Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Losing Weight, Religion, Raising Taxes, Baking Bread

I understand a new season of The Biggest Loser will start next month. Never watched the show but if you need any more evidence Americans are overweight and looking mostly for short-term solutions to their bulges, here’s a news flash: Spanx, the company whose body-slimming products have been available only through department and specialty stores or online, will be opening stores (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-30/can-spanx-stores-fit-into-americas-malls#r=hpt-fs). In other words, there are enough fatties out there to make the cost of store construction and staffing worthwhile. When, oh when, will we stop eating ourselves to shortened lives ...

Hard to think such a thing could occur during this season of gluttony. Not just turkeys and stuffing and marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes and glazed hams and you-name-it, but also sugar plums and caramel popcorn and cookies galore. But then, anything can happen. Consider this—last week Fox News star entertainer-cum-newscaster Bill O’Reilly opined, “It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion. It is a philosophy.”  

I apologize for being late in reporting this mind-blowing news. I don’t make it a habit of watching Fox News. I rely on Jon Stewart for my daily dose of Fox News absurdities. The O’Reilly revelation was broadcast last Thursday. I had to wait until Monday night for Stewart to alert the masses O’Reilly had downgraded them from religious adherents to philosophy groupies. 

Perhaps, and this is just a prayer, O’Reilly’s pomposity will finally be visible to the Fox News nation and this could be the beginning of his end ...

As long as we’re wishing on a star, here’s another person worthy of downgrading—Grover Norquist, he of the “no tax increase” pledge that has cowed many a Republican elected official into abandoning the principle of working for his or her country in favor of working to stay in office and avoid a Tea Party primary challenge. 

I’m always amused to read creative ways Republicans could get around abandoning the pledge. Monday’s NY Times carried a letter to the editor from the former chairman of the American Bar Association’s Taxation Section. Peter L. Faber argued “there’s a loophole in the pledge. Under its literal language, a signer agrees to ‘oppose’ any efforts to increase taxes but does not irrevocably commit to voting against them. A signer could vigorously ‘oppose’ a tax increase and yet vote for it as part of a compromise solution.”

Written like a true lawyer, parsing every word. But such a rational approach to an irrational situation would not work. Tea Party extremists are not rational. They will primary anyone who votes for a tax increase. The Republicans’ only hope—nay, the country’s only hope—is that reasonable, patriotic elected representatives will display profiles of courage and agree to a tax increase for the wealthy elite, even if it means a primary challenge. Mainstream Republicans must take their party back from the extremists. 

I know. I don’t think it will happen either, but it’s nice to dream of life and politics the way they could be ...

Which brings me back to a food item. Last week I heard a story on NPR about a process to bake bread that resists mold for two months without the use of preservatives. It’s done by bombarding loaves with microwaves no stronger than those emitted by your everyday kitchen appliance. It’s just done more comprehensively. 

Trust me on this. I’m no scientist, but the researchers in Lubbock, Texas, were, and they explained how it could be done. Only it probably won’t be done because bread companies would lose a fortune in repeat sales if bread actually lasted that long. It’s like car fuel economy. Do you really believe we don’t have the wherewithal to produce cars that get 100 miles per gallon? We put a man on the moon 43 years ago, for God’s sake. Only the political might of the oil and car companies has stymied development of fuel efficient, safe cars.