Friday, March 27, 2015

Roundup and Antibiotic Resistance?

Some initial thoughts on a recent study covered in Salon....

looked at the methodology-standard ANOVA and non parametric KR tests to account for non-normality & bonferroni adjustments for multiple comparisons. Seems fairly standard but I don't have the weed science background to know if the metrics and concentrations used made since or if the methodology is in line with the social norms and practices of this kind of literature. 

This may turn out to be a solid study, even so all it concludes is that there are additional costs/externalities associated with these very commonly used and important technologies. It sheds no light on the real question-are these technologies employed optimally-do the benefits (and even positive externalities) outweigh these additional costs. The default position often is to assume not- and assumes we should have a new policy to do something about it. Similar to the climate change debate, milking the science for more than what it's worth.

The Salon piece contained a lot of politically charged meaningless terms and other shibboleths such as 'factory farms' 'big Ag' and 'industrial agriculture' plus this often repeated but misunderstood lyric: 

"Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S., after all, including 70 percent of those that are important to human medicine-go to livestock" 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Income inequality and the myth of the 1% and the 99% - Fortune

This article highlights some interesting statistics about economic mobility in the U.S. And posits that the dynamics in income growth are part of the reason Americans are not taking to the streets en masse to protest income inequality.

Another significant factor is 'real' wealth. Think, how do you value the 'real' assets that the masses control in 2015: Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter,Instagram,Netflix, Skype,podcasts, iTunes (you can now pay $1.99 for and buy just the songs you want vs. $10-$20 for a whole album for only a couple songs you like), hand sanitizer, RedBox, smartphones,TomTom/Garmin/GPS, DVRs, iBooks, vegetables that come in zip locked re sealable bags, gift cards( have you seen those huge end caps with hundreds of pre-loaded gift cards), corn and potatoes that are resistant to pests and require fewer pesticides and have lower levels of carcinogenic molds etc...if you keep thinking you could add to the list of numerous items, gadgets, apps,and innovations (wait until we start to see the benefits of the convergence of the internet of things, biotechnology, 3d printing and nano-technology) that each make a contribution to the aggregate real wealth of the masses across quite a broad spectrum of incomes. Instead of being too 'poor' to take to the streets, I think there is a sizable portion of the population for which this kind of growth in real wealth creation either poses a huge opportunity cost associated with political engagement, or on the other hand compensates for lower levels of growth in nominal incomes (which otherwise might elicit stronger reactions). On the other hand, if it were the case that most of the 'real' wealth in society could be quantified (which I don't know how you could actually measure a person's real wealth when it is comprised of so many things contributing to their overall well being in so many ways, not to mention start comparing by groups) , and it were concentrated or 'controlled' by just a few, then we might also get a different reaction. Not to say that there aren't societal ills and challenges faced by people of various means, but it looks to me like it would make more sense to tackle real issues faced by real people than be sidetracked by policies or debates around less meaningful statistical abstractions about income inequality.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Marc Bellemare: Making Sense of the GMO Debates

Nice piece from Marc Bellemare: "In that debate, I am often astounded by how anti-scientific the anti-GMO crowd can be. This is especially so given that the anti-GMO crowd is largely composed of people on the left; the same who are so often heard saying how anti-scientific people on the right can be when it comes to evolution, the existence of God, and so on."

People on the left often don't realize so many times that when they jump on so many of these policy bandwagons say related to taking drastic actions to combat climate change for instance, or GMO labels in this case, it's a giant leap beyond what the 'science' actually supports, in effect, a leap of faith. (I know there is also a sizable group on the far right also has an odd for supporting drastic extensive government regulation on GMOs)Suddenly, all of those recycle bins, hybrid cars, re-usable grocery bags, pig tail light bulbs,organic veggies etc. become reduced largely to 'quasi-religious practices.' Which is OK, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, until they try to start trying to force their 'religion' on others at the ballot box, which they have been quite successful. No one is subsidizing or forcing anyone to put those ten commandment yard signs in your yard, but what about those red plastic recycle bins? 

Channeling Landsburg's "Why I am not an environmentalist"