Stuff I Don’t Get

Here are some things I don’t quite get. Maybe someone can explain them to me.

1. All through 2008, then-Senator Obama kept telling me that “America’s reputation in the world is critical, not just to our security but to our prosperity”, and therefore American policies should be set with a decent regard for world opinion. Now, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, he keeps warning me that it will be disastrous if foreign interests are allowed to express their opinions in our political campaigns. How are we supposed to have a decent regard for foreign opinions if we don’t listen to them?

2. Am I the only one who finds it a little unseemly that the regulatory response to Toyota’s recent problems is being formulated by the owners of General Motors?

3. There are something like three million non-human species on earth and so far we can’t communicate with any of them. So why would anyone think it likely that we’d be able to communicate with extraterrestrial species, even if they’re capable of sending signals through space?

4. Anyone my age or younger has probably encountered Highlights for Children in a dentist’s waiting room. Recurring characters like Goofus and Gallant or The Timbertoes have respectable web presences (and Goofus and Gallant are even cited in The Big Questions!). But Aloysius the Wolf, who appeared in Highlights for decades, is, for all practical purposes, completely absent from the Web. How can this be? How can a major recurring character from a popular children’s magazine come in for approximately zero mentions on as all-encompassing a medium as the World Wide Web? All I’ve found is a single blog mention from about a year ago. (Note: Aloysius comes in for a brief mention on the Wikipedia Highlights page, but this doesn’t count since I’m nearly sure this paragraph was recently added by a dinner companion of mine to whom I’d expressed this puzzlement.)

5. I’ve just starting drinking SoBe Lifewater, which advertises itself as naturally sweetened, with zero calories. How can a natural sweetener have zero calories? Well, the natural sweetener in question is erithrytol, which I’d never heard of before this week, but it’s apparently a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that pretty much passes right through you without harming your teeth, your digestion or your waistline. The stuff is delicious. Why hasn’t erythritol taken over the market for low calorie sweeteners? Has capitalism failed?

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42 Responses to “Stuff I Don’t Get”


  1. 1 1 dave

    2} im with you on this one. the toyota thing has been implied to have caused what? 20 deaths? im quite sure that over the same time period, many more people died of dog bites or bee stings.

  2. 2 2 Sean Abbott

    re #5
    It is rather strange.
    It seems to have been approved to be labeled as such back in Dec. 1997
    http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/LabelClaims/HealthClaimsMeetingSignificantScientificAgreementSSA/ucm074182.htm
    “decision to amend the regulation that authorizes a health claim on
    sugar alcohols and dental caries to include the sugar alcohol
    erythritol among the substances that may be the subject of the claim.”

  3. 3 3 Harold

    No.3 – because by sending signals through spoace they have already proved they are capable of complex communication, perhaps. What do you mean, we can’t communicate with any of them? My cat and I communicate very succesfully on the “its dinner time” level.

  4. 4 4 Harold

    #1 I think he is scaremongering for political ends, but if we take the first statement to be correct, then could the second also be correct?
    If you think that the ruling is a bad thing, because the influence of large organisations will be excessive, then you must think it a bad thing if those organisations are foreign. There is no contradiction.
    If you think the ruling is correct because the public has the right to hear whatever any organisation wants to say to it, then you must think it is a good thing, even if the organisations are foreign. Again no contradiction. The contradiction only comes were you to think it a good thing for US organisations, but not for foreign ones. I don’t think Obama is in this camp.

    #5 – is it very expensive?

  5. 5 5 Windypundit

    (1) Foreign governments, NGOs, and media: Good. Foreign business, industry, and trade: Bad. Not too unlike their domestic equivalents.

    (2) Right there with you.

    (3) Communications is limited by the least capable participant in the conversation. It takes a certain amount of training and practice, but I think we have the ability to communicate with members of many other species at least as well members of the species communicate with each other. When we encounter a species with communications skills at least as good as ours, I expect we will be able to communicate with them as conversational equals.

    (4) It’s a mystery. Similarly, I have very fond memories of a certain hit rock song from the ’80′s, but I’ve never met anyone else who likes it…or even remembers it.

    (5) I have nothing to say, but it seemed a shame not to include something for the last item.

  6. 6 6 mike

    Re: #2, I’ll go you one further. I wouldn’t be surprised if the recall is politically motivated.

  7. 7 7 Mindy

    Re #1, there is a difference between finding one’s own reputation to be important and valuable, and allowing others to control one’s actions (which latter is the concern about foreign money in our elections). Perhaps essential to the distinction is the idea that one can respect and like a person without agreeing with him/her. We can improve our reputation without necessarily conducting our business in the way that the respectING foreign nation thinks is the best way.

    Re #3 — is that true? We have, after all, figured out the differences between different kinds of bird calls (mating, warning, etc), and I think there’s more detailed info scientists have for whales and dolphins. If one assumes that we are the most sophisticated of all species, perhaps, it is not unreasonable to assume that extraterrestrials of similar sophistication could decode our speech or vice versa.

  8. 8 8 Tony Cohen

    I am guessing that #5 has not happened because current interests that dominate the existing market have applied heavy political pressure (money) to keep it that way…

  9. 9 9 Steve Landsburg

    Mindy:

    We can improve our reputation without necessarily conducting our business in the way that the respectING foreign nation thinks is the best way.

    But this isn’t an issue of conducting our business in accordance with someone else’s opinions; it’s an issue of whether we’re going to *listen* to those opinions.

  10. 10 10 Harold

    “But this isn’t an issue of conducting our business in accordance with someone else’s opinions; it’s an issue of whether we’re going to *listen* to those opinions.”
    I think the issue is about the belief, whether true or not, that the way these opinions are allowed to be expressed exerts an undue, compelling influence, and makes it much more likely that these views will be implimented. By spending a lot of money at the right time and place, you could persuade people to your view, even if temporarily. If you believe this, then it is not just about listening. Whether or not the view is correct, you can logically hold that reputation needs to be upheld, and the Citizens United ruling is bad.

  11. 11 11 Dave

    Isn’t 2 the exact same thing as the public healt care option where private companies will be forced to compete with their regulators?

    It’s kinda like how my boss always ends up winning big at every poker game around bonus time of year.

  12. 12 12 ErikR

    I have been buying erythritol for a few years now, and using it in homemade drink mixes and a few baking recipes.

    First of all, erythritol is not zero calories, but it is very low calorie. I usually see the 0.2 calories / gram figure given on labels. Sucrose is about 4 calories / gram.

    Compared to the other sugar alcohols, erythritol has much less tendency to ferment in the intestine and cause GI distress. But, like xylitol, erythritol has a strong cooling effect when it dissolves in your mouth. That actually tastes good when mixed with mint flavors, but not so good with something like a buttercreme frosting.

    Unlike sucrose, erythritol does not carmelize during baking, so it cannot replace sucrose in recipes like brownies or chocolate chip cookies. Also, if erythritol is used to replace sucrose in other baked goods, they tend to taste dry since sucrose is hygroscopic but erythritol is not. Another difficulty with erythritol is that it tends to crystallize if too much is used, for example in ice cream it has to be kept below 5-10%.

    But many similar problems are connected with other sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda), aspertame (Nutrasweet), and acesulfame-potassium (Sweet One). I think the main reason that erythritol does not replace those sweeteners is cost. Those others are all high intensity sweeteners, 100 – 800 times as sweet as sucrose (per gram). erythritol is only 70% as sweet as sucrose. So you have to use hundreds of times more erythritol than the high intensity sweeteners. And that is expensive.

  13. 13 13 Alan Wexelblat

    I do realize you ask facetious questions just to stir things up, but what the hell, I’ll answer anyway:

    1. You are quite aware that the behavior of non-US corporations (the entities with the money to influence US elections through large-scale media purchases) has approximately ZERO correlation with the public opinion of the countries in which those corporations are headquartered. To suggest that listening to the paid-for statements of overseas corporations somehow conveys any measure of overseas public opinion of the USA is nonsense on the face of it. Conflating the two is just nonsense and, frankly, a weaker strawman than I’d expect from you.

    2. No. But what’s your point?

    3. Again, a terrible strawman. Of the millions of non-human species, remarkably few have any organized form of communication (I’d rather not argue about what constitutes a language, or a language facility just this moment). Of those that do (from ants to dolphins) we’ve done a fairly good job of deciphering those communications. In some cases we are able to have extended two-way conversations with members of those species. What makes you think that we’d fare any worse with an extraterrestrial species that had a communication form?

    4. I have no data, so I guess that this may be a case of a children’s character falling afoul of the cultural demonization of wolves that seems peculiar to the US.

    5. I’m trying to find primary sources, but it looks like this stuff was only recently isolated, comparatively speaking. Since it’s naturally occurring I’d bet that it can’t be patented so if it was popularized as a sweetener those companies that make large sums of money off patented artificial sweeteners would lose out. There’s no incentive to promote it, so it’s relegated to minor status. Shockingly, large entrenched well-financed interest impede entry into the marketplace of a competitor that would cut their profit margins. I’m sure you have things to say about that situation…

  14. 14 14 Phil

    Perhaps the new sweetener doesn’t have enough advantages over existing ones, and a higher price. Maybe the taste is a personal preference, and you are a minority in preferring it to (say) aspartame.

    To me, the fact that it’s “natural” is not a selling point. I don’t mind an “artificial” sweetener. I suspect many other people may differ, but I could be wrong.

    One last guess: maybe it’s somehow difficult to put into little packets to sweeten coffee and such. Maybe (probably) you can’t cook with it (don’t alcohols burn when you heat them?). Maybe you can’t use it for candy because it doesn’t have the texture or bulk of sugar. So the market might be limited to soft drinks.

    Which brings up the question, why hasn’t it at least taken over the market for soft drinks? But, if it tastes different than the usual suspects, Coke and Pepsi aren’t going to use it, and alienate their customers by changing the taste on them. That leaves smaller producers like SoBe to be the pioneers.

    All this, of course, is just thinking out loud.

  15. 15 15 Cos

    I came here to point out that you seem to have much too narrow a definition of “communicate”, by pointing out that I’ve been communicating quite well with my cat this morning, but I see someone else has already said that :)

  16. 16 16 Dilip

    I am hoping #1 is facetious. Consider this scenario:

    (a) Dilip is a good friend of Steve Landsburg. Dilip respects Landsburg’s opinions and takes them into account whenever a major decision is to be made.

    (b) Now, Dr. Evil comes along and says Landsburg can flood Dilip’s friends and wellwishers with lots of money to sway and influence his position on many things close to Landsburg’s heart.

    Are you telling me you don’t see a difference between (a) & (b)?

  17. 17 17 Cos

    I should also point out that your point #1 does not match up to the intelligence I’m used to seeing from you. However you may feel about the Citizens United decision, or corporate spending on politics, an attempt to pretend that “having a decent regard for world opinion” necessarily requires allowing foreign corporations to spend money on political advertising or organization in the US is so ridiculously absurd that I find it hard to believe you may actually believe it to be true. Even if you fully support allowing foreign corporations to spend as much money as they want on any domestic political activity, you can’t expect to support that position with this argument and have people take it seriously.

  18. 18 18 Steve Landsburg

    Alan Wexelblat (and Cos and others): I should think that a foreign corporation is likely to represent the interests of a far broader swath of foreigners than a single (possibly quite eccentric) foreign individual, so if we’re interested in hearing what foreigners as a group have to say, then we’d be more likely to welcome corporate advertising than individual advertising. But the more important point, surely, is that if you believe our policies should be influenced (even marginally) by the opinions of foreigners, then surely you should be interested in hearing what foreigners have to say.

    This is not (here and now) an argument about whether corporations should be allowed to advertise; it’s an argument about whether we should be more opposed to ads from foreign corporations than from domestic ones. I should think that the more you’re committed to the idea that foreigners should influence our politics, the less you’d want to make that distinction.

  19. 19 19 Neil

    Phil:

    SoBe may have been a pioneer, but it is now a subsidiary of Pepsico, the fate of all pioneers when their founders want to cash in.

  20. 20 20 Bennett Haselton

    1) When individual foreigners express an opinion, most of the time they don’t have a conflict of interest and they’re not getting paid for it, so it’s worth observing what they think, if only to ask why so many people might happen to have the same opinion.

    On the other hand, a corporation (foreign or domestic) is a self-interested profit-maximizing entity, so if it spends millions of dollars “expressing an opinion”, then it must want something in return, i.e. probably favors from the politician who is benefiting from the corporation’s expenditure.

    If you want to allow that, why not just let corporations give cash openly to politicians, who then do favors in return, and let them draw up enforceable contracts and all the rest of it?

    And I think allowing bribes from foreign corporations is slightly riskier, because even though a domestic corporation’s first priority is to enrich its shareholders, that shareholder value also depends on the well-being of the country that the corp exists in, so the corporation can’t bribe politicians into actions that would steer the country off a cliff. A foreign corporation may not care.

    4) I grew up reading Highlights, and while I never forgot Goofus and Gallant, I can’t remember Aloysius the Wolf even now after reading about him here. So rather than being a conspiracy of silence, maybe he just didn’t make as many appearances, or something about him didn’t stick in people’s memories.

  21. 21 21 Phil

    Corporations aren’t always looking for favors … they might be looking for fairness. Imagine that both parties wanted to levy a special punitive tax on black-owned corporations. Isn’t it obvious that in that case, you’d want the corporations to be able to take their argument the American voters?

    Right now, there might not be any laws as unjust as my example. But there are many laws that (IMO) are wrong, and where corporations are the best positioned and incentived to make the arguments.

  22. 22 22 John Faben

    2. Similar regulatory solutions are being put in place in the UK, where the government is not a major shareholder in GM. How much this is a result of the US government’s decision is a different question.

  23. 23 23 John D

    Re #5: Just because sugar alcohols can’t be digested by humans doesn’t mean that your gut flora aren’t chowing down. The more they eat, the more methane they produce. That is to say, if enough sugar alcohols pass through you’re system, you’ll be quite gassy. And, in the worst case scenario, excess methane can induce bouts of IBS in those susceptible to it (i.e. women, the primary market for diet drinks).

  24. 24 24 ToddM

    Are you sure the magic stuff is “zero calories”? Even olive oil is calorie free, apparently, if it’s in a spray can that tells you to dose it out in 1/3 second blasts.

    After I saw that, I started paying attention to the labels more; I’ve never seen anything below 5 calories. I’m thinking the government has declared “< 5" is the same as "= 0".

  25. 25 25 snowracer

    #5 Are you quite sure that this “natural erithrytol” is better for you than standard artificial sweeteners? Artificial sweeteners have long been considered suspicious and as such widely tested for side effects – not only in laboratory but also on people in vivo. Erithrytol on the other hand is quite new and can still exhibit unwanted effect for example on geneticaly susceptible individuals. “Natural” does not warrant harmlessness. Strychnine is very natural too.
    (But I don’t really thing that is the reason for not winning the market. “Natural” still at least sounds good.)

  26. 26 26 Benkyou Burito

    dave- “many more people died of dog bites or bee stings.”

    I’ll go you one better, to counter the nevitable “if it saves one child” argument. How many peoples lives were saved because they got a dog bite or bee sting or whatever and were taken to the hospital in a Prius?

    Maybe if they had bought a less faulty car their gas milage would have sucked bad enough that they ran out of gas on their way to buy insulin or whatever.

  27. 27 27 Benkyou Burito

    1. I’m pretty sure Obama was expressing a desire for dialog with the leaders of foreign states that had withdrawn such levels of cooperation under the bush regime. Not giving them a direct financial pipeline into our choice of decision makers. And he got it.

    He received permission and aid in pursuing al-queda into turkey and packistan. remember the Paki’s were shooting at our marines and drones during the last few Bush Months and first few under Obama. At the G20 he got the members to commit to 1.1 Trillion dollars in loan rights for the IMF and got France and Germany to back down from pushing for more formal regulation. and at a time when we only had about 30k troops in Afghanistan he got NATO to commit 5000 more. All of these decisions were attributed, by the deciding persons, to a change in leadership style in the USA.

    2. It bugs me. But then again the agency that hires the policemen also set the speed limits. Proof will be in the pudding. I’m not happy with how much sway the politicians sauntered themselves into over the whole GM/Chrysler business. But the alternative would have been economic catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale (if only for a relatively short time) in letting the two auto giants go Bankrupt.

    Nobody asked but if it had been me I would have bankrupted them. maintained employment at a wage reduced to the national average for manufacturing (+ seniority +merit) and sold off the current stock of cars at cost to maintain liquidity and some semblance of stock value. Refuse to let the union trade it’s preferred stock for direct investment in ownership, cash them out and let them compete with everyone else for ownership in the companies.

    3. The idea is that we are more advanced than the non-humans on earth so if a non-human that can be found to be communicating by sending magnetic into space then there is a better chance of deciphering that than some tail wagging and butt-sniffing. Also searching for intelligence in radio waves will tell us where the message came from giving us much usefull information on what kind of star, planet, whatever can support the development of life.

    4. I loved Highlights and I don’t remember the wolf

    5. I’ve seen this sweetner in gum quite a bit. I read the wiki and it talks about cooling effect which I have noticed.

  28. 28 28 Ron

    #3: … and how many of those three million other species are capable
    of sending signals through space? Do you think there might be some
    correlation in communications capabilities between species that
    have this capability? Assuming the question isn’t rhetorical, you
    *really* don’t read enough science fiction, as the techniques of
    how this communication might be done has been addressed
    many times (hint: it’s often mathematically based; how many other
    Earth species can tell you the value of x for x + 7 = 15?).

  29. 29 29 Harold

    Erythritol is absorbed by the gut, but not metabolised. It is excreted mostly unchanged in urine (according to the wikipedia link). It is said not to produce the gas that other sweeteners do, as it does not get to the lower intestine, but still has very few calories.

    Re the foreign influence. Obama thinks foreign opinion is important, and US should listen. Obama thinks the United Citizens verdict is not good because it allows large organisations too much influence. No contradiction here so far. Then Obama chooses to emphasise the foreign organisations that will get more influence through the United Citizens verdict. You could argue that it is a bit inconsistent. Thats politics.

  30. 30 30 Ron

    If you check the edit history of the Wikipedia entry, you’ll note that the first mention of Aloysius appeared on November 12th 2008. Here is the relevant link: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Highlights_for_Children&oldid=251272617

  31. 31 31 Philip

    1. “Now, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, he keeps warning me that it will be disastrous if foreign interests are allowed to express their opinions in our political campaigns. How are we supposed to have a decent regard for foreign opinions if we don’t listen to them?”

    Yet another canard. “Foreign interests” have multiple ways of “expressing[ing] their opinions” in the political realm including advertising, lobbying, op-ed pieces, buying American thought leaders to tout their point of view, etc. But you’re actually arguing that foreign companies should have a **consitutional right** to make limitless campaign contributions to buy influence in elected positions of the US government? Your laissez faire hubris clearly has no bounds.

    “2. Am I the only one who finds it a little unseemly that the regulatory response to Toyota’s recent problems is being formulated by the owners of General Motors?”

    Am I the only one who finds it a little unseemly that laissez faire ideologues would eliminate any possibility of a regulatory response to Toyota’s recent “problems”, or the recent “problems” with unregulated derivatives, or the problematic frauds perpetrated by Bernie Madoff and his multitudinous likes, or the little “problem” with melamine contamination in Chinses exports to the US? Let me know if I need to continue.

    “3. There are something like three million non-human species on earth and so far we can’t communicate with any of them.”

    Maybe that’s because they listened in on some libertarian diatribes and decided there was no point in it. :)

    5. Well, I’m waiting for the shoe to drop. An FDA delay in approving erithrytol MUST have something to do with it not taking over the market. It can’t be a market failure because there is no such thing. :)

    BTW, one major supplier of erithrytol sources many of its products from China, and another, Corn Products, won’t reveal their source.
    (See above for reference to Chinese melamine contamination.)

    P.S. Erithrytol has two major side-effects: bloating and gas.

  32. 32 32 Steve Landsburg

    Philip:

    Am I the only one who finds it a little unseemly that laissez faire ideologues would eliminate any possibility of a regulatory response to Toyota’s recent “problems”,

    You miss my point, which is not that the government should never regulate but that, given its inevitable role as a regulator, maybe it’s kind of a bad idea to let it own companies that compete in the very markets it’s regulating.

  33. 33 33 Steve Landsburg

    Philip:

    But you’re actually arguing that foreign companies should have a **consitutional right** to make limitless campaign contributions to buy influence in elected positions of the US government?

    Another missed point. I didn’t say anything at all about constitutional rights. I asked why we should be more leery of foreign corporate speech than of domestic corporate speech (which has been the president’s position lately) and whether this can be reconciled with the president’s former position that we need to listen to the views of foreigners more.

  34. 34 34 Macker

    RE #1. The board is right on this one. First of all, there is no contradiction in the statements. It is entirely possible to gather the regard of one’s peers without listening to their input (yes, there are some semi-objective rules of good behavior). It is also entirely possible to listen to other leaders give their opinion while excluding them from the domestic political process. And to address the actual issue behind the false contradiction– Concentrated special interests gaining the rights afforded to individual citizens only weakens the voice of the people. I may disagree with you personally, suffer in the minority opinion…but if corporations get to express their profit-seeking behavior on the same playing field as the citizen voice, enhanced by corporate coffers, we’re all going to lose. Corporations should not make policy or elect leaders. Setting up foreign corporations as the bug-a-boo is simply politics…any corporation with that power should be feared.

  35. 35 35 Philip

    “if we’re interested in hearing what foreigners as a group have to say, then we’d be more likely to welcome corporate advertising than individual advertising. But the more important point, surely, is that if you believe our policies should be influenced (even marginally) by the opinions of foreigners, then surely you should be interested in hearing what foreigners have to say.”

    Perhaps a disagreement about facts is the basis of this debate.

    Any foreign corporation or individual is free to buy advertising, lobby policy makers, appear on talk radio or TV interviews, place op-eds in newspapers, sponsor or attend conferences, etc. in order to educate policy makers and Americans generally about any issue whatsoever. So there is no restriction on their expression of perspectives, opinions, facts, theories, whatever.

    What IS restricted is foreigners’ ability to contribute directly or indirectly to political campaigns.

    So what do we have here? Confusion about the facts or a glossing-over of the distinction between foreigners’ “right” of expression and their “right” to influence US elections?

  36. 36 36 Philip

    Steve-

    “You miss my point, which is not that the government should never regulate but that, given its inevitable role as a regulator, maybe it’s kind of a bad idea to let it own companies that compete in the very markets it’s regulating.”

    No, I got your point. I used it as a point of departure for a larger point: that there are greater outrages being perpetrated in the name of laissez fair economics than the one you cite about one independent agency (NHTSA) regulating Toyota and another (Treasury), which is not involved in its day-to-day operations, overseeing GM’s management.

    Do you have any evidence that Treasury is, directly or indirectly, influencing NHTSA’s regulatory response? I’ve followed the story pretty closely and NHTSA’s response seems SOP to me.

    But I agree that it’s not desirable to have the feds own GM for a multitude of reasons, among the least of these being the appearance of a potential conflict of interest with its regulatory role.

    “Another missed point. I didn’t say anything at all about constitutional rights. I asked why we should be more leery of foreign corporate speech than of domestic corporate speech (which has been the president’s position lately) and whether this can be reconciled with the president’s former position that we need to listen to the views of foreigners more.”

    Yes, you didn’t mention constitutional rights, but of course the context of the President’s comments was the CU decision granting *constitutionally* based free speech rights to corporations, including those run by foreign nationals or are the subsidiaries of foreign companies.

    The President has not suggested he is “more leery of foreign corporate speech than of domestic corporate speech”; he’s clearly leery of both. He focuses some of our attention on the perverse aspect of the CU decison which grants foreign nationals the “right” to influence the outcome of US elections. (Can you name another country that has legalized this outcome, much less written it into its constitution?)

    “[President Obama] keeps warning me that it will be disastrous if foreign interests are allowed to express their opinions in our political campaigns.”

    You know as well as I do that “express their opinions” is a euphemism for “influence US elections”. Corporations, foreign and domestic, do not spend millions of dollars for lobbying and political advocacy for the purpose of merely “expressing” themselves. I know this; corporations apply a very rigorous ROI analysis on their political investments. It’s at best naive to say otherwise.

    As our future GOP nominee from Alaska says, you can put lipstick on a pig but he’ll still stink.

  37. 37 37 Steve Landsburg

    Philip:

    You know as well as I do that “express their opinions” is a euphemism for “influence US elections”.

    Well, of course. The whole point of free speech is that we think it’s a *good* thing for expressed opinions to influence people’s opinions, and hence indirectly their voting behavior. You know as well as I do that allowing the New York Times to endorse candidates is a euphemism for allowing the New York Times to influence elections. Everyone knows that, but very few
    people think it’s a bad thing.

  38. 38 38 Philip

    Steve-

    “Well, of course. The whole point of free speech is that we think it’s a *good* thing for expressed opinions to influence people’s opinions, and hence indirectly their voting behavior.”

    Yes. Of course. But choosing the disingenuous locution “express their opinion” instead of the candid “influence US elections” suggests a hidden agenda. If you believe foreign nationals should have the same rights as Americans to influence US elections, why disguise your intent behind the innocuous “express”?

    “You know as well as I do that allowing the New York Times to endorse candidates is a euphemism for allowing the New York Times to influence elections.”

    Well, of course, Steve. But then the NYT has special 1st Amendment press rights that don’t apply to the run-of-the-mill domestic or foreign corporation. Moreover, any corporation that wants to control an editorial page can buy a newspaper, right?

    And like any other corporation (before CU), the NYT couldn’t make campaign contributions.

  39. 39 39 Tagore Smith

    A lot of people have called Obama a Socialist. A few people on the fringe have called him a Fascist. I’d like to suggest the latter are basically correct. The problem is that the term “Fascism” has acquired a bad name. It is ineluctably associated with Italian Fascism, and ultimately the German Nazi party.

    Let’s start over with the word “Fascist.” Let’s strip it of its genocidal implications, to the degree that we can. What is Fascism? What policies would promote it? Worth thinking about, at least.

  40. 40 40 Philip

    Tagore-

    I’ll adopt Obama as “Sacred Heart Jesus” as my photo avatar if you’ll adopt Obama as “Hitler with mustache” as yours.

    Here’s a good description of facsism by Robert Paxton, an American historian at Columbia University:

    “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

    Please point me to your evidence that Obama has demonstrated an…

    * “obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by”
    * “compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which”
    * “a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants,” and * “pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

    I don’t see the preoccupation with decline and victimhood or purity cults or committed nationalist militants or redemptive violence or internal cleansing or external expansion.

  41. 41 41 ThomasH

    Answer to question No. 1. We can read thier newspapers, comission polls, exchange ambassadors, and follow their politicians on Twitter.

  42. 42 42 Scott F

    From what I’ve gathered on Erythritol in the past fifteen minutes, it does have a few “kinks” which probably preclude it from completely dominating the market. Although Erythritol by itself is zero calorie and easily passed through the digestive tract, it is not as sweet as nor as soluble as sucrose and is often mixed with other sweeteners. Those other sweeteners can cause digestive issues making Erythritol slightly less appealing as a go-to replacement.
    From a production standpoint it is made by fermentation of certain other carbohydrates and recrystallized which may be a reason for higher marginal costs of production.
    In regards to the “FDA-in-the-way” theory, this is probably not the reason for lack of dominance, because the FDA granted it GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status and allows it as a sugar substitute in a number of foods.
    We need a better theory for the non-dominant status of Erythritol. Cargill (the maker of Zerose(marketed version of Erythritol)) might have some answers.

  1. 1 thomash
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