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Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: Exceptionally Unbelievably Transparent

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

"Transparent" seems to be the word of the week, if not the millennium, and when you hear it you just know it's insincere. After saying that the Clinton Foundation is "among the most transparent" foundations, Chelsea Clinton said this week that in the wake of questions about possible conflicts of interest, "We'll be even more transparent."

In the wake of the drone strikes that tragically killed two hostages, President Obama  voiced deep regret but "praised what he claimed was his administration’s exceptionally transparent response to the tragedy," according to the Guardian:

"He said he had decided to make the existence of the operation public because Weinstein and Lo Porto’s families 'deserve to know the truth' and 'the United States is a democracy, committed to openness, in good times and in bad.'"

The New York Times, however, called for more, well, transparency: "For years, the Obama administration has kept its drone strikes shrouded in great secrecy, knowing that what have been described as precision attacks on terrorist targets have also killed innocent civilians." (I can't help but mention that I wrote in last week's column: "While we're sending drones over Pakistan and building ill will -- Pakistan officials are talking about charging former CIA agents with murder -- the country just signed a $46 billion infrastructure improvement pact with China. We are not winning the future by fighting everyone else in the world.")

Oh, and the Toronto Star changed the headline on its Gardasil article from "A wonder drug's dark side" to "Families seek more transparency on HPV vaccine" -- before deleting it from their Web site altogether. Not very transparent on the part of the Star.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the CDC used the word or its variations 25 times in a recent report, noting that because the American Academy of Pediatrics saw the need for "transparent evidence-based approach for its policies and endorsement, AAP established a Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management (SCOQIM) in 2001."

Let me tell you something. SCOQIM and ACIP and the BH&CCF and the HPV vaccine makers and the drone program are not about transparency at all. They are about opacity; they are all about what they can do without us knowing about it. Whenever I think of transparency I remember what Bill Clinton said to journalists at the start of the Monica Lewinsky Scandal: 

"You and the American people have a right to get answers. We are working very hard to comply and get all the requests for information up here, and we will give you as many answers as we can, as soon as we can, at the appropriate time, consistent with our obligation to also cooperate with the investigations. 

"And that's not a dodge, that's really why I've – I've talked with our people. I want to do that. I'd like for you to have more rather than less, sooner rather than later. So we'll work through it as quickly as we can and get all those questions out there to you." 

Uh, no. That was a dodge. (Lest you think I'm picking on Democrats, please note that Gov. Chris Christie has something called a Transparency Center, which his aides apparently overlooked when they slowed traffic into Manhattan out of transparent spite.) The people who run government and big business are dodgy by profession, by job description. I just wish they would quit claiming they weren't. In fact, if any one of them took sodium pentathol before their next press availability and were asked a tough question, their answer would be, "That's for us to know and you to find out."

In fact, a maddening lack of transparency is at the heart of the vaccine safety debacle. Transparency about vaccine court settlements, about autism-vaccine research, about drug company trials would have ended this tragedy before it really got going. Instead, behind closed doors the people who were supposedly looking out for the consumer and taxpayer conspired to hide the truth -- at Simpsonwood, in IOM deliberations, in VSD data that was "lost" and sold off to keep it private, in fudged numbers from the studies that Bill Thompson is now telling the truth about. I am sure I can find you quotes from every one of those groups about how transparent they try to be.

It is galling to hear the powers that be talk about how dedicated they are to getting the truth out there and letting the chips fall where they may. Sorry, I don't believe it. As an English major, I've been turning Obama's comment on 60 Minutes about vaccines (in response to the measly measles outbreak) over in my mind for the past few weeks: "There is every reason to get vaccinated -- there aren't reasons to not." There aren't reasons not to?  This is the way people talk when they are not being transparent. There are reasons not to, the telling of which would require a transparency up with which the powers that be are not about to put. It gets all tangled, syntactically and otherwise, when you don't just tell the truth. To quote a famous parody of Time magazine, "Backwards ran sentences until reeled the mind. Where it will end, knows God!"


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.



John Stone


I was thinking that they are transparent: they are transparent liars.

Godfrey Wyl
"We got this long missive about how they would have to hire people to do the analysis and copying of case information."

Given the breadth of Mr. Krakow's request, I am not surprised at the result, which is presented in Appendix III of Holland et al. and appears to amount to two basic pages (alterations in original, emphases added):

1. Records containing all decisions, including Special Masters written decisions and orders or other explanatory material, granting entitlement to compensation under the [VICP].

2. Duplicate of point 1.

3. All memoranda or other material evidencing the outcome of petitions filed with the [VICP].

4. All records containing statistics or other analysis of decisions granting or denying entitlement to compensation of petitions filed with the [VICP].

5. All records indicating criteria used by HRSA or related agencies to determine whether a vaccine injury claim should or should not be compensated.

What is regrettably omitted is the detailed cost breakdown (emphasis in original):

The costs are detailed in the attached receipt and total $754,625.

To characterize what the outcome would have been as "redacted nonsense" is itself nonsensical. The FOIA does not guarantee unfettered access to thousands of individuals' medical records. The exemptions are no more a secret than the fee schedule:

Another item that I fail to understand about the underlying complaint regards "2+ years of work to figure out [the rarity of] the Child Doe 77 case"; how many years would it have taken to meaningfully examine what would have easily been 100,000 pages in the context of what was actually done?

Was any subsequent attempt made to tailor the request to something more focused? I fail to see how a mandated agency could approach the task of identifying "[a]ll records containing statistics or other analysis of decisions granting or denying entitlement to compensation of petitions filed with the [VICP]" without going through all records per se.


This is one awesome article Dan! Can't wait to share it. Backwards reels the mind. This is the third time I've commented on an article. Will this one get shown?


The spin emphasizes the "tactically" in syntactically. Always thought provoking and thank you.


Mr Conte
Thank you for the link!
I learned there that vaccine makers have a legal "right to not disclose known risks to parents or guardians of those being vaccinated" pertinent to mandatory vax laws.
People involved in these programs seem to be missing a basic humanity chip.

John Stone

Another great trick is to "take full responsibility" when there aren't any consequences:

PS So, can the President be arrested for the murder of these men - of course not, he is just playing big. What an ....!

Louis Conte

We got this long missive about how they would have to hire people to do the analysis and copying of case information.

The whole affair is in the Unanswered Question paper:

Anita donnelly

If it was $750k to get the documents doesn't that make an oxymoron of "freedom of information act"

Angus Files

Transparent as mud...


Denise Anderstrom Douglass

Dear Dan and Louis, and everybody at Age of Autism: do not stop. Do not give up. It is not about left or right or political parties anymore. As they used to say, "Throw the bums out!" All the bums.

What we need is a little forthright Anglo-Saxon mother tongue, which is short and sweet: they are now so fucking transparent we can see right through them!


Maybe Chelsea Clinton thinks being "more transparent" is kinda like being "more pregnant."

What a neat rhetorical trick: Inflate an "is/isn't" commodity into a value-added bonus bubble... which, of course, inevitably pops within a matter of months.

Her own parents certainly are masters of spin. I wonder what they and Chelsea will be teaching her eczema-covered infant... if the celebutot is lucky enough to not become learning disabled from overvaccination.


Spot on Dan! I enjoy reading everything you write.


What is the justification for charging $750k?

Just curious. Did they give a reason?

Jeannette Bishop

"syntactically" - might be the perfect word for how vaccines are promoted

But as someone who can't seem to not use a double negative sometimes (and I sometimes put in three because two doesn't seem to convey enough, I guess, with all the qualifying moderators, anyway), I think I'm at least transparently uncomfortable about putting out absolutes (even though I love hearing them, except when I don't) that might turn out to be false, in some circumstances anyway, and our government, instead of the annoying avoidance of using absolute falsehoods in case the truth might turn out in a politically and legally bad way (wish that would happen with vaccine injury...), seems to now be increasingly comfortable with putting out increasingly transparently already demonstrably false falsehoods (bald-faced lies?) in regards to vaccination (anything else?), though maybe "comfortable" is not the right word.


There is a principle in advertising, that you emphasize what you are not.

Eileen Nicole Simon

Brain damage should be the focus of all discussions about autism. Otherwise nothing is transparent or evident. How do vaccine components, valproic acid, genetic disorders, asphyxia at birth, and all other causes of autism affect the brain? Until the brain becomes part of the conversation, autism as a fascinating mystery will continue as the official viewpoint.

Speaking of transparency, has the IACC gone completely invisible? Responding belatedly to email messages yesterday, I tried to include a link to a presentation on the brain that I made back in 2008. The IACC website seems to have disappeared, including all our public comments. Are we to be stuck now with only the official opinions?

Louis Conte

I recall working with Bob Krakow, Mary Holland and Lisa Colin and crafting a Freedom of Information letter to HHS to get information on cases compensated by the NVICP. We were sort of hopeful because the new President declared that there would be a new era of transparency.

We got a letter back telling us that we'd get redacted nonsense that would cost 750K and that we'd have to wait 5 years for it.

We just didn't have that kind of money sitting around.

So off we go into 2+ years of work to figure out if the Child Doe 77 case was really as rare as Former CDC Director (now MERCK employee) Julie Gerbeding said it was.

83 cases of autism later, we found that it wasn't.

These obfuscators throw the word transparency around as much as they want. As long as they continue to poison another generation and cover it up, it means nothing.

What we need is an era of honesty.


Backwards have it you. To get vaccinated there is every reason. Heil sieg!

Bob moffitt

I agree Dan .. lack of "transparency" within government at the highest levels is a "bi-partisan" tactic employed by BOTH parties .. in almost every facet of government, financial, defense, foreign relations .. and .. most unfortunately .. public heatlh is probably the least "transparent" bureacracy of them all.

(As a prime example .. Prof Gruber stated: Lack of transparency was critical to passing the Affordable Care Act. Is that exactly what just happened in California?)

And so .. it really does not matter which "party" is in control of the Senate or Congress .. or .. the Oval office itself .. the very successful bi-partisan strategy of .. delay, deny and hope they die .. will continue unabated.

Unfortunately, even the remedies to pierce that lack of transparency .. such as .. the Freedom of Information Act .. or .. protecting whistle-blowers .. are easily and routinely circumvented.

Hopefully the Merck whistleblowers and Dr. Thompson will have their day in court and not suffer undue consequences for their courage to "speak out".

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