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FluWiki editor displays dishonesty of his site and himself

| 30 Comments

FluWiki pretends to be an encyclopedia of that which we should know about avian flu and the possibility of it becoming a human pandemic. It is not. It is a propaganda site, dedicated to spreading alarmism. I pointed out in a previous blog that it even
carries advertising. To this, the editor responded:

Apparently, you are going around the internets [sic] spreading false information about Flu Wiki. On your blog, you state:

(There are actually a number of such dedicated sites, primarily FluWiki, which refuses to post my material but has no problem posting opinion pieces like A Severe Pandemic Is Likely and running ads from pharmaceutical companies that make flu drugs.) Similar claim [sic] is made on Crawford Kilian's blog, H5N1.

Flu Wiki has no ads whatsoever, and never has had ads. It's a non-commercial site and always has been. It does not endorse products. Simple inspection will verify that. Perhaps you have us confused with another site.

Please correct this in the various places you are posting, including your blog.

DemFromCT
Editor

My response:

You can stop squawking. I didn't say you blatantly posted ads. But you have them nonetheless. Under "Authoritative sources of background information" there is:

"Bird Flu is a Real Pandemic Threat to Humans," described as "An essay by Leonard Crane, author of Ninth day of Creation (2006)" It's hardly relevant to avian flu that he wrote this novel about biological terrorism (published in 2000, by the way) but it is relevant that you see fit to plug it. More importantly, in clicking on the link you provide we find it's nothing more than an advertisement for a book called "How To Protect Yourself And Your Loved Ones from BIRD FLU." In it we're warned in super-sized type: Right Now, Bird Flu Is Killing Entire Families in Indonesia -- Infecting a 2 Year Old Girl in Djibouti Africa and Forcing Quarantines in Romania!"

Authoritative, huh? No. The question is, why run something this insipid if it doesn't pay a kickback?

Under "Other sources of background information," you have "Joel Fuhrman M.D.'s Six Steps to Protect Your Family from Avian Flu." But click on the link and the reader finds it's actually an advertisement for his line of vitamins disguised as a blog.

Yet somehow you have no room to mention sources of background information such as my two articles that bird flu is not a real pandemic threat to humans and your family doesn't need protection from avian flu.

At the same time FluWiki disguises ads for nutty books and vitamins under legitimate-looking links, it censors articles that inform readers that avian flu H5N1 was actually discovered way back in 1959 and therefore has had far more time to become pandemic than most people believe, that recent CDC tests on ferrets show that fears of H5N1 reassorting with human flu are probably grossly overblown, or that your "expert" Laurie Garrett rose to fame and fortune by prediction a pandemic of Ebola - one of the hardest human viruses to transmit.

You're a dishonest person who runs a dishonest site. And by the way, my offer of 10 to one odds of no human pandemic in the next ten years is also open to you.

His incredible response:

Spam is spam. When you run a wiki, anyone can post links. There are literally thousands of pages and tens of thousands of links there. If you see any other commercial links, feel free to write and I'll remove them. These were commercial sites and they have been removed.

Flu Wiki is, was and will be a non-commercial site. It is a resource anyone can use. No kickbacks, no moneys accepted, no charge. When we have information to share, we give it away.

I will accept readership by public health departments around the world, visits by NIH and CDC on a daily basis, and positive reviews in Harvard Business Review and Science magazine, to name two, in lieu of your approval. I think it's a fair exchange.

I don't bet on natural disasters. I prepare for them and hope they never happen.

Cheers and good luck

My response:

How stupid do you think I am? You posted those links. [Or, I should have added, allowed them to stay up. Certainly when I posted a link to one of my avian flu articles he pulled it down.] YOU. Spam is unsolicited bulk email. As I said, you are a dishonest person with a dishonest website. And your refusal to take me up on my bet also shows you don't have the courage of your convictions. You know as well as I do there's no H5N1 pandemic coming, but you've got a business to run.

30 Comments

Hey, Michael - I'm happy to have a robust debate about the real risks of pandemic(s) facing us, and the apropriate policy responses (and I thought your bet proposal and non-response was a good root for an argument). but I'm not really comfy about non-policy based slinging between sites.

How can we refocus this on the core policy issues and away from who smells bad?

A.L.

I agree that Flu Wiki is losing its appeal. It's definitely not what it used to be. I go to the other message board at http://www.Avianflutalk.com. Even though its not much better.

I would invite your readers to read the entire exchange at http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/2007/01/debating_avian_.html. Moreover, I'd like to suggest that they view video segments on bird flu in Indonesia posted on the New York Times site today. Then they might try the NewsNow headlines at http://www.newsnow.co.uk/newsfeed/?name=Bird+Flu. Or they might cruise on over to the New Forum at Flu Wiki and take a spin through the Indonesia thread, where people are hard at work ferreting out news from the Indonesian press to track a worrisome surge in H5N1 suspect cases.

Your dismissal of the H5N1 threat is intellectually irresponsible; your argument that sheer greed drives H5N1 headlines is ludicrous and unfounded; your accusations concerning Flu Wiki libel many, many concerned, informed socially conscious people who are trying to prepare to mitigate what could be catastrophe. Flu Wiki doesn't make money for its moderators; it costs money.

You asked the rhetorical question, "How stupid do you think I am?"

Before I answer that, please do something moral, responsible and brilliant by stopping this nonsense.

Hey, Mike:

Unknot those knickers! The web is a big place, and I'm sure that you'll get to plug your books for a while yet...

Live & let live!

Hope the preps are in the basement, dude, just in case.

Jody

Quite a vitriolic stance is taken by Fumento.

On the other hand, if you're interested in a reasoned critique, check out the science blog, Effect Measure.

Hmmmm. Effect Science's political slant is pretty obvious from even a quick read of the front articles.

Michael Fumento's rhetoric also strikes me as being over the top. However, reading the forums on both flu sites is eye-opening ... there's a lot of panic there, combined with conspiracy theories that are beginning to be positively middle eastern in their scope and convolution on the part of some regular participants.

Perhaps that's inevitable WRT a threat that is very rare in occurance but quite deadly if it were to occur. People are given a little information about pandemics but haven't enough information and expertise to make good evaluations about likelihoods.

I'm agnostic on the issue of HN-51 as a potential pandemic. Virology and epidemiology just aren't fields I have much expertise in. It does occur to me, however, that there are all sorts of disruptions to our comfortable lives for which the exact same preparations (food, water, medicine stockpiles; emergency planning for your family and so on) make a lot of sense. How much planning is appropriate is a judgement call.

That said, I ask myself where the vitriol comes from on both sides of this issue? And myself answers that a quick look suggests what's really at stake in this feud are political matters, i.e. attacks on or demands from national and state officials.

Or maybe I've been reading the forums too much already???

After reading through this silly cyberspat, I cannot escape the feeling that Fumento must be partly if not entirely motivated by a desire to prevent Fear from being coopted as a commodity by the Left; after all, this is a key component of the Right Wing strategy for retaining influence on public policy and government, akin to the opposition of Natural Selection by Creationists. How dare the Liberals muscle in on this!

After all, I see no evidence that Fumento has any kind of credibility or standing to argue the scientific points of epidemiology. Instead, he seems content to make book on the likelihood of a human pandemic (offering "odds" of "10:1" against a human pandemic within the next 10 years. I wonder what this value is based on, other than hot air?)

(Interesting to note that the son of a gambler in #1 found this to be among the more worthy of Fumento's comments!!)

And to #6, I don't see the "vitriol" coming from both sides. DemFromCt's replies to someone who is arguably a crackpot are quite reasonable and measured. For example, I do not see him/her referring to Fumento as "Sqauwking".

Independent of whether it is from Fumento, Effect Measure, Flu Wiki, etc, the real issue isn't one's emotional tone or accusations, left or right wing political stance, or commercial interests.

The real issue is the science. If one becomes acquainted with the science and has a modicum of analytical ability, the conclusions become obvious: pandemics, like category 5 hurricanes, happen and we're set to have another one.

Your response to DemFromCT displays your usual arrogance, mean spiritedness and lack of respect for others and the truth. It has become your trademark. You are notorious not just because of your occasional hit and run pieces on bird flu (a minor part of your steaming and reeking pile of posts and articles going back years) but for a long history of sucking up to the paymasters. You've never done a lick of science in your life, which makes you feel perfectly qualified to say whatever you want. You aren't bound by any rules. Which is why you are so widely dismissed by scientists of every political stripe and why you have to stamp your feet and pound your fists to get any attention.

Since you were such a big supporter of the Iraq catastrophe I'll make a bet with you. I'll bet you ten to one odds you don't enlist to go to Iraq (and probably Iran) in the next year. Because you are just another chickenhawk in the 101st Battalion of Keyboarders.

There is no response to this category of irrationality. The more one fires at the target, the more the target is energized and inflated. In essence, the target likes it.

The alternative, abandonment, is exactly what is being avoided minute by minute.

My compassion to this individual. If there were a way for him to add supporting facts to his assertions, he would face deflation as the facts are not evolving in the recent present, the past 2 years, the way they would be needed to support his assertions.

All postings which raise the level of emotion are perceived by this individual as good, sort'a like any publicity is good publicity.

The appropriate response is to focus on the causal factors and expected outcomes, and then remark on them each time they're brought forward. The poster does not want to lose. That's due to a mind degenerating level of fear well masked behind all of his remarks.

I express my compassion and expect full armor and wariness against what can and must be the continued barrage and assaults. It's like a shark, move forward or die.

Well, Andy, I'd say that Fumento's opponents aren't doing much to elevate the level of debate.

And as a proxy for belief, I'd have to hand it to Fumento's proposal for a bet - note the similar bet on natural resource prices by Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich.

And appeals to authority - moral or technical - just don't thrill me the way they used to. Policy arguments and pointers to facts might, OTOH.

A.L.

On this post's issue, FluWiki is right.

Advertising requires acceptance of money. Here on Winds, I may link to Boeing's site as part of an article. That doesn't mean Boeing is advertising on Winds. I can link to someone plugging their book, if I think it's relevant or interesting, and have. If they're not paying me (and Carl Sagan did not), it isn't advertising and may be relevant to my slant, but not to my business model.

The point made by FluWiki re: how Wikis work was also a valid response.

Sorry, Michael, you're just dead wrong re: the charges made in this post. Your bet offer was way more interesting... when someone won't take up a bearable bet amount that gives them 5x odds based on their own predictions, that's revealing and entertaining.

This... just noise in the blogosphere, and we have enough of that already. A.L. in #11 is on point for me too.

Fumento, please, for the sake of all of us, go hang out at a large international airport terminal (San Francisco would be a good choice) and inhale....deeply. Stay there for awhile.
Quit bashing the flu forums. Those are good people. You're not. Plain and simple. Your arguments are getting really, really tired.

DewB and other visitors from FluWiki and scienceblogs -

Please stop - now - with the generalized "we're right, you're wrong" and attached ad hominem. Fumento didn't cover himself with glory in this post - and I'm happy to be critical of him (as Joe was in #12). But if this keeps up, I'll just shut off comments.

If you want to talk about the issues - about differences in perception of likelihood of pandemic or of appropriate policy responses, and places Winds readers can go to learn more about your views - be welcome.

But this nonsense thread has got to stop.

A.L.

Thanks, A.L.

Raise the discourse, Donald and Rosie.

What escrow will be used for this 10:1 bet?
I'm interested as long as each side puts up the money, now. During bird flu, there will be a breakdown in payment possibilities.

Want to bet in gold coins? In Treasury Bills?

How much do you want to place into this 10:1 bet?

We can arrange for the money to earn interest which will be used to pay the escrow.

In multiples of USD $10,000 each, how many will you put up? 10? 1? 100?

You say your top number and I'll decide what part of that I'll accept as laid off on me.

Contact me. You have my email address. Any others at 10:1?

And thank you in advance for the money.

This bet will be legal. I will meet you in any state where gambling is legal in this USA. The escrow holder will be legal. I want your money. There will be no backtalking from you.

Let's get started.
Right now, define the terms of the bet.
What is a pandemic?
What facts must the escrow holder have in order to pay off?
What will be the process of notifying the escrow holder to release the funds or coins?
What comes to mind?

Again, thank you for the offer. I accept at this time up to USD $100,000 on your side, subject to being able to agree on clear terms.

As I said, I want your money.

very good GR ! They should open a bet at tradesport or such so anybody can bet on this
with clear defined conditions and guaranteed payment.
Can't you two arrange that ?

"a severe pandemic is likely" must have been
monotreme's thread, I think.
http://web.mac.com/monotreme1/iWeb/Pandemic%20Influenza%20Information/Opinion/F315B9D8-0AB5-4B01-8C6F-DBCB6B9ECE2E.html
there he writes "very severe"

of course, Fumento is wrong with fluwiki,
but revere's language is a bit surprising, though.
Maybe it's common in these blogs,
I don't know.

This event, the pandemic, will or will not occur.
I believe it will be caused via a clade of H5N1. I believe it will be hypervirulent, with a case fatality rate of between 20% and 100%, depending on the sub-clade in the area at the time.
I believe this event will occur within the next 12 to 24 months. Because this is nature, nobody can stop it from recombining the correct set of polymorphisms to make it both efficient and sustaining. Karo, Sumatra, Indonesia earlier this year is the case that proved 3rd Generation transmission can occur because it did occur.
Both in Gharbiya, Egypt and in Java, Indonesia, in the past 2 months we have seen clear cases of H2H, irrespective of the weak and understated words from the local health ministries and from WHO. Those are merely 2nd Generation cases.
Pandemic influenza will be defined as the first sustained 3rd generation infection. H2H2H. We must define "sustained". We must clearly state who it is that will determine that there is H2H2H present.
If there is a severity aspect to this bet, there will be a problem because we will never be able to determine how many people were infected, but we can easily determine H2H2H.

I don't know who Michael is, but he has made an offer and I want to accept his offer at the earliest. I am not interested in tradesport or any other sport. I want to win this bet and collect the reward. I am totally willing to lose the bet as well. We need clear terms.

Michael or the webmaster here can contact me via email, or if they want, they can reach me by PM at www.flutrackers.com under my name, GaudiaRay.

It is now Tuesday, January 16, 2007. I ask to be contacted within the next 48 hours. I do not think that is unreasonable. It is time to put up or shut up. I am happy to put up because I think this is a low risk bet. Michael thinks the other side is a low risk bet. When he ante's his money, he can use that to boast of his convictions. I welcome his boasting. I want to be sure that if we bet that the bet is legal and enforceable and collectable. If not, I want no bragging rights. I want the matter of pandemic influenza settled clearly and quickly as even those of you who agree with Michael I believe are in harm's way, and like you or hate you, I want everyone who can survive phase 6 pandemic to be aware and be thinking about how they can save themselves, their families, their businesses and their communities...their way of life, from the destruction of a highly virulent pandemic influenza which is what I believe we are seeing forming right now. I believe that failure to prepare for what now even mainstream public health leaders are saying is a pandemic which requires people to stay indoors for 3 months is unfair to those of us who want society to be able to continue. You could say I should be happy to see fools die; but that is meanspirited and uncompassionate. I will need their thoughts and services as they will need mine, directly and indirectly.

So Michael, please respond promptly and let us move forward with this bet.

revere wrote:

>I'll make a bet with you. I'll bet you ten
> to one odds you don't enlist to go to Iraq
>(and probably Iran) in the next year.
> Because you are just another chickenhawk
> in the 101st Battalion of Keyboarders.

revere, I'm surprised about your language here.
If he were such an arrogant,spiritness, truthless..
person, (which he might well be..)then why do
you bother so much ? Why reiterate it ?
Please retract that bet offer, the conditions
are bad. Enlisting is probably no problem.
And what would it prove ?
Chickenhawks and Keyboarders are bad ?
What are you fighting for at your blog ?

Or is it just to ridicule about bets ?
Another attempt to avoid talking about
pandemic probabilities ?
Apparantly you have no problem to predict
the Iran-thing, though.

Whatever you think about Fumento, he has a valid point here. We should discuss about such bets
and maybe accept them instead of ignoring them.

Please make your bet offer ! What quote would you accept ? 20:1 ? 50:1 ?

GaudiaRay, how does it work with that escrow ?
Why 48 hours ?

I'd really like to see such a bet at Tradesport or such (not only sport) so we can follow the trend
and the bet can be closed at any moment and others can jump in and there would be discussion about
it at the attached forum.

Michael,Gaudia - this is a public bet offer,
so why not go the next step and put it
really to public at a bookmaker ?

I think, we need such a market.
Do you agree ?

gs: You have made it abundantly clear you believe everyone should make a guess about whether they think a pandemic will happen and when and publish it to the world. I disagree strongly and have said this to you on a number of occasions so you have no cause to be surprised. As a scientist I prefer not to make guesses. You should feel free to do so (BTW, what is your guess?) but not hold others to a standard they don't believe in.

AL: I don't think you should be dismayed at the vigor of the response from Flu Wiki and scienceblogs to a very intemperate and ad hominem post from Fumento you put on your front page with a defamatory headline. If you don't want comment threads responding in kind then you shouldn't allow posts like that either. Otherwise, you should tolerate the consequences or decide to censor comments with all that implies. Fumento has a long history of this, as I am sure you know. It goes back years and he is infamous for his thin skin and nastiness. If you allow him to post here you must expect a vigorous reaction. People like DemFromCT work long and hard at the Flu Wiki on their own nickel. Dem is also a scientist and knows orders of magnitude more about flu than this lawyer who dabbles in it and much else for no purpose connected with public health. Anyone can be wrong and make mistakes, but Fumento is like Bush. He never admits a mistake because the truth of the matter is not material to him. He only cares about his agenda.

revere,I wasn't aware of that strong disagreement
and don't remember you told me.
I more felt, that you were trying to avoid the subject.
And you once did give an estimate to Bob Gleeson,
who now made a 20% in 2 years "calculation", well
conform with Fumento's 1:10 offer.
I made my 10%/year guess several times at fluwiki,
also 15% once AFAIR.
Mainly relying on other's opinions and sequence statistics also reading papers .. etc.
As a scientist you should make guesses,
that's what science mostly is about.
When scientists keep their guesses for themselves
then others can not bild on them, students
might miss potentially interesting subjects.

Fumento may be wrong about some details as often as he may - as long as he has this bet offer it's
hard to argue against it, because you could always "prove" him wrong just by accepting the bet.
Of course, his resources will be limited.
Else the government could just take his money, invest it in prepping and research, and pay
back 110%+interest,should panflu fail.
You see, why I think, there should be
such a market ?

Fumento said in email, that
he believes the odds of H5N1 becoming pandemic in the next ten year to be a tiny fraction of 1 percent.

And that he accepts bets from other people too.

And that he is content when I post this.

Of course, I think that his estimate is way off and that he has no reason to come to that conclusion.

Alas, when GaudiaRay will have placed his bet,
there may be nothing left for others...
So let's try to get this started at Tradesport or other online betting services for everyone's access.
Someone knows how to do it ?

gs: you refuse to believe me. I am not keeping my guess to myself. I don't have a guess. Listen to me. I don't have a guess. I threw down a number to bob gleeson's blog long ago as a favor to name a number. I have no confidence in that number and no reason to have any confidence in it. I don't know what the number is. I don't know what the number is. I don't know what the number is. Did you hear me?

I wrote "A Severe Pandemic Is Likely" and stand by it. In fact, I have re-titled it "A Very Severe Pandemic is Likely" at my site to indicate that I think it is probable that H5N1 will go pandemic with it's current kill rate, over 50%. Although my estimate may be considered on the pessimistic side, the most prominent flu scientists in the world have indicated that this is a distinct possibility:

"One especially important question that was discussed is whether the H5N1 virus is likely to retain its present high lethality should it acquire an ability to spread easily from person to person, and thus start a pandemic. Should the virus improve its transmissibility by acquiring, through a reassortment event, internal human genes, they the lethality of the virus would most likely be reduced. However, should the virus improve its transmissibility through adaptation as a wholly avian virus, then the present high lethality could be maintained during a pandemic."

From: Influenza research at the human and animal interface. Report of a WHO working group. (http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/influenza/WHO_CDS_EPR_GIP_2006_3C.pdf)

DemFromCT and the other organizers at Flu Wiki are not responsible for my opinions. They have defended people who don't believe pandemic flu is a serious threat. The charge about accepting advertisement is false. Removing spam from a wiki with a huge number of pages that anyone can edit is very difficult, especially when the spammers try to hide their efforts. Wikipedia has had this problem as well. When I was active at Flu Wiki, I spent a fair amount of time removing spam as did DemFromCT and many others.

I have no problem with people thinking pandemic flu is no threat. If you don't want to prepare, then don't. But please understand that there are sound reasons to be concerned by H5N1 and that many who are preparing are familiar with science involved.

revere, this is a word play. Now you distinguish "guess" and "throwing down a number"
Earlier you used "predictions" and yes "guessing".
I prefer "probability estimate" others are more comfortable with "guesstimate".
You knew, what the number was in Feb.2006 , you say you don't
know, (which I don't believe) what it is now , so what changed ?
It's just a subjective momentary estimate so "confidence" doesn't apply.
We are all aware of course, that this might change on new data or just
on rethinking about the existing data. If that's what you mean with confidence.
When you don't think that your estimate is more worth than just
a number from a random generator, then you should really stop
writing about the H5N1-threat entirely. It would make no sense at all.
Also, you would have no reason to critisize Fumento's estimate -
it were just as much worth as your one.
Note, that the risk-analysts and some other medical experts
do give such estimates. They do know the number, while you don't.
So are they superior in knowledge ?

---------------------------------------
If I must, here are my predictions. Don't hold me to them. I'm guessing with the rest of you:
Posted by: Revere | February 28, 2006 at 01:47 PM
10% first year 20% second year
http://drbobgleeson.typepad.com/bird_flu/2006/02/your_h5n1_predi.html
--------------------------------------

Monotreme so do you accept the bet then ?

now, the year goes to end, the 2008-bet-offer may still stand,
I don't know. Has it been accepted by anyone ?

It seems that the threat-perception-value has declined
since the start of the thread and even some flubies consider
10% probability for a pandemic in 2008 as too high ?!?!?

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