This article first appeared in the December edition of Drovers CattleNetwork.

I heard something I thought was a telling sign of our times during a recent presidential candidate news conference. When asked about the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budgets, candidate Dr. Ben Carson referred to advances in Americans’ lifespans and NIH research, and then used the term “true evidence.”

I wanted to jump up and cheer. Purists might fault the doctor for clumsy terminology or near redundancy, but I knew exactly what he meant. And I would bet a dollar to doughnuts — to use a phrase certain to make weight watchers cringe — that concept was top of mind for Carson because of the ridiculous claims made by a United Nations World Health Organization-International Agency for Research on Cancer committee regarding red meat and processed meat.

Carson noted the average lifespan at the beginning of the 20th century was 50 and at the end was near 80. That was the result of medical advances, he said. “That’s because of things we’ve been able to learn and been able to apply in a rigorous and objective manner. It says volumes about the benefits of rational thought processing, taking true evidence and using that to make decisions,” Carson said.

Amen!

Instead we have medical/nutrition advice based substantially on political correctness, supposed statistical correlation and the public’s “right to know.”

This most recent attack is another example of statistics versus science. Why did the committee admit they took a “vote,” and that the vote was far from unanimous? Established science lays out facts that anyone can follow, can replicate if necessary and predict results. No vote is necessary.

The lame excuse none of these experts explains is that it is nearly impossible to design an experiment with human beings that eliminates all the variables but one and establishes cause and effect. But the “experts” feel driven to recommend something, to make some recommendation to these people demanding answers.

My response is: No, you do not have to provide a definitive answer. Just because the public wants one — in fact wants a silver bullet with a lead-pipe cinch guarantee — doesn’t mean scientists or statisticians have to misrepresent the knowledge, pervert the scientific process and promote an incorrect understanding of what science is to provide an answer a gullible public demands.

mCOOL drags on

As for mandatory country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL), Congress is still not paying attention to retaliation and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has continued to pretend the free-market agricultural groups are just making all this up, like some dramatic fantasy. During the lead-up to a possible government shutdown, Stabenow even went out of her way to make sure mandatory price reporting (MPR) was not included as an essential government function. That way, if a government shutdown would have occurred, Stabenow could have taken perverse pleasure in having made sure the meat industry did not have the daily data from MPR that the entire industry uses for marketing and financial decision-making.

Why does Stabenow have it in for free-market ag groups? The initial origin of that intense animosity seems a mystery. But after Stabenow did a complete flip-flop on mCOOL on one winter weekend, after having given her word during farm bill negotiations, the stunned groups were vocal in their displeasure. Apparently, her behavior since has been to show the free-market advocates her power and her displeasure with their displeasure.

Meanwhile, while the Senate does nothing, the House passed a repeal of mCOOL immediately upon the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) final ruling. The WTO arbitration panel will have announced its decision about the retaliation amounts Canada and Mexico can assess just after Thanksgiving.

American consumers and livestock producers could well have the Senate — Stabenow and recalcitrant Democrats and Republicans — to thank this Thanksgiving for billions in extra costs, lost trade, market distortions, damaged businesses in multiple industries and possible job losses.

TPP on hold?

Timing of the congressional Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) fight is uncertain, since some have indicated an unwillingness to deal with TPP early this spring as supporters are hoping. Those most cynical about the willingness of members of Congress to vote for what’s good for consumers, for business, for jobs and the economy think that a TPP vote will have to come in the lame-duck session after the 2016 elections. Members who have already lost cannot lose an election over a TPP vote. Such is the confidence in the steel spines of America’s congressmen.