Astro-turfing for scientific credibility

In my article Anti-fluoridation study flawed – petition rejected  I referred to Bill Hirzy’s flawed paper, Hirzy et al. (2013)on fluoridation chemicals. He has now submitted a correction to this paper. Interested readers can see it at  Corrigendum to “Comparison of hydrofluorosilicic acid and pharmaceutical sodium fluoride as fluoridating agents—A cost–benefit analysis” [Environ. Sci. Policy 29 (2013) 81–86].

Hirzy does admit to embarrassment for the major mistake in his calculations. However, he doesn’t hold back on his political line. He concludes that his arguments for making bottled water fluoridated with NaF available is:

“an economically and socially feasible alternative to putting industrial grade HFSA into 100 gallons per day per capita and flushing more that 98 percent of that into municipal waste water treatment plants. Of course the phosphate industry would have to find some other means of dealing with 250,000 tons per year of HFSA than shipping it from their factories to drinking water treatment plants, passing it through households and into waste water treatment plants.”

Well, I guess he is primarily a political activist (this paper and its correction seem to be the total of his scientific publication list).

American Environmental Health Sciences

However, I was interested to see his contact details given in the paper as: “American Environmental Health Sciences, 506 E Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20002, USA.” I wondered, who the hell is the American Environment Health Science organisation, so did an internet search. Try it and see if you can find out anything more than I did.

Sum total was 2 links. One to a Chinese Hardware Co which referred to:

” American Environmental Health Sciences researcher One study found that 99 percent of American families with dogs and cats allergens, but only less than half of which the family cat or dog . Most of the family pet allergens from schools, hospitals , shopping malls , cinemas and other public places .”

Not much sense there.

The other was to a conference programme (The Middle East Waste Summit 2009). One of the speakers (our old friend Paul Connett) was described as “Director, American Environmental Health Science Projects.” Not as coincidental as one might think – Bill Hirzy works for Paul Connett’s Fluoride Action Network as a paid political lobbyist.

Still – how credible is this organisation. A search of its postal address showed it to be a residential house in Washington. In fact, it seems to be the house in which Bill Hirzy lives!

My conclusion – another astroturf organisation with a sciency name used to give some sort of credibility to Bill Hirzy and Paul Connett. I know the anti-fluoridation movement has a track record in setting up astro-turf organisations for this sort of purpose (see my article Anti-fluoridationist astro-turfing and media manipulation). But I wonder how widespread this practice is for supplying credibility in scientific journals and conferences?


Note: A reader brought to my attention that the address for the International Society for Fluoride Research Inc., publisher of the Fluoride journal, is 727 Brighton Road, Ocean View, Dunedin 9035. Another residential address.

By the way the  International Society for Fluoride Research Inc. is registered in New Zealand as a charity where you can view details of its rules and financial reports.

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44 responses to “Astro-turfing for scientific credibility

  1. Stuart Mathieson

    Hirzy – paid political lobbyist? Where do these people get their money. Can’t be just a job creation scheme from donations. Big Sugar would have to be a candidate. If fluoride all things being equal is pretty successful in reducing caries, then rotten teeth has to be sheeted home somewhere and I would say diet is the culprit. I mean to say selling sweet stuff to kids is a multi billion dollar industry.

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  2. Stuart Mathieson

    And we know whose residence it is.

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  3. Ken,

    American Environmental Health Sciences Is the non-profit umbrella under which Connett operates his Fluoride Action Network (FAN). FAN is listed as a “project ” of AEHS, and thus evidently does not have to file a separate tax return. Thus, if there is any detailed information publicly available on the expenditures of FAN, as there is normally required to be for non-profits, it seems very difficult to obtain.

    The AEHS 990 tax returns, which are a matter of public record, show Connett and his wife each receiving $1,000 per month from AEHS. Connett and his surrogates such as nyscof, scream like stuck pigs anytime I post this fact, as I do every time an anti makes false allegations about fluoride proponents being paid, and do their best to trivialize the $2,000 per month going to the Connetts. However, can you imagine the uproar from antis was there any proponent being paid this amount for his/her fluoridation activities?

    If anything I have posted in this comment is in error, or does not somehow sit well with the Connett people, then I challenge them to make all FAN income and expenses readily available to the public. Full transparency should be the goal of any such organization unless it believes it has something to hide.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

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  4. Wow! One thousand miserable dollars per month for Professor Connett to be savaged by those who would force poison down the throats of the unwilling. Shame. Shame. Shame. Up his salary!

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  5. Here comes a stuffed pig screaming! :-)

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  6. Thanks for the reminder, Steve. The name of the umbrella organisation FAN uses for tax returns is the American Evironmental Health studies Project. A search will bring up returns up to 2011.

    But the organisation Hirzy used is “American environmental Health Sciences” and uses Hirzy’s home as it’s contact address.

    They seem to be playing with names.

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  7. Stuart Mathieson

    I’m no expert (yet) in these matters but how does an organisation that has links with the ACT party pass itself off as a charitable organisation? It’s not a research organisation it’s a politically motivated misrepresentation organisation. A spin organisation in the best traditions of Americana!

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  8. Hi Blossom,
    Lovely to hear from you again!

    You are a bit like a slippery pig…you squeal, then when I ask a question you run off…

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  9. It could be a good time to challenge the charitable status of that organisation in NZ. The authorities have been look at organisations on their register and finding a few who don’t qualify.

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  10. I haven’t seen your questions, ChristAtkinson; but even if I did see them, there is nothing that obligates me to answer them.

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  11. No Ken, not a stuffed pig squealing. Merely a realist making an observation.

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  12. Stuart,

    Don’t know the rules in USA.

    Here you need to be a “Registered Charity” regulated by Dept. Internal Affairs. Once you’re on the register, the rest is a doddle.
    Charity…not very charitable if you ask me.

    Four heads you must fall under to qualify;

    Education
    Relief of Poverty
    Religion
    Other Public purposes

    see http://www.charities.govt.nz/

    Some interesting Charities here in NZ;

    St Georges Hospital (ChCh), Ngai Tahu, and Sanitarium (Seventh Day Adventist/Weetbix etc).

    Tax Free status and all that.

    Did you see the recent episode exposing Sanitarium et al on Campbell Live recently?

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  13. Re: Charitable status, to prevent ambiguity

    To qualify you only need to fall under one head, NOT all four

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  14. Must admit a reason for blossom’s non-appearance may have been my moderation. As you can tell he really doesn’t add anything of value. However, with the break in the exchange with Connett he might provide some entertainment.

    By the way, Paul seems to want to take up my offer of a right of reply – reckons he will send something next week.

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  15. No Blossom,

    Of course not Blossom, you are not obligated to answer anything.

    You can just jump on this blog, say what you want and run away

    The reason most people stick around to defend what they have to say is they have a sense of integrity…

    (ah, I see now you may have been moderated, perhaps we could have a conversation?)

    Like

  16. Wow! One thousand miserable dollars per month for Professor Connett to be savaged

    x 2, as Connett’s wife is also paid,
    $500 p/w ain’t bad as part of a multiple income stream (Books. speaking fees etc).

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  17. We need to remember, also, in these sorts of set-ups with retired people that any income they get is the icing on the cake as they already have an income from their pension and savings. An extra $24,000 per year could be quite attractive. Surely the son Michael gets something as well?

    I personally think that for many of these people it is more about ego than income. In retirement people often have trouble coming to grips with loss of status and recognition and will do things like this to get a pretend status. In effect they are prepared to do it for nothing.

    However, I am sure there are all sorts of ways people like Connett and Hirzy get remunerated. Ways that don’t show up in tax returns.

    >

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  18. It could be a good time to challenge the charitable status of that organisation in NZ.

    And that of the climate crank group whose *charitable* front NZ Climate Education Trust that took NIWA to court and lost, as every sane person observing the farce told them they would.
    (NZCET also has ACT ties)

    I hope someone is also keeping an eye on the *charity* to see if they attempt to somehow wriggle out of paying court ordered costs to NIWA.

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  19. Ken, What you think and what is truth can be as different as night is from day.

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  20. I remember that NZCET was on the register when first formed but had disappeared by the time of the court hearing. I assume because they couldn’t satisfy the requirements.

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  21. Charity law in NZ need to be overhauled badly.

    Spoke with a guy in ChCh who did his PhD researching the subject…he constantly calls them out on their lack of transparency, lack of philanthropy etc.

    You may not be aware, but did you know there is NO legal requirement for a Registered Charity to give $$ back to the community?

    Many of them operate as purely as a business…when I recently criticised an exclusive “private” (but registered Charity) hospital here in ChCh publically, they responded in the media by saying they gave away…wait for it…

    40 mattresses to the needy following the ChCh earthquake!!!

    WoW, so generous – and when they made nearly $14million in profit.

    (coincidentally, their maternity ward was bowled due to the earthquake…perhaps an excess of mattresses there…)

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  22. Come on blossom – surely you can do better than that. Why not try to engage with the discussions?

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  23. Just to see how obscenely lax the rules are take a look at;

    http://www.nzhealthtrust.co.nz/

    This is a Registered Charity

    http://www.register.charities.govt.nz/CharitiesRegister/ViewCharity?accountId=7bdefb05-4cdb-dc11-8026-0015c5f3da29&searchId=00d7dd4d-b303-4375-bf34-e532aae042b8

    Yep…Chem Trails, Amalgam, Vaccines, Fluoride……………you name it

    So…we are all underwriting the krazy krazy judicial review of South Taranaki District Council’s right to fluoridate…

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11163203

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  24. Hi Blossom,

    You seem shy…how about I make the first move…

    You seem to respect Mr Professor Dr Paul Connet,

    You say he should be paid more…

    So how much do you think he should be paid to keep up the good fight?

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  25. Of you look at the financial returns for 2013 for the NZ Health trust they received $200,000 in unspecified grants and spent 145,000 on legal expenses.

    Their grants are not charitable donations but will be grants from the business they represent in he natural medicine and alternative health industries.

    >

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  26. Interesting to note that income/assets for the previous year were small by comparison.

    Seems they have a tap they can turn on when they want…a naturally alternative tap

    Next years financials will be interesting, particularly in light of the legal action ramping up

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  27. Blossom

    The term for which you are seeking to describe yourself is not “realist”. It is “hypocrite”. Antifluoridationists constantly and inexplicably make unsubstantiated claims about fluoridation advocates being somehow paid. Yet, as soon as Connett’s and other antifluoridationist leaders blatant financial conflicts of interest are exposed, the antis come flocking out of the woodwork, exactly as you have done here, seeking to quickly trivialize this profiting.

    The amount is not important. Were it it brought to light that a fluoridation advocate was being paid ANY amount, I have no doubt, whatsoever, that you would be amongst the first in line to scream about it. The point is that amid all the nonsensical claims of “payment” to fluoride advocates, the only ones who actually seem to be profiting are the antifluoridationist leaders.

    How much does FAN pay for Connett’s trips to NZ, Australia, Europe, and all over the U.S.? Is he paid a salary as Director of FAN as well as the $2k per month he and his wife make from AEHS? What other salaries are paid by FAN? What “fees” may be paid by FAN to Michael Connett and/or others? What groups, organizations, and individuals are donors to FAN? Do these donors have financial interests in keeping the fluoridation “controversy” alive?

    Paul could clear up all of these questions if he chose to make the finances of his FAN completely transparent.

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

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  28. And yet “sharp as a pin” Mark just
    informed us that it is scientists that tow the line to keep their JOBS.

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  29. Sure beats working for a living.
    One great thing about science denial is that it’s easy.
    There’s never any pressure to make a new discovery or get test tubes dirty or anything.
    Rather than having to do the work that a scientist is expected to do, you can do the workload of a…pundit.

    Write a vanity press book or two.
    Keep a blog maybe.
    Give interviews on radio.
    Get on the lecture circuit.
    Attend some annual rally.
    Hop on a plane to some country or other on a junket paid for by the local suckers every once in a while.
    Nothing more strenuous than than. Just enough to stroke your fanbase.
    Easy money.

    Like

  30. And yet “sharp as a pin” Mark just
    informed us that it is scientists that tow the line to keep their JOBS.

    An oldie but a goodie.
    How many times have we all heard that line before?
    At least Mark has the integrity to speak in allcaps.
    It makes things so much more truer…ish.

    Claim CA321.1:
    “The conclusions of scientists are motivated by scientists’ pay; they cannot be considered objective.”

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  31. Ken
    “They seem to be playing with names.”

    I agree. It’s a shell game that requires a score card to keep up. Didn’t I read somewhere that Mary Byrne is on the Board of Directors of FAN, as well as being director of the local FANNZ? If so, then perhaps she would be willing to make FAN’s financials transparent?

    Steven D. Slott, DDS

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  32. Stuart Mathieson

    That’s $1000 ea per month Blossom. Viz $24,000 total p.a.
    That would pay for a cruise ship holiday for three months, a trip to NZ, or a month in the Bahamas.

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  33. Stuart Mathieson

    I see the Creationists in Texas have just lost an important battle to stop the evolutionary account in a major biology text book. Praise the Lord!

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  34. Stuart Mathieson

    On Alan Turing’s pardon.
    If the anti fluoride, anti vax, homophobic, anti science loons had been around in sufficient numbers we wouldn’t have cracked the Inigma Code and we’d all be Goose Stepping!

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  35. Stuart Mathieson

    I see in N.S, scientists have discovered coral around Palau seem to be thriving on spite of increased acidity. Given the conspiracy to lie and cheat to hoodwink the public and line our pockets, how come that got out?

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  36. Hi Steve,

    FANNZ is an incorporated society here in NZ and as such does not have the director/shareholder structure of a company (corporation).
    As I see it Mary Byrne is an Officer of this society. On the FANNZ website, it claims she is a National Co-ordinator and media contact. However on the Societies and Trusts register,

    http://www.societies.govt.nz/cms/banner_template/CNAME

    the rules of the society were amended in 2010 stating that Graham Mark Atkin is the National Coordinator?

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  37. Speaking of Charities etc…
    I noticed The International Society for Fluoride Research Incorporated
    is a registered Charity, Bruce Spittle being an Officer…

    http://www.register.charities.govt.nz/CharitiesRegister/ViewCharity?accountId=db0b76b3-358a-dc11-98a0-0015c5f3da29&searchId=f124f567-e0ee-4ddd-84f5-5e3cf3bd9f5e

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  38. Chris, I think I saw that Mary is on the Board of Directors of Connett’s FAN. No doubt she is monitoring these comments, so maybe she would care to comment on her status with FAN as well as on the question of its transparency, or lack thereof? Steven D. Slott, DDS

    Like

  39. Stuart Mathieson

    Article here (from 3Quarks Daily and Slate) by Michael Robbins denigrating Dawkins and co as “undergrad atheists”. It purports to represent the sentiments of philosopher Mark Johnson (“Saving God”). I’m not sure that it does. I haven’t read the book but a copy is on the way from Amazon.
    What it does represent though is the sentiments of that fraternity determined to save discredited and oppressive fictions and regimes by among other things,resorting to “argument by foreclosure” as Clifford Geertz called it.
    Typically this means that science cannot discredit religion because it isn’t religion! These folks are typically “anti realist” and often neo Marxists  who believe “truth” is an outdated concept and as long as it is internally coherent “anything goes”. “Truth” is dispensed with and “ideology” or “useful fictions” takes its place. I call it “neo-Lyshenkoism”.  This seems to be the MO of our anti F friends.

    http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2014/01/more-on-the-undergraduate-atheists.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+3quarksdaily+%283quarksdaily%29

    Like

  40. Three statements jumped out at me Stuart,

    The first has nothing to do with…well anything really…

    “I have encountered atheists who seem not only to have never met an intelligent, educated believer, but to doubt that such a creature could exist”

    educated of course…
    Intelligent… Not enough evidence, [God,] not enough evidence

    But seriously…seeing the quantity of cognitive dissonance displayed here over the past few months, I ‘spose it is possible.

    But more to the point;

    “But you do have to acknowledge that there is a question, “the major question that revolves around you,” as John Ashbery puts it: “your being here.””

    Why?

    “And you have to recognize that it concerns something outside the scope of the natural sciences”

    And again, have I missed something. Why?

    Perhaps someone could enlighten me?

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  41. Stuart Mathieson

    Logically speaking in theory it’s possible there is nothing outside the scope of the natural sciences and if there was how could you establish that?

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  42. The thing that irritated me was the (typically) arrogant way the question was posed.

    ““the major question that revolves around you,” …

    Back to that old hoary chestnut that we are centre of the universe
    Yep, we are so special.

    I wonder how this perennial gem will be revised if/when life elsewhere is discovered?

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  43. Stuart Mathieson

    Well of course according to the epistemology they subscribe to, you are the centre of “the” universe, your view of “the” universe which is the only universe your mind can consider (they argue). So we all live in different universes. It’s actually a tautology but there you go.

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  44. Stuart Mathieson

    “I wonder how this perennial gem will be revised if/when life elsewhere is discovered?” you say. The tautologous argument I referred to, the late David Stove philosopher from Sydney referred to it as the “Gem” fallacy. The details are in his wonderful book “The Plato Cult and other Philosophical Follies. A very entertaining read.

    Like

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