May 2010 Archives

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Sudden Acceleration in Media Falsehoods Regarding Toyota

By Michael Fumento

"Now that the dust has begun to settle on Toyota's recall fiasco, it's being made clear that the toll on human life was greater than initially reported," reports U.S. News & World Report online. The title: "NHTSA: 89 Deaths Caused by Unintended Acceleration in Toyota Vehicles."

Not exactly true. Says who? NHTSA. Here's an email I received this morning from their press office.

Please remember these are customer generated complaints of alleged unintended acceleration that have not been verified by NHTSA:
"As of May 20, 2010, NHTSA has received complaints covering a total of seventy-one (71) fatal incidents that allegedly involve unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles since 2000. These reports covering incidents dating back to 2000 include eighty-nine (89) fatalities and fifty-seven (57) injuries."

The emphasis is original. They used both bold and italics to try to make the point. And it just doesn't seem to take, does it?

In fairness, often news outlets do make it clear these are mere allegations, but they never make it clear enough how tenuous the link is. You can send NHTSA a complaint online or by phone and claim absolutely anything you want. You say that your Toyota become a giant Transformer, wreaked havoc on Manhattan, and then became a Civic again? That's fine. The computer won't spit your complaint back out.

I went through the process on the NHTSA complaint page myself and was one keyboard tap away from turning those 89 deaths into 93 deaths.

And that's how 19 deaths associated with Toyota sudden acceleration in November, before the first class action suit was filed, has become 89 deaths. No, more people haven't died. More people have simply come to the conclusion that a death in their Toyota over the last decade was caused by sudden acceleration. The offer of lucre has a way of jogging the ol' memory.

I'll be writing more on this. Meanwhile, I've published 10 articles on the hysteria and there's a lot more where that came from.

May 27, 2010 10:21 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Automobile Safety ~ Toyota

"No More Crying 'Spanish Flu!'" my article in Forbes

By Michael Fumento

What's that? Your throat feels sore? You're sniffling and sneezing? Bit achy?

IT'S THE RETURN OF THE SPANISH FLU!

Okay, that's satire - but not by much. Since 1990, every time some new viral pathogen comes along that grabs the media's attention, we hear it may be the Second Coming of a pandemic that killed about 50 million worldwide and 675,000 Americans - to 175 million globally and 2 million Americans."

This image of an overflow Spanish flu ward, was taken from an article on SWINE flu.

First, it was SARS in 1993. It ended up killing 774 people worldwide and no Americans. Which didn't stop the New York Times from writing 1,000 articles about it. NONE of which said, "We wuz wrong."

Then it was avian flu. It was supposed to go pandemic and kill literally as much as half the world's population. But nobody but me pointed out it's been circulating since 1959, so why should it suddenly go pandemic? In any case, it didn't and cases peaked a few years ago.

And then, of course, it was swine flu. And here's where you see that my satire was barely off the mark. A year ago both the WHO and the UN said swine flu might become another Spanish flu because - ready? - they both started off mild. So if swine flu had started off severely then it would have been more reassuring?

But there will NEVER be another Spanish flu again, and I explain why. And you'll be very interested. So read about it here.

May 21, 2010 12:47 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer) ~ Hysteria ~ psychology

"Why Do We Continue to Believe Bizarre Things?" my AOL News article

By Michael Fumento

Why in an age saturated with information, do we believe bizarre things? Things like crop circles, alien abductions, and 9/11 conspiracy theories? Why do we believe wild Toyota stories like the 94 mph "runaway Prius"? The gearbox allowed shifting into neutral by merely reaching out a finger, but the driver told credulous reporters he was afraid to do so because he needed to keep both hands on the steering wheel. And regarding that cell phone in his hand?

She had the same brain we do. Not to mention other attributes ...

Why a steady stream of mass hysterias, like swine flu last year and Toyota sudden unintended acceleration.

At the core is that despite our computers and communications devices and other gadgets, and despite all the scientific discoveries made, we still have pretty much the same brains as Paleolithic man some 40,000 years ago. That brain looks for magic and it looks for patterns. And unlike Paleolithic man we have modern institutions like the media, government, and lawyers who exploit those base thoughts.

I hope and think you'll find my article a real eye-opener in EXPLAINING so many of the things I've made a career writing about.

May 15, 2010 10:33 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Automobile Safety ~ Gulf War Syndrome ~ Media ~ Swine Flu ~ Toyota ~ psychology

New Toyota outrage! Company considered defending self!

By Michael Fumento

Is there any depth below which Godzilla Motors, formerly know as Toyota Motor Corp., will not go?

The Washington Post has revealed "Toyota officials sought to develop a public relations campaign to attack the credibility of key witnesses who have testified before Congress about acceleration problems with the company's cars.

He's no longer the stuff of science fiction.

It further says, "Congressional investigators have demanded to know from company officials whether a campaign to debunk or discredit their witnesses was put into action."

Had Toyota proceeded, it would have made use of a number of surveys an outside company conducted for it.

The two witnesses in question are Safety Strategies and Strategies, Inc. President Sean Kane and Southern Illinois University Professor David Gilbert. Until questioned at that hearing, Kane had passed himself off as a "independent safety expert." He was forced to admit he was working for five law firms. And Gilbert? He was working for Kane.

Friday, Toyota said Gilbert and Kane had made "assertions" that had "created unwarranted consumer concern." Which is exactly what they did.

For example, Kane produced a February 5 report titled "Toyota Sudden Unintended Acceleration," and has an appendix listing "Unintended Acceleration Incidents" from 1999 to 2010 that says, "We have reviewed all of the complaints in the database," about a tenth of the listings refer to slowness or hesitancy in acceleration. So either his people didn't review the complaints or they did and Kane intentionally left the non-applicable ones in to pump up the numbers. With apologies to Monty Hall, you can't choose what's behind a non-existent Curtain Number Three.

Kane said he considered the automaker's attempts to discredit him as validation. "If we weren't finding something that was meaningful, they wouldn't be spending this kind of time and money," he told the Post. "But what we're seeing is that they're willing to go to great lengths to discredit anyone who asks questions about their products."

Really? What if I were widely cited as an authority on microwaves and repeatedly insisted I had evidence that long-term use of microwave ovens turned people into man-eating gerbils. And then a microwave manufacturers association said I was wrong. Presumably that would validate my work.

Yet Toyota hasn't gone to great lengths to discredit Kane. So his one little short assertion fails both factually and logically.

The implicit message in all this is that Toyota no right to defend itself. Whether accused rightly or wrongly, it must simply take its lashes. For all the talk about "The Toyota Way," specifically whether the company has strayed from it, is this The American Way?

May 15, 2010 01:10 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Automobile Safety ~ Toyota

Kellogg's Flaky Reasoning (the foundation)

By Michael Fumento

A year ago both the WHO and the UN warned that swine flu, which at the time had killed a grand total of eight people worldwide, could be the next Spanish flu - which killed around 50 million people. The only reason either body gave was precisely because swine flu seemed quite mild as did Spanish flu initially. So let's get this straight: Had swine flu come out of the starting gates knocking people over like tenpins it would have been more reassuring?

Now the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded $75 million in grants to civic groups "working to eliminate racial disparities in communities across the country," the biggest amount the foundation has ever targeted at a single goal.

The reason, as the Washington Post put it, is "concern about the notion that issues of race had become less important since President Obama's election."

So just as it's worrisome that a new strain of flu is mild, it's worrisome that we have our first black president?

Someone has got to sit me down and explain this to me.

May 12, 2010 08:55 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Racial Discrimination

The Toyota Hobgoblin, my piece in today's Philly Inquirer

By Michael Fumento

'The whole aim of practical politics," wrote H.L. Mencken, "is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Last year's hobgoblin was swine flu. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology warned of as many as 90,000 excess flu deaths, and the federal government declared two national emergencies. Yet, flu season's over and the CDC estimates estimates we've had perhaps a third the usual number of flu deaths.

This year's hobgoblin is Toyota. You know, those cars whizzing hither and thither, smashing into walls, doctors' offices, nail salons, and - here's the best one - a Toyota dealership!

"Stop driving" recalled Toyotas, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told owners in February. Congress has held three days of hearings on the matter. Never mind that despite its bad press last year, Toyota easily grabbed first place in Consumer Reports' reader survey. Edmunds.com found that while Toyota ranked third in U.S. car sales over the past decade, it ranked only 17th in safety complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The government has to have that hobgoblin against which to defend it. Toyota was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Read my piece here, but not without your magic anti-hobgoblin crystal.

May 10, 2010 05:13 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Toyota

The NEW reason for fomenting pig flu panic - "Use up those vaccines!"

By Michael Fumento

According to Reuters, the U.S. has 71 million unused H1N1 swine flu vaccine doses. And damned if it isn't determined to use up every last one, in order to reduce the embarrassment of throwing away so much of the expensive stuff.

States and other providers should hang on to the vaccine and continue to offer them, says HHS spokesman Bill Hall. After all, points out Reuters (and specifically "health writer" Maggie Fox, who has established herself as being clearly bad for her readers' health, "H1N1 swine flu is still technically causing a pandemic and health officials say anyone who has not been vaccinated should still try, in case it causes a third wave of serious disease.

Yes, "technically," because after what we've seen from the WHO, which changed the definition of "pandemic" in order to make the mildest flu strain in decades rank right up there with Spanish flu, technically they can do everything they want.

Here are some facts instead. The CDC reports that last week it had two positive infections of all strains of flu, down from 2,336 at height of the epidemic. Flu season officially ends May 15 and it takes about two weeks to build up immunity. So anybody getting the shot today . . . And yet, there's a big red sign at my pharmacist admonishing people to get their swine flu vaccines and in several states that I know of health departments are running TV commercials to continue to scare people into using up those vaccines.

En autre mots, instead of dumping vaccine into landfills they're trying to dump them into our arms!

Finally, there will be a third wave. It will start when cold season arrives. And it will be almost entirely piggy flu. You see, swine flu now is seasonal flu. Which is wonderful as long as it lasts because it's so very mild.

May 4, 2010 11:45 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Swine Flu

Need access to full Nexis database for maybe 1 hour

By Michael Fumento

I need access to the full Nexis database for probably one hour to search articles from the 1980s. Please help. fumento@pobox.com

May 1, 2010 08:11 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Fumento