Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fiery Okra Jalapeño Slaw‏

Submitted by Natalie Lochwin



This intense, delicious, and very spicy side dish, inspired by Caribbean and Southern cooking flavours, is a great accompaniment to West Indian food, BBQ, picnic food, or just about anything that goes with heat and coleslaw! It also puts good use to okra, a woefully underused delight.



Here it is pictured with clay baked, curried goat!






Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 7 fresh green okra (frozen would likely work just fine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 fresh Jalapeños
  • red hot pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (I used Madras)
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • cider, wine or broth
  • lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
Cut the cabbage into a medium shred. You want a texture that is not too fine and is less shredded than many slaws. 

Dice the onion.


Slice the okra into 1/2 " rings.

Slice the garlic, seed and slice the jalapeño. Always be careful seeding a jalapeno, as the seeds can irritate your skin, eyes, etc. Especially if inexperienced you might want to wear gloves.
 

Seeding is a good idea, however, as if you don't, the dish will be intensely spicy and enjoyable for only the most seasoned spicy food palate. 

Add 1 TB olive oil to a hot medium or large sized frying pan.

Fry the onion until soft, add the jalapeño and cook for about 5 minutes.


Add the okra. Okra has a viscous quality which blends well with other ingredients. It will act as a thickener. Cook for 8 minutes or so, until soft.

Add the curry powder and a small pinch of hot pepper flakes,  around 1/4 tsp (you can adjust later and add more if you'd like it hotter) cook for a bit, then add some cider or wine (a splash at a time) as your pan is drying out. Add garlic, and cook a little longer until fragrant. Add 1 tsp of vinegar.

Add the cabbage and cook down for several minutes, adding 1 Tbsp. of butter if desired (a  delicious addition).


Add salt and pepper to taste. More hot pepper flakes or a bit of cayenne may be added now if you'd like it even hotter. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.


This can be both made more al dente if you prefer a crunchy cabbage dish or on the softer side. Both ways are great.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Art: November Window


November Window - Acrylic on Canvas by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email theleftchapter@outlook.com for details)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

From opposition to retreat: Tom Mulcair's complicated relationship with Bill C-51

At the end of last week it looked like Tom Mulcair and the NDP caucus were going to rise to the occasion on one of the great threats to Canadian civil liberties and Canada's activist community in many years, Bill C-51.

Bill C-51 is sweeping and dangerous. From the Privacy Commissioner, to commentators like Karl Nerenburg, to Green Party leader Elizabeth May  to the Communist Party, a wide-array of people and organizations have denounced and exposed the very disturbing implications of its passage.

Mulcair seemed to say as much and seemed poised to take a strong stance rejecting the bill, which earned him the praise of many, myself included and which reassured many on the left that Canada's historically social democratic party was not going to abandon them or let them down.

But in the days since Mulcair first announced his and his party's intention to oppose the bill, this "opposition" has quickly begun to look far more like a retreat.

Mulcair almost immediately, presumably to reassure Canadians in an election year that he too was "strong on terrorism", started to sound a position very similar to that of Justin Trudeau who has decided to vote for the bill - namely that it was not the bill itself or a new "get tough on terrorism" bill in general that they oppose, but some aspects of the bill.

After telling Global News that he would not promise to repeal the legislation if elected but would, rather, change it (a position de facto identical to Trudeau's in that the bill is certain to pass), he also added the further amendment that he would not support the bill without amendments, which by definition means he might be willing to support it with some amendments!

So what are these amendments and changes and what would make the bill presumably acceptable to the NDP?

In a response to a constituent who had emailed their MP and had CCed Mulcair (an email that was forwarded to me and the full text of which can be read at the end of this piece) Mulcair says:

Here's why we can't support C-51:
- This bill is vague, far-reaching and ineffective.
- Giving CSIS significant new powers without oversight could lead to abuse.
- There is no plan to counter radicalization.
- Because of Conservative budget cuts, CSIS and the RCMP don't have enough resources to fully enforce the existing laws, let alone the new provisions.
- We share some of the Privacy Commissioner's serious concerns:https://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2015/s-d_150130_e.asp
- We believe the existing laws are sufficient.
Here's what we think the Anti-Terrorism Bill should do:
- Provide strong oversight of security and intelligence agencies.
- Ensure appropriate resources are available for security and intelligence agencies to track and identify threats to our safety.
- Include efforts to combat radicalization, working with at-risk communities to help counter radicalization.

First, one has to note, these proposed amendments (and the letter itself as you can read below) seem to assume the need for new legislation is a real one. Mulcair's postion can only be read as accepting the premises underlining the bill if not exactly the bill itself as it is now.

Beyond that, however, while calling for more oversight, again exactly as the Liberals are, they also effectively call for actually increasing the resources available to our security and intelligence services. The final, and I suspect deliberately vague, provision about including "efforts to combat radicalization" could be interpreted and implemented any number of ways, many of which would actually be quite negative.

He goes on to say:

What's more, Stephen Harper showed his contempt for the democratic and Parliamentary process by unveiling this bill at a campaign style event. He didn't give this bill the sober, parliamentary treatment it deserves. And, he's limited debate in Parliament and limited testimony from stakeholders and witnesses at Committee. We think it's critical to hear from experts and community leaders to get their input and suggestions. Instead, the Conservatives have chosen to bulldoze ahead with the legislation with little regard for dissenting voices or constructive feedback.
While I think most would agree about Harper's "contempt" for the democratic process, these comments from Mulcair provide an insight as to what are likely the real objectives of the stance that he is taking, especially when he speaks, nauseatingly, of "sober, parliamentary treatment".

It is to appear the responsible, mature, Prime Minister and government in waiting that he and his party have sought so desperately to project themselves as. They are not rash and impetuous, they are serious! They are, indeed, ready to govern and to take the helm.

NDP MP Robert Chisholm expressed this outright in a Facebook post when he said, "Standing up for Canadians, proposing solutions, and doing the right thing. That’s how you earn the privilege of government."

By opposing the bill in one way, while acknowledging the need for and opening the door to it in another, they hope, clearly, to seem to be principled to their base and progressives, while being seen as willing to stand up against "terror" to those voters who have been swept up in the media hysteria and government propaganda and made to feel there really is an imminent threat to our "way-of-life" from terrorists.

They are, rather cynically, trying to play both sides.

Bill C-51 is unnecessary legislation that panders to racism and fear and that will massively enhance the police state. The Tories brought it forward for exactly these reasons. It needs to be fully opposed.

It cannot possibly be amended in any way that will make it acceptable.

Progressives and leftists need to put serious pressure on the NDP to take a truly principled stance against the bill, (a bill which, as May said, is "about creating a secret police"), by rejecting it entirely.

Amending or tinkering with a bill this terrible is not really opposing it and is not good enough.

Full text of email:

 Thank you for your recent email regarding the Conservatives' anti-terror legislation (C-51). As Leader of the Official Opposition, I feel a profound sense of responsibility to give this bill the scrutiny and study it deserves. I also feel a deep obligation to stand up for and protect Canadians' way of life—our freedoms and our values. Unlike the Liberal Leader who rubber stamped the bill sight unseen, I talked with my NDP team, civil society partners and community leaders---I even tried, to no avail, to get clarification from Stephen Harper and the Conservative ministers responsible for the file. After all this deliberation, I, along with the NDP caucus, came to the conclusion that we could not support the bill.

I think we can all agree that terrorism is a very real threat—both here at home and abroad. But we need to be very careful with how we move forward and consider the reckless changes the Conservatives are making to the Canada we know and love—they're legislating increased state security powers, more surveillance and potential breaches of our Charter of Rights. New Democrats firmly believe that we don't have to give up any of our hard won freedoms, our rights and our privacy to be secure. Stephen Harper keeps giving us a false choice—one that tells us that we need to give up our rights to be safe. New Democrats know that free societies are safe societies, and we'll keep fighting for your rights and freedoms.

Here's why we can't support C-51:

- This bill is vague, far-reaching and ineffective.
- Giving CSIS significant new powers without oversight could lead to abuse.
- There is no plan to counter radicalization.
- Because of Conservative budget cuts, CSIS and the RCMP don't have enough resources to fully enforce the existing laws, let alone the new provisions.
- We share some of the Privacy Commissioner's serious concerns:https://www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2015/s-d_150130_e.asp
- We believe the existing laws are sufficient.

Here's what we think the Anti-Terrorism Bill should do:

- Provide strong oversight of security and intelligence agencies.
- Ensure appropriate resources are available for security and intelligence agencies to track and identify threats to our safety.
- Include efforts to combat radicalization, working with at-risk communities to help counter radicalization.

What's more, Stephen Harper showed his contempt for the democratic and Parliamentary process by unveiling this bill at a campaign style event. He didn't give this bill the sober, parliamentary treatment it deserves. And, he's limited debate in Parliament and limited testimony from stakeholders and witnesses at Committee. We think it's critical to hear from experts and community leaders to get their input and suggestions. Instead, the Conservatives have chosen to bulldoze ahead with the legislation with little regard for dissenting voices or constructive feedback.

I'll continue to raise our objections and questions on the anti-terrorism legislation relentlessly in the House of Commons, in the media and everywhere I can.

You can count on New Democrats to continue to take a strong, principled stand for our freedoms, our values and our way of life.
To learn more about our position and what others are saying, I've included additional links below. I encourage you to share my email with your friends and family.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me about this very important issue. I hope you'll add your voice to our petition telling Stephen Harper you oppose this bill: http://www.ndp.ca/c-51

Best regards,

Tom Mulcair

Leftist Throwback Thursday: Public Power 2003...featuring a much younger me!



Back in 2003 a younger ( and much younger looking) incarnation of me ran provincially for the ONDP in Scarborough. This was my campaign bookmark. (As I side note I always suggest campaign bookmarks for any campaign as they are both very easy to drop into apartment slot style mailboxes and people keep them as...you know...bookmarks!)

The ONDP under Howard Hampton. as you can see below (click on photos to enlarge), ran on a platform centred around higher wages, lower tuition, rent freezes, public education, utilities and health care, $10 a day child care and lowering transit fares. Relative to just a few short years later, not a bad social democratic platform.

The ONDP was, however, squeezed out by the Liberals as people sought to reject the Harris years and the Liberals, of course, have been in power ever since.




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Public education: A radically new vision

Opinion: Submitted by Ella Hawthorne

Public education, despite its name, is not about educating the public.  Its purpose is to babysit children during the day while their parents are at work and to create a new generation of workers – people who find it normal to sit at a desk all day doing whatever their boss tells them to do in order to create wealth for someone else, and then never questioning the validity of this system.

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?” -Charles Bukowski

There is not much difference between the classroom and the workplace.  In both places, there is one person in charge and a group of subordinates who have to take orders.  In both cases there is a plan of action for what has to be accomplished which is decided upon by people who may not be present at the school or work site.  The subordinates, as well as the teacher or boss, have to arrive at a specific time each day.  The teacher or boss has to enforce that these tasks are completed as decided upon by the (sometimes unknown) decision maker.  They have specific times scheduled for breaks, and cannot take a break at any other time.  They have a half an hour to eat a bag lunch. Using the washroom or eating when it is not break time is often forbidden.  This is a rigid hierarchical structure where someone is in charge, and this someone is always a privileged person with wealth, and this someone gets to dictate what other people will do during the day based on his own needs.  It’s not about the needs of the people involved.  School is not about the needs of children.  School is about the needs of the dominant culture.  The dominant culture is controlled by the people in charge, who are rich and privileged, and who are very few in controlling a great many.

Children do not need to sit in rows all day taking orders.  They do not need to complete a prescribed set of tasks just because they’re in a period of life labelled as “grade three.” They do not need to learn how to walk down the hallway in a straight line without talking.  These are things the bosses need. The bosses need a set of compliant workers to do their work for them and thus create wealth for them.  The only way a whole generation of human beings will submit to authority and do work for someone else is if they spend the first 18 years of their lives in captivity learning that they must submit and obey, and that there is nothing else in life besides submitting and obeying.

I love the idea of public education. Not a babysitting and indoctrination system, but real education for the public. We are capable of creating such a system immediately, but we aren’t going to, because it would not serve the ruling class.

My public education would be a combination of the Internet, private tutoring, public libraries and Montessori-style education all rolled into one system. Imagine a library where, in addition to signing out books, you could sign out teachers.  If you wanted to learn, say, woodworking, you would search the library catalogue for a teacher who could teach woodworking.  You would then set up an appointment for a lesson at a time that worked for both of you.

There would still be a school building, but it would be a bit different from those we have now.  Some of the usual facilities would be the same: there would be a gymnasium with sports equipment, a science classroom with basic equipment for experiments, an art classroom with art materials, a music classroom with musical instruments, and so on.  There would be group study rooms.  Instead of 25 to 30 students sitting in rows in the same room all day, there would be smaller rooms where groups could get together to study the same things.  There would be no expectation that study should happen in a group unless by chance several people wanted to “borrow” the same teacher for the same lesson at the same time.  The teacher would then book a study room for the impromptu class.

There would be no expectation that people needed to be sorted by age.  The only time people would need to be sorted by age would be in group sports where it is impractical to have people of very different sizes playing a sport together.

People would choose whatever they wanted to learn.  There would be no prescribed curriculum and no prescribed time period for completing tasks.

Teachers could be anyone in the community who could perform a skill.  People would apply to become teachers and a committee would decide if they are eligible.  For example, a criminal background check would be required and the person would have to prove they are capable of teaching the skill they are volunteering to teach. Once approved, they would be entered into the system as an available teacher for a specific skill and learners could search and find them.  There wouldn’t be anything called “grade 4 math” or “grade 10 English.”  There would be specific skills you could search for.  Want to learn how to multiply?  Just search “multiply” in the system and a list of teachers approved to teach that skill would appear with their availability for lessons.  You would book an available time, and sometimes several people would have the same appointment time.  A study room would thus be booked for the purpose of learning multiplication.  Want to learn how to do long division?  Same thing.  Want to play floor hockey?  Just search the system for available times when floor hockey is offered and sign up.  Want to learn how to sew a handbag?  Search the system for someone who teaches sewing and book a time in the art room when there is a sewing station available.  Want to learn how to play the guitar?  Search the system for a music teacher and book a time when there is a guitar available to borrow and a practice room open.  Teachers would get paid by the hour by the government.  We already pay teachers a salary with government money.  This system would be different but the cost would probably not change by much, if at all.  New teachers would get paid around $20 an hour.  Experienced teachers would get paid more like $40 an hour.  People with complex or rare skills, like senior level science and math, expert level musicians, robotics engineers, and the like, would get paid more.  Teachers would set their own schedules.  A teacher could work in the private sector and also in public education by scheduling their availability.  Someone could work full-time in the private sector and teach one or two hours a week.  Someone could teach full-time, without having any other job, especially if they were teaching a skill in high demand, such as reading, because students would be booking them often.  Talented members of the community would want to be teachers, because all of their students would be enthusiastic about learning their skill, and would appreciate being taught.  Any skill you can think of could be taught as long as someone was available who is capable of teaching it.  How to sew a button, how to fix a leaky sink, how to build a house, how to write a haiku, why not?  Just search for it in the system.  Maybe no one in your municipality could teach it, but maybe someone in the next municipality can.

There would still be grading, but learners would only be graded if they wished to be graded.  If a learner wanted to prove they had learned a certain skill, they would ask to take a test, and their skill level would be assessed by an expert in that skill and an official stamp added to their transcript.  Someone’s transcript might include: “Ability to count to one million, cook spaghetti al dente, and put up drywall.”  Who knows, anything.

Every person would have an electronic file.  In their file would be a list of all the skills they had been tested on and passed.  In a person’s electronic file would be their attendance record as well.  Everyone would have a swipe card and would have to swipe in and out of each room.  A record is then made of what rooms the learner entered.  Parents would have access to the password to see their children’s files until their children turn 16.  If parents told their children they had to learn some math skills, but their child spent the whole day in the gym, their parents would be able to tell.  If someone stole something, say, sound equipment from the auditorium, security personnel would look up who swiped into the auditorium that day and those people would be questioned.

There would still be prerequisites to get into university or college, and to get into the workplace.  Workplaces would name specific skills candidates are required to have in order to get specific jobs.  People who wanted to apply for a new job would have to make sure they have learned all the required skills.  The candidate would have a copy of their transcript printed and sent to the workplace to prove that they can do business math, write well in English, and program a computer.  They were never forced to learn these skills just because they were sitting in a room called “grade 10.” They willingly learned these things because they needed to know them.  They may never have learned how to do a cart-wheel, speak a foreign language, or draw a two-point perspective drawing, but that doesn’t matter.

If someone wanted to do a demanding job requiring a lot of education, they would still have to go to university or college.  In higher education there would be a set curriculum for each career.  There would still be a school of medicine and a school of business and a school of science, etc, like we have now.  Candidates for university would have to prove they can perform quite a lot of skills, which would be decided upon by the college, in order to get in.

Theoretically, if a person’s only ambition was to do manual labour, they would not be required to go to school at all, but chances are, everyone would want to.  Chances are there wouldn't be anybody whose attendance was zero because humans are naturally curious and want to do things, and everyone would find something they wanted to learn about.  A small child might decide they didn't want to learn to read, and spend a year doing nothing but playing soccer, but then upon deciding they wanted to build robots, would realize that they do want to read, in order to help them learn to build a robot, and then would voluntarily sign up for reading lessons.

There would be very little separation of children and adults.  People could sign up for a lesson at a public school at any age, at any time.  There would be day care for children too young to sign up for lessons and attend on their own.  A parent who did not have a full-time job might attend school with their child all day and participate in the same lessons.  Parents who both work full-time might have to leave their child in day care for a while until the child is responsible enough to study on their own.

There would rarely be any discipline problems, because in this system, there is no dominance and no submission, there is no forcing anyone to do anything.  A learner who did not want to stay in a class would simply leave and go somewhere else.  There would be one or two security guards in each school building full-time so that if someone got angry and started a fight or was stealing equipment they could intervene.  If someone brought drugs or weapons to school they would be confiscated and if someone was inexcusably rude they would be asked to leave.  They would not be given a “punishment,” they would just not be allowed in that room anymore until the lesson is over and would have to go somewhere else.  Parents would be able to see any discipline issues in their child’s electronic file.  If a child had been asked to leave a classroom it would be noted.  Parents could receive email alerts if their child is ever asked to leave, and if they are able, can go to the school immediately to talk to their child or the security guards about what happened.  Unless the crime was serious, like a physical assault, the learner would be allowed into another lesson right away, they would only be kicked out of the lesson in which they had just been rude.  They would then have to book a time to take that lesson again, knowing that they will not be able to complete it if they are rude again. They only real “rules” would be treat others with respect and be there to learn, not to disrupt.  People would be there to learn, because if their goal wasn't to learn, they would have never signed up for the lesson in the first place.

This system of education would be public education.  It would be a way for anyone to learn whatever they wanted to learn for free.  Real learning would take place.  People would love learning.  We would unleash unimaginable human potential. This style of education will not happen without a fundamental change in our society.

In this system of public education, people would not learn to submit to authority.  People would learn that they are whole, worthy human beings who are capable of accomplishing what they want to accomplish. No one leaving this education system would be willing to go to a workplace at someone else’s scheduled time every day to create wealth for someone else, because this does not make any sense.  People would look for meaningful work in their lives.  Our lives would have meaning.

Ella Hawthorne is the pseudonym of a writer and activist living in Ontario


If you have a radically new idea you would like to see shared and debated, send it to theleftchapter@outlook.com  

Chilaquiles Inspired Black Bean, Cheese & Salsa Verde Bake

Submitted by Natalie Lochwin


This slightly spicy baked entree is inspired by a traditional Mexican dish, Chilaquiles, and is a truly delicious way to use leftover tortillas or salsa.







Ingredients:
  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup salsa verde (for this one I used La Costena brand Green Mexican Sauce, of which I am very fond)
  • 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken stock.
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (local if possible)
  • 2 smallish onions
  • cilantro
  • dried oregano


Preheat oven to 350 degree, and put the corn tortillas in on a baking tray to dry them until they are almost leathery. This will take around 7 minutes or so.

Meanwhile pop the cheese into the freezer for a bit to make it easier to shred.

 

Dice the onion and garlic and seed and dice the  jalapeno. Chop one handful of fresh cilantro and set aside. Fry the onion, garlic and jalapeno in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup of the tomatillo salsa.  Add most of the stock and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

 

Break or tear about half the tortillas into pieces and put them into the simmering sauce which will begin to thicken immediately. Add the remaining stock. Take the cheese out of the freezer and shred.

Grab a casserole dish. Ladle 1/2 the sauce into the dish. Add the beans, scattering them evenly over the sauce, add a layer of cheese and sprinkle with some cilantro. Dip the whole tortillas in the sauce left in the pan for a moment and lay them out like you would a lasagne over the cheese and beans. Cover with remaining sauce and top with another layer of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 10 or so minutes until sauce is absorbed and the cheese is golden and bubbly.

This dish can be eaten on its own, with some extra salsa and some sour cream on the side, or served with pulled chicken or scrambled or fried eggs.

Serve hot topped with cilantro. Enjoy!







Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"In all thy sons command": If the words are not important, why do so many men oppose changing them?

This is an updated version of a piece that originally appeared last summer in Feminist Current. 

This past summer, an interim City Councillor in Toronto, Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, put forward a motion for Toronto to call on the federal government to change the national anthem to be inclusive of women by changing the words "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". This would amount to endorsing the "Sing All of Us" campaign. 

This is not the first time someone has proposed this by any means, and it is truly offensive that the national anthem, in the year 2015, is not gender neutral. Given how simple it would be to change it, it is a reflection of the ingrained resistance to equality for women that still very much exists. 

Now an attempt by Liberal backbencher Mauril Belanger to take up the call at the federal level appears headed for defeat at the hands of the government and others. 

As, sadly, could be anticipated, all such attempts have been met with the usual howls about "tradition" and "how is this a priority" by any number of commentators, talk radio types and drips on the internet. 

All of these objections we have heard before. And they make very little sense.

Most "traditions" in our society that flow from its patriarchal history, after all, are not good ones!  Arguments from "tradition" are always the most reactionary and mindnumbingly stupid arguments anyway. Given that many, including even our Conservative government, use issues around women's equality and our supposed "traditional" national commitment to them, to justify things like our military intervention in Afghanistan and to set us apart from our "enemies", you would think that they would want this reflected in the anthem! 

But also, of course to many men, and some women, this is not a "priority"! Social inclusion, symbolic (and symbolic inclusion does matter) or otherwise is never the priority of much of the political class and population. Had many had their way Father Knows Best episodes would still be a sanitized version of social reality. They have opposed all progress at each step of the way. 

This whole thread of opposition is perhaps best exemplified by the inane article penned last summer by Toronto Sun columnist Jerry Agar, " Silly season for 'women's' issues". In it Agar lectures Canadian feminists about how "silly" they are fighting for what he sees as such irrelevances when, you know, female gentile mutilation exists and girls are being kidnapped in Nigeria! He actually, and apparently seriously, argues that Canadian feminists are spending all of their time fighting for the right to go topless and changing the national anthem and ignoring the "real issues".  

This, of course, is ludicrous. But it also reflects a truly absurd logic that is usually only applied to women's issues or the struggles of racialized and marginalized communities and that amounts to a condescending version of "silly women, don't you know there are more important things for you to be getting all worked up about". It is part and parcel of another actually longstanding tradition of men, left, center and right, telling women how women are getting it all wrong when it comes to their own liberation movement and how feminists would be much better off if they only listened to men! 

The "logic" itself breaks down with even the slightest scrutiny. First, if changing the national anthem really doesn't matter that much compared to all the "serious" issues out there, why not just do it? Why bother taking the time and making the effort to oppose it, since surely there are more important things for you to spend your time writing columns or getting all worked up about, like maybe all of those endless pages of ink expended on baseball trades or fantasy football leagues. It seems rather "silly season" to be spending time opposing a minor change to bring the anthem into conformity with our alleged commitment to social equality. What possible reason is there for opposing the change?

Unless, of course, you really think it does matter and you really think that the anthem should exclude women. 

Second, just because there are bigger issues does not mean other issues and symbolic issues are not important! This would be akin to stating, by exactly the same logic, that Toronto City Council, for example, should not vote to fix up a dilapidated playground, or spend money on totally symbolic gestures like flag raisings or commemorations at City Hall  because there are bigger issues like transit, housing or poverty! It is simply a ridiculous excuse for not wanting to take action. 

All of these various issues are not mutually exclusive. You can fight for the both the larger and smaller changes and reforms at the same time! Doing one neither precludes nor hinders the other.

Quite the opposite in fact. 

Symbols matter. There is a reason, for example, that it is important to support the fight to change racist sports team names like the Washington Redskins. They contribute to a culture and a society of systemic racism and colonialism that, in fact, is part of how the conditions are created that allow people to disregard or be indifferent to extreme poverty within and historic injustice against native and indigenous peoples. 

Similarly, the national anthem of our country, by excluding explicitly in its lyrics half of the population of the country, helps to legitimize a society and a culture that still treats women as second class citizens, where women are still sexually assaulted and exploited in depressingly high numbers, where objectification is a daily fact of life, where women are more likely to live in poverty, and so many of the other inequalities and injustices of our patriarchal civilization.

It does this by, in a song that is sung by young girls and young women in schools nationwide everyday, telling these same young women and girls that they do not matter. That they are not even worth including in one of the most basic things that many see as a part of our national identity, our national anthem. 

That matters. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Clay Baked Lasagna


Submitted by Natalie Lochwin



A delicious and easy meal, clay baked lasagna takes a classic and adds new levels of flavour and moistness. This version comes from years of practice!

Put your clay baker to soak filled with cool water. For instructions on prepping a clay baker, see this previous blog post).

 

  •  1 box oven ready lasagna noodles (whole wheat, spinach or white-your choice)
  • 1 carton of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used basil flavor)
  • 1 lg diced clove of garlic
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1medium eggplant. Thinly slice 1 half and dice the other half . (Salt the eggplant and allow to drain in a colander for 10-20 minutes, quickly rinse to remove excess salt. Squeeze and pat dry. This removes some bitterness and extra water)
  • 1 shredded zucchini
  • 7 sliced mushrooms
  • 250 ml water
  • Salt, white pepper, dry oregano, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg


In a medium or large frying pan cook the ground beef until nicely browned. Drain extra fat. Add diced onion and garlic, zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant. Add a bit of red wine or water if your pan cooks dry. Add 1/4 cup tomato sauce. Stir occasionally until veggies are quite soft and cooked through, 10-15mins. Taste and season accordingly.

Start your sauce while the filling cooks to save some time. Add 1 minced clove of garlic and 1 tsp of  olive oil to a cold heavy bottomed saucepan. Turn on the heat and gently cook the garlic until you can smell its aroma. Add the oregano. Add the tomato sauce and pasta sauce, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, dash of sugar, 1/2 tsp  Worcestershire or Thai fish sauce.  Add 1/2 cup of water. Allow to bubble away. Add more water as needed if the sauce begins to thicken. This is meant to be a fairly loose sauce so as  to cook the oven ready  noodles. Keep the sauce fairly warm as you assemble the lasagna.
 


Mix 1/2 tub of ricotta cheese with the cottage cheese, and add a dash  of nutmeg & white pepper as well as the 2 eggs. Stir until mixed. Shred the mozzarella and add (placing it in the freezer for a few minutes prior to shredding makes this easier) reserving a good handful to top the lasagne. Salting the cheese filling is not necessary. It is a nice contrast to the seasoned sauce, meat & vegetables.

Drain your clay baker, and ladle about 1/4 of the sauce over its bottom. Cover with a layer of noodles, snapping them to fit. Add a layer of ricotta, top with noodles, then add a layer of ricotta and meat filling. Top with sauce, add another layer of noodles, repeat with ricotta and meat and sauce and noodles until the baker is near filled. Finish with a final layer of noodles and top these with sauce. Finally, top with with the reserved mozzarella. Cover the baker with its lid and place in a COLD OVEN (always remember to do this with clay bakers). Turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 1 hour. If you wish to, you may take the top off for the final ten minutes to further brown the cheese.

This makes enough for 5-6 people.

Serve with a salad and red wine. Great the next day, even cold. The kids loved it!

Mulcair and Bill C-51: Still the same old shit after all

Just when we thought that Tom Mulcair and the NDP were taking a courageous and principled stand...they prove you may be wrong.
.
A few short days ago I praised Mulcair for, finally, stepping forward to apparently oppose Bill C-51, the terrible legislation the Tories wish to bring in that threatens our fundamental civil liberties.

But it turns out this "courageous" stance may be far less than it seems.

Cynics, perhaps correctly it appears, have said that Mulcair took the position only to create a "wedge" issue between himself and the Liberals and that he did so long after the Greens and others stood up immediately to oppose this obviously dangerous legislation.

Now Mulcair, in a TV interview with Global News (which you can watch in full below), goes out of his way to claim, fatuously and inanely, that he and his "caucus" (almost none of whom have anything to do with policy) had "experts" "study" the bill, which is basically an admission that they were waiting to see where the tea-leaves fell. He continues on to talk in terrible bourgeois platitudes.

Mulcair  expands that "there is a lot of money that's left on the table" to fight "terrorism", but then transparently backs down on what might be termed the end game.

Which is promising to overturn the bill if elected.

If, as his earlier rhetoric claimed, the bill represents a threat to our rights, why will he not promise to scrap the legislation if elected?

Like the Trudeau Liberals he now simply says he will "change it for sure". Turns out there is little difference here after all. The Tories are a majority government. The bill will pass. If the NDP is not promising to rescind the legislation there is, in actuality, basically no difference between his position and Trudeau's.

There is no "change" that will make the legislation better. This legislation is a basic threat to civil liberties.

Perhaps explaining this seeming duplicity is his description of the NDP in the interview as a "government in waiting". He is playing, hard, at the political game, seeming to promise an alternative while not actually following through on it.

This is not, after all, his finest hour.

It is time to rally around dedicated opponents of the Bill, like the Greens, civil libertarians, the Communist Party and others and to try to use the force of mass protest and power to change the discourse and to truly fight Bill C-51, a bill which must be defeated totally and without any equivocation, no matter the electoral cost to careerist social democrats.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Art: Bonfire


Bonfire - Acrylic on Canvas by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email theleftchapter@outlook.com for details)

Michelada con Camarones: Our take on a spicy beer cocktail!







Michelada con Camarones is a fantastic Mexican beer cocktail that is almost an appetizer. Spicy, yet cold, with shrimp, jalapenos, beer, Clamato juice...it really has it all and is a true crowd-pleaser at any party.

My version adds a couple of unconventional ingredients and kicks up the heat a bit!





Mix:

2 ¼ cups chilled Clamato juice (Spicy or Mild...I of course use spicy)
4 chilled large cans of Corona (or other lager style beers)
½ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup orange juice
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. soya sauce
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 grated clove garlic
1 teaspoon Mexican habanero style hot sauce (or other hot sauce). I used El Yucateco Habanero sauce.
1 thinly sliced unseeded fresh jalapeno

Mix it all together in a large pitcher.

Pour into large serving glasses over ice and serve with six cooked shrimp around the rim. If desired dip the glass rim into seasoning salt or Caesar style seasoning prior to pouring.

This drink is delicious, quite filling, and great fun!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Art: Blitz


Blitz - A Mixed Media/Altered Art Piece by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email theleftchapter@outlook.com for details)

Pain Perdu (Sourdough French Toast) with Maple Berry Syrup

Submitted by Andrea Grassby Valentini

This is a breakfast or brunch dish I’ve made for years,  that I adapted from my French grand-maman’s recipe. I have wonderful memories of being in her big kitchen in her Quebec City home, on a crisp winter’s day, inhaling the tantalizing aroma of pain perdu cooking in her big cast iron skillet, while I stirred the berries in the maple syrup on the wood stove. 





ANDREA’S PAIN PERDU (SOURDOUGH FRENCH TOAST) with MAPLE BERRY SYRUP


1/2 loaf sourdough bread (8 slices)

 4 large eggs

 1 cup whole milk

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract


Cut bread into 8 thick slices.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon until combined; pour mixture in to a shallow dish.

 Preheat a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat and grease with butter.

 Place bread slice in the egg mixture and soak until saturated, about 1 to 2 minutes on each side (thicker bread needs more soaking time).

Transfer bread to skillet/griddle and cook until golden, 2-3 minutes, then flip over and cook until golden on the other side. The center of the bread should spring back when lightly pressed when the pain perdu is done.

Transfer to serving plates and serve immediately with Maple-Berry sauce


Maple-Berry Sauce


 ¾ cup pure maple syrup

3 cups raspberries or any berries of your choice


Combine the syrup and berries in a medium saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat until the berries begin to soften and release some juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.


Andrea is a life long leftist activist and a former campaign organizer of both provincial and federal NDP campaigns from the 1960's through to the 1990's. She lives in Toronto.

If you would like to submit a recipe, blog or story/poem to The Left Chapter, send it to theleftchapter@outlook.com

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mulcair's finest hour? Bill C-51 and the NDP






After prevaricating and going through the silly parliamentary motions of hand-wringing and playing at appearing to be "serious" bourgeois politicians, the NDP and Tom Mulcair have taken a principled stance and come out swinging against the transparently dangerous Bill C-51.

Mulcair's statements have been direct and unequivocal, even calling out Harper's dog-whistle style announcements:






Stephen Harper's new law is sweeping, dangerous, vague and ineffective,...
It doesn't do things that are proven to work and puts politics ahead of protecting Canadians. Even when he introduced the legislation, Harper chose a campaign-style event. and made remarks that most regrettably targeted Muslim communities.

Elizabeth May and the Greens have taken a courageous and principled stance on the Bill from the start, but the importance of the Official Opposition and Canada's historic social democratic and labour aligned party doing so as well cannot be overstated. (The Communist Party, it is worth noting, has also released an excellent statement on the Bill.)

This is especially true in light of the fact that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party's position on the bill is self-contradictory and profoundly, deeply, gutless and wrong. Given that the Liberals have historically tried to portray themselves as the great defenders of the Charter, their supporters and MPs should all hang their heads in shame.

Mulcair has finally done something akin to Tommy Douglas and the NDP of old when it stood against the War Measures Act. Given that on many other issues the differences between the newly centrist "government in waiting" NDP and the Liberals are often minuscule or not of a fundamental nature, this has the potential to be Mulcair's "raison d'être", in that it will truly set him apart from them.

It does not excuse the NDP's recent embrace of capitalism and opportunism (in the true sense of the word) but it matters.

This stance may not benefit Mulcair electorally. Many of the very best things the NDP ever did did not - though they did, far more importantly, benefit the country. Mulcair in this instance is echoing a more principled past.

It is the right thing to do and, should he stay the course, may well prove to be his finest hour.

Update: Unfortunately it would appear Mulcair's opposition to the Bill may not be all that is at first seemed: http://theleftchapter.blogspot.ca/2015/02/mulcair-and-bill-c-51-still-same-old.html 

photo via wikimedia commons

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Clay Baked Spicy Curried Goat

Though its popularity and use in North America is much less prevalent,  goat meat is the most widely consumed red meat in the world and features prominently in many cuisines. While it is making some inroads on major food retailer's shelves in Canada, it is still often only found in specialty stores or in markets.

This is a real shame, as goat is a delicious, tender meat with a distinctive flavour that has a nice hint of gaminess.

I have tried goat cooked a variety of ways, but I find that I both order it and cook it curried or West Indian style most often. It lends itself to these flavours perfectly.

Today I will share a basic recipe for spicy curried goat done in a clay baker. I am using the clay baker as it is a cooking method that will produce very moist, fall-off-the-bone goat in a relatively short time, as well as making a thick and flavourful gravy as the goat cooks.

If you are not familiar with the ancient and very accessible technique of clay baking, we did an introduction to clay baking that you can take a look at on The Simple Art of Clay Baking. 

For this dish you need 2-3 lb. cubed goat meat, preferably bone-in. As always with a clay baker fill both sides with water and let stand for 15 minutes. After emptying the water out, take the goat meat and place it in the clay baker and sprinkle curry powder over it so that it covers the meat. Pour in one full bottle (350 ml.) of a Caribbean style curry cooking sauce (Grace makes one) or, if not available, the same amount of water and a tablespoon of curry paste. Add an equivalent amount of beef or chicken stock (or water and a bouillon cube as it will dissolve during cooking).

Add either 1 or 2 crushed scotch bonnet peppers (simply push on them with a spoon and then toss them in) or 1-2 tablespoons of your favourite Caribbean style hot sauce.  You can, of course, omit this, but that does change the flavour, and not for the better!

Add a small piece of crushed ginger, a half a teaspoon of browning liquid, a teaspoon of dry mustard, and a teaspoon of salt.

Again, as you always must with a clay baker, cover and place in a COLD oven. Set the heat to 400 degrees.

Cook for two hours. After the first hour, remove the baker, stir the goat and put back in.

After two hours, remove from the oven, skim off any fat, remove any undissolved ginger, add one tablespoon of flour to the liquid and stir it in gently until it is all dissolved. This will thicken the gravy. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes and then serve!

This dish goes wonderfully with rice or rice and peas, with roti or naan style bread or with a french style bread, and with red wine.

Enjoy!








Leftist Throwback Thursday: I.W.W. Songs of the Workers

Instead of the conservative motto, 'A fair day's wage for a fair day's work' we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, 'Abolition of the wage system' 
- Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
Published in Chicago, July, 1956 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the IWW, Songs of the Workers was a 64 page booklet of songs and poems that reflected the IWW's goals of revolutionary industrial unionism and that paid moving tribute to martyrs of the American labour movement like Joe Hill, Wesley Everest and Frank Little.

It contained classics that are still sung today, like Solidarity Forever, The Red Flag and The International as well as numerous others less familiar today.

Click on images to enlarge.










Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Trouble with the 99%

This piece was written in 2012 as a critique of the "99%" narrative, a narrative that continues to grip many on the left and many people left behind by neo-liberal capitalism. It was first published on my old blog and then a reedited version (reedited by a rabble editor)appeared on rabble. I think that the reedit is better and am sharing it here again to reflect on this continuing slogan within our discourse. To see the original go here: http://mlaxer.blogspot.ca/2012/01/trouble-with-99or-why-i-am-not-fan-of.html


There can be little doubt about the importance of the Occupy movement to our recent political discourse. It succeeded in getting a significant amount of media attention and it forced politicians of all stripes, including those on the Right, to acknowledge the danger that severe and rampant inequality pose to our social order and structure.

This ad hoc movement inspired many and managed to put its issues on the table to a sufficient degree that politicians of both the social democratic and liberal brand, as well as some on the far Right, have attempted to bask in its refracted glow. That none of these political actors offer the slightest threat to the system that Occupy apparently opposes appeared often lost on the participants, however.

Naomi Klein, no less, told them that they were the most important political movement in the world. And perhaps for that moment in time they were.

However, a narrative, to be lasting, has to have longevity in its meaning and analysis, even if that meaning and analysis are distilled down to basics or essentials. In other words the analysis has to be, in essence, true and it must also have transformative solutions to offer and not just injustices to expose.

Is there really a 99 per cent?

Many have embraced the "Us vs. Them" rhetoric of the 1 per cent vs. the 99 per cent slogan, and this needs to be placed under greater scrutiny.

There is little doubt that the 99 per cent slogan became the movement's greatest asset in terms of propaganda and mass appeal. It resonated and enraged and inspired. It motivated and was basic enough in its narrative that it could not help but be picked up by the media.

The theory, from Occupy Wall Street and others, can effectively be distilled down to this blurb from one of the websites:

"We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we're working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent."

With a variety of small or minor variations, this became the movement's primary ideological message.

But the message is largely false. And this matters, especially in the long run.

There is no question about the grotesque growth of social inequality in the West. That this obvious fact has been ignored and even reinforced by the austerity agendas of all governments, regardless of political stripe, plays into an overall sense of hopelessness and reinforces reductionist and absolutist, totalizing ideologies and political views. The inherent danger when democracy becomes seemingly impotent.

The trouble, however, lies in understanding that undue corporate power and the rise of a new "Gilded Age" ultra-rich power elite does not mean that all of society, the media, politicians, governments, the courts, etc ... are beholden to this elite. More importantly, nor does it mean that the "99 per cent" share common interests and that they can work together, in any meaningful sense, to rectify the problems as raised.

It also does not take into account the basically dangerous aspect to a worldview like this, which is both disingenuous and bourgeois in its desire to eclipse real issues of class, management, Social Mandarins, and the true underpinning of inequality with a slogan that appears to embrace "everyone," in the classic American way. By doing so it in fact embraces and lets off the hook many, if not most, of the basic enemies of working-class and socialist or anti-capitalist politics.

The 99 per cent by the numbers

In the last available stats the top 1 per cent of tax filers in Canada made a minimum of $169,300 as individuals. They made, on average, $404,500.

The 99 per cent is everyone else.

First, I'll take a personal example. In the late 1990s I worked as a manager in a transportation company. I did sales and public relations, but I had managerial control over the office and ground staff in many cases. I made, at the time, $45,000-$55,000 a year, depending on performance bonuses. This placed me well within the 99 per cent -- where, I can assure you, I remain -- but were my class and social interests (were I to follow them) really the same as the phone workers or couriers at the company?

Or take my local Shopper's Drug Mart. The young woman at the cash, with two kids and a husband who works at a non-union job site, makes at most $12-13 an hour. The main Pharmacist who works there, who has a college education, makes in the range of $60,000 a year. Are their class interests the same? They are both in the "99 per cent."

This view of society, while assuaging the guilt of the children of the bourgeoisie, would have you believe that they are "victims" of the system in the same way as the children of the working-class, the underclass and the retail working class. That may make them feel good about themselves, and aid in their often reactionary analysis, but it is pure American nonsense from a society that denies the very existence of social class, despite the fact that even Rick Santorum recently admitted that the U.S. has less social mobility now than Europe or Canada.

The complexity of class

There is no 99 per cent. It does not exist as a meaningful class or political entity.

There are the remnants of the old industrial working class, the underclass, the retail working class, and the very large and growing "white-collar" office level lower "middle-class." Then there are the managerial and middle-managerial class, the small business owners, professionals, media workers, academics and others. Their class and social interests are not the same and a movement seeking real transformative social change and seeking to actually confront capitalism needs to understand this.

Beyond the problems of class analysis that this presents, it can also play into the worst aspects of pseudo-conspiratorial and reductionist ideas.

Our courts, governments, media, economy, and social forces are not actually ruled and governed by 1 per cent of the population. That is a ridiculous idea that does not withstand even the slightest true scrutiny. It is a good way for social democratic parties or liberal politicians like Obama to get out of their complicity in the creation and maintenance of the present ideological hegemony. The reality, however, is that we live in a very complex society where even supposed "agents" of the 1 per cent, like the Toronto Star, for example, will suddenly endorse the federal NDP. Part of the plot? Or is capitalism a system and not a slogan and are its problems a fundamental outcome of this system and not a perversion of it?

Thinking back to the quote from Occupy, consider these:

- "Shrewd and calculating, their hearts are filled with lust for power and consumed by greed for money. Rich and aristocratic, they despise Christians and they loathe the lowly working class. They control the world's press and virtually all our banks and financial institutions. They screen and choose who America's leaders will be and even determine who will run on the Democratic and Republican Party tickets..."

- "...crony capitalists were the ones that benefit from contracts from government, benefit from the Federal Reserve, benefit from all the bailouts. They don't deserve compassion. They deserve taxation or they deserve to have all their benefits removed."

The first is from anti-Semitic Bilderberg conspiracists and the second is from the fanatically right-wing Ron Paul.

The fact is that these kinds of reductionist slogans are dangerous because they imply, by definition, a simplistic social order and a simplistic mechanism of systemic social control.

Once you accept the 1 per cent idea, then that means the other 99 per cent is innocent, so to speak. It is analogous to dangerous notions that imply that "good" common people are perverted or led astray by an almost hidden overclass that shapes the political and social agenda by meeting in Colorado once a year or by being a part of a named or implied Jewish conspiracy.

How capitalism really works

Inequality, at root, is not an aberration of capitalism; it is a function of capitalism. While the assault on the post-war social compromise has led us back to social inequality at levels akin to those of the "Gilded Age" of the 1920s, the inequality inherent to capitalism never went away. And it won't, without changing the fundamental nature of capitalism's economic relations. As the reversing of the economic aspects of the social gains of the 1945-1980 period clearly shows, cosmetic changes, while they have a real impact on people's lives and on our social cohesion, can be undone by shifting the terms of the ideological debate. This is indeed something the Right has done rather successfully. The debate has been so successfully shifted that all major political parties in North America accept the fundamental premises that led us here.

This was not a conspiracy, and it was not done by the 1 per cent and their "agents". It was done by a political movement that stayed true to its principles and objectives, even when confronted by serious setbacks and even when their ideas were at first fringe ideas, and who remade our society by pursuing these objectives relentlessly in the political and popular arena. The degree of this achievement can be seen in the widespread belief in the rhetoric of "tax-relief," or in the amazing contempt that many who would most benefit from them hold for trade union, or in the fact that if one were to propose the social and economic platforms of, say, the Trudeau Liberals of 1976 one would be regarded as an ultra-radical. Not a single political party is even proposing that we go back to the levels of taxation and interventionism that existed in 1980, let alone proposing actual systemic change.

The reversal of this ideological victory can only, in any meaningful sense, be accomplished by doing the same thing on the Left: building a coherent, long-term and ideological challenge to capitalism as a system in the streets, in the popular discourse and, most importantly, in the political arena. It can only be done by advocating for democratic socialism, and doing so consistently and regardless of electoral setbacks and short-term opinion polls. "Winning" on grand rhetoric to then basically implement the essence of your opponent's agenda when in government, or to more "humanely" or "fairly" manage austerity or "growth," is a hollow victory indeed.

It is so hollow that one need only reflect on the fact that the march towards where we are now has continued, without serious detour, despite different shades of government, whether Liberal, Democrat or New Democrat. The victory of this ideological hegemony is so great that the NDP in Manitoba in the last provincial election, for example, did not dispute the widespread media reporting that there was little in terms of economic policies that separated them from the Tories! In fact they seemed rather proud of their record as "sound fiscal managers."

All this is not a cause for despair; it is a cause for an ideological counter offensive that does not paint the 1 per cent as the problem or cause of inequality, a rhetorical flourish that any populist politician, right or left, can embrace, but that recognizes that capitalism itself is the cause. The 1 per cent are simply its effect. While the 1 per cent certainly has an entrenched and direct political stake in the continuation of the present state of affairs and the continued corporate power of State Capitalism, they are not the only people who have this stake, perceived or real.

However, as the effects of the victory of the Right's ideological offensive become clear, the seeds of the turning of the tide are sown: decreased economic and social equality and democracy, decreased oversight of corporate activity, increased environmental degradation, rampant and soulless community destroying commercialism, the loss of social stability, union jobs, industrial production, and so much more.

Occupy, in a very original and inspiring way, has put these problems back into popular consciousness and political discussion. Now it is up to us to build a class-aware, avowedly socialist political force that will present real transformative solutions and alternatives in the coming years and that will work to see these policies enacted and implemented whether in or out of office. It would also, perhaps most importantly, work to popularize anti-capitalist ideas.

When we have won the broad ideological struggle against the ideas of both capitalism and neo-liberalism, we will have won the key struggle in ending grotesque human inequality and social injustice.

Podcast: In conversation with Paul Chislett on CJAM about Left organizing in Canada

I had a conversation with Windsor activist and radio host Paul Chislett on his Friday show The Shake Up on alternative station CJAM on February 13, 2015.

We talked about the "Stop Harper" narrative, the lack of left political options electorally, left activism and other issues. 


You can listen to the segment at the link below and check out Paul's show every Friday at 4 p.m.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Canadian Fish Cook Book with French Fried Shrimp, Lobster Chowder, Tuna Casserole & more!

Vintage Cookbook: Canadian Fish Cook Book
Publication Details: Published under the authority of the Minister of Fisheries 1959 (would go on to be reprinted several times in the 1960's)

Put out by the Canadian Department of Fisheries, this handy cookbook and guide was published to promote Canadian seafood through its many recipes, as well as to teach how they are best prepared, served and more.

It is very detailed with sections on how to buy, store, freeze, can, broil, bake and to do just about everything else you might want to do with fish or seafood. The cookbook's greatest legacy and claim to fame is as the origin of James Beard's famous "Canadian Method" for baking fish, which is to do so 10 minutes for each inch of thickness measured at the fish's thickest part.


While it has some rather dated recipes and somewhat humorously unappetizing photos, it also contains countless useful tips and many absolutely delicious dishes.

Today we share four, all as they originally appeared.

French Fried Shrimp

1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp
Batter - 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg

If shrimp are frozen, allow them to thaw. Peel and remove sand vein. Wash and drain. Mix and shift dry ingredients.  Beat egg and add milk. Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Dip shrimp in batter and fry in hot, deep fat (375 F) [Editor's note: You can also use any cooking oil of your choice other than Olive Oil or peanut oil] until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Makes 5 or 6 servings.

Lobster Chowder

2 cups or cans (5 ounces each) lobster meat
2 medium onions, chopped
1/4 cup butter or other fat
2 medium potatoes, diced
2 cups boiling water
3 cups milk, heated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut lobster into bite-size pieces. In saucepan cook onions in fat until tender. Add potatoes and water. Simmer covered for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add lobster, heated milk and seasonings. Bring to simmering temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Sheila's Tuna Casserole

1 can (6 or 7 ounces) tuna
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup green peas, cooked
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter or other fat
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Few grains pepper
2 fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Cheddar Cheese

Drain and flake tuna. Spread rice on bottom of greased 1 1/2 quart casserole and cover with peas and tuna. Cook onion in fat until tender. Sprinkle with flour and blend in milk to make white sauce. Add seasonings. Pour sauce over tuna and arrange tomato slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in moderate over (350 F) for 20 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Makes 4 servings

Whitefish Anchovy Sandwich

1 cup cooked whitefish, flaked
1 can (2 ounces) anchovies, mashed
1 tablespoon chopped onion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients and blend well. May be used for plain or toasted sandwiches.

Makes 1 cup filling or 3 sandwiches.



Monday, February 16, 2015

On Pornography and the Persistence of Patriarchy

(This piece was originally published on my first blog and then on Feminist Current in 2012. It remains just as topical and immediate today, however, and matters around pornography and the incorporation of its misogyny into the mainstream have if anything gotten worse in the last 3 years.)

There is a debate that exists among leftists and feminists as to pornography. This, as a result of the imagery and social implications of the Internet, is an increasingly important debate.

As a man, I cannot speak to the differences that exist within the feminist movement regarding pornography. It is not, by definition, my place.

But I can speak to the perceptions or misperceptions of pornography that seemingly exist within the broader left and among men.

I can also speak to the fact that, as uncomfortable as it may make us, the commercialization of depictions of sexuality, of whatever type, have become frequently an enemy of the same sexual "liberation" that they allegedly flowed out of.


There is little doubt that a double-standard of sorts exists in the left with regards to the sexual, and more importantly, in some respects, the commercial exploitation of people who "willingly" participate in pornography. While one would be hard pressed to find someone in left circles who would seek to justify the exploitation of minimum wage workers on the grounds that they "freely chose" to take these terrible dead-end jobs, there remains a legion of them who will, to one degree or another, do so for the desperate women (and men) who end up selling themselves for the sexual gratification of others.

Let us be clear. Like all capitalist transactions involving the primarily poor or desperate this is a profoundly unequal transaction. This is not art, and it is not erotica. The idea that one should view the transaction differently as a result of the fact that the commodity is sex is at best wishful thinking. In reality, in almost all cases the physical, emotional and personal exploitation of people in this "industry" is far worse than that of workers in standard industries. This is not a reflection on the individual morality of the people in question; it is a reflection of the morality of the producers and consumers of this material.

What has obfuscated the issue in the minds of many, understandably, is to not want to support a religious or moralistic form of anti-sex backwardness. This is often tied into a civil libertarian fear that the government should not involve itself in the policing of depictions of sex.

And it should not.

That is not the issue at all. Censorship is not a sensible solution to pornography for many reasons, not the least of which is that, as has happened in the past, the censors will largely concentrate on LGBT erotica and pornography. To that small minority of people on the left who advocate banning pornography (as if such a thing is possible), I would suggest that they think again. It will not turn out as you might suppose.

The "Sexual Revolution", with its embrace of modernity, homosexuality and lesbianism, so-called "deviant" behaviour, and other forms of human sexual impulse, made important strides forward in the cause of personal liberation. But it left people in a seeming conundrum where, if they believed in "liberation" and "liberalism", somehow they felt that they had to be uncritical of sexual depictions, whatever their broader social and political context might be.

And yet we must not abandon a critical viewpoint of the increasingly prevalent culture of pornography and the dangers it represents due to the essentially misogynist nature of much of these representations of human sexuality and due to their widespread embrace by men. This has been massively abetted and amplified by the ease of access presented by the Internet.

Even a cursory examination of pornographic websites on line, and we all know this, exposes profoundly misogynist language and depictions of women. Insulting terms like slut, bitch, whore, and much, much worse are commonplace. Revolting depictions of male dominance through acts like "facials' etc.., are also the norm. There is no possible way to frame the use of the now popularized term "money shots" other than through the lens of patriarchy unless one is willfully blind. This "sexual" act is an explicit and clear act of physical domination and cannot be explained otherwise.

To excuse its vile symbolism on the grounds that the participants willingly degraded themselves is as absurd as saying that workers willingly buy into their own exploitation by working. It may heal the consciences of those who find sexual self-gratification in these depictions, but it does not change the reality of the social transaction.

Pornography is not the explicit depiction of people having sex, it is the transformation of this sex act into a commercial commodity for popular consumption. These are not morally the same the same at all. Further, in the continued context of a hierarchical and patriarchal society, pornography reflects back the fears and desires of the oppressors upon the oppressed.

In the online pornographic world any man can quickly find the reaffirmation of his own self-perception of being dominant over women. It is hard to understand its generally appalling terminology and imagery other than as a rear guard psychological defence against the idea of women's personal and sexual equality.

No sexual transaction that is paid for and that involves submission in a context of having been paid for, is anything other than an exploitative transaction by definition. This applies also to men who get caught up in the web of pornography and its particularly dehumanizing form of using people. But that does not change the fact that the entire framework in which this occurs is as a direct result of social patriarchy in a capitalist context. The men, ironically, are also victims of patriarchy.

We do not act, most often, in the full understanding of our actions. If you want to understand the social function of patriarchy, in the same way that one understands the social function of hierarchy, one has to realize that it is pervasive and that we are all, to some degree or another, participants in it. That we may not want to be changes little. Even the most progressive men cannot completely escape it anymore than the most progressive leftist can escape capitalism. It is systemic, and therefore it is a part of our daily discourse and thinking.

Pornography, however, has undergone a revolution. It is now available, easily, 24 hours a day for everyone. It has become an industry that is vastly more profitable than Hollywood. The sites are usually free "fronts" for a network of corporate and sometimes illegal interests, who use young women in heinous and ugly ways to make money.

This is what online pornography is. It is a forum that takes women who need quick "solutions" to personal problems and are, very often, 18-25, (or made to look like they are), and it uses them as chattel. If for no other reason this alone makes it something that must be fought. It is a meat grinder and its form of oppression makes Wal-Mart look good.


Remarkable money is made off of these "actors"...and they see very little of it. They are paid FAR less than a minor actor in a mainstream film, despite the fact that the movies they are in will possibly make more profit than many, if not all "small-budget" mainstream movies, most of which lose money.

Enormous numbers of phony "amateur" sites exist to complete the fraud that this is all "good girls" gone "bad" or some other sexist narrative. But they are not amateur sites at all, of course, they are run by criminal or corporate interests as a front to draw in willing "dupes" who pretend they think they are participating in some kind of "authentic" experience.

The reason that this is significant is simple. Misogynist depictions and commentaries about women are now commonplace on the Internet. They have even, to a degree, become hard to avoid. They are exposing large numbers of young men to very hardcore and degrading depictions of sexual acts in ways that are profoundly demeaning to women. The views of these men towards women are inevitably effected.

They cannot not be.

As leftists and as leftist men, we must stand up and acknowledge that this commercial sexual use of fellow human beings in this way is not an expression of sexual freedom, but is a capitalist perversion of it.