September 2010

First, Ben & Jerry’s decided to remove their ‘All Natural’ label due to public interest group pressure.  Now Log Cabin All-Natural Syrup’s label is being challenged since the product contains only4% maple and comes in a real maple syrup style jug.  Are caramel coloring, xanthan gum and citric acid natural?  The FDA regulates marketing claims (thus, Log Cabi is removing the coloring), and Vermont has it’s own maple syrup regulations, but the term “natural” is not defined from a production process standpoint under federal law like the word “organic” under the Organic Foods Production Act.

Read the newspaper artcile here.  The full Amtrak report, entitled “A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor,” can be downloaded here.

The article states: Ben & Jerry’s agreed to remove the “all natural” labeling after the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest questioned the claim last month, saying ingredients such as alkalized cocoa, corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil “either don’t exist in nature or have been chemically modified.”

This is a general problem with food labeling.  What does “natural” mean?  What does “organic” mean? As an example, if you see the USDA Organic Label, it means the product could only be 95% organic, unless it specifically says “100% organic.”

Politico reports:

Election Data Services, which reviewed new Census data from a private-sector demographic firm, estimates Florida will gain two House seats and New York will lose two seats in December’s reapportionment. Texas is expected to gain four House seats and Ohio likely will lose two seats. Six states each would gain one seat: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. Eight states would lose one seat: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. … Missouri will lose a House seat instead of Minnesota.

This is bad news for Obama and the Dems, and good news for the 2012 Republican nominee, as most of the gains go to states won by McCain in 2008: AZ, GA, SC, UT, TX.  And the Florida battle increases in importance.

For those readers interested and concerned about large scale commodity agriculture in the U.S., the reliance of the American diet upon corn and high fructose corn syrup (read Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma), obesity, and/or the carbon footprint of corn (see this article), this video may be of concern.

I’m kind of a political junkie so I’ve added “Politics” to by blog’s subtitle.  And when I’m completely swamped with work, I often pickup a political book to read.  This past weekend I bought “The Audacity to Win” by David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager.  The book so far (I’m half done) is a great read for political gurus and those who like inside baseball. Some initial thoughts:

  • While Obama’s strategy in Iowa was phenomenal, I’m still not sure what happened in New Hamsphire.  Plouffe suggests some ideas (Republicans/Independents who thought Obama had it in the bag and voted for McCain in the GOP Primary instead; Hillary Clinton’s emotional moment), but I would have liked to know a bit more about the numbers.  Also, it was clear early on that Obama had an Iowa strategy (win or go home), but I’m not convinced their NH strategy at the early stages was anything more than ride the wave of the Iowa victory.
  • Plouffe is hard on the campaign about how they handled Texas.  He argues they messed up, and rather than going for delegate counts in Ohio and Texas, they should have made a political decision to go all-in and win Texas, even if it meant giving up delegates in Ohio.  I just think this is wrong, and Plouffe is too hard on himself.  They had fixed on a two possible strategies after winning Iowa, (1) win NH and its over, and (2) a delegate fight. Making the decision they did make in Texas and Ohio showed the campaign’s discipline.  I will say that they did the political thing and went all-in in the Indiana primary much later, and that this worked to their benefit.
  • There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton was a very formidable candidate, would have won the nomination in  any other year, and that Obama was benefited in the general from the drawn out primary season.  Clinton’s strength was evinced in her ability to stay in the race after 11 defeats in a row by huge margins leading up to the PA primary.
  • I wonder whether the 2008 Democratic nomination will change perceptions in the media and public about how to win the nomination.  While momentum and big states will always matter, will delegate acquisition be the public strategy/story causing candidates to stay in the race longer that they might have in previous years?  Maybe, but still difficult given the realities of funding a campaign.
  • Money matters… a lot.  And I found the Plouffe argument in the book for why Obama opted out of public financing for the general election to be quite compelling.  The summary: staying in the system arguably cost Kerry the election in 2004.
  • On the VP front, the book explains that Clinton was given serious consideration, but that the finalists were Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, and Tim Kaine.  I would have liked to know more about how these three became the finalists and who was on the longer list.

I’m now at the point in the book where the Obama Campaign is going to announce its VP choice.

Check out this fascinating article and the accompanying photos/designs about Masdar, a being built 20 miles from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Regulatory Assistance Project Job Opportunities (4)

The Regulatory Assistance Project is looking to fill four positions on its Research and US Program Team. The positions will be located in Montpelier, VT. Please read below for more information and instructions on how to apply.


According to this NY Times article, Obama insisted to Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao that China must immediately revalue its currency and if “the Chinese don’t take actions, we have other means of protecting U.S. interests.”

This kind of tone with the Chinese plays great with Americans and domestic politics, and may be effective with China in the long-term.  But in the short-term, it makes the Chinese lose face and the Chinese government may do nothing for fear that they will be perceived as weak in the international community and among their own citizenry.

My view is that this statement by the American President in intended to show Americans that he’s serious about improving the economy, and that it serves as a real warning to the Chinese that Congress might put tariffs on Chinese goods if necessary.

I’ve always thought that the answer to this should be yes, in primary elections, if they will turn 18 by the date of the general election.  This is the law in some states, and now Vermonters will get to decide this issue on their November election ballot.

Section 72 of the Vermont Constitution reads:

At the biennial session of the General Assembly of this State which convenes in A.D. 1975, and at the biennial session convening every fourth year thereafter, the Senate by a vote of two-thirds of its members, may propose amendments to this Constitution, with the concurrence of a majority of the members of the House of Representatives with the amendment as proposed by the Senate. A proposed amendment so adopted by the Senate and concurred in by the House of Representatives shall be referred to the next biennial session of the General Assembly; and if at that last session a majority of the members of the Senate and a majority of the House of Representatives concur in the proposed amendment, it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to submit the proposal directly to the voters of the state. Any proposed amendment submitted to the voters of the state in accordance with this section which is approved by a majority of the voters voting thereon shall become part of the Constitution of this State.

Prior to the submission of a proposed amendment to a vote in accordance with this section, public notice of the proposed amendment shall be given by proclamation of the Governor.

The General Assembly shall provide for the manner of voting on amendments proposed under this section, and shall enact legislation to carry the provisions of this section into effect.

Apparently the state legislature very quietly adopted this constitutional amendment, and now it’s up to the voters.  Then the legislature will have to craft implementing regulation if the amendment passes.

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