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Kudos to Pickwick for calling out Casey Fenton and his cohorts in the wake of Brian’s resignation letter. It’s the smoking gun that many of us who suspected fraud have waited for. It coincides with another smoking gun revealing climate science fraud, now called “climategate”. Although Casey Fenton is a small fish compared to the corrupt climate scientists who have tried to hijack the noble environmental movement, the hospitality movement is our smaller, but just as noble movement and it’s up to us to protect it from corruption and exploitation, from predators and parasites.

I support Thomas in his assessment of Casey’s attempt at damage control. I found out first-hand that Casey Fenton is not a straight shooter. Like the climate scientists, perhaps the only thing Casey and the others who control CouchSurfing are really good at is self-serving manipulation, propaganda and spin.

I agree with Margaret that CS cannot be changed from within. I just don’t see Casey giving up his power and privilege in the interest of the well-being of the community. As Margaret points out, a declining income stream would be a catalyst for change. It will dry up with the weakening economy and exposure of the fraud. Pressure could also come from an article in a major publication based on the history Robert calls for.

Aside from attempting to clean up the mess in CS, there may be a sufficient critical mass of disillusioned volunteers and members to begin a new chapter outside it. I don’t know the best strategy, but I agree with Kasper that BeWelcome should be reconsidered before attempting more elaborate solutions.

15 Responses to “Couchgate”

  • I didn’t know you had a problem with climate change? This hurts in multiple ways.

    • I don’t have a problem with climate change. I have a problem with fraud. Not sure what you mean by “hurts”.

      • What hurts first of all are the latest developments in CS that you describe. The latest developments in the CS front are extreme, and completely disrespectful towards the CS community, and to quite some individual members who have been sexually harassed by people withing th CS LT team. I am coming closer and closer to also delete-my-cs-profile.

        What hurts secondly is that you are writing about climate change from the perspective of climate change sceptics. It hurts to see how easily you fall for their rhetorics and in the trap they set by labeling these e-mails as “climate gate”. It is so much full of bullshit and rhetorics & I had thought you had a better awareness of how public opinion is being manipulated from time to time by those who economically gain from it. Do you have any idea how these campaigns have been funded over the past 10-20 years by oil-dependent companies?

        I had no idea that even on a platform such as OCS we have to fight against these tendencies. It is completely off topic to link these things together. That hurts. I call it noise.

        When talking about climate change fraud, it would be better to point out to those who benefit from climate change from a selfish perspective.

        • Robino,

          I appreciate that you have explained your comments. Had I known how sensitive this issue is for you, I would not have linked alleged Couchsurfing fraud with alleged climate science fraud. Perhaps I would have chosen an older, less controversial (by now, though not at the time) fraud, like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or defrauding whole countries by selling them mortgage-backed securities rated AAA that in reality were BBB or worse.

          I regret that you have chosen to personally attack me for taking a stand against scientific fraud. There is very little doubt in my mind that scientific fraud has occurred in climate science; there is compelling evidence of that. Even if the scientists involved truly believed in anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) and felt that the end of protecting the climate justified manipulating their data to hide the recent cooling trend, and even if AGW in actual reality represents a threat to sustainability of life on our planet, my position is that the corruption of the scientific process by manipulation and destruction of data and suppressing dissenting opinions, and blocking Freedom of Information Act requests can only hurt the cause by discrediting good science.

          I certainly am aware of the long history of oil companies’ attempts to discredit AGW (and of their more recent abrupt reversal in support the green movement and the carbon tax), just as I am aware of the tobacco companies long fight against research demonstrating the health risks of smoking and their attempts to corrupt that research. Since you mention “awareness” and “big oil”, are you aware that the emails reveal negotiations for a strategic partnerships and funding between the climate research group and such corporations as Dutch Royal Shell, British Petroleum, National Power, Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, The Sultan of Oman, Siemans, and others going back to the year 2000? Now, this is not necessarily evidence of corruption in itself. Oil companies may have an interest in climate research in order to plan for long term oil demand, but when large amounts of money are involved, as there most definitely is in connection with the cap-and-trade and carbon tax solutions proposed as a solution to AGW, one must look for hidden motives.

          You have categorized me as a “climate change skeptic” on the basis of using the term “climategate” to refer to the ongoing scandal triggered by the leaking of the Hadley CRU emails, when that is the term used by the world’s major newspapers. What if I am concerned that the profit-motivated oil companies have found a way to twist the environmental movement to their own ends, by playing on the people’s concern for their environment to push through a solution which does nothing to stop AGW but instead enhances their power and wealth? This has to be considered as a possibility, and we need honest people in the process to look for fraud. The reputation of the climate scientists at Hadley CRU is ruined, the reputation of the field of climate science is tarnished and the reputation of the entire science profession is suspect. Who will the public turn to now to get the truth?

          There are parallels here with CS. Large amounts of money are involved. The LT appears to have mislead the CS community that giving them money for validation enhances safety. In other words, the solution they proposed to a very real safety problem turns out to be more for raising money than providing safety. Because they care more about money than safety, they kept overpayments and they accepted credit cards with different names. Couchsurfers are less safe as a result of this scheme because they may trust someone partly on the basis of the validation tick when otherwise they might not. Not only does this fraudulent scheme make members less safe, the illusion of safety makes it less likely that effort will be expended to find better solutions.

          Let’s assume that artificial CO2 production is scientifically shown to cause abnormal and dangerous warming, well beyond what has been been naturally occurring since the end of the last ice age. The Chinese and Indians believe this could be the case, and have proposed as a solution massive reforestation. Their scientists have computed that the trees would MORE THAN OFFSET artificially produced CO2. But the trees would do far more to protect the environment than just recycle CO2; there are many additional environmental, agricultural and economic benefits. Because of this, reforestation is a very prudent thing to do even if the climate science is not settled yet, or maybe can never be settled because the climate is too inherently complex to model.

          But this solution is being downplayed or ignored in favor of those who promote cap-and-trade, like Al Gore, who stands to make billions of dollars in carbon trading derivative markets. Some analysts believe that cap-and-trade would give a license to wealthy polluters to pollute freely with no consequence, and the money they give to poor countries as payment for carbon credits would only serve to keep them in poverty and enrich their rulers.

          The US has more than once been rushed into disastrous decisions (war, bailouts) based on authority arguments by “experts” who say trust me (or Iraq will attack us with nuclear weapons, the world financial system will collapse next week) and do what I say. “Give me money and I’ll fix the problem!” But later we find out they were manipulating our good intentions for their own self-interest. I believe that this is what the CS LT has done.

      • Did you actually look at the emails? I linked to them so you can get an impression of your own. The first email talks about a trick to surpress a decline.
        This trick is described on the wikipedia page and is well explained. The decline they refer to is a decline in density of tree rings rather than temperature as was suggested by the people who leaked the emails. If I got it right the density of tree rings is used to measure the temperature. We can look at the density of older tree rings than the temperature messurements. So this is a good estimation for a few hundret years as some trees still exist that are that old. However for current times there are more exact informations about temperature and there is a decline in the tree density since the 1960s that does not match the temperature messured. This effect still needs to be explained but the trick is to take the real messured temperature instead of the tree ring approximation for the times where you have access to it.

        I did study physics and i worked in scientific environments unrelated to climate change. And i have to say this approach looks very legitimite to me from my point of view. The trick itself has been published in Nature. Nature is one of the best peer reviewed magazines with the highes reputation.

        Otoh one email suggests to not submit any more papers to a magazin that published an article questioning climate change. It argues that the peer review process of the magazine obviously is broken if such an article is published that obviously can not be confirmed.
        Wikipedia says on this incident:

        Half of the journal’s editorial board, including editor-in-chief Hans von Storch, resigned in the wake of controversy surrounding the article’s publication. The publisher later admitted that the paper’s major findings could not “be concluded convincingly from the evidence provided in the paper. [Climate Research] should have requested appropriate revisions of the manuscript prior to publication.”

        So what sounds like a call for censorship is actually an internal scientific debate. And as it works with scientists – you tell them “Show us the data” and do a peer review and if that does not confirm what the article claims they have to take the consequences.

        Actually looking into these emails and the scientific community around it shows the way it works and it’s attempt to keep up with scientific standarts. While when you look at the Leipzig Declaration. One of the main declerations of climate change neclectors you’ll find that out of the 70 – 25 were Weather Presenters. Out of the 33 European signers four of them could not be located, twelve denied ever having signed, and some had not even heard of the Leipzig Declaration.

        Compare this with the peer reviewed work of thousands of scientists provided by the IPCC. Now since you’re way of arguing is one of a conspiracy theory of cause you’ll find ways to argue how all the thousands have been bribed and only the few hold up the right science. But then please tell me who has the money to bribe that many scientists. What drives most people in the scientific community is curiosity and the hope to make the world a little better. If they were looking for money they’d work in a private enterprise. (At least in the fields I am familiar with). On the other site there actually are huge sums raised by oil companies to raise scepticism about climate change – which obviously they have achieved. But if you look at their publications they either lack peer review or only cycle within a small group of institutions and ‘scientists’. maps them out pretty well.

  • OMG is causing global warming???

  • Thanks for the overview Matrixpoint. I don’t really like the comparison to climategate however. I don’t see clear parallels but I don’t want to go deeper into that apart from pointing to

  • The reference to Climategate is a peripheral issue, meant to put alleged Couchsurfing fraud in the context of widespread fraud being exposed in virtually every sector of society (science fraud being the most reported at the moment). Apart from this, it is off-topic, so no need to go deeper into it here.

    But I will say that after reading and listening to at least 100 articles and interviews on the subject during the past year, the parallels are many and striking to me. Perhaps because I am so immersed in the subject, I thought the parallels would be virtually self-evident to others. It’s unfortunate that instead of encouraging solidarity, as was my intention, my reference appears to have triggered divisiveness.

    Incidentally, after moving on from CS, then BW almost 2 years ago, I have spent most of my time studying fraud and related matters in many areas, working with several volunteer groups devoted to the subject, including a whistle-blower group. (The Climategate scandal was most likely broken by a whistle-blower, not a hacker as initially reported, and I view Brian as a whistle-blower — just one parallel.)

  • “Incidentally, after moving on from CS, then BW almost 2 years ago.”

    How do you stay with local people nowadays as you travel, or do you simply not travel as much as you used to?

    There’s plenty of people who travel as lifestyle who “move on” from hospex sites as they learn that they can just find lodging among the average local people they encounter on the road, but that’s always a shame, because even if they won’t surf anymore, their experiences would make them excellent hosts.

    • I meant that I moved on from volunteering in those two organizations. I was forced to leave BW volunteering for personal reasons, and by the time I was potentially available again, BW seemed like a ghost town to me (although it has since shown signs of life again). And frankly, I didn’t really like the software platform at BW. I then decided to change direction, although one of my current projects is an open-source trust network for the hospitality community.

      I’m unable to travel right now, but am planning for a trip around Europe next year. Mostly existing connections but hopefully I can work in new contacts through the handful of networks now available. But I know what you mean about not really needing the hospex networks. For nearly ten years before I found CS, I mostly lived on many people’s couches in a number of places, sometimes traveling, sometimes not.

      One of my best travel memories is having a taxi driver in Brazil start singing to a CD he was playing for me and my friend on a long drive. We realized that he was the voice on the CD too, an aspiring artist. Before the ride w/ free concert was over, we were invited for a weekend with his family at their home. That’s what real hospitality is for me, and it is like a lifestyle, or even a belief system of sorts.

  • hi guys

    thanks so much for the support Matrixpoint…it provides a nice bookend with the hate mail:)
    …and you and Christopher, either separately or together:), are forever welcome to stay with us…please feel quite invited:)

    I have received an offer of photographic proof of LT misdeed…and honestly: I don’t know what to do with this. I’m happy to be the fall-guy and take the axe of public hatred for posting this stuff, but would appreciate some advice on how to proceed.
    thank you for your recent contributions all

  • Hi Margaret,

    Thank you so much for your kind invitation. I have observed your very diligent work on behalf of the CS community as an occasional lurker. I hope the community appreciates it as much as I do.

    The main point of my post was to see if there would be any interest in writing an exposé for a major publication, which I feel that there is now a very solid basis for. I think the only two fronts that could bring about real change in the management of CS are through this approach, and the legal approach, as championed by Norbert.

    I’m not sure I would make use of the photo you’ve been given, depending on what it reveals. I think it’s really important to take the high road. So if it’s sex or drugs, that may be counterproductive. When it comes to photos, some time ago someone posted here that he and others have photos of the LT stored away for the day when they could be useful. Once a process has begun, people with evidence and other whistle-blowers may come out of the woodwork.

    Although I’ve done much less for the community than you and Norbert and Thomas and others, I would have participated in an exposé by virtue of having some relevant first-hand info. But I’m no longer interested. The public attack by Robin, someone whom I considered a friend, and accusation of introducing “noise”, makes up my mind, which was on the verge of deciding to permanently leave this community behind anyway.

    Chris Culver’s point that one doesn’t really need the hospex networks to practice the hospitality/travel lifestyle, got me thinking seriously about throwing in the towel. I spent about half this year brainstorming with Midsch and Mahouni on a way to move this community forward, and although it was fun, we couldn’t seem to drum up any support. I spent months building a decentralized trust network, but not even one other developer joined the effort, so I can’t even test it at it’s current preliminary stage. Meanwhile, another international group I have joined is flourishing, and there is good work to do there.

    I wish the community all the best, and you personally, Margaret. I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you some day.


  • Yeah, I think the aside on “climate gate” wasn’t very helpful. It’s not germane to the issue, and is unnecessarily inflammatory (and would have been had you been linking it from the other end of things). Finally, in my case – that is, the occasional CS host/user who is interested in finding out more about the controversy around CS – it makes me question your judgment, and so I’ll be rather skeptical about what you’ve written here. That’s not necessarily your problem, but it could all have easily been avoided.

  • thanks John for the advice,

    I always applaud taking the high road…thank you:) I see that someone else has already published some incriminating photos, so hopefully that leaves me off the hook….whew. Best wishes on publishing a factual history of CS, however that is accomplished, and please feel welcome in our home anytime:)
    Happy winter season,

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