In ‘Tuesdays With Saddam,’ a 2005 essay for GQ, writer Lisa DePaolo interviewed the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen assigned to watch over Saddam Hussein in 2004 prior to his trial before the Iraqi Special Tribunal in October 2005. The prisoner reportedly preferred chicken over beef, marinated his olives with Italian dressing and drank all his beverages at room temperature. Also, “he was nuts about Cheetos,” writes Ms. DePaolo. “One of the guardsmen turned him on to them, and before long he would get grumpy if they ran out (so they started to order extra from the mess hall).” Then he discovered Doritos and “he never went back.” He called them “doris” and would devour a family-size bag in 10 minutes.
Not even a fearsome dictator could stop at just one. But why? Mark Schatzker, the author of “The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor,” compares our need to eat chip after chip of artificial goodness to addiction—“a disease of craving” not so different from nicotine or narcotics dependency. “Salt, sugar, and fat are what psychologists call reinforcers,” he writes. “They trigger bursts of the potent neurotransmitters and activate the same brain circuitry as heroin and cocaine.”
Doritos started out in the 1960s as a taco chip with a mere 11 ingredients. Now such varieties as Jacked Ranch Dipped Hot Wings list 34. (This calls to mind the Onion headline: “Doritos Celebrates One Millionth Ingredient.”) Each chip is specifically engineered to contain as much of that irresistible flavor as possible. But, as we all know, that irresistible flavor lacks much nutritional value.
This is the problem that Mr. Schatzker addresses: “In nature, there is an intimate connection between flavor and nutrition,” he writes. In other words, what tastes good is good for you. Take fruit, for example. In nature, if you see a sign on the “highway of nutrition” for grapes, “you’ll get to a place with lots of vitamins C and K, some thiamin and riboflavin and potassium, fiber, sugar, and all manner of plant secondary compounds,” the author writes. On the other hand, “at the supermarket, the same sign—grape—takes your body to Grapeade, a place with no fiber and a bit of vitamin C, but that packs a serious hit of sugar.”
From Beijing to London to Washington to other points on the map of this globalized economy, “inequality” has become a hot topic. China has its own methods of handling those the regime’s leaders feel have engaged in excessively conspicuous consumption. But show trials and re-education are tools not readily available to politicians in democratic countries. So when Hillary Clinton opines that something must be wrong when CEOs earn more that 300-times what their employees make, and all 19 of her potential Republican opponents attack President Obama for having presided over a sharp increase in inequality, we have an unusual all-party, multi-nation consensus that something must be done.
The inequality complained of has four related dimensions: wealth, income, opportunity and political power. Thomas Piketty took aim at the first of these in his Capital, an overnight publishing sensation in which he argued that wealth inequality was high and would inevitably increase. Even though unequally distributed wealth contributes to the other three inequalities, the issue of wealth inequality has not attracted politicians’ sustained attention. In part that inattention is due to statistical and logical flaws in the Picketty study, many of which he has graciously conceded. But my guess is that politicians are shying away from the discussion because they know the solution, but fear voters’ wrath if they implement it: raise inheritance taxes to prevent the dear departed from perpetuating wealth-inequality by willing their assets to the winners of the sperm lottery.
Inequalities of income, opportunity, and political power, on the other hand, are all the rage on the campaign trail. They are inter-related. The so-called top 1% of earners can use their incomes to create inequality of opportunity, for example, privileged access to the best schools and universities. That increases the opportunity-gap between rich and poor. The one-percenters’ incomes also give them political access, creating a crony capitalism that allows them to secure political favors that further enhance their incomes.
Politicians of all sorts to the rescue. Hillary Clinton wants to change a system that allows, “the top 25 hedge fund managers together [to] make more money than all the kindergarten teachers in America,” while Jeb Bush, second-generation inheritor of millions and her likely rival, bemoans the fact that “If you are born poor today you are likely to remain poor”. And Mitt Romney piles on with "Under President Obama the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty in American than ever before." He might have pointed out that from the day Obama was sworn in until today, the S&P Index of 500 stocks has risen 239%, while average weekly wages have managed a mere 11% gain -- good for the 1%, not so good for groups about which Obama has expressed the greatest concern.
In sum, there is broad agreement that the gains of recent years, the Obama years, have been concentrated on the already well-off. And most agree on some of the causes.
President Obama is thankful the trade deal has passed the Senate. And he wants the House to "follow suit."
"Today’s bipartisan Senate vote is an important step toward ensuring the United States can negotiate and enforce strong, high-standards trade agreements. If done right, these agreements are vital to expanding opportunities for the middle class, leveling the playing field for American workers, and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire by selling goods Made in America to the rest of the world," says President Obama in a statement released tonight by the White House.
"This Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation includes strong standards that will advance workers’ rights, protect the environment, promote a free and open Internet, and it supports new robust measures to address unfair currency practices. The legislation also includes an important extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to help all American workers participate in the global economy.
"I want to thank Senators of both parties for sticking up for American workers by supporting smart trade and strong enforcement, and I encourage the House of Representatives to follow suit by passing TPA and TAA as soon as possible."
Speaker of the House John Boehner is praising the Senate's passage of the trade bill and calling on Democrats to join with Republicans to pass the law in the House.
“Trade helps create good-paying American jobs, so it’s good news that the Senate has put us one step closer to eliminating trade barriers. These reforms have the support of farmers, manufacturers, small business owners, and Americans from all walks of life, and it’s not hard to figure out why," Boehner says in a statement.
"With trade promotion authority, we’ll be able to hold President Obama accountable so America’s workers can get the best agreements. Without it, our workers will fall further behind as China writes the rules of the global economy. It is a no-brainer. The House will take up this measure, and Republicans will do our part, but ultimately success will require Democrats putting politics aside and doing what’s best for the country. Let’s seize this opportunity to open new doors for the things Americans make and the people who make them."
Among the emails released by the State Department today was one sent by Hillary Clinton to Jake Sullivan on April 8, 2011. Clinton was forwarding a private intelligence report that Sidney Blumenthal had sent her with the subject line: "UK game playing; new rebel strategists; Egypt moves in."
In the State Department release today, Clinton responds with "FYI" and a sentence that is redacted.
But the New York Times posted its versions of the emails earlier this week and the sentence is not redacted. In the Times's version the redacted sentence reads: "FYI. The idea of using private security experts to arm the opposition should be considered."
The redaction in the State Department version is labeled a "B5" Freedom of Information Act exception, which provides for a "deliberative privilege" in keeping the information from the public.
The obvious question: Why did the State Department redact that sentence?
Hillary Clinton was forwarded an article a month after the terrorist attack on Benghazi that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens that quoted Stevens's father. In the October 14, 2012, Bloomberg article, Jan Stevens, the late ambassador's father, was quoted saying that it would be "abhorrent" to make his son's death a political issue in the presidential campaign.
According to the State Department's release of several emails sent to Clinton's private email address, the link to the article was forwarded on the same day to State Department employee Chris Hensman, who forwarded it to Clinton advisers Cheryl Mills and Philippe Reines. Mills forwarded that email to Clinton.
"Very nice," replied Clinton. "Can you talk?" See a sreenshot of the email below:
Oklahoma City Two likely Republican presidential candidates defended the PATRIOT Act and its terrorist surveillance provisions at a gathering of Republicans Friday morning. Both New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush were emphatic in their support for the National Security Agency’s metadata collection program.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican who is running for president, staged a filibuster earlier this week to protest the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and these provisions. And while his name wasn’t mentioned by Christie or Bush, Paul's filibuster was clearly on their minds here at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
Christie drew on his experience as a U.S. attorney to emphasize his credentials for discussing the issue. “This debate that we’re having right now about the PATRIOT Act and whether we should have strong intelligence around the world is a very dangerous debate, because it’s being done by people who have no experience dealing with what I’ve dealt with,” said Christie. “I’m only person in this national conversation at the moment who has used the PATRIOT Act, signed off on it, and convicted terrorists because of it.”
The New Jersey Republican spoke in favor of “aggressive law enforcement and strong intelligence laws” for combatting terrorism threats to the homeland. “I’m telling you there are responsible ways for us to oversee this and make sure civil liberties aren’t violated, but I’ll tell you something else. These same folks who are criticizing us now will be the same people who will stand on Capitol Hill if there’s another attack on America and interrogate the CIA director and FBI director and ask them why they didn’t connect the dots, and not realize the hypocrisy of their actions,” Christie said.
“The first job of the president of the United States is to protect the homeland, and that’s what we need to do,” Christie said, to applause in the audience. Matt Vermillion, a local blogger and Republican activist, responded with a loud shout from the back of the ballroom near the rows of reporters: “Protect the Constitution!”
Later Friday morning, Jeb Bush said he “concurred” with Christie on the NSA issue. “I just heard Chris Christie’s remarks as it relates to the PATRIOT Act. I totally agree with him and many Republicans that it ought to be reauthorized to keep us safe,” Bush said. “Boo!” shouted Vermillion, the activist, though the rest of the room applauded.
“There is ample evidence that the PATRIOT Act has been a tool to keep us safe,” Bush continued. “There is no evidence of anyone’s civil liberties being violated because of it.”
Bush added that reauthorizing the law is “definitely part of a comprehensive strategy for foreign policy.”
Beyond those Republicans’ speeches, the effect of Paul’s filibuster in the Senate is being felt in Oklahoma City. Three other senators running or considering running for president—Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio—have been billed for the conference but are now unable to appear in person due to delays in the Senate’s schedule. Graham addressed the audience Friday morning by way of video. Paul was invited to the conference but was not listed as a speaker on the schedule.
Speaking today at a Washington, D.C. synagogue, President Obama called himself an "honorary member of the tribe."
"Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg. And Jeff reminded me that he once called me the first Jewish president," Obama said to light laughter.
"Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith -- I should make clear this was an honorary title, but I as flattered. And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody whe's hosted seven White House seders ... and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also probably say that I am getting a little bit of a hang of the lingo. But I will not use any of the Yiddishisms that Rahm Emanuel taught me, because I want to be invited back. Let's just say that he had some creative new synonyms for 'shalom.'"
Hillary Clinton misstated her location at a campaign event today in New Hampshire. Instead of saying New Hampshire, the presidential candidate said, "Here in Washington."
"Here in Washington, we know that unfortunately the deck is still being stacked for those at the top," said the presidential candidate. "And that just doesn't work for a long term strategy either politically or economically."
Republican members of the House intelligence committee say the Obama administration should release more of the one million-plus documents found after the 2011 raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The White House has so far released around 120, including 86 more on Wednesday that revealed relatively trivial details, like the terrorist mastermind’s reading list. (One interesting nugget, though, was that al Qaeda had been considering opening a recruitment office in Iran.)
“Everything should be released,” said New York congressman Peter King, who sits on the intelligence committee. King clarified that those documents with sensitive material about military and intelligence assets ought to have that information redacted. “But there’s no reason why almost all of these documents shouldn’t be out there. They should have been released a long time ago.”
“Four years after capturing troves of documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound, the public is still in the dark. Documents and files are needlessly kept secret at the cost of transparency. Publish the information. Get it in front of experts, scholars, journalists, and the public,” said Ohio Republican Brad Wenstrup, another intelligence committee member. “It’s a matter of good governance.”
But as reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, the Obama administration and the some inside the CIA have resisted calls for the documents to be released publicly. Among those in Congress leading the effort to release those documents publicly is House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California. It was Nunes himself who inserted language into the most recent intelligence reauthorization legislation that requires the administration to release these documents. The White House has been slow to do so, and its document “drip” appears selective.
Other Republican members of the House intelligence committee weighed in on the need for more documents to be released.
“I support Chairman Nunes’s push to allow more documents like these to be released to the public,” said Ohio Republican Mike Turner. “Declassifying this information conclusively establishes that bin Laden was an active threat to the United States.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, said she “urged” the office of the Director of National Intelligence to review more documents “in an expedient manner and release them to the public as soon as possible.”
“The documents recovered in the bin Laden raid are important for our nation’s further understanding of al-Qaeda, its extremist ideology, and the threat to American security,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “As seen by recent terror attacks across the Middle East and elsewhere, al-Qaeda and its derivatives remain, despite claims to the contrary, a threat to our nation, our values, and our way of life.”
Peter King suggests the Obama administration is slow-walking the release of the documents for political reasons. “All I can think of is that it goes against their narrative that al Qaeda was on the run,” he says.
"I do not object to withholding certain federal equipment from local police forces: Some items are never appropriate for domestic law enforcement. And I do not object to some items on the list. After all, we are unlikely to hear many complaints over a ban on bayonets, given that our military has not led a bayonet charge since the Korean War," wrote Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania.
"But many of the listed items are purely defensive, such as riot helmets, riot shields, and armored personal transport vehicles," Toomey added. "They are surplus Department of Defense items that the federal government will not use, and therefore donates to local police departments. After the riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, and New York City, where protesters torched police cars and hurled bricks, cement blocks, and glass bottles at law enforcement, why would we make it harder to send riot gear that would otherwise sit unused to unprotected police officers across the country? I would not want a police officer to respond to the recent gang shoot-out at Waco, Texas-which killed nine and wounded 18-without ready access to full protective equipment, including, if needed, an armored vehicle. And armored vehicles were essential in providing protection and transportation to law enforcement in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing."
Toomey also objected to "to the criteria your Working Group applied. Its report treats the need to save police lives as something to be weighed against-and sacrificed to-the desire to prevent distrust or discomfort on the part of others."
In a speech Monday in New Jersey, Obama said: "We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them. It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message. So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments."
The "militarization of the police" became a topic of national discussion following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Many politicians and journalists claimed that the police had incited riots with their heavy-handed response. But looting and arson occurred before riot police were deployed in Ferguson and again after police took a less aggressive posture.
Americans’ expectations for the economy slumped in May by the most since October 2013, casting doubt on consumers’ ability to revive growth. A measure tracking the economic outlook fell by 6 points to 44 this month, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. Thirty-nine percent said the U.S. economy is getting worse, the largest share since the federal government shutdown 19 months ago.
The recovery, which we are ceaselessly being assured is either here or about to arrive, “this summer,” has never really materialized.
The U.S. economy has largely disappointed this year, with weaker-than-expected retail sales data last week capping a recent run of reports showing scant momentum. Consumer spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of gross domestic product, climbed at a 1.9 percent annualized rate in the first quarter, the slowest in a year and less than half the 4.4 percent advance in the final three months of 2014.
One suspects that this will be noticed by the “everyday people” who are, after all, living it.
Oklahoma City Former Texas governor Rick Perry sounded off on the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to Islamic State forces at a conference Thursday, saying President Obama has “lost the peace” in a critical part of the country. He also said Hillary Clinton bears responsibility for the current violent state of Iraq under ISIS.
“That’s a strategic city in that Anbar province,” Perry said in a speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. “Ramadi was the place where the Sunni awakening occurred. Where Sunni leaders banded together and stopped the insurgency, working with the Americans. Years later, on the hills of that surge, we had won the war in Iraq. But the current president has lost the peace.”
In an interview with THE WEEKLY STANDARD following the speech, Perry, who may run for president, expounded on the meaning of Ramadi’s fall. The Texas Republican spoke about the American heroes who fought to secure the Anbar province after insurgents cause chaos in that part of the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein. “Our young men, Chris Kyle, and Marcus [Luttrell] and Morgan [Luttrell] were over there in the fall of ’06,” Perry said. “Mike Monsoor lost his life there, was awarded the Medal of Honor. Marc Lee lost his life there. I mean, there’s a lot of blood and treasure in that town that should be free today if the president of the United States understood the tactical side of how to keep a place free and peaceful, and you leave American troops there.”
Perry sounded pessimistic about the hopes of defeating ISIS. “Every day that’s gone by, we have fewer and fewer good options. That’s the sadness of this,” he said.
Perry criticized both President Obama and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton for pulling out American troops from Iraq in 2011. He pointed to the fact that America’s most successful post-war situations have included leaving troops in country, including in Germany and Japan after World War II and in South Korea following the Korean War.
When TWS asked if Clinton, now a candidate for president, bears responsibility for the current situation in Iraq, Perry was unequivocal.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” he said. “The vast majority of the president’s advisers who were either in uniform or were civilian military experts all told him, ‘Do not pull the troops out.’ It’s clear that her position was closer to his [Obama’s].”