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Comment: Re:Same old silly press (Score 1) 194 194

by AthanasiusKircher (#50007649) Attached to: WSJ Overstates the Case Of the Testy A.I.

There is never a popular press article about how computers may never do consciousness, at least by any current definition of "computer,"

If you look up my previous posts here on AI, you'll note that I'm pretty critical of the kind of press given to AI as well. And I think that we're pretty far off from a model of computing that will effectively rival the kind of learning the brain does.

But even I think your claim here is asking the wrong question. If "consciousness" can be created using machines, it will be an "emergent phenomenon," which means the kind of complexity that will appear may be sudden and unpredictable compared to the lower-level construction.

nor an article about how there are things human consciousness can do which no deterministic process can more than imperfectly mimic.

What would be the point of such articles? How could you ever prove such a claim? Can you provide some examples of "things human consciousness can do which no CONCEIVABLE deterministic process can more than imperfectly mimic"?

And if you think you can, I really suggest you read up on emergent phenomena in some detail, including philosophers who have thought greatly about the kinds of ontological and epistemological questions you're posing. These are debates which go back thousands of years. But I'd personally suggest looking at the philosopher Daniel Dennett's work for some sophisticated discussion of how apparent macroscopic "freedom" can emerge from "deterministic" microscopic processes.

In the process of asking what people really mean by terms like "free will" and such, you end up realizing that microscopic determinism isn't so "scary" after all.

And isn't that what your post is really about? You don't want to believe that human consciousness is determined in any way, right? I'm not saying you have to accept Dennett or other philosophers' ideas about these issues, but they are worth exploring.

Both of these positions are viable, and embraced by experts in various fields.

Yes, and religious belief in all sorts of supernatural and mystical phenomena is "embraced by experts in various fields" as well. The idea that human "consciousness" is fundamentally tied up with this kind of mystical belief in a separate "soul" or something. But there's no empirical evidence why consciousness shouldn't be able to be explained by laws of nature.

By all current evidence, they may prove right.

By all current evidence 200 years ago, humans would never be able to fly.

But it doesn't make for a hero story to write about someone who argues for these positions.

That's because your two positions amount to, "Uh... gee, well, there are some things that can't be explained scientifically yet." That's not very interesting, and historical precedent says that most of the time people said stuff was inexplicable or impossible... later people managed to explain or do it. (Unless it was actually against some inherent law of nature -- is that, by chance, what you're claiming to know? That some "consciousness" processes are inherently non-deterministic according to a fundamental law of nature? If so, that sounds suspiciously mystical and/or religious.)

"Discovering" that consciousness either essentially does nothing or that some computer advance is just about to do consciousness (or both!) is a "great" story. Editors like it. The public is impressed by the "brilliant" "counter-intuitive" revelation.

Just because something is "intuitive" does NOT mean it's right. In fact, humans have a well-known propensity and actually a fundamental cognitive bias to believe that order (and "meaning") is in randomness. Humans were stupid enough to be fooled into thinking ELIZA exhibited consciousness and was not simply deterministic. Human consciousness -- whatever it is caused by -- involves many orders of magnitude more complexity than ELIZA. Yet you somehow think we should be able to trust our "intuitive" instinct that we can just "know" what human cognitive processes are non-deterministic and necessary for consciousness.


(By the way -- I'm NOT saying that your perspective is impossible, just as I would not say many people who have religious beliefs are believing in things that are impossible. But the idea that consciousness is non-deterministic is a similar belief... there's just no way to come close to "proving" that right now, and it seems to violate the idea that most scientists assume where we try to natural, logical explanations first.)

Comment: Re:FreeNAS (Score 2) 199 199

Nonsense. ECC RAM may help avoid certain kinds of on-disk errors, but it's a heavily debated topic.

With ZFS it is NOT a debate -- ZFS is very RAM-intensive and uses RAM in more critical ways than many other filesystems. In particular, for reasons having to do with how ZFS works, small RAM errors can (and have) made a ZFS filesystem unmountable. And given that there are NO recover tools for ZFS, that means your data is gone.

You can debate how often such things happen, but they can and have. In most other filesystems, bad RAM is mostly a concern about corruption of some files on disk, but with ZFS it can lead to more catastrophic failure. Heck... don't believe me? Read a blog by a guy who argues against using ECC if you know the risk thoroughly... but he still is clear that there's a risk of complete filesystem loss. (He just thinks those actual stats on how often it happens are indeterminate and that money is better spent on actual backup systems.)

Comment: Re:Poor Scalia (Score 4, Insightful) 1052 1052

by AthanasiusKircher (#49997487) Attached to: Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage

A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

I'm all fine with someone disagreeing with how the supreme court works and how our government is set up, even politicians, but a supreme court justice? Seriously? It's his JOB to sit on that panel of nine people and decide the things that are not otherwise decidable. If he had such an issue with it, why did he decide to be a part of it?

I think you're missing some nuance here. SCOTUS's "job" is NOT to "decide the things that are not otherwise decidable." It's to interpret law.

In some cases, the law is clear. The judge interprets it. In other cases, the law is murky and needs a lot of "prodding" to produce a meaning relevant to a case.

This is such a case. I think there are good reasons to disagree with many of the dissents today, but one thing they are right about is that 150 years worth of very smart legal jurists stared at the Constitution and didn't find a right to gay marriage. The court today did -- and there is good reason to rejoice for equality for many.

Anyhow -- Scalia's contention here is if the law really doesn't have anything specific to say, and other courts and legislatures have all interpreted things differently, is it necessarily the business of the Supreme Court to intervene and override the democratic process?

I absolutely agree that he's pandering here, and that obviously he wouldn't make this claim in other cases where he basically can be accused of what the majority is doing.

But that doesn't mean the idea he asserts has absolutely no merit in any circumstance, i.e., that unless the legislature (elected by the people) has enacted a clear law about something, then 9 guys in robes don't necessarily have the right to "make the people subordinate" to them. That is a good, valid democratic principle.

Depending on your perspective, you may or may not think Scalia's argument is appropriate to the case today. But it's still a valid principle of democracy that unelected folks don't get to unilaterally decide law without precedent.

Comment: Re:How is this news for nerds? (Score 1) 1052 1052

by AthanasiusKircher (#49997309) Attached to: Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage

In both cases - and in many others - the laws have to change. That's not true for gay marriage, where literally nothing but the label on a line on a form changes.

So now whether you get a legal right depends of whether it's convenient to make appropriate alterations to existing statutes? Good to know!

And what law would the LGBT crowd need to write? None, as noted above. Literally nothing changes in existing laws when there are two spouses, regardless of their genders. Not one single law is different. If you don't believe me, then go find one that has to be changed. I'll wait.

You obviously have no clue about marriage law. Many states still have plenty of laws on the books and legal precedent that is based on gender assumptions, particularly involving child custody (and often favoring the mother). Gradually, these have been changing and sometimes actually ruled discriminatory... but there is still stuff out there.

And regardless of laws existing NOW, I can tell you things were a VERY different story a generation or two ago. One of the classic examples is coverture, the doctrine where a woman's rights were subordinated to the man's during marriage. This was a HUGE part of marriage law for a long time. And then there were all the complexities of fault divorces a few decades ago, which often involved all sorts of gender assumptions. Child care was also heavily gender-biased.

Somehow, though, we found it in ourselves to say these laws against women were unjust and discriminatory... and even if it required rewriting huge sections of marriage law and overturning centuries of precedents, it gradually happened.

It's all wonderful that same-sex marriage can mostly be accomplished without changing MUCH. But your argument that we should restrict fundamental rights based on the fact that it would be too hard to change all the damn marriage laws is not only specious, but it would put you on the same side as those who wanted to keep women oppressed a generation ago... "That's how marriage is! Gender inequality is part of marital law! Do you have any idea how much we'd have to change in law to effect reform that would put genders on an equal footing?! It's what marriage is and always will be!!"

You really want to be argue that side??

(By the way, I'm NOT taking a stand in favor of polygamy/polyamory, though I don't much care what people want to do with their lives. But that doesn't make your argument any less wrong.)

Comment: Re:Why should the government write these contracts (Score 1) 1052 1052

by AthanasiusKircher (#49997159) Attached to: Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage

Because we don't want property passed between siblings probate-free?

Why? Just because we want to charge taxes? Probate restrictions based on marriage are yet another archaic issue that needs significant reform, given the changing shift in marriage.

Go re-read the post you're replying to. It explains why marriage places obligations on a bunch of parties who never signed any contract. Even if you bundle contracts, that still doesn't apply to people who never signed them.

Sure it does if the government says it does... just like it currently does for marriage. The problem is right now we have a bunch of monolithic rights that are all shoved together into this legal morass. If people sign up for the correct "bundle" of "marriage," they get the various rights guaranteed by 3rd parties.

Or do you think that the government's extension of marriage rights to homosexuals today somehow can just be ignored by those 3rd parties? No -- if the government says X union with bundle of contracts Y is a "marriage" that entitles everyone to previous "marriage" rights Z, all third parties who grant rights Z would have to subscribe.

Of course, this is all a pipe dream. It's never going to happen in my lifetime. But it we were serious about putting marriage law on a rational basis, this is the kind of thing that should happen.

Comment: Re:How is this news for nerds? (Score 1) 1052 1052

by AthanasiusKircher (#49997089) Attached to: Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage

So it's judicial activism to say that "your discriminatory law is discriminatory and therefore bullshit"?

Yes, by definition, unless your value of "discriminatory" was established in previous precedent.

There's no general Constitutional principle that you can't pass a discriminatory law. You can discriminate against all kinds of people for all sorts of reasons. I can have a store that says "no shirt, no shoes, no service," and a shirtless, shoeless man has no grounds for suing me for discrimination. If you have a good reason (i.e., it has to do with the job), you can choose to hire a more attractive person or a thinner person or shorter person or whatever. And even if a state enacted some laws discriminating against such groups of people, as long as they had a rational basis, they could likely pass legal muster.

There are standards of scrutiny for laws. Most laws only require a "rational basis." Laws involving race involve "strict scrutiny" because the Constitution basically explicitly bars discrimination by race. Race and national origin also fall under this.

Over the years, the courts have extended some of that scrutiny to gender-based laws, dubbed "intermediate scrutiny." But sexual orientation? That only gets a "rational basis" standard -- and rational basis standards are notoriously low historically. (Seriously... all sorts of discriminatory crap has passed rational basis review. The "rational basis" doesn't have to be a good one or even a logical one or even one agreeing with the people who passed the law -- if a judge can even imagine a possible reason any reasonable person might ever pass such a law, it should pass "rational basis" according to the usual standard.) Even today, SCOTUS declined to grant discriminatory laws against homosexuals a higher status of scrutiny, unlike things like race or gender.

So, yeah -- until sexual orientation is granted a higher standard of review, discriminatory laws dealing with it do in fact require "judicial activism" to overcome.

Sometimes judicial activism is a good thing (as it arguably is today). Judicial activism has a bad reputation, but it really simply means that you find a new reason for a ruling in an old law that contradicts earlier legal precedent.

Many people want their judges to be activist -- that's one way the law can evolve. Others feel like those shifts should be left to the legislature. That's a matter of opinion, but perhaps -- if we want judges to be more responsive -- people should be more willing to admit when judges are taking an "activist" stand.

TL;DR: Let's not try to hide what happened today as if it isn't a bold, new leap of legal logic that didn't occur to generations of previous judges to take -- to some, it may seem to be a good one, to others, it may seem unjustified. But it is one.

Comment: Re:Why should the government write these contracts (Score 4, Insightful) 1052 1052

by AthanasiusKircher (#49996811) Attached to: Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage

So, let's say you replace the marriage contract between two parties and the state and just have private contracts... Well, what requires a hospital to let you visit someone you signed a contract with in the ICU? What requires the IRS to let you two file taxes together? What requires the prosecution not to call them as a witness to your conduct? What requires the INS to let them come into the country, merely because they signed a contract with you? What requires a veteran's cemetery to let you be buried together if only one of you is a veteran? What prevents the state from taxing you on property when they die? Etc., etc. There are literally over a thousand rights and privileges that attach with marriage and are binding on third parties who never signed any contract.

If this is the only thing that legal "marriage" is all about, then why restrict it in the ways we restrict it? Why can't a sister and a brother get all of these benefits, if they wanted? Why can't they have access to all of these wonderful legal benefits of "marriage"? Even if they don't have an incestuous relationship, but just are otherwise unmarried and love each other (even not "in that way")?

Oh, that's right... marriage is actually about something else. That "something" is really hard to define, and conservatives and liberals seem to disagree on exactly what it is, which leads to the gay marriage dispute.

The question I take away from GP's point, though is -- why can't you just have a bundled contract that grants all those rights? Why couldn't two sisters sign up for it together, instead of just an unrelated man and woman, or (as of today in the U.S.) two unrelated lesbians? Or how about three unrelated lesbians or a group of three gay guys or whatever -- couldn't they be eligible for most of those bundled contract rights?

If we're really going to divorce (no pun intended) the word "marriage" from its traditional definition, it's fine by me. But if it's mostly about the legal contract rights, we should have actual contracts that any group of consenting adults can sign onto. Perhaps we should group some of the rights separately, since a lot of marriage law once had to do with dependency (of the wife, in previous generations, as well as the kids) and how to handle children and estates. In an era of DINKs and no-fault divorce and now gay marriages, most of those centuries of accumulated archaic marriage law should be deprecated or rewritten.

Perhaps you can sign up for the "dependency" package of contract rights only when you can prove it -- thus a four-some of polyamorists only get tax benefits if they can prove dependency according to the laws we already have. If you want to sign up for the "procreation" package, then all the marital rights involving children apply. We can have the "cohabitation package" and the "estate-planning" package, etc.

And while we're at it, it's probably high time to institute a "temporary" version of many of these packages, with built-in prenuptial safeguards for unwitting spouses. You want to get married "till death do us part"? Fine -- sign up for the "permanency package," but it's harder to get out, and fault usually must be determined, with dire legal and financial consequences. You just want to get married "for as long as we both give a crap," then the "temporary" package is just for you -- let's be more honest about it, but also let's protect you from your own idiocy and build-in a reasonable pre-nup.

Oh, and the relationship between the "temporary" contract bundle and the "procreation" bundle is complex -- basically, you want to have kids, you should be able to commit to dealing with them until they reach maturity.

If it's really about contract law -- this is what is SHOULD look like. Instead, we have a mess of a contradictory set of wacky laws involving old assumptions about marriage structure, child-rearing, wife dependency, etc., along with a mishmash of sometimes arbitrary restrictions having to do with gay marriage (until today?), polygamy, incest, etc. If free association and self-determination are what everything is about, should we make the appropriate types of contract bundles available to any consenting adults who want them?

Comment: Re:Another great Scalia line (Score 4, Informative) 1052 1052

by AthanasiusKircher (#49996481) Attached to: Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage

Besides, every single effort to recount the votes in Florida showed that Bush had an even larger margin of victory than at the time of the first count. This conclusively proved that he should have gotten Florida's electoral votes and therefore win the election.

That's absolutely FALSE.

Read through that link for a number of different methods. The problem with the recount is that you need to decide what your standards were -- which was part of the problem in 2000. Where do you count? All counties in Florida, or just the ones that were actually disputed in 2000? Do you count undervotes, overvotes, or neither? How do you handle the "hanging chad" issues?

All of these standards produce different results -- in some cases Bush wins, in others Gore wins. The only reasonable conclusion is that the vote count of the 2000 Florida Presidential election fell below the margin of error and is thus INDETERMINATE. There are no clear legal guidelines that allow you to choose which result is "more correct." It's true that Bush would have prevailed according to the actual recounts Gore had requested, using Gore's standards. So, from a practical standpoint, had the existing recounts continued, Gore would still likely have lost. Some would argue that complete state recounts appear to show (according to some standards) that Gore would have won, but since such recounts were never actually suggested as feasible in 2000, those results are pretty meaningless.

The Supreme Court didn't take anything from Gore and give it to Bush.

Contrary to popular belief, SCOTUS didn't even "decide the election."

More accurately, what 7 of the 9 justices on the Court said (contrary to belief, part of the ruling was 7-2) was -- the current recounts were unconstitutional. 2 of those 7 thought the appropriate recourse would be to send that ruling back to the Florida Supreme Court to let Florida figure out what to do. 5 of the 7 agreed that the Florida Supreme Court (led by liberal justices, by the way) had actually already said what should be done, because it set a final date for completing recounts that had already passed. So, following the Florida Court's own ruling, the counts must stop.

Nevertheless -- and this is the important part -- the Supreme Court did NOT "end the election," nor did it say "the buck stops here." It REMANDED the case BACK to the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Court could have said, "Uh, no, you didn't understand what we said -- we didn't mean that date." Gore's lawyers could have made that argument before the Florida court -- but they chose not to.

Instead, the Florida Supreme Court (again, composed mostly of liberals, not that it should matter, except everyone keeps quoting a 5-4 Supreme Court split along supposed ideological lines, when most of this stuff went on in Florida with a liberal court) chose to take no further action and dismissed the case a few days later. Only one justice dissented from that dismissal because he disagreed with SCOTUS. The rest implicitly agreed with SCOTUS's logic, since they didn't argue that further action was necessary:

The per curiam opinion in Bush v. Gore did not technically dismiss the case, and instead "remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion." Gore's attorneys therefore understood that they could fight on, and could petition the Florida Supreme Court to repudiate the notion that December 12 was final under Florida law. However, Gore dropped the case, because he was not optimistic about how the Florida justices would react to further arguments and, as one of his advisers put it, "the best Gore could hope for was a slate of disputed electors". On remand, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion on December 22, 2000 that did not dispute whether December 12 was the deadline for recounts under state law, although this was disputed in a concurring opinion by Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw.

Comment: Re:Roberts admits to being wrong (Score 1) 588 588

by AthanasiusKircher (#49992041) Attached to: Supreme Court Upholds Key Obamacare Subsidies

That's simply not true. There is ONE SINGLE CLAUSE TAKEN IN ISOLATION WHICH SAYS "ESTABLISHED BY THE STATE", but there are other clauses which clearly spell out in more detail the requirements of the exchanges and the relationship between state and federal

This is a false statement. As Scalia notes in the dissent, there is not one but at least SEVEN passages where the law uses a phrasing of "established by the state" to refer to matters in reference to tax subsidies.

If it were one place, as you claim, we might claim that it's just a simple error. But SEVEN times?

but the nutjob right-wing desperadoes who have failed in every other attempt to overturn ACA chose to pin their hopes on SCOTUS taking a single clause out of context...

Again, not true. It is true that there are other passages of the law which might be taken to argue against a strict reading of the SEVEN "established by the state" passages having to do with subsidies, but no clear inconsistency results if one chooses to read these passages literally. Also, things get a little more murky when you realize there are clear and consistent ways the law refers to both state and federal exchanges together in a consistent way.

Anyhow, there's some room for disagreement here. But your implication that this is "one single clause" taken "in isolation" is simply false.

The political reality is that if this were a "normal bill," this would have been realized to be a significant problem -- whether a deliberate policy (repeated seven times), or some sort of oversight -- and then Congress would just "fix it" by passing an amendment to the law. But the political reality is that the Democrats so alienated the Republicans during the passage of the law (including using special procedures to allow passage and circumvent things before seating a new conservative Senator specially elected by the most liberal state in the U.S. to come and vote against it and thus stop the bill) that Republicans would rather "see it burn" than pass a minor "patch."

Hence, SCOTUS was required to come in and do the job of a legislature. You may agree or disagree, but this was in fact more than a court rejecting a plain error or typo or something.

(P.S. I'm in favor of nationalized health care. That doesn't mean that I can't recognize when the Dems screwed something up. You might try to get out of your "filter bubble" a bit and see the facts.)

Comment: Re:Unhealthy food is tasty. Healthy food is boring (Score 1) 244 244

by AthanasiusKircher (#49986293) Attached to: High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet Can Lead To Cognitive Decline

But if you take a little time and look around, VERY good food choices can be had. And there is really NO excuse for only having bad foods at home. Ever heard of cooking? (and no, I don't mean popping something pre-made/frozen in the fucking microwave).

Not only that, but cooking your own food is way cheaper. I know somebody's going to chime in here about how they can get seven cheeseburgers at McDonald's or a large pizza at Pizza Hut for X dollars and that's a lot cheaper, but sorry -- you're wrong. Any fast-food restaurant even with a "dollar menu" is paying for the cost of preparing and serving that food, which is a cost you don't have if you buy raw ingredients from a grocery store.

Generally, for the same price to what I'd pay at a fast-food place, I can buy raw ingredients to make some sort of fancy, significantly higher quality version (even "organic" or "natural" if you'd like, though many times those terms are somewhat bogus). If I'm willing to buy the crappiest stuff in the grocery store (like that found in many fast-food places), I could usually make 2 to 5 times as much food for the same price by buying ingredients at a grocery store.

Cooking is cheaper, you have more choice, and after a couple years' of practice, it will taste better than 90+% of the food you'd get eating out, even in "normal" (non-fast-food) restaurants.

Yes, it takes time and practice at first. But there are also plenty of cookbooks out there for people who have little time or skills.

Your body literally is made up of what you eat. Obviously it can have significant impacts on your health and thus your entire life. Cooking may require some investment of time or effort, but it will take minimal effort to make it better than chowing down on crap from the microwave or a can or a box every night.

Comment: Re:Unhealthy food is tasty. Healthy food is boring (Score 1) 244 244

by AthanasiusKircher (#49986065) Attached to: High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet Can Lead To Cognitive Decline

If you shop for and buy processed foods (the goop in the center aisles of the grocery store), again, yes, this is all your gonna get. But if you take a little time and look around, VERY good food choices can be had.

It's not that easy. At QFC and Safeway, EVERY bread they sell is overly sweetened. The only bread I've found without too much sugar is Trader Joe's rye.

I say this as someone who enjoys baking, but bread IS a processed food, almost by definition. I know that some people say "processed food" when they really mean "nasty stuff with chemical names I don't know." But a more consistent definition of "processed food" is something where the raw ingredients (even "natural" whole animals or plants) are significantly transformed and generally split up into multiple "processed ingredients" which are then further combined into a new food that has little semblance to the original "raw ingredients."

Bread is probably one of the oldest versions of "processed foods" in existence. Rather than having the fiber and other natural mixture of ingredients in a raw whole grain, those grains are ground up into small bits and usually separated (e.g., whole wheat kernels are turned into white flour + wheat germ + wheat bran) in a complex process. Then you recombine some of that flour with other processed ingredients like salt and oils and sugars (most all of which are significantly processed, no matter what they are called).

This processing changes the way we digest the food significantly. Lots and lots of studies show that complex carbs (e.g., intact whole grains) work differently metabolically from the kinds of carbs you find in processed flours, or even heavily processed "whole-grain" flours. For people who have problems with sugar (e.g., diabetics), bread is not a good solution -- because it only takes minimal digestive processes to turn it directly into sugar.

You want "good bread" that is minimally processed? You're pretty much going to have to bake it yourself, as GP implied. It's a basic cooking task, and all of the "no knead" recipes that have been revived in the past decade mean that you can make a great loaf of bread by probably investing about 10 minutes or less of your active prep time. (The rest is just waiting for it to rise and then bake.)

Plus, it's cheaper than even the cheapest store bread if you make it yourself.

But even then, it's generally still going to be a "processed food" which shouldn't be a huge part of your diet. You're not going to find "good bread for you" in Trader Joe's rye, no matter if it has a little less sugar.

You want bread that might actually be better to eat? Use the smallest amount of flour possible, and only get truly whole-grain, coarsely ground flour. (If you have a grain mill, grind it yourself.) Fill up the rest of the bread dough with actual whole (not ground) grains and other ingredients that are less heavy in simple carbs, like nuts, seeds, etc. The result is going to be somewhat heavy and dense, but that's as close as you can get to less "processed" bread.

Otherwise, bread is a carb bomb, no matter what. (A delicious one, I admit -- but even when I bake standard white or "light wheat" or "deli rye" bread or rolls at home without added sugar or whatever, I'd never pretend it's an "unprocessed food" or significantly different from the "goop in the center isles of the grocery store," even if it tastes a lot better.) Taking a little sugar out of it is nice and all, but it won't change the fact it mostly turns into sugar very soon after it hits your digestive system.

Comment: Re:Artificial? (Score 1) 163 163

by AthanasiusKircher (#49972499) Attached to: General Mills To Drop Artificial Ingredients In Cereal

I find it interesting that you ask for citations yet give none.

It's a well-established fact that pure fructose causes weird metabolic effects. Unfortunately, because most people who don't know anything about chemistry assume "high fructose" means "almost all fructose" or something, they assume that studies must apply to HFCS, even when HFCS is very similar in composition to disassociated sucrose. Heck, start with Wikipedia -- the HFCS article cites a bit of possibly irrelevant stuff about pure fructose, and then a number of studies that claim there's probably no significant medical difference between HFCS and sucrose.

And that's improved since I first read that article some years ago, when it was almost all about irrelevant fructose studies.

I've tried really hard to find studies showing HFCS is bad -- because I know a lot of people who are emotionally interested in this, and I wanted to support them. But the science just isn't there yet -- which is why I asked for citations. As I said, I've seen two studies in the past five years or so which seem to show small effects, but those are contradicted by a number of other studies which haven't. So, as far as I'm concerned, the "jury is still out."

I don't like processed foods. I'd be happy if HFCS disappeared off the face of the earth. But that doesn't mean it's okay to go around making unsupported claims... I asked for citations because I am legitimately curious and want to know if there's something I've missed.

Comment: Re:Artificial? (Score 0) 163 163

by AthanasiusKircher (#49966035) Attached to: General Mills To Drop Artificial Ingredients In Cereal

Sucrose (cane/beat sugar) is a disaccharide combination of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. The body breaks down sucrose into glucose and fructose using an enzyme. The problem with HFCF is that it simpler molecules are absorbed into the body must faster than of they had to be broken down first. Spikes in sugar in the bloodstream strain the liver and get stored into fat.

[Citation needed]

I've looked extensively for studies actually contrasting metabolic effects of HFCS vs. sucrose, and I've only found TWO -- one of which has a questionable subject set for drawing general conclusions.

Meanwhile, I've also seen quite a few studies which have shown no significant metabolic response difference between HFCS vs. sucrose. Pure fructose vs. sucrose? Absolutely. HFCS? Not very much.

I wish HFCS would be removed from most products because it's overused, generally unnecessary, and only economically makes sense because of stupid corn subsidies. But that doesn't automatically mean it has all these supposed nasty metabolic effects that "natural foods" wackos claim (usually using studies on PURE fructose to back them up). If you seriously have new studies on this, I'd like to see them.

The problem in the U.S. is excess sugar consumption, period. Drinking a Coke with cane sugar is not going to make you significantly healthier than drinking one with an equivalent amount of HFCS.

Comment: Re:HFCS (Score 1) 163 163

by AthanasiusKircher (#49965977) Attached to: General Mills To Drop Artificial Ingredients In Cereal

How hard would it be to drop the corn syrup part and just call it fructose?

Well, to do that, you probably would want for it to actually be, well, fructose (or, at least, mostly fructose), and well, NOT be corn syrup (which it is manufactured from).

As it is, the standard varieties of high fructose corn syrup is generally about 24% water, with roughly 34-44% glucose, and 32-42% fructose.

But don't feel bad -- you're not the only one who can't actually bother to look at the chemical specifications. For decades researchers have been claiming that HFCS is worse than sucrose by testing PURE fructose vs. sucrose in experiments. The mixture matters in terms of metabolism.

There are two studies I've seen which actually seem to show some minor metabolic difference between HFCS and sucrose. There are also a number of studies which have basically found no significant difference. But one thing is clear -- you can't compare metabolism of pure fructose with sucrose.

Oh, and by the way, honey is also a mixture with the same rough composition of water+glucose+fructose as HFCS (with some minor other sugars and impurities). So, if you're concerned about metabolic effects of HFCS, you may want to lay off the "natural" honey as well.

Comment: Re:It really doesn't matter (Score 5, Informative) 292 292

What Citizens allows is unlimited, anonymous contributions by corporations under the legal fiction that they (as artificial persons) have MORE freedom of speech than natural persons.

(1) Contrary to popular belief (and bad media reporting), the majority ruling never even mentioned the concept of "corporate personhood." Also, corporations have been recognized as having various rights for at least 200 years in the U.S.

(2) The default concept of rights, as for example in the first amendment, applies not only to individuals but to collections of people. The first amendment actually explicitly mentions five rights: speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly. THREE of those rights already only refer to groups of people (religion -- which implies a group of believers, petition, and assembly), and "free press" clearly has applied to businesses since the time of the Constitution. "Free speech" is the ONLY right there which was artificially restricted to individuals, even though there is no such qualifier in the Constitution. (And, in fact, it was never restricted to individuals -- no one had ever claimed that corporations didn't have free speech rights before Citizens; there were just restrictions on that speech, as there are on all speech in various contexts.)

(3) Corporations are legal representatives of groups of people. As already mentioned, the first amendment explicit protects various rights for groups of people. And given that we're talking about money here, it's unclear how corporations have "more freedom of speech than natural persons" since money can either be spent by an individual, or that money can be invested in a corporation which then spends that money. Since "money = speech" in many electoral laws, how exactly do you claim that corporations are "double-dipping" on free speech? The money can only be spent by one entity, so if an individual gives money to a corporation to donate, that individual is ceding control of that money (="speech") and has less money to use for individual speech.

(4) The ruling overturned restrictions on corporate speech that were inconsistently applied before. Specifically, it mostly overturned a restriction that said certain types of corporations couldn't "speak" (e.g., run ads) within 60 days before an election. Meanwhile, "news organizations" were allowed to speak however they wanted to before elections, including editorializing, endorsing candidates, etc. Most "news organizations" are owned by giant corporations today, so Fox News (for example) got a free pass to say what it wanted to before an election, but the ACLU (as a corporate body, but not a "news" one) would be barred from running a public service announcement that pointed out one of the candidates wanted to overturn the Constitution. Thus, the system was already quite screwed up -- unless you believe in a world where Fox News can donate unlimited propaganda time and money, but non-profit organizations which just want to raise public interest aren't allowed to have free speech before an election.

(5) A couple technicalities here, but Citizens does NOT allow "unlimited, anonymous contributions" to anything. Corporations were (and ARE) still banned from contributing directly to political campaigns. What Citizens did was allow corporations to, say, run an ad or something on a political issue before an election, which previously was prohibited. It also asserted a general principle that "independent" corporate speech (i.e., speech that is NOT direct donations to a campaign) should not be restricted more than individual speech.

(6) A subsequent court case (SpeechNOW v. FEC) is perhaps the one where you're thinking about "unlimited, anonymous contributions." Basically, the ruling in this latter case followed the idea set for in Citizens that contributions to INDEPENDENT entities (i.e., not political campaigns) are not subject to corruption legislation. That means that "Super PACs" could exist, as long as they are completely independent of the actual campaign -- the restrictions on Super PACs were lifted not only for corporations, but for individuals as well.

(7) Just a fun stat -- but note that less than 1/4 of Super PAC donations in the major elections since SpeechNOW v. FEC have come from corporations, and only a tiny percentage have come from public corporations. That is, while Super PACs have created a way to funnel a LOT of new money into elections, the vast majority of that money is from individual contributors, and of the money from corporations, the vast majority of it is from private corporations which are mostly donating in the names of their small number of owners anyway... rather than giant "nameless, faceless" companies. In other words, you want to be concerned about the fallout from Citizens? Be concerned about individual billionaires funneling money into Super PACs -- that's a MUCH bigger problem than the corporate speech issue.

(8) Now, you may say -- "But, but -- Super PACs are all terrible, and even though they're supposed to be 'independent,' they clearly often aren't." Well, that's true. But you act as though wealthy donors had no way of influencing elections before in relatively unrestricted ways. That's just not true. Before there were Super PACs, there were 527 organizations and 501(c)(4) organizations which under some circumstances allow unlimited and anonymous donations (by individuals; corporations could sometimes contribute unlimited funds, but those funds usually had to be reported). Going back further, before the popularity of those organizations in the 1990s and 2000s, there was less regulation on political party donations. So while a donor could only make limited donations to a campaign, they would make huge donations to political parties, which would give out the funds to the candidates (for state and local elections, there were often few to no restrictions on this "soft money"). And that gets us back to the 1970s and Buckley... if you want to get into the history of failed attempts as money restriction before that, I'd suggest looking here.


TL;DR -- Citizens United did one major thing: it tried to correct an obviously stupid system where propagandistic "news organizations" (I'm looking at you, Fox News) could use unlimited funds and speech before elections, but other corporations, including independent non-profit groups (like the ACLU, which supported the ruling) could not. It did NOT allow "unlimited anonymous" donations by corporations or anyone else (e.g., wealthy individuals) directly to political campaigns. A subsequent ruling did loosen some restrictions on donations and reporting for certain kinds of PACs (now known as "Super PACs"), but wealthy folks already had plenty of ways to funnel that money into elections before... it's just changing the name of what these groups are called and certain aspects of how they work.

Regardless, the impact of corporations on all of this overstated. The real problem in campaign financing is the disproportionate power of wealthy individuals who are responsible for a lot more spending than corporations -- and those people had power before Citizens, and they have similar power after. Nothing really changed about them.

If the difference between that and what we had before escapes you, then I suggest you invest in a 7th-grade civics class.

I suggest you read up a bit more on the history of campaign finance law. Restrictions have never really worked -- they just push the rich and powerful to funnel money in different ways.

"It is better for civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up it." -- Henry Allen