defense, “I’m to young, too pretty, and too white to go to jail.”

She has a right to this defense, but the judge has made what is a routine ruling, that the prosecution has the right to conduct a psychological examination as well, and that they can tape her sessions, and if the prosecution is not playing to lose, a big if will a well connected white defendant, then they should be able blow this defense out of the water.

Holmes spending at least 5 years, and better yet a decade, behind bars is the singles best thing that should ever do for society:  Be an abject lesson to others who would rely on privilege to defraud people:

Elizabeth Holmes—the disgraced founder and ex-CEO of the now-defunct blood-testing startup, Theranos—may use a mental condition as a defense against a slew of federal fraud charges, according to a court document filed this week. Holmes and Theranos’ former president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were charged in June 2018 with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Federal prosecutors allege the pair—who were romantically involved during the alleged crimes—engaged in conspiracy to defraud Theranos investors out of more than $100 million and defraud doctors and patients into falsely believing the company’s faulty blood-testing technology could reliably perform accurate health tests with just drops of blood from a finger-prick.

According to the court document filed this week, Holmes—who is now being tried separately from Balwani—notified the court last December that she plans to submit “expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition” that has bearing on the issue of guilt. The expert providing such evidence was named in the document as psychologist Mindy Mechanic, of California State University, Fullerton.

According to Mechanic’s faculty website, she focuses on “psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma, and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence.” The site also notes that Mechanic “frequently provides expert testimony in complex legal cases involving interpersonal violence.”

The strategy here is clear, her legal team will assert that her former business partner, and former personal partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is a darkly complected man of South Asian extraction, who worked some sort of “Voodoo” over an innocent white girl, and made her defraud stupid rich folks.


In response to Holmes’ plans to provide mental health evidence, federal prosecutors requested that they should also be able to examine Holmes’ mental state and provide their own psychiatric evidence in court as a fair rebuttal.

The judge in the case, US District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California, agreed with the prosecutors. As such, he ordered Holmes to undergo up to 14 hours of psychological testing and psychiatric evaluation by two government-appointed doctors over the course of two consecutive days. Davila also ordered that the government’s evaluation of Holmes be recorded on video—over Holmes’ objections. 

It’s nice that the judge made this ruling, and I really hope that the prosecution is serious about calling bullsh%$ on this strategy.

Professor Pangloss is Usually Wrong

Andrew McAfee, a “technologist” at MIT, wrote a book, More From Less showing that the US use of natural resources has declined even as its GDP has increased, implying that growth can continue unencumbered without any economic cost.

The problem with this is that his book studiously ignores the raw materials that go into imported goods, which refutes the hypothesis:

Scientists are increasingly concerned about the impact that excess industrial activity is having on our planet’s ecosystems. Our pursuit of perpetual economic growth is driving ever-increasing levels of material extraction, which is causing a wide range of ecological problems: deforestation, soil depletion, habitat loss, and species extinction. The crisis has become so severe that last year more than 11,000 scientists from over 150 countries published an article calling on governments to shift toward “post-growth” economic models, focusing on human well-being and ecological stability rather than constant expansion.

But some figures have rejected this idea and are rallying around a different narrative altogether. In a book published last October titled More From Less, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-based technologist Andrew McAfee argues that we can continue to grow global GDP indefinitely while reducing our ecological impact at the same time—and all without any structural, much less revolutionary, changes to the economy or society.

At the core of McAfee’s argument is his analysis of the U.S. economy. He claims that U.S. consumption of resources has remained steady or even declined since the 1980s, while GDP has continued to rise. In other words, the United States is “dematerializing,” thanks to increasingly efficient technology and a shift toward services. The same thing has been happening in other high-income nations, he says. This proves “green growth” can be achieved; rich countries are showing the way, and the rest of the world should follow suit.


There’s only one problem: McAfee’s argument is based on a fundamental accounting error. McAfee uses data on domestic material consumption, which tallies up the resources that a nation extracts and consumes each year. But this metric ignores a crucial piece of the puzzle. While it includes the imported goods a country consumes, it does not include the resources involved in extracting, producing, and transporting those goods. Because the United States and other rich countries have offshored so much of their production to poorer countries over the past 40 years, that side of resource use has been conveniently shifted off their books.


They Just Can’t Let a White Stanford Dropout Fail, Can They?

Bloomberg’s @mcbridesg asked @TimDraper if he’d back Elizabeth Holmes again:

“I’d back her as chief science officer, not CEO. Good question.” pic.twitter.com/DJqguX9wGA

— Sam Dean 🦅 (@SamAugustDean) March 8, 2019


She defrauded people out of billions on a scheme that could never have worked.

At the core of this scheme was her completely nonsensical pseudoscientific ideas.

And this guy things that she should be in charge of science at a startup?

That’s like putting Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in charge of your evolutionary biology department.

Well, she has a career as a poster child for white privilege, I guess.

Meet the New Queen of Cornwall

Gotta lead with Monty Python

7 Year old Matilda Jones just pulled a great sword from Dozmary Pool in Cornwall, which is rumored where King Arthur received, and returned, the sword Excalibur.

If I understand the finer points of of British governance, and I probably don’t, this means that she is now the ruler of Cornwall:

A seven-year-old school girl had a legendary holiday after pulling a giant four-foot sword from the Cornish Lake where Arthur threw Excalibur.

Matilda Jones was wading through water waist-deep at Dozmary Pool when she stumbled across the blade underwater.

According to local folklore, Dozmary Pool is the spot where King Arthur returned Excalibur after being fatally wounded in the Battle of Camlann.

‘She was only waist deep when she said she could see a sword.

‘I told her not to be silly and it was probably a bit of fencing, but when I looked down I realised it was a sword. It was just there laying flat on the bottom of the lake.

‘The sword is 4ft long – exactly Matilda’s height.’

Legend has it that King Arthur first received Excalibur from the Lady of Lake in Dozmary Pool after rowing out to receive it.

After being mortally wounded he asked to be taken there so he could return the sword to her.

After three attempts, his loyal follower Bedivere cast it into the water and the Lady of the Lake’s arm rose to receive it.

If you look at the photos, I would argue that the sword is no older than 6 months old. Otherwise, the leather wrapping would have rotted away.

Additionally, it appears to be a cheap mass produced sword cut from sheet steel, there is no fuller (center groove), and the quillions (cross guards) appear to be made from rod and welded ball bearings.

Still a Queen of Cornwall wearing pink Crocs?  That would be truly epic.

What an Evil Little Sh%$!

I am referring, of course, to a Silicon Valley type, who have honed the little sh%$ to a fine edge.

Specifically, I am referring to to Peter Thiel, who is literally a vampire who wants to use the blood of the young to extend his lifespan.

The latest bit of evil is his funding “patently unethical” human experimentation, specifically testing a live virus vaccine without any regulatory oversight on the island of St. Kitts:

Heavyweight tech investor and FDA-critic Peter Thiel is among conservative funders and American researchers backing an offshore herpes vaccine trial that blatantly flouts US safety regulations, according to a Monday report by Kaiser Health News.

The vaccine—a live but weakened herpes virus—was first tested in a 17-person trial on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts without federal oversight or the standard human safety requirement of an institutional review board (IRB) approval. Biomedical researchers and experts have sharply rebuked the lack of safety oversight and slammed the poor quality of the data collected, which has been rejected from scientific publication. However, investors and those running the trial say it is a direct challenge to what they see as innovation-stifling regulations by the Food and Drug Administration.


Madden, Thiel, and other investors have invested $7 million into the vaccine’s development, according to Rational Vaccines, the company orchestrating the trial. Though Thiel could not be reached for comment, he has been openly critical of the FDA’s review process. At one point, he claimed that the agency’s processes were so overbearing that “you would not be able to invent the polio vaccine today.”

The lead researcher behind the vaccine, William Halford, formerly of Southern Illinois University, made similar claims. In a positive university press release, Halford was quoted as saying: “Many of the virus vaccines we currently put in our kids—chickenpox, mumps, measles, and rubella—were developed using live-attenuated viruses in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s when the regulatory landscape was more relaxed… and they have worked remarkably well.”

He went on to suggest that the FDA has made “barriers too high” and that countries with less regulation were better for vaccine and drug development. “There are governments around the world that the WHO [World Health Organization] has approved for vaccine development,” he said. “We’re talking to those types of governments.”


Other researchers and experts strongly disagreed with Halford’s stance and handling of a live, attenuated virus vaccine, which can cause infections in the uninfected or severe side-effects in those already infected. “What they’re doing is patently unethical,” Jonathan Zenilman, chief of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases Division, told KHN. “There’s a reason why researchers rely on these protections. People can die.”

Robert Califf, who served as FDA commissioner during the Obama era, agreed. “There’s a tradition of having oversight of human experimentation, and it exists for good reasons,” he said. “It may be legal to be doing it without oversight, but it’s wrong.”


A spokesperson for Southern Illinois University, one of the vaccine’s patent holders, said that the university has no legal responsibility to ensure proper safety protocols for the trial. However, after questions about the lack of IRB [Institutional Review Board] approval (a federal requirement), the spokesperson said that the university would “take this opportunity to review our internal processes to ensure we are following best practices.”

(emphasis mine)

In addition to the quality of the study being so poor that it was refused for publication, there are also reports of skin lesions from a study size of only 17 patients.

I would have thought that this would have merited a visit from the FDA, and possibly an FBI investigation for conspiracy, but it appears that the rules do not apply to rich people, which is an even bigger problem.

20,000 Cases to be Reversed in Massachusetts

Annie Dookhan, a chemist at Massachusetts’ Hinton State Laboratory Institute, routinely falsified information for years, which means that something like 20,000 cases are likely to be dismissed:

More than 20,000 drug cases tied to a disgraced former state chemist appear headed for dismissal, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and public defenders said Tuesday as they combed through legal filings from local prosecutors in Massachusetts.

“We’re all overjoyed today at having what is, we think, the largest dismissal of criminal cases as a result of one case in the history of the United States of America,” said Carl Williams, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts, which has pressed for the dismissal of tainted cases.

It was the latest development in the yearslong story of Annie Dookhan, a chemist whose co-workers called her Superwoman because she worked so fast. But she was found to have mishandled drug samples, forged signatures and returned positive results on drugs she never bothered to test, and in 2013, she pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence.

By then, the damage was done. Prosecutors and defenders around the state had already begun the imposing task of figuring out which convictions had been tainted by the failings. Early estimates rose above 40,000. Hundreds of people were released from prison.

In January, the state’s highest court ordered district attorneys to produce the lists of people they believe they could reprosecute, were a new trial permitted, and those whose cases they will dismiss. Those decisions were due on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, lawyers combed through spreadsheets inside an ornate courthouse here, and counted 21,587 likely dismissals. They had estimated that prosecutors would not vacate the convictions of 500 to 700 people.

Of course, people like racist Attorney General Jeff Session think that this is some sort of technicality that demoralizes law enforcement.

This is corruption, and the people around her knew that something was wrong, but because it favored prosecutors, law enforcement never paid attention.

This is why we need things like the exclusionary rule and meaningful and independent investigations of law enforcement misconduct.

This Is What Happens When Big Pharma Takes over Research

As a result of increased corporate funding of research, and the pressure to deliver the desired results that inevitably results, the majority of current medical research is garbage that cannot be reproduced:

Science is facing a “reproducibility crisis” where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, research suggests.

This is frustrating clinicians and drug developers who want solid foundations of pre-clinical research to build upon.

From his lab at the University of Virginia’s Centre for Open Science, immunologist Dr Tim Errington runs The Reproducibility Project, which attempted to repeat the findings reported in five landmark cancer studies.

“The idea here is to take a bunch of experiments and to try and do the exact same thing to see if we can get the same results.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that should be easy. Experiments are supposed to be replicable.

The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions.

Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.

After meticulous research involving painstaking attention to detail over several years (the project was launched in 2011), the team was able to confirm only two of the original studies’ findings.

Two more proved inconclusive and in the fifth, the team completely failed to replicate the result.

“It’s worrying because replication is supposed to be a hallmark of scientific integrity,” says Dr Errington.


According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments.

Marcus Munafo is one of them. Now professor of biological psychology at Bristol University, he almost gave up on a career in science when, as a PhD student, he failed to reproduce a textbook study on anxiety.


The problem, it turned out, was not with Marcus Munafo’s science, but with the way the scientific literature had been “tidied up” to present a much clearer, more robust outcome.


“The issue of replication goes to the heart of the scientific process.”

You said it.

The problem is that research has increasingly become a zero sum game in which corporate funders dictate results before the first experiment is fully designed.

It is a petri dish for corruption.

If RFK Were Alive, He’d Kick His Ass

Donald Trump reportedly has met with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and invited him to head up a planned “vaccine safety and scientific integrity commission” with an as-yet-unknown directive, although it looks like a shot across the bow of the nation’s ship of public health. It also now looks unclear whether or not Trump and Kennedy are on the same page about the invitation itself.

The idea of Kennedy being a part of any federal initiative related to vaccines is appalling, given his record of ignoring scientific evidence that doesn’t fit in with his ill-advised, fantastical fear-mongering about them. Why Trump would choose a lawyer over, say, someone with expertise in vaccines, toxicology and epidemiology is unclear. Perhaps it was Kennedy’s comparison of vaccines to “a holocaust” that drew Trump’s attention. What is clear is that these two are leaping at the chance to leverage some brand synergy.

I’ve covered Kennedy’s problematic response (or nonresponse) to scientific evidence as it relates to vaccines before. I’ve also covered Trump’s equally problematic relationship with facts as they relate to vaccines and autism, and the ways in which people who cling to one conspiracy theory are so likely to glom onto others. Paranoia can be a hell of a drug, for sure, something that savvy showmen easily manipulate for attention.

But it should surprise no one that Trump and Kennedy found each other. They’re not just having a meeting of conspiracy-oriented minds over vaccine fear-mongering. Maybe paranoia or an attraction to conspiracy theories led them to their mutually shared beliefs. But they also share another feature that keeps them from admitting when they’re wrong, and that’s their commitment to their respective name brands.

Kennedy’s claims about vaccines are staggeringly, blatantly incorrect. He’s had that pointed out to him, repeatedly. It may be that optimistic people looked at his name and lineage and thought that he might be reasonable and objective in assessing these facts. They mistook this Kennedy, who refuses to acknowledge even the most direct evidence controverting his claims, for someone who would go where data led him. Their mistake.

I don’t know if RFK would be more upset at his kid spewing flat-earth anti-vaxx bullsh%$, or his offer to work with Donald Trump, but I’m pretty sure that he would be peeling the bark off of his kid right now if he were still here.