Friday, February 13, 2009

Pig Candy

In a book that many of you probably know, with the wonderful title of The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner), there is a recipe (on p. 120) for "Pig Candy":

. . . You can't even imagine how good this is---and how easy, which makes it even better. You start with bacon---

Or, in other words, pork, and lots of it---1,071 pages of it, in its latest excrescence.

So anyway, you start with bacon, and the only other ingredient is brown sugar---and do I really need to say the dark brown kind? 
All that pork goes down best with some sweetener, so add lots of it:
You just roll the bacon in the dark brown sugar and then you bake it (at 350 for about 20 minutes or so, depending on how you like your bacon---put it on a rack on a cookie sheet and you won't even have to turn it over!)---and voy-ola! Pig Candy!
So after some minimal time in the political oven, out comes the finished product, before anyone has a chance to have second thoughts about what they are indulging themselves in:
Now, the first time I ever tasted this, I was on the book tour for God Save the Sweet Potato Queens. . .  I went to Rainy Day Books and met about ten jillion Queens and had a very large time, and one of those wonderful women . . . came up and, with a conspiratorial grin, handed me a large paper sack, saying that, in her opinion, the contents constituted a pretty swell "hotel munchie." I smelled bacon without even opening the bag . . .
Yes, the lobbyists in Washington are so fixated by the smell of bacon that they can't even bring themselves to release the text of the bill so that the legislators who will vote on it can read it first. (The version posted last night has already been superseded---note that it was shorter.) 

There's no time for reading such a humongous porker of a bill---and besides, it has to be passed by 6 PM this evening so that the Speaker of the House can leave on her scheduled junket to Rome. (A champion of the "new scholarship" in Catholic teaching on abortion, she has an audience with the Pope---which goes to show how Benedict XVI is modeling his Lord and Savior. The Pope will no doubt use the occasion to urge her to repent of her views.) 

Even the recipe for "Pig Candy" was capable of improvement:
And then, when I was moving to my new house, our precious darling George showed up to help me (read: do it for me), and what do you reckon he had gotten up at six o'clock in the morning to make for me on moving day? Pig Candy, of course. And do you know that he also added chopped pecans to the dark brown sugar?
Just as, this very moment, they are being added to the Pork Bill before its final passage through the legislative oven. [UPDATE 7 pm EST: Here are the gruesome spending details (H/T: TitusOneNine): Read them and weep for your country. Then watch this short video and see how this sausage was made, with $50 million thrown in here and there by hand-written, last minute additions---just like chopped pecans:

Given how this rush to pig out at the taxpayers' expense has happened so blindingly fast, I see that I was a little too conservative in my predictions , a week before the elections, of what would happen if Obama was chosen President:
(Note to Democrats: If Obama wins, any attempt at a radical agenda might succeed for the first 100 days or so, but then will come the inevitable backlash, and the special interests will eat each other up in the ensuing melee. Obama will not be strong (or experienced) enough to pick a course and stay with it, and Pelosi and Reid will move greedily into the power vacuum his vacillations will create. Think Washington is a jungle now? Just you wait.)
Yes, just you wait. The appalling spectacle has already led one person of sense to record an apologia to his great grand-children:
Dear Great-grandkids,

I am nearing mid-life now, and on my birthday I write this letter to you to apologize for what my generation has done to the country that you will inherit.

You are a direct descendant of John Hart who, with great foresight and at enormous personal risk, signed the Declaration of Independence. It started this country on the path to greatness - greatness achieved by the hard work and self-reliance of each individual. None of my ancestors need apologize for anything; they sacrificed and did what needed to be done in order to preserve this country. But somewhere between the generation of my father, who was a Marine in the Pacific Theater, and mine, we lost our way.

The people of my generation were selfish and were appropriately dubbed the "Me Generation." We fought no wars, we built up the citizenry's dependence on government and we spent money on ourselves for which we will leave you the tab. For that, I am eternally apologetic. I did my part to avoid this by working hard, paying taxes, and never asking the government for anything but to leave me alone. And I wrote a column that tried to educate people on the power of capitalism, minimal government, and prudent fiscal policies. It took our country 230 years to rack up $5 trillion in debt, and only two presidencies to double that to $10 trillion. . . 
Mr. Hart is even-handed in passing out the blame:

In George W. Bush we elected a Republican who turned out to be a big-government disaster. Among other fiscal missteps, he and the Democrats gave you another entitlement to pay for, the Medicare Prescription Drug "Benefit." Congress let the drug company lobbyists write the law so that, courtesy of a complaisant government, they did not have to compete for business. In a world where free-market capitalism as personified by Walmart, which brought us $4 generic prescriptions, is vilified, our government makes us pay its donors at the big pharmaceutical companies $130 for the equivalent medication. Only government can stifle free-market competition and make us pay more. Sadly, the Republicans' fingerprints were all over this travesty.

Then, when the Republicans lost their way and became Democrats, we elected a charismatic president who promised an undefined agenda of "hope." A fawning media never asked him any hard questions, and they became his cheerleaders. In 2008, journalism died.
What a sentence for the tradition in this country that gave us John Peter Zenger: "In 2008, journalism died." Mr. Hart continues:
After getting ourselves into trouble as a nation for borrowing money that we did not have to buy things that we did not need, this administration's only answer was to do more of the same. In his first month in office, Obama put you $1 trillion more in debt with what he called a "stimulus package," two words you do not want to hear from a politician. He parceled the money out to corrupt governors (remind me to tell you about an Illinois governor named Blagojevich), mayors, unions and teachers who supported him. Pork was relabeled "stimulus."

We never had a politician after Ronald Reagan who would look the country in the eye and tell the truth. Our leaders bought votes by borrowing the money, which, by your coming of age, will either bankrupt the country or burden your generation with so much debt that government cannot provide the basic services such as roads and national defense. We squandered $1 trillion and our national credibility on a poorly thought out war in Iraq.
Mr. Hart finishes with a sad commentary on the current lack of character in those we trust to act on our behalf: 

We were attacked in 2001 by religious zealots who envied our economy and our freedoms. Our leaders responded by restricting those freedoms and nationalizing more of our economy. Our government's response to the attack was to create the TSA (we called it "Thousands Standing Around"), which hurt our economy and humiliated us when we flew on airplanes by making us take our shoes off and forcing 65-year-old ladies to dispose of 3 ounces of shampoo. In Tom Daschle's brilliance, he made the TSA a unionized behemoth that no one could control.

And how did we reward this man who, as Senate majority leader, was later voted out of office by the citizens of his state? After failing to pay more than $128,000 in taxes on a car and driver furnished him by a Democratic donor (can you say "limousine liberal"?), he was rewarded by President Obama with a Cabinet nomination to be in charge of socializing the greatest health care system in the world. You are probably reading this while standing in line for three hours to get a rationed flu shot.

We also let a man who, again knowingly did not pay his taxes, run the IRS and the Treasury Department. In fact, the reason the Democrats do not mind raising taxes on the rest of us is that they do not pay them. I suggested nominating every person in America for a Cabinet position so we could recover all the revenue owed to the government. Only when nominated for high office do some people seem to pay the taxes they owe. If Willie Nelson had been nominated as drug czar and then paid all his back taxes, we might even have run a surplus.

I wish we could have left you a more sane, solvent and reasoned country. A few of us tried.

But I do not wish to end on a pessimistic note---after all, I just came back from the 2009 TED Conference, which was filled with visions of the future that inspired hope. The current mess will have to get much worse before it can get better. That the decline is happening more quickly will serve only to hasten the day when people will have to come to their senses. They will then realize the inescapable truth that lies behind President Grover Cleveland's sage question: "If the Government supports the People, who will support the Government?" 

Such a truth should not require restating, yet each generation must do what is necessary to absorb it for itself. For it is also true that each generation is connected---in ways that are just as undeniable. Thus if we cannot see the way to sense for our own sakes, let us at least commit to do so for the sake of those who come after us. 

At the 2009 TED Conference, I heard this sentiment expressed most eloquently by Ray Anderson, who owns a company that has developed fully recyclable carpet tiles. When he announced a 25-year-long commitment to that goal in 1994, he convinced his employees that it was worth the effort required to change course from the usual custom of "make it, use it, and throw it away." The company became so dedicated to the effort that it started a campaign which anyone could join, called Mission Zero, where you can hear a brief talk by Mr. Anderson explaining its goals.

In his talk at the TED Conference, Mr. Anderson told us about an employee of his, Glenn Thomas, who had experienced an epiphany in devising plans to make their company's product fully reusable, and manufactured with a zero net carbon footprint. He expressed that experience in the form of a short poem, which Mr. Anderson shared with us. The poem captures movingly the similar dedication that will be required, if we are to throw off our addiction to "Pig Candy", from this generation:

Tomorrow's Child

© Glenn Thomas

Without a name; an unseen face
and knowing not your time nor place
Tomorrow's Child, though yet unborn,
I met you first last Tuesday morn.

A wise friend introduced us two,
and through his sobering point of view
I saw a day that you would see;
a day for you, but not for me

Knowing you has changed my thinking,
for I never had an inkling
That perhaps the things I do
might someday, somehow, threaten you

Tomorrow's Child, my daughter-son
I'm afraid I've just begun
To think of you and of your good,
Though always having known I should.

Begin I will to weigh the cost
of what I squander; what is lost
If ever I forget that you
will someday come to live here too.

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