Ensure Plus

There is a food-supplement drink called Ensure Plus that my doctors have me taking twice a day, with the aim of putting back some of the weight I’ve lost in the past five or six years of assorted ailments. It isn’t bad.

I’ve had worse shakes from some of the fast-food chains, and it comes in four mostly potable flavors. Their butter pecan and the chocolate are particularly tasty (and I speak as a man who has once sent back a Steak ’n Shake chocolate as unfit to drink) and the strawberry isn’t bad, though it tastes more like jam than fresh fruit. As to the vanilla I recuse myself from speaking, partly because that isn’t a flavor I’m very fond of to begin with, but mostly because I read the label. (Which refers to itself as “Home-Made Vanilla” in spite of the fact that the ingredients include many substances that I don’t believe are to be found in anybody’s home cooking.)

Anyway, I learned (from Stephen Colbert’s fake news show — the papers and news magazines I read haven’t mentioned it) that Ensure Plus has played a significant role in the “harsh interrogation” — we won’t use the T word — that our people used on the detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. One of their techniques was to restrict feeding the subjects to a diet of 1,000 calories a day — just enough, that is, to keep the subjects from embarrassing them by dropping dead of starvation. And, if Colbert has his facts straight — anybody out there know? — those daily calories came from a single bottle of Ensure Plus each day. (Compare with my two bottles plus three square, regular meals a day.)

I can see where that would make almost anybody say almost anything for a bologna sandwich — though, of course, you’d have no way of knowing whether or not what they said revealed a truth or was an invention. But that’s always a problem with enhanced interrogation, isn’t it?


  1. Jeff says:

    Not a problem – a feature, if what you’re looking for is intelligence useful for propaganda.

    When my son had his tonsils out a few years ago, he had a bad experience and stopped eating. As he was already pathetically skinny, he couldn’t afford to lose the 8 pounds he lost in four days. Ensure may not have saved his life, but it sure as hell saved mine (death by worry). After a day on Ensure, he started eating again, and by the end of the week he was back in battery, though he still looked like he’d been in a Confederate prison camp.

  2. Kriss says:

    I find it interesting that fake news can contain more news than real news.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand that all that’s happening is that the fake news is operating under a different set of constraints to real news. It’s not better, it’s just different and to that end it is wrong or right in different ways.

    Strangely I expect the fake news to contain less spin of the facts and less likely to blatantly lie to me. Do you?

    Which is really the interesting thing, change the production rules and you get a different chunk of information out.

    The same way wikipedia isn’t better or worse than a real encyclopaedia it’s just working under a different set of constraints which makes it different.

    To that end I’m experimenting with “game” vs “tool” design. Not because I think it will be better, just different and different is interesting…

  3. SebiMeyer says:


    There, said it for you. Because sometimes naming things by their proper names is half the work.

  4. Frater says:

    I think, on the whole, fake news (Colbert and TheOnion as the classical examples) has more freedom to be honest than the real news, in modern times. Colbert being a particular example, his “fake” as it were comes more from espousing an attitude that he does not hold, rather than facts that do not exist – the fake facts, when they exist, tend to be obvious and humorous, and generally besides the point.

    Colbert’s show in a lot of sense is a reflection of the ridiculous nature of today’s news. You realise, particularly if you watch the Daily show as well (less fake, more mockery), that the things he is claiming to believe as a joke are things that others are claiming as real truth. All he has to do is present the arguments in a slightly different way and he shines a revealing light on the obvious flaws in the arguments themselves.

    Truth through fiction. And that’s tonight’s word.

  5. John H says:

    The Daily Show and Colbert Report perform a similar function as the court jester in medieval courts — merging facts with humor to entertain the masses at the expense of the ruling class.

  6. Tina Black says:

    Yah — it drives me nuts to hear ol’ Dick Cheney bray on about “valuable intelligence,” when you know those tortured prisoners were feeding him exactly what he wanted to hear. Sometimes the delusions of the powerful are especially self-serving.

  7. Michael Parker says:

    I don’t know if Stephen Colbert has his facts straight on this or not but I’d give him the shadow of a doubt. He’s won two Peabody Awards and call the Colbert Report a fake news show but he is a better journalist than most so-called professional news reporters. His alter ego is that of a right-wing conservative but in his tongue-in-cheek style he reported on the truths of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars during the Bush Years when the network news threw “W” softballs. The 2000’s were definitely a lost decade, in part due to the complacent press and I fear Edward R. Murrow was rolling in his grave.

  8. Gerry Quinn says:

    Of course, somebody can say whatever they want under non-enhanced interrogation too. It’s probably easier, in fact, as they have fewer distractions to interfere with getting an invented story straight, and no cause to hurry in telling it. So all interrogation of prisoners must be pointless, right?