Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count
by Steven F. Freeman & Joel Bleifuss / Foreword by U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
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Mess of Pottage

For the heathens among us:

A mess of pottage is something immediately attractive but of little value accepted foolishly and carelessly in exchange for something more distant but immensely more valuable.

The phrase alludes to the story of Jacob and Esau in the Book of Genesis, Esau, being famished, sold his birthright (the rights of the eldest son) to his twin brother Jacob in exchange for a meal ("mess") of lentil stew ("pottage"). Christians and Jews have long understood this term as shorthand for shortsightedness and misplaced priorities -- a bad bargain involving short-term gain and long-term loss.

The mess of pottage motif is a common theme in art, appearing for example in Gioacchino Assereto's Esau sells his birthright (c. 1640) and continuing to today:

 Mess of Pottage by James Tissot / Courtesy Fine Art America

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