Sunday, January 31, 2016

Slow Cooker Beer and Sauerkraut Sausages


Today we are going to take a look at doing a slow cooker sausage dish that works perfectly for a party or a big sport's game. It also produces some of the most delicious sauerkraut that you will ever taste!




To start, you want to line the bottom of your slow cooker with a bed of sauerkraut. Season this generously with black pepper and then add to it 3-4 cloves of minced garlic or 2 teaspoons of minced garlic in oil, spreading the garlic around evenly.



Pour half a large bottle (500 ml.) of a European style lager  or pilsner into the sauerkraut. I used the terrific Polish beer Tyskie.

Then place 8-10 fresh or frozen sausages (or more if you have a large or party sized slow cooker) on top of the sauerkraut/beer mix to make a single layer.

You can use any type of large sausage, but my favourites are hot Italian style or Oktoberfest style German sausages. I often use half of each.



Once you have added the sausages top them again with another layer of sauerkraut, seasoned exactly the same as the first, and then pour over this the remaining half of the large bottle of beer.

Set your slow cooker to low and cook for 4 1/2 - 5 hours for fresh sausages and six hours for frozen.

This dish can be served either as sausages topped with the now seasoned and beer infused sauerkraut (it is really tasty) with various sides or, of course, on a bun with your favourite toppings.

Perfect with another cold Tyskie or two!

Enjoy.

See also: "Green Bay Packer" Wisconsin Beer Brats with Sauerkraut & Mixed Vegetables

See also: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches in a Carolina Vinegar Sauce


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Slow Cooker Seasoned Whole Chicken

Today we are going to take a look at how to prepare an entire chicken in your slow cooker.

Doing a whole chicken in the slow cooker has one disadvantage in that it is not really possible to get the crispy skin one can get with roasting.

It has, however, a number of advantages. It is very easy, will produce a chicken that has universally moist meat and also creates a very flavorful chicken broth at the bottom of the slow cooker.

The first step is to slice up some carrots into large pieces and use them to line the bottom of your slow cooker. You can also use celery or potatoes (or a combination of any of these). The point is not just to get the vegetable flavour but also to get some separation between the chicken and the bottom of the cooker.



Put your chicken on a platter and season. There are any number of ways you can season a chicken for the slow cooker. A little salt and pepper and a healthy coating of paprika is a classic blend. Various chicken seasoning blends work well as does something like a dry jerk or Greek seasoning.

For this one I seasoned liberally with salt and pepper and then I spread two heaping teaspoons of minced garlic in oil over the surface of the chicken. Finally I gave the chicken a nice coating of Herbs-de-Provence.



Place the seasoned chicken atop the carrots. Cut a medium sized onion in half and put inside the cavity of the chicken.



Set the slow cooker to low and let cook for 6 1/2 to 8 hours depending on the size of the chicken.



When done let sit for 10 minutes and then serve carved with the carrots (which will be delicious), or other vegetables if you used them, and some of the onion. Goes well with noodles or rice and, of course, white wine.

Drizzle some broth from the bottom over the chicken or sides. The broth can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days and used in other dishes if desired.

A nice, easy way to make chicken. And, as an added bonus, the hours of slow cooking time will make your house or apartment smell fantastic!

Enjoy.

See also: Clay Baked Chicken: Clay baking a whole chicken..."Roman" style

See also: Chicken with prosciutto and olives

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dear Mr. Mulcair: Fighting income inequality is not just an email petition away

A few days ago the NDP sent out an email to those who subscribe to their party email list that was ostensibly from its leader Tom Mulcair and that had as its title "Tackling income inequality".



It read , in part:

Our NDP team is back in Ottawa this week and ready to get to work for you.
Front and centre is the issue of income inequality – one of the most glaring injustices in our society. It’s not enough to say that everyone has the same chance in a game that's rigged against the most vulnerable.
That does nothing to help a child who lives in an overcrowded, unheated apartment and goes to school cold and hungry in the morning. Or the pensioner whose income is slipping away.
In 2015, Canadian banks earned a record $35 billion in profits and handed out $12.5 billion in bonuses. Meanwhile, those same banks eliminated 4,600 good-paying Canadian jobs last year alone.

After asking email recipients to sign a petition demanding "real action" on the issue,  the email goes on to say "I refuse to accept that 1.1 million Canadian children and half a million Canadian seniors live in poverty or that anyone working fulltime lives below the poverty line."

Setting aside for a moment the fact that we really should not accept that anyone lives below the poverty line, whether they work full-time or not, this all sounds very stirring and seems to take a strong stance for living wages and to commit to a political agenda that would confront the staggering and almost Gilded Age levels of grotesque income inequality that exists in Canada and the rest of the world today.

It is, indeed, one of the most fundamental issues of our time.

The tone also seems a refreshing shift rhetorically leftward from a leader who ran a disastrous election campaign that was not at all left, rhetorically or otherwise.

So how is the NDP going to fight income inequality?

On this front the email is, to say the least, rather vague. Or, more accurately, does not present any program or vision to do so at all.

But, after briefly going on again about "record profits" and Bay St. bonuses, according to the petition webpage:

Tom Mulcair understands that government must help tackle income inequality—starting with action to ensure banks and profitable corporations are paying their fair share. 
To the barricades! The NDP will tackle income inequality by making corporations pay "their fair share".

Sounds great, other than the fact that this will do nothing, even as a "start", to tackle income inequality. As I have pointed out at some length in the past, income inequality is driven by disparities in individual incomes, not by corporate profits -- hence why you will find that the CEOs of even unprofitable large corporations still make far, far, far more money than the vast majority of Canadians do.

You can read why this old line is little more than an empty slogan at "The liberal-social democratic false god of "corporate taxes""

This is especially true when the NDP both during the election and since were proposing what might at best be described as very modest corporate tax increases, much of the revenue generated by which would have been offset by a variety of boutique tax cuts, including a fundamentally misguided "small business" tax cut which would have actually fueled the growth of income inequality.

While higher corporate taxes could be used, in theory, to help to fund re-distributive social or anti-poverty programs -- like universal Pharmacare or a large-scale national social housing program as just two examples -- the NDP was not proposing anything like these and would not have been able even remotely to have funded them under their tax plan.

This reality is only amplified by the fact that Mulcair made a ludicrous balanced budget pledge that would have made any type of broad re-distributive agenda totally impossible in the present economic conditions.

But, more to the point, the only way that the government -- outside of a campaign to socialize and/or nationalize large parts of the economy -- can actually do anything meaningful or serious to confront income inequality is through raising, and raising rather dramatically, personal income taxes, and this is something that Mulcair repeatedly said he was unwilling to do before and during the election -- even on the very wealthiest Canadians.

Given all of this, the outward left shift in tone is all style and no substance whatsoever.

Taking a page out of Andrea Horwath's very successful strategy to preserve her leadership in Ontario after the ONDP's unexpectedly poor showing in the 2014 provincial election -- which saw them also attempt to run a very centrist and even rhetorically right-wing campaign --Tom Mulcair's sudden commitment to sound like half a Bernie Sanders or one-quarter of a Jeremy Corbyn is little more than throwing a bone to restive party members still under the illusion that they are actually in a social democratic party.

Don't be fooled by this transparent ploy in the lead-up to the federal convention leadership approval vote. This is still the same Tom Mulcair, and no internet petition or programmatically bankrupt rhetorical broad stroke is going to do anything to help fight income inequality in Canada at all.

See also: The Toronto Sun and National Post think Tom Mulcair should stay on? No way! 

See also: Just forget about a Canadian Corbyn -- How a lackluster left in Canada gets the Mulcair it deserves

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

International Holocaust Remembrance Day -- Babi Yar by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

On this day in 1945 the USSR liberated the prisoners left in Auschwitz. Over 1 million had died there, mostly Jews in the Holocaust.

It seems fitting to remember this anniversary with the words of the great Soviet poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko in his poem about the horror of the Holocaust at Babi Yar, a tremendously powerful cry about the evil that was done by the Nazis on Soviet soil and the terrible horror of this past all too recent and all too likely to repeat itself as it did in places like Rwanda.

Babi Yar by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A drop sheer as a crude gravestone. 
I am afraid.
Today I am as old in years 
as all the Jewish people. 
Now I seem to be
a Jew. 
Here I plod through ancient Egypt. 
Here I perish crucified, on the cross, 
and to this day I bear the scars of nails. 
I seem to be
Dreyfus. 
The Philistine 
is both informer and judge. 
I am behind bars.
Beset on every side. 
Hounded, 
spat on,
slandered.
Squealing, dainty ladies in flounced Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I seem to be then
a young boy in Byelostok. 
Blood runs, spilling over the floors. 
The barroom rabble-rousers 
give off a stench of vodka and onion. 
A boot kicks me aside, helpless. 
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies. 
While they jeer and shout,
"Beat the Yids. Save Russia!" 
some grain-marketeer beats up my mother. 
0 my Russian people!
I know you 
are international to the core. 
But those with unclean hands 
have often made a jingle of your purest name. 
I know the goodness of my land. 
How vile these anti-Semites-
without a qualm 
they pompously called themselves 
the Union of the Russian People! 
I seem to be
Anne Frank 
transparent 
as a branch in April. 
And I love.
And have no need of phrases. 
My need is that we gaze into each other. 
How little we can see
or smell! 
We are denied the leaves, 
we are denied the sky. 
Yet we can do so much --
tenderly 
embrace each other in a darkened room. 
They're coming here?
Be not afraid. Those are the booming 
sounds of spring:
spring is coming here. 
Come then to me.
Quick, give me your lips.
Are they smashing down the door?
No, it's the ice breaking ... 
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar. 
The trees look ominous, 
like judges. 
Here all things scream silently, 
and, baring my head, 
slowly I feel myself 
turning gray. 
And I myself 
am one massive, soundless scream 
above the thousand thousand buried here. 
I am 
each old man 
here shot dead. 
I am 
every child
here shot dead.
Nothing in me
shall ever forget! 
The "Internationale," let it thunder 
when the last anti-Semite on earth 
is buried forever. 
In my blood there is no Jewish blood. 
In their callous rage, all anti-Semites 
must hate me now as a Jew. 
For that reason
I am a true Russian!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Swatow's Hot Sauce, Nguyen Huong Banh Mi & Emma Goldman

Travelling back the other day to one of my favorite downtown Toronto restaurants, Swatow, I was thrilled to discover that they are now selling their house hot sauce that I love to put heaping spoonfuls of into the Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup that I always order when I go there. It is available in jars for $5.


This is a terrific hot sauce -- it was seeking a substitute for it that actually led me to discover the excellent Lao Gan Ma line of hot sauces which I now regularly buy. Swatow's homemade one is very oily, flavorful and slightly smokey. It is also very hot!


Really perfect in a noodle soup or drizzled over a stir-fry. Pick some up next time you are in Chinatown.

Swatow's house hot sauce on a stir-fry I made at home.

Great Banh Mi below...a piece of history above!
With hot sauce in hand I then made my way, as I often do, to pick up some Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches from Nguyen Huong Food right across Spadina from Swatow. These are an incredible value at $2.50 for regular or $3.00 for large, and are served on a fresh french style bun filled up with freshly sliced vegetables, assorted sliced meats, a pate, sauce and, if you wish, gloriously hot sliced red peppers. If not having them right then and there (though there is no seating, so you have to find a bench or eat while strolling around) I take them home and they make a perfect late afternoon snack or lunch that or the next day. My kids like to take them for lunch at school.

The shop also carries a whole array of other quick take-out dishes, like assorted meat or shrimp rolls, ready-to-go lunches, buns, etc, all well made and tasty and all at very good prices.


There is another reason to make the trip to Nguyen Huong, however, and this one has an historic and leftist connection!

The shop is located below the apartment that the great Anarchist writer, activist and revolutionary Emma Goldman lived in in the years of 1926-1927.

The city of Toronto has erected a small plaque right in front of the store to acknowledge and commemorate this.

How cool is that!

Swatow is located at 309 Spadina Ave. & Nguyen Huong Food is located at 322 Spadina Ave. 

See also: Swatow Restaurant -- Shrimp Dumpling Noodle Soup & more in the heart of Toronto

See also: Lao Gan Ma Oil Chilli Sauce and steamed dumplings.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Toronto Sun and National Post think Tom Mulcair should stay on? No way!

While an increasing number of people are questioning the very grip on reality of the members of a political organization -- in this case the NDP -- who would consider supporting as their "leader" a politician who had blown an historic opportunity as badly as Tom Mulcair did, happily for Mulcair there are those rushing to his defense.

The editorial board of the Toronto Sun and National Post columnists!

That is right -- the right is rallying to keep him on as leader of a nominally social democratic party that there is absolutely no chance they would endorse during a general election whether led by Tom Mulcair, Tommy Douglas, Tony Blair or Karl Marx.

Given that their politics is antithetical (allegedly) to the NDP's, the question is why they would bother?

On the surface both the Sun's board and Post columnist Michael Den Tandt claim that he is a strong leader who could have won it all but was derailed by circumstance -- namely the niqab issue in Quebec and his misunderstood stance on balanced budgets. Both claim that the niqab stand showed that he was a man of principle and both feel he will be vindicated on balanced budgets when Trudeau's "ultra-ambitious" (to quote Den Tandt) spending promises cause the deficit to spiral out-of-control and the sky to fall or whatever else right-wingers feel will happen anytime anyone suggests the very stimulus spending that actually saved capitalism in the wake of the 2008 crisis.

They never do seem to remember those huge Conservative stimulus deficits do they?

Both mock left critics of Mulcair as being hopelessly out-of-touch, demented socialists, etc, etc, etc.

In truth, all of their defenses of Mulcair really do not hold up terribly well under scrutiny.

The niqab issue is a total canard tossed around by party apologists that simply makes no sense given that Trudeau took just as forceful a stance on the issue as did Mulcair and in equally strong terms. When pressed on this people using this line can never explain why this issue supposedly derailed the one campaign but not at all the other. Perhaps it was moonbeams or reverse pyramid power.

Or perhaps is was that Mulcair always came off as inauthentic when Trudeau did not.

As to his apparent "fiscal prudence" what they leave out is that Mulcair still insisted that his program, such as it was, could be realized while he could also commit to balanced budgets.  Canadians smelled a rat as this was obvious nonsense. Given that it was clear that any government that won the election was going to be facing a deficit the fact is that there were two alternatives -- deficit spending or austerity and cutbacks.

Trudeau was the only leader offering the former and Canadians chose his vision over either the outright promise of austerity by Harper or a narrative from Mulcair that reeked of being a campaign trail fiction and would have proven to have been had he been elected.

The Toronto Sun even went so far as to haul out the old myth that "successful prairie socialism in Canada -- unlike its failed eastern Canadian cousin -- has a history of expanding the welfare state, while being fiscally responsible." The problem with this decontextualized nonsense, among other things, is that, as commentator Fraser Needham pointed out here on The Left Chapter a few months ago, it is simply not true!

As for Mulcair's much vaunted leadership skills, the election result sort of speaks for itself on that front. Given the incredibly centralized nature of the NDP and its campaigns now there really is no one else to blame for this fiasco than Mulcair and his immediate "strategists" and party enforcers.

But these surface arguments act as little more than cover for what really lies at the heart of their desire to see Mulcair stick around.

Part of this is likely that Mulcair has made the NDP so similar to the Liberals ideologically that these pundits are hoping that given another toss at the crapshoot that is bourgeois electoral politics in Canada right now, Mulcair just might eat into enough Liberal support in 2019 to allow the Conservatives to topple Trudeau, who they despise with a deep and abiding passion.

But more broadly, as long as Mulcair or someone like him leads the NDP then there is no meaningful left in Canada. His leadership of what was once a socialist party represents a triumph of the neo-liberal and capitalist narrative in Canadian politics.

If Canada's "social democratic" party is led by someone who shares their fondness for the memory of Margaret Thatcher, austerity inducing commitments to balance budgets regardless of circumstance and who would never use the term socialist to describe himself or his politics under any circumstances, then they have won in the grand debate over what type of economy the country should have fundamentally.

While they may well be right that an avowedly socialist or even stridently social democratic NDP would not "win" the next election, it would have a reason to exist as something other than a second liberal capitalist party and its presence would push the political discourse to the left as the NDP and CCF did for decades and as Bernie Sanders is doing in the United States right now.

Why do the Toronto Sun and National Post columnists want Mulcair to continue to lead the NDP?

Because as long as he does there can be no inspiring and interesting Sanders like campaign and there can be no chance of a Canadian version or echo of Corbyn. The NDP will remain fundamentally irrelevant and  continue to pose no threat of any kind to the system even were it to get elected.

And why would these right-wingers not want to see that?

See also: Just forget about a Canadian Corbyn -- How a lackluster left in Canada gets the Mulcair it deserves

See also: The NDP, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar and the Canadian social democratic delusion


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Children are never "sex workers" -- They are victims of rape and child abuse

In a neo-liberal society driven by right wing extremist narratives that ultimately infiltrate even the left, it is not at all surprising to see ongoing attempts to normalize the most horrific forms of exploitation -- especially if this exploitation involves primarily those who come from families or communities that are marginalized by poverty, racism, colonialism and violence against girls and women.


One of the worst of these is the persistent -- and revolting -- use of the term "sex worker" to describe girls and boys who are underage or children.

Whatever one may think of the broader debate around the terminology and language related to prostitution, it is simply impossible to understand the widespread use in the Canadian media and beyond of the term "sex worker" in relation to children who are victims of rape and sexual exploitation.

A recent example stems from the police sting operation that caught 22 men in the Greater Toronto Area allegedly willing to purchase sex from what the media called "an underage sex worker". 

There are countless other instances of this sickening misuse of a term already arguably designed to make prostitution seem a far less oppressive institution of male sexual violence than it really is.

This reached a new low with an astonishing piece of what amounts to denial of the realities of child sexual exploitation written by a predictably male writer, Noah Berlatsky,-- and which of course uses the term 'child sex worker' in the title -- that astoundingly seeks to claim that it is the police who pose the greatest danger to sexually exploited minors, as opposed to the men who are raping them or profiting from their rape. It does so by using some very selective sources and in a very selective way and by ignoring many initiatives by outreach organizations in conjunction with police both continent and worldwide.

While there can be little doubt that police sexual assault is an issue, and that police abuse is always an issue, and while prostituted children should never face criminal sanction anymore than any other prostituted women or men should, this article's narrative is so glaringly at odds with the actual reality of child prostitution  both in North America and globally it is a simply stunning and depressing comment that a major publication would publish this at all.

In order to accept its conclusions one has to somehow accept that the sexual violation and exploitation of minors is not intrinsically violent and is not intrinsically rape, both of which it is. That is the real threat to these children. The fact that they are being sold and raped by adult men on a regular basis.

Yet, even those seeking to end child sexual exploitation, like The Borgen Project, title a blog Thailand: Child Sex Workers but then go on to state:
It is estimated that perhaps as many as 800,000 children under the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse (16 years old) are victims of enslavement for the purpose of coerced prostitution. Often procured to much older men against their will, these victims of pedophilia often consist of young girls trafficked from the uplands of Thailand as well as from neighboring and countries. Forced to work in the touristic cities of the coasts, the most infamous among them being Pattaya, a large number of them have been lured by the promise of other occupations involving tasks of non-venereal descriptions.
The gargantuan pedophiliac sex industry also includes many young boys between the age of 10 to 13-years old. Like their female counterparts, they are forced to engage in coital relations with mainly Western men. UNICEF puts the number of children affected by HIV/AIDS, both having been born with and contracted in Thailand at 300,000.
Not only are children who are forced into prostitution exposed to diseases and violence of unspeakable luridness, they are also deprived of their opportunity to be children and to go to school. The result of this lack of opportunity and qualification is a vicious cycle from which victims of child prostitution find difficult to disentangle themselves. Some become procurers and some continue working in the industry.
Which begs the question, given that "sex worker" is a term created by and being enforced as some type of litmus test by those who want to see prostitution laws liberalized and brothels institutionalized, why is this term being used to describe what are child rape and abuse victims?

Especially as this is what all underage and child victims of this horrific form of sexual violence are.

In  2014 the United Nations noted:

Children are more at risk of being sexually exploited or sold than ever, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Najat Maalla M’jid, has warned, urging a global response to crimes that are increasing in an interconnected world.
“Millions of girls and boys worldwide are victims of sexual exploitation, even though this issue in recent years has gained increased visibility,” the expert said during the presentation of her final report to the UN Human Rights Council.
“The availability of child pornography online is growing. Child victims of online sexual exploitation are younger and younger, and the images are more and more horrific,” said Ms Maalla M’jid, whose report reflects on her six-year tenure as UN Special Rapporteur and provides an overview of the main issues and trends relating to her mandate.
The UN independent expert warned that certain forms of sexual exploitation are increasing: sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes and economic exploitation, child sex tourism and online child sexual exploitation. But she noted that the true scope of the problem is not clear due to inadequate legislation, lack of reliable data, and under-reporting.
“The clandestine nature of such exploitation, the fear of reprisals and stigmatisation, as well as the lack of child-sensitive complaints mechanisms, also hamper our understanding of these crimes,” she said.
Various factors increase children’s vulnerability, the Special Rapporteur said, including social tolerance and impunity, persistent demand and global criminal networks profiting from the increasingly lucrative trade in exploiting children.  
UNICEF states "Sexual violence against children is a gross violation of children’s rights. Yet it is a global reality across all countries and social groups. It can take the form of sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography".

It goes on to note that:

The 2014 UNICEF study, Hidden in Plain Sight, estimates that around 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about 1 in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point of their lives. Boys also report experiences of sexual violence, but they do so to a lesser extent than girls. While more recent global estimates on sexual violence among boys are unavailable due to the lack of comparable data in most countries, girls typically report lifetime rates three times higher than boys in High Income Countries. Millions of more children are likely exploited in prostitution or pornography each year around the world, most of the times lured or forced into these situations through false promises and limited knowledge about the risks. Yet the true magnitude of sexual violence is hidden because of its sensitive and illegal nature. Most children and families do not report cases of abuse and exploitation because of stigma, fear, and lack of trust in the authorities. Social tolerance and lack of awareness also contribute to under-reporting.
According to Equality Now:

Trafficking women and children for sexual exploitation is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. This, despite the fact international law and the laws of 134 countries criminalize sex trafficking.
At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor.
About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade.
Almost 6 in 10 identified trafficking survivors were trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
They go on to state:
Survivors of sex trafficking tell stories of daily degradation of mind and body. They are often isolated, intimidated, sold into debt bondage and subject to physical and sexual assault by their traffickers.  Most live under constant mental and physical threat. Many suffer severe emotional trauma, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and disassociation. They are at greater risk of contracting sexually transmissible infections, including HIV/AIDS. Many become pregnant and are forced to undergo often unsafe abortions.
According to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights in Canada:

The sexual exploitation of children is a deeply–rooted reality in too many Canadian homes, families and communities.
It is not at the margins of our society, it is at the centre.
It happens to children we know – by men and women we know.
It deserves greater public attention and action.
Most of these child victims have been sexually abused by those close to them: relatives,
friends, and other familiar faces. Sexual exploitation happens to children we know. It happens to children on the streets of our communities who have been trafficked and sold for sex. It happens to children in front of home video cameras. The committee heard that in one year there were almost 9,000 reported sexual assaults against children in Canada. The overwhelming majority of sexual abuse goes unreported. Eighty per cent of child victims of sexual abuse are girls.
The committee was told that nowhere is the devastation of sexual exploitation more
pervasive than among Aboriginal children and youth, who represent over 90% of those being exploited in certain cities. Programming and services for urban and off-reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit are often much less robust than for those on-reserves. Poverty, drug usage,homelessness, family violence, and racism are all contributing factors and compound the urgency of finding real solutions.
We are failing these children. It is time to take action.
Note just how significant issues of poverty, racism, colonialism and systemic misogyny are through all these narratives as that is what the "commercial" rape and violation of children and underage youth is. It is a manifestation of all of these horrific oppressions and forms of violence, committed overwhelmingly by men, in their most base and atrocious form.

No child can engage in "sex work" as no child can ever give consent in any meaningful sense.

To call 10, 11, 12, 13 or 14 year old girls or boys "sex workers" is not just grotesque and sick but implies that they are engaged in "work", an allegedly consensual activity, when "consent" on the part of children is simply impossible.

Children at this age cannot give consent. In every case -- every single case -- where an underage girl or boy is being sexually exploited commercially they are victims of rape  and of child sexual abuse and the "johns", pimps and traffickers responsible for their brutalization should be held to account as the pedophiles or perpetrators of child rape they are.

Not just the media, but everyone needs to stop using fundamentally vile and reactionary terms like "child sex worker".

Instead we need to acknowledge this male violence against children for what it really is and demand that our government and society take steps to end the appalling, racist, colonialist , misogynist and incomparably violent and viscous sexual abuse of and violence against children and youth that is intrinsic to the sexual exploitation of young girls and boys and that has nothing whatsoever to do with "work".




See also: Statutory rape is rape -- In every single case

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

John Tory's Stupid Track derails transit in Toronto yet again

Given Toronto's transit track record, and given that it was a predictably Utopian and nonsensical plan from the start, you had to know that John Tory's absurd 'Smart Track' plan would be derailed by reality sooner or later.

It joins that sad -- and rather long -- list of fiascoes in the transit file in Toronto's recent history. From Mike Harris scuttling subway plans and even filling in tunnels that had already been dug, to the torpedoing of David Miller's relatively visionary LRT centred "Transit City", to the idiotic Scarborough subway extension pushed by Rob Ford that council capitulated to, to putting desperately needed funds into keeping aloft a section of the Gardiner mistake-by-the-lake, to this.

Toronto's transit tale is one of shortsightedness, ignorance and car-crazed political cowardice at its worst.

Today, after months of obfuscation, Tory finally admitted -- without of course actually admitting anything -- that nothing like Smart Track as he proposed it during the election in 2014 would happen at all.

Remember that this plan, which he assured Toronto's voters (despite what he claims now) was completely "doable", was the centrepiece of his entire campaign. So much so that it was on his very election signs themselves!

But it was transparently flawed and predicated on at best wishful thinking and at worst crass cynicism.

Torontonians, however, having bought into entirely fictional anti-LRT (Light Rail Transit) narratives, ate up Smart Track like the citizens of the Springfield of The Simpsons TV show sinking much needed money into a monorail to nowhere.

Today Tory acknowledged that the entire western "spur" of the plan would have to be axed and replaced with an LRT route.

Despite the fact that this eliminates a major part of Smart Track, Tory still tried to frame the reports that he had received from the city's experts as a victory of sorts by claiming that now that he and council had "clarity" the rest of what remained of the plan would be a great success.

Why? Because "the ridership study predicts SmartTrack could attract more daily riders than the entire GO regional commuter system, and could reduce crowding on the Yonge-University subway south of Bloor St. by as much as 17 per cent."

Cue the triumphal ribbon-cutting trumpets and champagne.

But (and you knew there had to be one), the problem is these "predictions" are based on factors that are not a part of the plan! 

Seriously. As The Toronto Star notes:

the report, by the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute and city planner, said those optimum results would be achieved with trains arriving every five minutes. In the election Tory promised every 15 minutes or better.The best results trumpeted by Tory also presume another uncertainty — that SmartTrack riders would pay TTC fares. Tory’s campaign plan assumed the new service would merit a premium fare.
In other words, these optimum Smart Track results would be achieved only under a plan that is not the Smart Track plan even as optimistically proposed by Tory during the election!

The "projections" might as well be based on unicorns, happy cookie elves and fairy dust. They are totally meaningless.

To make matters worse, the staggering $8 billion price tag for all of this will remain just that despite the elimination of the western spur.

I am willing to make a projection. Smart Track will be a total disaster and far more could have been done for less money by investing in the Transit City idea of a network of LRTs.

So here we go yet again -- a rapidly expanding city with a staggeringly outdated transit infrastructure led by a political class that has us on yet another mystical road to nowhere.

See also: Tory led city council continues Toronto's tragic transit farce

See also: 42-2: John Tory, Toronto City Council and the austerity consensus

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Frenched Pork Rack Roast with Montreal Steak Spice.

Today we are going to look at a very flavourful and relatively easy way to make a "frenched" pork roast.

A frenched pork roast is like the Prime Rib of pork. It is fatty, bone-in and, properly prepared, very moist and truly delicious. Plus, once carved everyone gets their own, perfectly cooked bone-in pork chop!


There are many seasoning blends that can be used on a pork roast. Salt, pepper and minced garlic with some olive oil works nicely. But I find that Montreal Steak Spice seasoning (as made by Club House among others) works perfectly.

First, take out your roast and season liberally on top (the fatty side is the top -- as with a Prime Rib the bone side is the bottom and you stand the roast on the bones) with the Montreal Steak Spice. Let stand, seasoned, at room temperature for 30 minutes. For the cooking times in this recipe we used a roast in the 3-4 lb. range.



When ready, put the roast onto an aluminum foil lined  roasting pan and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 400 degrees.

Roast at 400 for 1 hour. After an hour lower heat to 325 and roast for around another 30 minutes or until the roast reads around 150 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remember, the roast will rise by 10-15 degrees when left to rest after cooking.

When the roast is ready, remove from oven and let rest at room temperature for `15 minutes.



Carve the roast by slicing it in between each bone so that a lush bone-in chop portion is created. While terrific on its own I like to serve with a Dijon-mayonnaise sauce on the side. I make this by mixing two parts mayonnaise with one part Dijon. I like to also add a few dashes of hot sauce like Tabasco or Cholula.



This pairs well with any number of sides, like mashed potatoes, salad or rice and goes nicely with either white or red wine.

Enjoy.

See also:   Diner Style Breaded Pork Chops in Gravy

See also: Standing Prime Rib Roast done two ways: On the BBQ or in the oven with mushroom gravy

Friday, January 15, 2016

Traditional Pot Roast with Winter Vegetables




Recently we took a look at a recipe for a fall and winter classic, the Yankee Pot Roast. Today we are going to revisit the pot roast with another look at how to make this great dish that is so perfect to enjoy at the end of a cold day.



As with the Yankee Pot Roast recipe, here we will be doing our roast on the stove-top in a Dutch Oven.

This recipe works best for one of the cheaper oven beef roasts, like a chuck or blade roast, in the 3-5 pound range. These benefit from longer cooking times.

Your first step is to take out the roast and season it liberally (or to taste) with salt and pepper. Then rub 4 cloves of minced garlic into the roast all over. Let the roast sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Over medium high heat, heat some olive oil in the bottom of your oven and then brown the roast on all sides 3-4 minutes a side.



When the roast is browned you want to add one packet of the large-sized dry onion soup mixes (like Lipton or Knorr make) but instead of using the 4 cups of water generally called for you mix it with 4 cups of beef broth. Let the the roast sit in the centre of this and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer the roast, top on the Dutch Oven, for 2 1/2 hours. You should check periodically to make sure you have good simmer going but that it is not boiling.



At this point you want to add your chopped vegetables. While the Yankee Pot Roast uses only red potato and carrot, here you use whatever you want and have at hand. Red, Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, squash, carrots, turnips, zucchini, sweet potato -- any of these work and should added to the broth chopped up rustically.



Bring to a boil again and again lower heat and simmer, top on covered, for another 30 minutes or until the vegetables are done to your liking.

This produces an exceptionally moist roast with delicious side vegetables in a hearty onion broth.

Goes well with mashed or "smashed" potatoes, rice or buttered egg noodles and, of course, a good red wine.

Enjoy,

See also: Simmered Sirloin Tip Steak with a Mushroom Gravy 

See also: Ukrainian "Scalloped Beef" Revisited




Thursday, January 14, 2016

Simmered Sirloin Tip Steak with a Mushroom Gravy


Sirloin Tip steaks are a somewhat more inexpensive cut of steak that can be prepared straight-up (if done right) but that also lend themselves to marinading or simmering/slow-cooking.



Today we are going to look at a way to make this cut in a Dutch Oven or large saucepan, that not only produces a steak that is incredibly moist but that also cooks in what becomes its mushroom gravy.

First, you need to take out your steaks and season them on both sides with salt and black pepper to taste. I like to season very liberally. Then sprinkle some flour over the steaks on both sides as well. Let the seasoned steaks stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.


In the bottom of your Dutch Oven or a large saucepan heat some olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove-top and brown the steaks for 2-4 minutes a side. Remove the steaks and set aside leaving all the juices and oil in the bottom of the Dutch Oven. 


Add more olive oil if required and then add around 2 lbs. of sliced mushrooms and one medium chopped onion, season to taste with salt and pepper, and saute for around 5-7 minutes or until done to your liking. 


When the mushrooms and onion are done, add the steaks back to the Dutch Oven and add enough beef stock to just cover them. To this add 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce. 

Bring to a boil and then  reduce heat and let them simmer for around 1 1/2 hours or until the steaks are moist. When ready they will be easy to cut with a fork! They will be that tender. This should be done covered, but with the lid slightly off at one corner or edge. 



When  the steaks are ready, remove them from the liquid and let them rest on a platter. To the liquid add about 1 tablespoon of flour and whisk it in until there is no clumping and the liquid has thickened. 

Top the steaks with the gravy and mushrooms and serve. These go perfectly with mashed or "smashed" potatoes, rice, a rustic bread and, of course, red wine!

Enjoy. 

See also: Sauteed Garlic Pepper Steak with Provencal Mushrooms and Onions

See also: Beef Shank Potato Carrot Dutch Oven Casserole -- Revisiting an 80's Leftover Roast Beef Recipe

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Statutory rape is rape -- In every single case

With the death of David Bowie the depressingly long road that lies ahead in the battle to end the narratives that enable rape culture are becoming abundantly clear.

Largely lost among the general mainstream celebration of Bowie's considerable accomplishments as an artist and his impact on popular culture are a small group of writers who have wanted to remind people of Bowie's sexual actions towards and involving young teenagers -- actions that are both legally and morally rape.

They have done so in pieces like David Bowie and believing children.David Bowie was a musical genius. He was also involved in child sexual exploitation. and Remembering Bowie: The Man, The Legend, The Sexual Abuser among others.

What has been shocking and distressing is the countless comments one encounters in response to these articles -- even from men and women who self-describe as progressive or feminist -- saying any number of variations of "they were groupies and they consented to the sex so it was not rape" or "it was the 70's" or "it was a different context", etc.

In the specific case of David Bowie, as a blogger put it in the piece David Bowie: Musical Genius, Gender-Bending Icon, Alleged Perpetrator of Sexual Violence:


He also is said to have had sex with (read: raped) girls young enough to be in junior high school, and at least one rape allegation against him. He is, like so many of your faves, problematic. It is not uncommon or unheard of for older men with fame and power to use that to exploit young girls hungry for love and acceptance. It’s also not uncommon for people to sweep this reality under the rug because they don’t want to admit that someone they admire is capable of doing these things 
But David Bowie did this, if Lori Maddox is to believed (and i choose to believe her). He “took Lori Maddox’s virginity” — as she puts it— when she was just 14 years old (I have also heard this number be 13 or 15. Either way, nothing changes). Regardless of how she views the encounter (and, to her, it was consensual and she remembers it fondly), the fact of the matter is that legally and emotionally, a 14-year-old girl cannot consent to an adult man, particularly an adult man with rock star status who provides alcohol and drugs. That same night, according to Maddox, he had a threesome with 14-year-old Maddox and 15-year-old Sable Starr. No matter how you spin it — and I want to be clear that these women are entitled to their own personal narratives — even if they could not and did not know better, he should have. Regardless of what the details of the story are, statutory rape is illegal and it was illegal in 1970, too.
This is the critical point that bears repeating: "the fact of the matter is that legally and emotionally, a 14-year-old girl cannot consent to an adult man, particularly an adult man with rock star status who provides alcohol and drugs."

And this is true irrespective of the "context", the decade and, as she makes clear, whether the young people in question "consented".

In the powerful and moving piece The Myth of the Teenage Temptress: Or Why A Young Girl Can Not Consent to Sex With An Adult Man, a woman wrote of her sexual exploitation by older men when she was a teen, to which she nominally "consented":

 And so I created Prodigy chat rooms with names like "13yo girl home alone" and spent hours chatting and having phone sex with the men who would find me there. I "dated" men in their 20s and 30s that I met at the movie theater, online or hanging around local college town with my other underage girlfriends. I pursued these relationships with with Lolita-like abandon. The terrifying thing is how few adult men ever said no. 
I was not coerced. I consented to all these sexual encounters in the basest sense of the world. But I was making choices that I wasn't emotionally equipped to make. Legally, that's why statutory rape laws exist. Because like an intoxicated person, an underage person is not truly capable of informed consent...
...I spent the next decade of my life wrestling with demons borne partly of sexual trauma. I became addicted to drugs, risky sex, and alcohol. I still struggle to learn that there are better ways to get attention than with my body, that my sexuality isn't the only thing that makes me worthy of love and attention. 
Still, I made it out of my teen years alive; Cherice Morales wasn't so lucky. 
What I needed, and what she needed, were strong male role models in my life who knew how the fuck to say "No thanks" to a little girl's come-ons. Because it doesn't matter if a young girl is saying yes, it's an adult man's job to say no.
This is not simply about David Bowie and when people accept the notion that young teens or children can give consent they reinforce this terrible and violent rape justifying "myth of the teenage temptress" and empower and embolden those who enage in or excuse such conduct in their self-justifications and victim blaming. They do this as well when they simply refuse -- as was the case with so many and Woody Allen -- to believe the children's or young people's stories at all.

If it was ok for David Bowie, how was it wrong in this-or-that context where there was also supposed "consent" on the part of the child?

Make no mistake about how dangerous and destructive these ideas are and excusing such conduct is. When we undermine efforts to stop the lies and myths that perpetuate rape culture we ensure that sexual assault and abuse of children and young teens will, in many cases, continue to be seen not as rape but as some minor transgression that a (in the vast majority of cases) man was somehow enticed into.

On a broader level these excuses remind us why it really should be no surprise how the Bill Cosby and Jian Ghomeshi "extremes" of famous male rapists who were able to victimize women for such a very long time happened.

When we make excuses for or simply ignore the vile behaviour of so many other well-known celebrity or sports figure male serial abusers, spousal abusers, child sexual exploiters and rapists on every step of the vicious ladder that leads right up to them, we ensure that they will happen again.

They happen precisely because so many of us continue to think this way and believe these myths.

We must stop and counter all attempts to claim that there was a context in which it was acceptable for men like David Bowie, and many other rock stars at the time and after, to sexually exploit and abuse children or, in his case, young teenagers.

Because what you are saying if you believe this is that there are some cases and situations where it is permissible, understandable or forgivable for an adult to have had sexual intercourse or sexual contact with children, pre-teens and young teenagers and it is not.

It is wrong morally and legally.

It is never acceptable, understandable or forgivable and it is always rape.

In every single case.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

rabble.ca's Tom Mulcair poll and what it says about the disconnect in the left

There is an interesting poll being taken on the left-wing website rabble.ca right now. It asks readers to vote on the following question:

In the 2015 federal election the NDP led by Tom Mulcair were sent to third-party status with only 44 seats in Parliament.
After what many felt was a crushing blow to the party, calls for Mulcair's resignation began to circulate, most notably from Ontario MPP Cheri DiNovo.
Do you think Tom Mulcair should remain leader of the NDP?

As of the time of this posting 74% of those who have voted have said Mulcair should go. While online polls are not at all scientific, it remains an interesting result as the website is directed at and primarily read by Canadians who would be politically inclined to support the NDP.

Again, while also not at all scientific, I have seen this sentiment widely reflected in the comments, threads and thoughts posted online by leftists and progressives broadly. It is rare indeed that one comes across unequivocal continuing support for Mulcair. At best one finds a reluctant support based on the notion that there supposedly does not seem to be an alternative to him at present.

And yet, among those with power and influence in the party the overwhelming narrative is that Mulcair and the NDP lost due to any number of mystical reasons related to things like the orbit of Pluto or the alignment of Saturn's rings, as opposed to having lost due to the utter incompetence of the party's leader, strategists and leadership and due to its totally uninspiring and facile attempt to be more centrist and liberal than the Liberals.

On this blog we have looked repeatedly at how the party and its elite refuses to take responsibility for their campaign and its consequences in posts like The NDP, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar and the Canadian social democratic delusionDelusion continues to rule the day in Mulcair NDP, Doubling down on disasterMulcair's NDP ran a great campaign! We know this because they say they did, and others.

Broadly speaking progressive Canadians rejected the NDP in favour of the Liberals and many of those same Canadians, as well as leftists who may have held their nose and voted for the Mulcair NDP or who rejected both the Liberals and the NDP, do not share the delusional notion held by the party elite and many NDP members that the party lost in spite of its campaign as opposed to the actuality that it lost because of it.

This disconnect between the party and those that it needs to support it has never been wider and if it continues, and if Mulcair and his crew remain in place following a fundamentally flawed strategy with a compromised and failed leadership, the NDP slide to irrelevance as a meaningless second Liberal party with ever more tenuous ties to labour will be guaranteed to continue unabated.

As noted above in the rabble poll's preamble, one Ontario MPP, Cheri DiNovo, has had the courage of her convictions to step forward and publicly state the obvious. She has called for him to resign, in the Toronto Star, as leader as his leadership is "tainted" and as the party's strategy was wrong-headed.

But, to date, she is the only high-profile New Democrat, inside-or-outside of a parliament, to do so.

With the leadership review vote near at hand at the spring convention of the party, this does not bode well.

After the disastrous Ontario provincial campaign in 2014 the party delegates at the next provincial convention actually gave Horwath's leadership a higher approval vote than they had at the previous convention prior to the election! This is a testament to the party's deeply insular internal culture dominated by a small group of entrenched people and prone to moronic neo-conspiracy narratives about the "mainstream media" duping everyone, and so on, that are used to avoid any serious self-reflection or self-criticism.

Progressive and left wing Canadians outside the NDP know that Mulcair needs to go and that the party needs to find a reason to continue to exist.

But unless those with power within the party or those with influence over it take action it seems quite likely that Mulcair will easily carry the day at the convention and the suicidal and self-destructive course the party is on will continue.

See also: The NDP, Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar and the Canadian social democratic delusion

See also: Just forget about a Canadian Corbyn -- How a lackluster left in Canada gets the Mulcair it deserves

Friday, January 8, 2016

Sauteed Garlic Pepper Steak with Provencal Mushrooms and Onions


Today we are going to kick off the first recipe of the year with one of my favourites -- a sauteed garlic pepper steak with Provencal mushrooms and onions.

This dish is best made with boneless steaks like Rib Eyes or New York strip loins.


First, for each steak you want to mince two cloves of garlic and blend with two tablespoons or so of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Put half of this mixture on each side and press in gently with a spoon. (You can also use pre-minced garlic in oil, in  which case you want to use about a teaspoon a side.) Then coat the steaks liberally with freshly ground black pepper and to taste with salt. Let the steaks sit, at room temperature, for around 45 minutes.



When you are almost ready to cook your steak chop up some mushrooms and season liberally with Herbs-de-Provence and salt and pepper to taste. Saute the mushrooms in EVOO in a large saucepan for around 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat or until done to your liking. You want to make enough mushrooms to cover each steak fully so plan accordingly. Set the mushrooms aside, covered, to keep them warm.



Then do the exact same thing with some chopped onion, again making enough to cover the steak thoroughly. Again, set aside, covered to keep warm.



Meanwhile, heat up a cast iron pan, ridged if you have one, and cook your seasoned steaks exactly as described in the previous post "Smashed Potatoes and Crosshatched Rib Eyes".




While I hope you cook your steaks rare, rare-medium or medium-rare, when they are done to your liking and you have let them rest, place each steak on a plate and cover with the mushrooms and onions.



This delicious dish, full of flavour, is great with a baguette, an Italian or Caesar salad, red wine and whatever else you like steak with!

Enjoy.

See also: Pesto pepper steak with sour cream & pickled peperoncini

See also: Lemon Minute Steaks with Sauteed Mushrooms