Statistics and Perception

I'm always grateful that I was impressed by things I was dumb about. Math and statistics, I mean. I kept demonstrating mathematical genious potential in standardized tests (which I now attribute largely to strategies I developed for test taking, later taught by Kaplan). That, with the attitude that anything I was uncomfortable with in learning could be approached like a monk approaching fasting, led me to keep retaking courses that did major damage to my GPA.

So statistics, I took in high school at the U of A and got a C. I took it again at Carleton, and got a C+. I took it again at the U of A after Peace Corps and got I think an A or a B. I took it a fourth time in the MBA program and I think I got an easy B.

What's important is that you can understand derivatives and quantum physics if you have a general knowledge of stats. You can start to discount things you perceive, and appreciate them but put them in context.

This allows you to see the difference in sports highlights between a home run shown because the story is about David Ortiz (the most underpaid power hitter, dog bites man again) or because a National League Pitcher with a 186 average hits his first home run (man bites dog).

When people read about a stereotype and then see the stereotype reinforced, they can begin to feel more confident in their misperceptions....

Ok had a lot more to say but the presents are being opened and no one understands why I'd be blogging on Christmas morning....

Response to BAN

Jim Puckett and Ms. Sarah Westervelt Basel Action Network 1305 4th Ave., Suite 606
Seattle, WA 98101

Dear Jim and Sarah:

In March 2005, our company, American Retroworks Inc., DBA Good Point Recycling of Middlebury, Vermont, commended your organization's efforts to “raise the bar” on exports to poor countries. We offered an explanation of what we do, which is legal (under Annex 9), ethical, and environmentally preferable. BAN voiced two concerns and questions about the process, which we have tried to address.

  1. Functionality test (BAN's preference for “tested working” parts exported for repair)

  2. Recycling of upgraded parts

We have tried to address both concerns. The result is a zero-waste process involving remanufacture of used CRTs in a manufacturing take-back program in Malaysia. We have visited the factory, and audited its processes. We have developed a comprehensive accountability system to ensure that the factory gets only what it needs. We have established 95% reuse, we have an import permit, and under our direction the factory has entered into ISO14001 and ISO9000. We have asked them to adapt R2 standards, and they have agreed, and the 5% fallout is legally recycled. We have a testing procedure which actually measures fallout (lower than new product sales returns in the USA). We have filmed the process. We held the company and its other USA suppliers to contractual obligations, recycling Of

Of the 24.5% of material we export, we have offered to allow BAN access to the process, and to pay BAN to perform the audit. Based on our last email exchange, BAN has determined in advance that our process would not pass the audit based on the second concern, removal of “bad” materials. What we have done is to insist that materials removed, if any, must not become waste. However BAN is stating that IF any component is removed, it became a waste in retrospect, whether the part is ultimately recycled or not. Under that interpretation, if a buyer voluntarily upgrades a stick of RAM, that a transboundary shipment of waste has occurred. Under that interpretation, assembly (commonly outsourced by OEMs in the west) is also illegal, and we suggest that 100% of laptop sales should be banned, since there are residuals from the outsourcing of new product assembly.

The terms of the Pledge are BAN's to establish and enforce. However, BAN has created a catch-22 – the product must be “functional”, but any part which MIGHT be replaced MUST be removed. When it is removed, the product will not be functional. Functionality itself is a strange term, as the Basel Convention states:

"Re-use can include repair, refurbishment or upgrading, but not major reassembly."

BAN's seems to be saying that they can only repair, but not upgrade, tested working products.

We believe that as BAN proceeds on its current path of auditing and vetting the companies it lists (a very positive development), that you will find there are two types of companies:

  1. Those with virually no reuse, who process 95-100% of intact units, and who export the processed scrap.

  2. Those which reuse, according to whatever specification BAN adapts, but cannot reconcile shipments (as we do) or verify upgrades or incidental breakage.

The audit of the companies with zero reuse will find higher than 5% fallout (scrap also has de minimus contamination) and process waste, and the companies which export 'tested working' will be unable to prove product is not upgraded after sale. As more and more of your companies adapt #1, consumers will find it more expensive to recycle there.

It is simpler to allow an upgraded part to be properly recycled, to encourage refurbishers to undertake ISO14001 and R2 standards, and to reward them for doing so. Instead, BAN is making it virtually impossible for legitimate overseas buyers (including manufacturer takeback programs) to buy their product from BAN-accredited companies. If my company also refuses to ship there, the factory will have to choose whether to close (taking the very best actor off the field) or to source material from middlemen who get it from who knows where.

Your friend,

Robin Ingenthron.