Blog fight, blog fight!


Nothing livens up a Saturday like a spirited round of personal insulting and counterbashing all caused by a mild critique on a trivial issue combined with a personal attack response.   TechMeme‘s close to making this the top story, which frankly is a defect as these personal battles will get far more coverage than “real” news.    Same problem with network news – people want the prurient garbage more than the significant stuff, and as a profit entity the peoples get what the peoples want.  

Matt’s got the scoop and the correct analysis.   Duncan’s approach to all this is one of the reasons blogging is both more interesting than traditional journalism but also more suspect. 

Risk saves lives


Just another in my ongoing rants about something I feel strongly about.  We need to accept a lot more risk in our lives so we can stop spending gazillions foolishly, and start allocating the spending to things that will actually do a lot of good and save a lot of lives here and elsewhere:

 Re: Lead in toys imported from China:

The whole anti china toy thing seems to me to be largely an overreaction and/or  an anti-China political scam.   Our standards are far, far too high here in the USA.    I’d like to see how you can make a case that standards that add billions in costs and save at most a handful of people are appropriate when we could reallocate that risk in such a way that the costs would save thousands of *the very same* people,let alone *millions* in developing world.    Did anybody bother to compare the (trivial) lead and toxics risks from those China toys with risks from wearing street shoes in the home (also probably trivial but not a costly approach to the problem.  And then compare those with the risks most families take by not containing the almost ubiquitous leaded paint on old American homes and by using leaded fuels?   THAT’s a lead risk folks, and it’s big enough to worry about.    Am I saying we should allow leaded toys in from China?   No, but we should not worry so much about these small risks and we should reduce the regulations such that the risks match up logically.    Mad Cow disease posed almost *zero* health risks given the existing inspection regimens, yet many called for *higher* standars to fight that almost immeasurably small risk of human problems from mad cow.  (Pop quiz – how many US people have died from the human complications that come from mad cow disease?)  Answer:  1 or less.   In fact there were only 3 cases of this in US cows! 

Would I vote to put myself and others at slightly greater risk – trivial greater risk – so hundreds of others could collectively live thousands more years?   Of course, it is a moral imperative to work for this.  

Silly people say it’s not a tradeoff.   They suggest we always need to fight for the highest safety standard, and the costs be damned.    That appeals to emotion but is downright stupid in terms of economics.  You *must* allocate resources because they are limited.   You can let whimsy guide you, or emotion, or evil, or logic, but you cannot escape the allocation of resources.   All I’m saying is, to rework and paraphrase John Lennon:

“Let’s give Peace REASON and ROI calculations a chance” 

 We desparately need to better match risk and cost, but political spending and emotion forces us to, for example, recall perfectly good beef and spinach when statistics suggest these were of sufficient quality.    The spinach thing probably led to a few more deaths from lowering dietary standards by stopping eating spinach than the 1? death from the bad spinach.