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Scared Vittleless

By From the July/August 2014 issue

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
By Michael Moss
(Random House, 480 pages, $28)

The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate
By Jayson Lusk
(Crown Forum, 240 pages, $24)

Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry About What We Eat
By Harvey Levenstein
(University of Chicago, 228 pages, $15)

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Feature

The Dnieper and the Lethe

By From the July/August 2014 issue

The silver thread of the Dnieper stitches a winding seam through the fabric of the Ukrainian steppes, binding together a variegated national patchwork. Its dark-rolling waters “pierce the stone hills,” as the ancient Tale of Igor puts it, irrigating Ukraine’s countryside while nourishing its spirit. So central was this river to the medieval castellans of Kyiv that their territory was properly known as Poddnieprska Ukraina, or Dnieper Ukraine, and so significant was this river to the serf-born Romantic writer Taras Shevchenko that he asked to be buried on its dark shore,

In a place from where the wide-tilled fields
And the Dnieper and its steep banks
Can be seen and
Its roaring rapids heard
When it carries off
The enemy’s blood from Ukraine
To the deep blue sea.

This, Europe’s third largest river, would become the very embodiment of a nation caught between powerful geopolitical forces.

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Ben Stein's Diary

Uncle Sam Does Not Like You

By 7.15.14

Monday
I cannot believe this. There are clouds in the sky and teeny tiny drops of rain are falling. Just a few tears from heaven, but still, rain here is nonexistent, so, baby, I’m amazed.

Wifey and I met Phil DeMuth for lunch at a sushi place in West Hollywood. The room is a triangular shape and today there is a horrible smell in the air. My lungs are closing up and I feel asthma coming on. I’m pretty sure it’s floor polish or maybe one of those HORRIBLE air cleaners that squirts some VILE smell into the air every few seconds. Poison gas, at least to me.

I gave the waitress a twenty (not her fault about the air) and we left in a great hurry. We walked across to L.A. Buns, an outdoor Mexican café. We ordered and watched all of the gay people walk by. The food — cheese enchiladas for Alex, burgers for Phil and me — was tasty and filling and cheap.

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Flick Story

Roman Polanski’s ‘Venus in Fur’ Is Lightweight and Campy

By 7.15.14

Venus in Fur opens like a horror film—more precisely, like a horror-comedy. The camera swoops slowly over rainswept streets toward a shuttered theater, as thunder rolls and a darkly glittering waltz plays. The music sets the mood for something like Beetlejuice or even Gremlins: The carnival’s in town, and it opens at midnight!

Roman Polanski’s adaptation of David Ives's play about Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s perverse novel Venus in Furs manages to sustain this edgy, gleeful mood despite its layers of adaptation and influence. On one level it’s just an unhealthy confection, a movie-length warning: Be careful what you wish for, that classic horror maxim. Or, Be careful what you swoon for

On a deeper level the movie is about perhaps the most important question: Is there anything outside the self? Is a genuine surrender of the will possible, or is everything just egoism in the end, since you’re still the one choosing to give or withhold yourself? 

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A Further Perspective

Lawsuits and Impeachment

By 7.15.14

Whenever Democrats are in real trouble politically, the Republicans seem to come up with something new that distracts the public’s attention from the Democrats’ problems. Who says Republicans are not compassionate?

With public opinion polls showing President Obama’s sinking approval rate, in the wake of his administration’s multiple fiascoes and scandals — the disgraceful treatment of veterans who need medical care, the Internal Revenue Service coverups, the tens of thousands of children flooding across our open border — Republicans have created two new distractions that may yet draw attention away from the Democrats’ troubles.

From the Republican establishment, Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced plans to sue Barack Obama for exceeding his authority. And from the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, former Governor Sarah Palin has called for impeachment of the president.

Does President Obama deserve to be sued or impeached? Yes! Is there a snowball’s chance in hell that either the lawsuit or an impeachment will succeed? No!

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Main Street U.S.A.

President Joe Biden? Hmmmm…

By 7.15.14

Sarah Palin’s call for the impeachment of President Obama makes no sense. What does the lady want — a national street fight? But a fetching question arises from her enterprise: Could we live for two years under a President Joe Biden? Would it be worse than now? Maybe not.

It has come to this, in the second year of the second term of Barack Obama. Our present chief executive makes Joe Biden look good — a prospect that once seemed as unlikely as a free Clinton speech. Joe Biden, without a fresh political perspective to his name — but with a head of nicely transplanted hair and a mouthful of nicely capped teeth — might lead the country more intelligently than ...

Wait! That assumes someone is leading it now, which, if it happens to be so, surely looks otherwise.

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The War on Terror Spectator

The Middle East’s Christian Diaspora

By 7.15.14

Anyone who obtained too much power in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had two choices: join the Ba’ath Party or die. Joseph Kassab, a medical researcher at the University of Baghdad, chose a third option—flee to the United States. Thirty-five years later, he describes his success here as “an American dream story.” But he is a Chaldean Catholic, and he worries for the fate of his people, the Christians of Iraq.

“Do we want our people to leave Iraq? The answer is no,” he told TAS. “Our ancestry in Iraq goes back 2,000 years before Christ.”

The Christian population of Iraq, which has its roots in the ancient Assyrians who embraced Christianity in biblical times, numbered 1.3 million before 2003. Over the next decade, nearly a million Christians fled to neighboring countries. Many who became refugees fled to the West if they could.

Most joined the Chaldean Christian community in Michigan, which began in the 1870s. They had helped build the automobile industry, saving factory wages to bring family members to the land of opportunity. The Detroit community of Chaldeans now numbers 200,000 and has associations for every profession from pharmaceutics to CPAs.

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Political Hay

No U-Turns

By 7.15.14

The Netflix documentary Mitt ought to be required viewing for American voters, and particularly the low-information types who cast their ballots for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election. Mitt chronicles the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and in it one can see the effects a long and grueling presidential campaign can have on a candidate and his family.

One can also see the chasm between who a man really is and what he’s portrayed to be by his political opponents and the media. The Romney in Mitt is a man America would happily choose as its president: successful in business, faithful to God, blessed with family, easygoing with friends, and possessed of the intelligence and skill to serve in a high executive role. He’s funny and down to earth. The Romney clan is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

He’s a man you can root for.

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History

Cesar Chavez: Anti-Immigration to His Union Core

By 7.15.14

Call it the whitewash of Cesar Chavez. Yes, that Cesar Chavez: the late farm worker unionizer (he died in 1993) honored repeatedly by President Obama. The man the Left loves to name drop for his role in organizing all-those grape and lettuce and melon pickers in the day.

But there is a considerable twist to the story. In fact, Cesar Chavez believed ferociously in the border of the United States — because that border protected his union. So ferociously did he hold this view that the New York Times ran a story detailing an accusation that the union Chavez founded, the United Farm Workers, set up a 100 mile “wet line” to keep “wetbacks” and “illegals” — yes, all of those are Chavez’s words — out of the United States. So let’s go back in the time machine to the period when Chavez was rocketing to fame.

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Play Ball

In Midseason Form

By 7.15.14

With the 85th MLB All-Star Game set to be played tonight at Target Field in Minneapolis, we have reached the midway point of the 2014 baseball season. Actually, we’re well into the second half of the season as MLB teams have played nearly 100 contests in a schedule of 162 games. In any case, here is my assessment of the 2014 season thus far and how my predictions have fared.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
AL East                   W   L    PCT      GB
Baltimore Orioles     52   42   .553      ___
Toronto Blue Jays     49   47   .510      4.0
New York Yankees    47   47   .505      5.0
Tampa Bay Rays        44   53   .454      9.5
Boston Red Sox         43   52   .453      9.5

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