Monday, April 27, 2020

WHO Are These Anti-Lockdown Medical Quacks That Keep Doing Dotard's Work For Him?

Health worker blocks Trumpie wackjobs over the weekend in Denver. One WSJ op-ed twit claimed the protester "risked contamination" of the ER - not realizing he was wearing a costume designed for the purpose of protest.

The chaotic, reckless, and  incompetent American response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially in a politically polarized and dysfunctional landscape, has spawned a formidable propaganda push.  On some days I swear the intensity is nearly as much as that mounted against serious, anti-Warren Commission JFK assassination researchers - like the late Mark Lane, Peter Dale Scott and  James Di Eugenio.   But we should not be  surprised at the level of propaganda - or that some scientists have been recruited to abet it - much like climate denier scientists willing to be paid whores for the fossil fuel industry.  This is the nation we inhabit, riven by a "partisan" pandemic - so you need to take care where you get your information.

As with any serious propaganda effort, if it is to gain "clickbait" in the competing media environment, there must be willing shills and quacks ready to sell out.  The sellout depends upon their spewing enough balderdash and bollocks to confuse the casual reader and make their arguments/ complaints seem plausible.  In this case, the arguments and complaints are against the medical specialist majority who point out that in the absence of a vaccine - or effective treatment- the only weapon left in the quiver is the social lockdown.  As prime evidence these genuine experts have  cited the example of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.  Specifically, how those communities that opened up for business too soon saw inundated  hospitals, morgues, funeral homes and even ordinary homes (where residents had to store the corpses in closets and basements ).  As noted in The Colorado Springs Gazette yesterday, p. 1A:

"In the fall of 1918, the number of cases finally appeared to be leveling off in Denver. Business owners pressured government officials to let them open back up, according to a history by Stephen Leonard, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. 

Theater owners marched on the mayor’s office complaining that restrictions were costing them $50,000 per week. The mayor relented. On Nov. 11, Denver residents flooded back into the streets to celebrate the end of World War I. It turns out, they were playing Russian roulette with the virus. Two weeks later, the city recorded 605 cases of Spanish flu and 22 deaths on a single day. Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions went back in place and the economy stalled anew."

Do the quacks that are trotted out now for positive spin get any of that?  Have they seen the 21 pages of obituaries  (with photos)- all Covid patients- such as recently appeared in The Boston Globe?  I doubt it. Else they'd not make stupid comparisons to "seasonal flu" or try to suggest "data" that indicates the severity isn't much worse than that.  I already cited one quack,  Joseph A. Ladapo (of UCLA),  who claimed in a recent op-ed that "the shutdowns if prolonged will only make matters worse."      Adding that even when restrictions are lifted "we will emerge right back where we started.... and no matter what our hospitals will still be overwhelmed."

 In  response to Ladapo's  loose nonsense I noted his obsession with the fatality rate -which, yeah, can be reasonably debated given our too low testing - but must not be conflated with the potential of this virus to overrun medical resources.  (Especially in the wake of the most recent finding of "silent hypoxia" seeded by the virus).  I use the same argument against the more recent anti-lockdown shills, including Dr. John Ioannidis  (WSJ, op. cit. p. A13, 'The Bearer of Good Coronavirus News') and  Dr. David Katz who appeared on Real Time Friday night - mostly as Bill Maher's  politically incorrect pet.

In the case of Ioannidis, we read (ibid.) - according to his WSJ PR - propaganda shill  Allysia Ginley (author of the piece):

"He's published more than 1,000 papers yet he's now found himself pilloried because he dissents from theories behind the lockdowns - because he's looked at the data and found good news." 

What's this 'good news'?   Well, in a March article published in Stat News he's argued that Covid-19 is "far less deadly than modelers were assuming" - with a likely fatality rate "comparable to that of seasonal flu."    The study on which the piece was based used data from some 3,300 people in San Jose, CA, to do an antibody test analysis.  The finding was that the actually number of infected people was 50-85x greater than actually found with the antigen tests (which most people are seeking and for which there exists a dearth of reagents, swabs etc.) Anyway Ioannidis & Co. thereby concluded that because the number of infected was so much greater then the actual fatality rate had to be vastly lower - from 0.12 % to 0.20 %, or about the same as a bad seasonal flu.

That's pretty cool considering that - as critics have pointed out - the study was "not random in selection"  and "disproportionately weighted toward white women under 64".  Jeezus Peace! He leaves out the demographics most susceptible to the virus (African Americans and the elderly) then has the nerve to trot out this B.S.  that the fatality rate is comparable to seasonal flu?   I call quackery! Indeed, given newly released data in a separate antibody study (using professional statistical standards) discloses the Covid-19 virus is "far more lethal" than flu, it pretty well proves Ioannidis is a quack.

We further learn he's  taken issue with the Imperial College study announced some 6 weeks ago., i.e.  "If data are limited or flawed their errors are being propagated through the model".

That's pretty choice - leveling charges on "flaws and data errors" when his own study is rife with selection bias. It did try to correct  for the selection bias  by "weighting the results according to sex, bias and ZIP code",   but everyone who's done serious statistical research knows that sort of ex post facto tweaking is mostly B.S.  In an analogous sense, I pointed out the multiple selection biases introduced in relation to the research of  an astrophysics quack,  Jason Lisle.  This character (who also believes in a "young Sun")   attempted to substitute 'local correlation tracking' (LCT)  for a failure to resolve granules in his work and thereby obtain accurate data  e..g.

Why Jason Lisle is wrong in his Solar Super-granul...

Meanwhile,  unlike Lisle, this guy Ioannidis has earned much of his status and renown doing "meta - analyses", i.e. analyzing the foibles, flaws in others' research.  Maybe it's time to reintroduce  Ioannidis to the old saw "Physician, heal thyself".  Or in this case, medical researcher learn from your own critiques!

Back to the WSJ  PR puff piece, we further see Ioannides  unloading on the pro-lockdown medical specialists, i.e.:  "There's just some sort of mob mentality operating here that just insists this has to be the end of the world, that the sky is falling".  Here, I had to again call "Q-U-A-C-K"  and would have even if he had published 1 million papers .  Too harsh?   Not at all! Ioannidis'  bollocks about the "sky is falling" sealed it for me that he's either a  witting (or unwitting) Trump tool or willing quack.  Because none of the medical specialists and epidemiologists who've advised that the lockdown is our only weapon, including: Drs. Anhony Fauci, Harvard's  Ashish Jha   and Penn State's Zeke Emanuel, have said "it's the end of the world" or the "sky is falling".  They have said that no social distancing or lockdown  risks the inundation of the medical care and health system, the realistic nightmare scenario.  Especially in an environment in which the number of respirators, N95 masks and general PPE are so critically low - thanks to the incompetent and criminal Trump bunch - so that front line ER and ICU docs, nurses are having to re-use masks week after week.  

Another dumb remark of Ioannidis was:"We have some evidence that negative news is more attractive than positive news, gets more clicks."  Which makes me wonder which parallel world he inhabits.  Because at least on Brane Space, whenever I've posted anything on the pandemic the reads are 40- 50 percent fewer than other topics, including for the mathematical and physics diversions. Go figure!  There is also something to be said - as NY Times' Jennifer Senior points out ('In Praise of Pessimism'), for being a "defensive pessimist" in a time like we're in.   As she writes:

"What, you may ask, are defensive pessimists? They are people who lean way into their anxiety, rather than repress it or narcotize it or allow it to petrify them into stone. Because if things start going downhill, defensive pessimists will be the ones with their feet already on the brakes."

I've also found defensive pessimists  - among whom are most of my friends, acquaintances- are more able to separate noise from signal in our saturated media realm. They are also more likely to spot BS from a mile away, and avoid being snookered like too many in the population.  They also tend to have more active agency and critical thinking skills.  So, yeah, they are drawn to more "negative" accounts because they suspect (rightly) they are more likely invested with reality, as opposed to Pollyannish propaganda like Ioannidis tries to foist on us.

 Further research discloses that Stanford harbors a nest of these quacks (not surprising given it's the site of the Hoover Institution) who are carrying water for FOX, and "making Trump's talking points for him."  In fact, all the work of these ideologically contaminated bozos needs to be ignored, like Jason Lisle's bunkum in pseudo-astrophysics. In line with my objections (above)  Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz has noted in respect of the antibody-based Stanford study. “The authors have made no efforts to deal with clearly known biases and whole study design is problematic.”  Other critics have contended the Stanford  (antibody) analysis is troubled because it draws sweeping conclusions based on statistically rare events, and is rife with sampling and statistical imperfections.

Perhaps  it ought not surprise anyone that two other Stanford quacks (Eran Bendavid,  Jay Bhattacharyahad earlier received prominence in another WSJ op ed  ('Is COVID-19 As Deadly As They Say', p. A16, March 25).  Indeed,  the  pair's nonsense was widely circulated on pro-Trump websites,   and you got the same screwball analysis as Ioannidis. They wrote, “A universal quarantine may not be worth the costs it imposes on the economy, community and individual mental and physical health. We should undertake immediate steps to evaluate the empirical basis of the current lockdowns.

The Imperial College  report, was released  by an epidemic modeling group at Imperial College London..  The bottom line conclusion from one of its lead authors - Neil Ferguson - was that: the potential health impacts were comparable to the devastating 1918 influenza outbreak.  Also, and this is the kicker, would “kind of overwhelm health system capacity in any developed country, including the United States unless measures to reduce the spread of the virus were taken."

 That is the core  aspect for lockdowns, not the death or fatality rate per se, which none of these goofballs gets. One indeed wonders if any of these "rebels"  has seen the evening news coverage showing the interior of ERs with a shortage of ventilators, and the dead bodies having to be put into refrigeration trucks for storage. This was revealed via a jarring video released 2 weeks earlier showing the inside of an overwhelmed ER at Elmhurst hospital in Queens.  This was compliments of Dr. Colleen Smith - who became a COVID-19 victim herself- probably from not having adequate protective equipment.

 Yet another medical quack not yet discussed is David Katz, who appeared on Bill Maher's isolated setting version of Real Time in a one on one.  Katz bloviated for 10-15 minutes along similar lines to Ioannidis, and mostly just reinforcing Maher's confirmation bias. That is,  that this virus isn't much worse than flu and certainly that a lockdown  is an overreaction.   

All Maher succeeded in doing is reveal "even more dangerous quackery" -  his own - in hyping Katz. This from a guy (supposedly high IQ) but still leery of vaccines, e.g.

As noted from the above link:

On Friday night, instead of opting for a despicably racist rant against China over the novel coronavirus or blaming the media, Bill Maher welcomed Dr. David Katz, a doctor and ex-instructor at the Yale School of Medicine, onto his show Real Time.

Dr. Katz, who consistently flaunts his Yale ties despite the fact that they were severed in 2016, has become something of a right-wing darling after penning a controversial New York Times op-ed on March 20 titled “Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?” In it, Katz argues against the self-isolation policies put in place by most of the U.S., instead saying the country should isolate the elderly and infirm, which would thus “allow most of society to return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing. Healthy children could return to school and healthy adults go back to their jobs. Theaters and restaurants could reopen, though we might be wise to avoid very large social gatherings like stadium sporting events and concerts.”

Following his op-ed, Katz has made appearances on Fox News touting his hole-filled theory, thereby co-signing a network that’s called the pandemic a “hoax”; repeatedly downplayed it; and spent hours and hours pushing hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure, even though it’s been determined by most of the medical community to do way more harm than good following a series of poisonings and deaths. On top of that, a convincing refutation of Katz’s ill-advised piece was published in The New York Times from those currently at the Yale School of Public Health that read, in part: '
it is not yet known who all of the most vulnerable people are. We believe that  it is easier, quicker and more efficient to reduce transmission over all than to permit high levels of transmission in the community but somehow keep it from afflicting susceptible people in our highly networked world.'

Despite all this, there was Katz on Maher’s HBO show regurgitating the arguments he made in his ridiculed Times piece—which he wrote when we were at 200 deaths nationwide; we’re now at 52,400 deaths and climbing with strict shutdowns and social distancing in place. "

To Katz’s argument that everyone should want to get infected with COVID-19, Maher actually  replied, “Yeah, I think you make a lot of sense there. And I think it’s a shame—you talk about politicization, that people like you who sound reasonable, maybe it’s not the exact one true opinion you hear somewhere else, has to go on Fox News.”     Seriously, Bill?  He has to go on FOX News because that is the place for pushing hoaxes, hoax "cures" (like hydroxychloroquine) and quacks like Katz.

 Another aspect of Katz I learned: He was rightly pilloried by skeptics back in 2008 for propounding the concept of  "fluidity of evidence".  In fact there is no such thing. Evidence either exists in an objective form or it does not, there is no 'fluidity' about it.   As noted from Science Blogs (June 18, 2008)

"No, he is not happy at all. Specifically, he is not happy with the skeptical blogosphere. He apparently feels that we nasty, close-minded skeptics have been so very unfair in our discussions of him. Specifically, he is not happy how several of us have called him to task for his remarks at the 1st Annual Integrative Medicine Scientific Symposium held in April at Yale University. In particular, what stood out (and provoked the sarcasm and contempt of several bloggers devoted to discussing scientific medicine and going after quackery) was Dr. Katz's fanatastically Orwellian advocating for a more "fluid concept of evidence" in evaluating so-called "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) or "integrative" medicine. His remarks were lambasted in particular by Professor David Colquhoun (who characterized his remarks as "not science" and "not even common sense"), 

Incredibly,  Katz also claimed  on Real Time that it’s “the liberal ideology that seems to be so resistant to talking about unemployment and the economy,” when amid the COVID-19 crisis, the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party—Bernie Sanders, AOC and the like—have been fighting hard for workers and arguing for rent cancellation as well as giving $2,000 a month to each household during the shutdown.  Maher's response? A bot -like nod of the head, no challenge, no criticism - despite having interviewed Sen. Sanders only a few weeks earlier (April 3rd Real Time) and being told first hand the mission. 

All of which explains why Janice is no longer able to watch Maher, as he  has allowed an original welcome independence of thought to descend into a form of stupidity in the name of misplaced political incorrectness.   The reason Katz is not on stations other than FOX is that he is a transparent quack, a useful idiot for the lowbrows and spin masters that infest Trump TV - and useful for the Trump bunch to exploit. 

Sadly, Maher seems to be going along this same arc as the useful (to Trump, FOX) medical quacks.  No doubt Ioannidis isn't appearing on sober  and serious cable sources for the same reason. Why have that Trump tool babbling his bullshit  on All In or Maddow  when you can have Harvard's Prof. Ashish Jha  relating sound data and research instead?   

People need to be aware of these aspects when they choose their sources of information, media. Don't get suckered into the Trumpian bullshit orbit!

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