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April 2010 Archives
Toyotas being recalled for LACK of acceleration!
By Michael Fumento
Toyota is recalling about 50,000 2003 Sequoia SUVs to upgrade the software in the vehicle's electronic stability control. Without the upgrade, according to Consumer Reports, when the Sequoia accelerates from a stopped position, the system could activate at a low speed (about 9 mph) for a few seconds, which might cause slower acceleration than the driver expects.
Toyota having done so, we can now expect a surge of complaints to NHTSA. Every Toyota recall notice leads to those. And, interestingly enough, they will actually be counted as sudden acceleration complaints! That's because NHTSA has no category for "sudden acceleration," merely a "speed control" category. Go through the February "Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration" report of trial lawyer assistant Sean Kane and you'll find in the list of NHTSA complaints that Kane explicitly identifies as regarding "sudden acceleration" a huge number that actually refer to LACK OF acceleration.
Another twist is that half of the recalled vehicles have already been fixed, according to Toyota. That's because it published a Technical Service Bulletin in 2003, after the problem was identified, and dealers have been replacing the system's electronic control unit in affected vehicles to address individual owner concerns.
Toyota says there have been no reported injuries or accidents as a result of this problem.
Meanwhile, in events you're much less likely to hear about, Porsche and Volvo issued simultaneous recalls, Porsche for its 2010 Panamera, which happens to be what I drive! (If only in my dreams.) Volvo for its 2010XC90.
The Panamera recall is because under certain conditions a seat belt mount could detach from its anchoring system, possibly leading to inadequate passenger protection in a crash. Volvo XC90 SUVs are being recalled because of a possible fuel-line leak that could lead to a fire. In other words, both of these cars' defects can be deadly. But to reiterate, it's the Toyota recall getting all the media attention.
Welcome to Hysteria World!
"Why the undying 'mystery' of Gulf War Syndrome must die," my NRO article
By Michael Fumento
Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) is back in the news, thanks to a new study released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and so is the persistent effort to label it a "mystery." See, for example, the story by a HealthDay reporter headlined "Gulf War Syndrome Is Real, but Causes Unclear: Report." Says the article, "its causes, treatment, and potential cure remain unknown."
A definite mystery, right? Well, no, as I explain in my NRO article "Why the undying 'mystery' of Gulf War Syndrome must die."
There are two "causes" of GWS - the second of which is actually quite interesting, but not mysterious. The first explanation is a normal background rate of disease. That is, among the over 700,000 Americans who served in the Gulf War, there is no more sickness, and the death rate is no higher, than you’d expect in a group of that size and of those demographics after 19 years.
As I conclude, "Perhaps you can argue that if we demand mysteries, the media are merely doing us a service in providing them. But there can be a dark side. Is this how we should repay 700,000 people who sacrificed of themselves for us?"
There's also a tie-in to my current "crusade," against another hysteria, the one involving Toyota. I originally teased a lot of people saying I was going to show how Toyotas were like pit bulls. They laughed and called me mad! But I showed them here. Then I teased that I was going to compare the Toyota hysteria with vomit that glows in the dark. Again, they laughed and called me mad! Well, here's where I show it.
My next article will show how Toyotas are like jelly doughnuts. Again, they'll laugh and call me mad! Wait a second, I would be mad if I said that. Well, skip it. But don't skip this article.
Waxman baseball tobacco ban not worth chewing on
By Michael Fumento
Major League Baseball should ban players from using smokeless tobacco in dugouts and on the field because of its health risks and influence on kids, according to Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Ca.), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
"Millions of young fans are exposed on a daily basis to the use of smokeless tobacco by their heroes," Waxman, a California Democrat, said recently at a hearing in Washington. "This is a serious health risk. The increased use of smokeless tobacco will mean millions more teens getting hooked on nicotine."
A few points up front.
Anybody who uses tobacco in any form has a screw loose. It's a powerful carcinogen. Chewing tobacco, or smokeless tobacco as it's sometimes called, can cause cancer to any part of the body it touches, including lip, tongue, cheeks, gums, and the floor and roof of the mouth. Here are some pretty pictures for you. Personally, I like those body parts. Granted most people who chew will not develop cancer from it. It's all a matter of odds.
Chewing is clearly one of the most disgusting habits ever invented. The only ones I can think of that are more disgusting are too disgusting to mention. For example, there's . . . Nope!
At one time in public places like post offices and train stations, women had to hold up their skirts as they walked because the floor was literally covered with spit. Sure, there were plenty of spittoons but invariably men's aim was off and a lot of men never even tried to use them. Why, when there was a perfectly good piece of floor below them?
I tried chewing tobacco once when it was offered to me in the Army. The nicotine rush came on so fast I almost fainted. The taste was horrific. Yeah, I spit and fast.
I also don't doubt that seeing their sports heroes chew leads some younger people to chew, and that's truly deplorable.
My problem with Waxman's would-be edict is that this isn't something the government should do, it's something Major League Baseball, individual teams, and fan groups should do.
There has never been a more powerful motivator than societal opprobrium and approval. Society makes clear certain things are wrong or right through social carrots and sticks. But it doesn't work when government does it, because government just passes a law. The more government became involved in negative behaviors like unwed pregnancy the worse they got, in part because government involvement replaced the old strictures.
Why is chewing already vastly less common than it once was? (Note inset photo with a spittoon behind every shooter in a gallery. When I go shooting, there's no spittoon behind me.) It's the success of societal opprobrium.
In other words, it's precisely because I think that chewing is such a bad habit that I want government to back off. This is an issue for others to deal with. And actually, I've got a nifty idea. Instead of directly outlawing spitting, why doesn't MLB mandate a spittoon at the pitcher's mound and at each base? THAT will send a message!
Fumento Needs Patron Support
By Michael Fumento
I've provided a unique and valuable service for almost a quarter century. Nobody else does what I do. But if I'm to continue, I must receive substantial patron support. Without it, and soon, the pipeline goes dry.
Ever since my debunking of the 'heterosexual AIDS explosion' in 1987, I have repeatedly stood entirely or almost entirely alone among journalists and scholars in reporting the truth on a wide range of hugely important topics. Yet I've consistently been proved right while those who were wrong shamelessly moved on to misrepresenting the next big story.
I debunked both major hoaxes of 2009 and of 2010, the alleged "swine flu emergency" and the "runaway Prius." I'll soon do the same for the entire Toyota witch hunt. I have "a knack," as Publisher's Weekly put it, "for debunking popular beliefs and revealing the true state of things." I've brought hysterias to a screeching halt, calming terrified people and saving massive amounts of taxpayer dollars. Here's a list of some of my exposes.
Since I began writing under the name of the Independent Journalism Project in mid-June, I have placed over three dozen heavily-researched, original pieces on major topics in publications like the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Forbes Online, Investor's Business Daily, NRO, the New York Post, and newspapers around the world.
But these publications pay anywhere from almost nothing to nothing, yet they're my total income. I could triple my wages flipping burgers. And no, I can't make ends meet by writing a book because heavily-researched books such as mine also pay well below minimum wage, To the contrary, I have two very important books in me that will never see print if I don't get support.
On the whole, I've published over 800 articles and columns (virtually all on my Web site), five heavily annotated-books (four with major publishers), several book chapters, two monographs, and uncounted white papers. I also blog prolifically on a broad range of subjects.
An objective measurement of my impact includes Amazon.com citations, Google Scholar mentions, and overall search engine hits on Yahoo! I have, respectively: 360, 900, and 1.8 million.
Insofar as William Shakespeare made virtually nothing from his work and therefore relied on patronage, I'm in good company. Ultimately, nobody in public policy gets by without some form of patron support. Ultimately, no plant produces fruit for long without sustenance. If I cannot get that sustenance working for the public, I'll have to get it from private industry.
And by the way, if you're thinking, "Surely somebody else will provide it!" Well, guess what? That's exactly what they're thinking!
My unique abilities should stay in the public domain. I'm making a difference in the world and you can make a difference through me. Learn more here about what you and I can accomplish together.
Hate mail from an M.D. regarding my AOL News piece, "Did WHO Knowingly Hype Swine Flu?"
By Michael Fumento
Dear Mr. Fumento:
Well, if you wish to destroy the credibility of the WHO, publishing a few more articles like the most recent one [Did WHO Knowingly Hype Swine Flu?"] should be quite a help.
As an individual who happens to know quite a bit about medicine, influenza, public health and pandemic influenza planning and response, my opinion (which sadly won't be published and broadcast to the world) is that you don't know what you are talking about. Understandable since you have, apparently, absolutely no background in medicine or public health.
Quite clearly, if the WHO had underplayed the threat and lives had been lost that, in your opinion, could have been saved, you would now be savaging the WHO for underplaying the threat. Apparently, in the fantasy world you inhabit, complete accuracy in predicting the future is not only possible, but required. Next time, I will know better than to read an article with your byline.
David Buhner MD MS
Dear Dr. Buhner:
Let me try to understand this. The WHO changes the definition of "pandemic" so that it can label as such a strain that's clearly vastly milder than seasonal flu. It then proceeds to lie repeatedly about having changed the definition, notwithstanding that both versions remain on its Web site. But in pointing this out, *I* am the bad guy; I'm the one destroying the WHO's credibility. The WHO played no role in all this. Ever hear the expression about shooting the messenger?
Actually, I've been publishing on medicine and public health for 23 years so the ad hominem doesn't go too far. I also don't accept another logical fallacy you've offered, that of "black and white." It is not the case that the WHO must either grossly overstate the threat of a contagion in order to prevent understating it. A key paragraph in my article is this:
It's not as if the WHO knew nothing about the mildness of H1N1 early on. I wrote about it on May 1, subsequently publishing 14 articles in major publications on what I immediately dubbed hysteria. If I knew better, there's no reason the WHO shouldn't have known better.
Why did a single journalist, albeit one with a very strong medicine and public health background, with no budget, know so much so early that the WHO apparently did not? You have the choice of ignorance or intent. Insofar as my piece also contained strong evidence of intent, that would be the logical choice.
Return of the swine flu boogyeman!
By Michael Fumento
Swine flu has proved a terrible embarrassment for the CDC and especially the WHO, as I'll be discussing in a forthcoming article. Still, all is not lost says John Mackenzie, head of the WHO's secretive Emergency Committee. He told Reuters that swine flu is just as severe as we saw in [the pandemics of ]1957 and 1968 at least with regard to children. “We are not seeing deaths in the elderly but we are seeing them in a more important group of the population, healthy young adults.” He offered no data in support – and for good reason.
Younger people comprise a larger portion of swine flu deaths than seasonal flu does, but only because so few people in the other age categories are dying. The American College Health Association Pandemic Influenza Surveillance of Influenza Like Illness (ILI) in Colleges and Universities currently indicates that of 95,000 cases serious enough to be reported (and by definition milder cases go unreported), there have been merely four deaths.
The CDC does report that pediatric deaths have been about double the normal toll during a flu season, but as I've explained previously they're almost certainly overcounting - which is possible because of the distinction between dying of the flu and with the flu. In any case, with the CDC estimating a total of 12,000 dead of flu this year (as opposed to the usual 36,000), those 272 still comprise only 2.66 percent of total deaths.
None of which is to say 272 deaths isn't a tragedy. Of course it is. But it's also a tragedy when the World Health Organization, you know, the only world health organization we have, continues to lie to us and our media continue to accept it without question.
Toyota's "questionable, evasive, and deceptive legal tactics"
By Michael Fumento
"Toyota has routinely engaged in questionable, evasive and deceptive legal tactics when sued, frequently claiming it does not have information it is required to turn over and sometimes even ignoring court orders to produce key documents, an Associated Press investigation shows." Or has it? I'm not necessarily challenging their conclusion, I'm really asking.
The point of my Toyota writings so far has been that the company builds great cars and has been falsely maligned. That doesn't mean it hasn't engaged in wrongful courtroom antics, though, and the company just doesn't pay me enough to say otherwise. (Actually for the record they don't pay me anything. Nor does any PR firm. HOWEVER, for one of these babies, it's just possible they can buy me off and I think they have nothing to lose in trying. See inset.)
One problem is it is indeed just AP's review. As my articles have made clear, the media are on a witch hunt and just as witch hunters of yore often believed they were doing the Lord's work, so do those of today. And just as those witch hunters were often just a bit too quick to see evidence of witchcraft where none was to be found, so too today.
Another problem is that it's clear from the article that the "experts" upon whom the journalists relied aren't just lawyers, aren't just trial lawyers, but are trial lawyers suing Toyota. "Automobile manufacturers, in my practice, have been the toughest to deal with when it comes to sharing information," one lawyer told AP, " but Toyota has no peer." He represents somebody killed in a Toyota crash.
Then we're told, "Similar claims have been lodged by Dimitrios Biller, a former Toyota attorney who sued the company in August, contending it withheld evidence in considerably older rollover cases."
To its credit, AP does say, "Attorneys who regularly defend corporate clients say it's common for plaintiffs' lawyers to complain they are not receiving the information they need and that Toyota's tactics do not necessarily indicate nefarious intent." Moreover, if you pore over enough lawsuits you will find discrepancies.
That's the old rule of "The more you look, the more you find." It's pretty much a given that if you analyze every tort case Toyota has been involved in over the last decade or so, you'll probably find some legal wrongdoing - and the same would be true for Ford or GM.
The jury is still out on this one.
"The Karzai Conundrum," my Forbes Online piece
By Michael Fumento
"If I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban," Afghan President Hamid Karzai allegedly told several members of his nation's parliament Monday. The U.S. reaction should be: "Don't let a camel bite you on the butt on the way out."
As I write in my Forbes Online article, "The Karzai Conundrum," including knowledge I gleaned while embedded in Afghanistan, Karzai is displeased because we're displeased with him.
But it's not a standoff. We have excellent reasons. Even by Afghan standards he's crooked. Worse, he's become arrogant - "King Karzai" in his own mind. If we are to win the war he either needs to undergo a character transformation on the order of Ebenezer Scrooge's, or we need him gone.
PETA's meat lust defense to murder
By Michael Fumento
Terrence Jones, 20, of Washington, D.C. is on trial for the murder of Tanganika Stanton, whom he shot through the heart two years ago. Stanton, 18, was sitting outside her apartment building eating a hamburger that her mother had fixed for her. Jones saw her, said he wanted one, and asked both women to make it for him. The mother and daughter said no.
So Jones left, returned with a gun, and fired what a witness called a "large volley of gunfire." He hit Stanton's mother in the foot, while another round passed through Stanton's left shoulder and pierced her heart. Jones is charged with second-degree murder while armed.
Obviously there's utterly no excuse for his actions. Except . . .
In proof yet again that satire is dead (Yes, I know I've repeatedly used that expression, but that's because we keep getting proof yet again that satire is dead) PETA sent a letter to the head of the D.C. Department of Corrections urging him to place Jones on an all-vegetarian diet."The only way to stop his involvement in senseless killings is to provide him with exclusively vegetarian meals," wrote the organization's executive vice president Tracy Reiman.
Forget that since he's in custody you could probably force-feed him beef, pork, and kidney pie and he would no longer be involved in senseless killings. Sadly, if you live in the D.C. area you hear about all sorts of "senseless killings" that add real meaning to the term, such as murdering somebody for his jacket and in the process ruining it with bullet holes.
Apparently it never occurred to PETA that a man who is so lacking in having his own heart that he's willing to shoot another person who does have a heart for a hamburger would also do the same for a tofu burger. Jones isn't the only one here who's deranged.
D.C. area poll shows, once again, OTHER Americans are crummy drivers
By Michael Fumento
Why are people killed in Toyotas? Because a huge number of Americans are killed by motor vehicles of all types and Toyota has been the third biggest seller her for the past decade. Why do so many people complain about sudden unintended acceleration in Toyotas? Because so many Americans complain of sudden unintended vehicles across the board and see above. And what links these two? Americans are crummy drivers. But mind you, it's not us it's them!
"Fully 80 percent of area adults often see distracted driving, with reports of such behavior surging in the past five years," according to a new Washington Post poll . More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they often witness overly aggressive driving. Yet only one in eight considers his or her own driving too aggressive.
Almost everyone polled, including those under 30, said sending or reading texts or e-mails while driving should be illegal. But nearly a fourth of respondents said they e-mail, text or use the Internet while driving. For young adults that goes up to 40 percent.
"Do as I say, not as I do" is a common attitude. Often it's a joke line. But when it comes to driving, in a nation that's lost 400,000 people on the roads in the past decade of which all of 56 have been "associated with" runaway Toyotas (about half the total butcher's bill per day, the joke isn't very funny.
"A Good Friday to Remember," my essay in NRO
By Michael Fumento
Good Friday, April 17, 1992: I'd just started a great job at Investor's Business Daily in Los Angeles, and two weeks earlier I'd purchased the car of my dreams, a beautiful, blue Toyota MR2 Turbo. To me, at least, it looked like a small Ferrari. It was fast and sleek. I was taking my girlfriend, Mary, who had just recently followed me out from Denver, where we'd met, to see a city she'd always dreamed of visiting: San Francisco.
But we were in no hurry, and I wanted her to see the majestic beauty of the central California coastline. That meant taking the Pacific Coast Highway. Cut into the cliffs and filled with sharp, winding turns, it can make for a white-knuckle ride in many parts. As the driver, you take quick glances at the scenery and then shoot your eyes back to the road. A front-page article in the Monterey County Herald would later be aptly titled "The Beauty and Danger of Highway 1." An accompanying piece: "Rocks and Surf below Highway Become Tomb for Some."
Those articles would be about us.
My essay "A Good Friday to Remember" isn't my usual fare, but judging from my email so far it's a powerful piece. It will make even a skeptic - somebody like me - think about the possibility of miracles.
CDC dumping swine flu vaccine - after media dumped the truth
By Michael Fumento
What do you get from a phony flu scare? Among other things, lots of worthless vaccine.
"Despite months of dire warnings and millions in taxpayer dollars, less than half of the 229 million doses of H1N1 vaccine the government bought to fight the pandemic have been administered - leaving an estimated 71.5 million doses that must be discarded if they are not used before they expire." So reports the Washington Post's Rob Stein.
Actually, it's billions of dollars but who's counting? And actually Rob Stein contributed to all this with such article ledes as: "Swine flu could infect half the U.S. population this fall and winter, hospitalizing up to 1.8 million people and causing as many as 90,000 deaths - more than double the number that occur in an average flu season, according to an estimate from a presidential panel released Monday."
Of course, who knew better back then in August? Well, I did. Just days later in the Philadelphia Inquirer I noted statistics showing swine flu to be vastly milder than seasonal flu and said swine flu appears to be replacing the current seasonal H1N1 virus. Therefore, as one former WHO epidemiologist told me, "My bet is that the coming [U.S.] season will not be too severe - at or below that of a usual flu season."
And indeed, the latest CDC estimate, with the flu almost gone, is that 12,000 Americans have died this season as opposed to the typical 36,000. And as I've written, data from other countries indicate the CDC estimates are almost certainly far too high. Did I have access to any information the Washington Post didn't? Or for that matter The New York Times or Wall Street Journal or USA Today and on and on? Obviously not.
Of course, now the media have moved on to a new hysteria: "Runaway Killer Toyotas." And they're playing the same game. Why was I the one who exposed the "runaway Prius" hoax? Did I have access to any information the rest of the media did not?
And yet they're still not telling the truth about the hoax.
Four days after my piece appeared, the Washington Post declared driver James "Sikes said he tried to free his gas pedal with his hand but did not say whether he put the car in neutral." As I had noted he repeatedly said he did not try to put the car in neutral, including at a press conference available on the Web and in a CNN interview on the Web. And importantly, the reasons he gave showed beyond any doubt he was lying. That's why it's important to the Post that its readers not know that.
The media still pursue stories to be sure. But if you believe they place much value on pursuit of the truth, might I inquire as to the address of the rock under which you've been living?
Car buyers rejecting "Toyota Terror" accusations
By Michael Fumento
"Terror on the Roads: Runaway Toyotas," was the title of an entry on a prominent Brazilian blog March 31.
But today Toyota Motor Sales reported March sales increased 35.3 percent over the same period last year, on a daily selling rate (DSR) basis.
Meanwhile the Harvard Business Review has analyzed a survey of U.S. American vehicle owners conducted between February 20 and March 2 to find out how they feel about Toyota. They found "Toyota owners' overall satisfaction was in line with other vehicle owners'."
Said the journal:
These respondents aren't living under rocks. Both for Toyota and non-Toyota owners, 93% of respondents had heard about the recalls. But contrary to media prognostications, the recalls don't appear to have affected the Toyota brand image adversely among its customers. Toyota owners, compared to owners of other vehicles, agreed more strongly that Toyota appropriately handled issues with respect to the brake-pedal recall; they were more likely to say they believed that this incident is an outlier, that typically Toyota has a strong reputation for quality, and that recall shows Toyota's commitment to customer safety.
. . .did not believe that "domestic automakers such as GM, Ford, and Chrysler are catching up to Toyota and Honda in either safety or reliability." And regarding the big question, "Would you buy another Toyota? Again, the results were clear. Toyota owners did not believe they would be less likely to buy a Toyota vehicle in the future because of sudden accelerator furor, indicated greater willingness than non-Toyota customers to consider buying a Toyota, and considered Toyota to be one of the most reliable automotive brands.
Together these indicate that Toyota sales may not suffer in the long term, unlike with Audi after it suffered its own sudden acceleration witch hunt in the 1980s. That said, tort lawyers have filed suits that could cost the company many billions of dollars. What the free market system perhaps won't do, the legal system very well could.