Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It was not the American military that fought for democracy and justice. The people -- and people like Kaepernick -- did that.

No American soldier in decades has died for anyone's rights or for "democracy".


This is a total crock and an American fantasy.

I get that people feel they have to defend (or more often of course attack) NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick by wrapping themselves in the flag he implicitly, if not explicitly, rejected and that they want to do the whole "soldiers died so he could make this protest" bullshit, but that is all it is.


American soldiers since WWII have not died fighting for freedom or democracy at all. They have most often died in imperial adventures that had little or nothing to do with either of these things or that directly undermined them both at home and abroad.

While the cause in WWII was just due to the staggering evil of the Nazis, the US was still a segregationist country that only entered the struggle reluctantly. In no other war in American history aside from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, which both occurred on American soil, was an American military fighting to protect the democratic rights or civil rights of the American people in anyway.

In the years since 9-11 many died in grotesque and illegal actions like the invasion of Iraq which had no justification of any kind and that had NOTHING whatsoever to do with anyone's "freedom".

Kaepernick's protest was about the ongoing murder of blacks and others by the American police.

It was about the impunity with which these authorities act. An impunity backed by the very governmental authority the US military represents.

The American national anthem has just as much to do with the fact that American Presidents and politicians sent so many young people to die trying to suppress liberation movements in places like Vietnam or by dealing death by drones or air strikes, as it does with any notions of "liberty".

In fact, it was never soldiers who were in the front lines fighting for modern American democracy.


That courageous role was actually taken up by trade unionists, civil rights activists, feminists, socialists and millions of ordinary and extraordinary Americans who were brutalized, killed, beaten, intimidated and jailed as they fought their way along the long road to freedom and equality that remains unfulfilled.

They did not not fight and die on foreign shores, they fought and died in places like Mississippi, New York, Selma, Ferguson, Baltimore and every other place where freedom had to be wrested piece by tiny piece from the forces of the American government and where they still do today.

Malcolm X. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King. These were freedom fighters.

These were the kinds of people who really died for democracy and equality.

Not soldiers.

It is the oldest lie -- that imprisons so many of us -- that somehow the military in countries like the United States has been a defender of justice and democracy when the opposite has almost always been the case.

Remember that every single one of the reactionaries who attack a protest like Kaepernick's would have and continues to oppose all actions for real equality and justice in the United States.

Remember that all of the hard fought battles for freedom were won on the streets of the United States by those who stood up against injustice.

Never by the soldiers who were in many cases sent to stop them.

Remember that the very same right-wingers who insist on perpetuating this myth and lie about the military are the same kinds of people who opposed civil rights and equality for women, the racialized and the marginalized in 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 and today.

They have opposed them every single step of the way and continue to. They have never supported the cause of civil rights and equality -- except perhaps in the faintest of token words when forced to -- and they never will.

They will always oppose these rights.

And part of the way they will do so is with this fundamental lie at the heart of all the lies that it was by the actions of the military that democracy and freedom were won and not by the sacrifices of the people.

Don't believe the lie.

Freedom and democracy in the United States and in every other country on Earth were won, insofar as they exist, by the actions of courageous people in the streets, churches and assembly halls who said "No More" and who stood up and were counted even at the cost of their own lives or personal safety.

Soldiers did not do anything to allow this to happen and we damn and insult the memories of the women and men who really died for our as yet unrealized liberation when we claim otherwise.

Freedom and equality will come some day. I believe that.

But it will not be thanks in anyway to the guns and bombs of government soldiers.

It will be due to those like Colin Kaepernick who stood up and were counted when it mattered and no matter the cost to themselves.

See also: Black Lives Matter is right -- The police are the oppressor

See also: You cannot 'discriminate' against the police. They are agents of discrimination.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Reuben Inferno Sandwich -- A new take on a classic

Today we are going to do a new spin on a sandwich classic. It pays homage to the Reuben sandwich -- which is a smoked meat sandwich with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on dark rye -- while taking it in a fiery new direction!

I call it the Reuben Inferno.

To make the Reuben Inferno, you start by picking up some fresh rye bread at a local deli or bakery. Good rye is important! Either dark or light rye are fine as long as it is good rye.

Top one slice of your rye with a layer of Pastrami, followed by a layer of Montreal Smoked Meat, followed finally by a layer of Genoa or Mexican style spicy salami.

Top your meat slices with two slices of Swiss cheese.

Take your sandwich and place it open face in your oven with the oven set to broil and the oven rack placed at the highest level possible. Put the slice of rye with no topping yet in to broil as well.

Broil the sandwich, watching pretty closely, until the cheese has melted and is golden brown to your liking. This generally only takes 2-4 minutes maximum. Don't burn it!

Once the cheese is broiled, take the sandwich out and top with a nice layer of sauerkraut.

Finally, top with your homemade Reuben Inferno sauce.

You make the Reuben Inferno sauce by blending together thoroughly the following:

4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chili sauce
1/2 a large pickle sliced up in small cubes
1-2 teaspoons (depending on how fiery you want it) of a habanero style hot sauce (I used El Yucateco Chile Habanero Sauce, but any similar style of hot sauce will do)

These proportions should make enough sauce for 2-3 sandwiches.

Top the sauerkraut liberally with the sauce, top with the other bread slice and serve!

This is a delicious, spicy sandwich. Enjoy with an ice cold beer and an extra full sour pickle on the side!

See also: Dark Ale Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder with Sauerkraut

See also: The Sausage Hero -- Reinventing "Chunky Wiener Hero" Sandwiches -- Vintage Cookbook #TBT

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sketches of the Soviet Union in the 70's: Anton Refregier -- Part II Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia, Turkmenia and Georgia

Published in 1978 in Moscow, Sketches of the Soviet Union is a fascinating series of recollections of the travels of American artist and peace activist Anton Refregier through the USSR in the mid-70's.

Refregier visited a wide variety of cities, regions and republics and recounted events he attended and the people and places he encountered from weddings, to factories, to city planners, to collective farms and scientific academies, etc. While the recollections are clearly told from a pro-Soviet perspective, they are very interesting as they are not devoid of a critical eye and as he met so many different types of people from different backgrounds and walks of life.

The book is well worth seeking out if for no other reason than as a refreshing counterpoint to standard American Cold War narratives of the period about the USSR.

Happily, there is another reason to seek the book out, however, and that is the incredible sketches of daily life that Refregier did and that  are to be found throughout the book.

These sketches are amazing and should not be lost. While seemingly simple in style, they convey a real sense of character, time and place.

Previously we took a look at some of the sketches from his travels to Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg of course). Today we will look at some of those from the Ukraine, Latvia, Armenia, Turkmenia and Georgia.

Refregier died while working on a mural in Moscow in 1979. Some biographical details of his life can be found from the book at the end of this post.

(Click on images to enlarge)






Friday, August 26, 2016

Let's Go to the Ex -- A Left Chapter look at some of the sights and food of the 2016 CNE!

This year's edition of the Toronto end-of-summer institution the Canadian National Exhibition (otherwise known as "The Ex") kicked off last Friday and runs until Labour Day as always.

You still have lots of time to go or go for a second visit.

Just as we did last year, The Left Chapter paid a visit to track down some new food items, sights and sounds, as well as to return to some old favourites!

Pizza Nova offers up an always reliable and tasty snack slice in the Food Building.

The Bug Bistro, new to the food building, is literally a bug bistro! You can get a few dishes that come with crickets marinated in Tabasco and other sauces. One example is a cricket topped hot dog!  

I must admit that I did not try it. Maybe next time. 

Ali's Roti is one of my favourite food booths at the food building serving up terrific West Indian fare (as they do at their year round Queen St. W. location in Parkdale). 

I got the goat with rice and peas and a side salad ($11) and topped it with their fiery in house hot sauce!

Always a destination for my kids is the lollipop booth in the Arts & Crafts Building. Dozens of different flavours, the lollipops are $1 each or 6 for $5.

This year's hot sauce discovery, also at the Arts and Crafts Building, was the Spice of Life Gourmet Hot Sauce booth. They have five options, all delicious, that progress from a little bit of kick to the incendiary and awesome Million ++ Pepper Sauce! This is a GREAT hot sauce, but not for the timid with its blend of Ghost, Trinidad Scorpion and Naga Viper peppers.

Incredible stuff. You can order from them online here.

Art Show at the Arts and Crafts Building! 

Cookies and Jams from Nova Scotia

Turkeys at the Farm Building

Free recipes...something I can never say no to!

A Giant Squirrel Butter Sculpture

Get your fix of Ontario honey products at the Farm Building!

You know who...

One new food item, at least to me, was the $9 Big Pickle Corn Dog! It can be found at a booth by the midway, It is a hot dog inside a giant pickle that is then battered and deep fried. I hate to say it, but it was pretty terrific! 

At the Mac and Cheese booth in the Food Building you can get a variety of Mac and Cheese mains and grilled cheese sandwiches. 

They also have a tasty Tater Tots dish ($7) that has cheesy tater tots with beef and Mexican style nacho toppings and sauces. A solid treat. 

Could not resist getting a San Francesco veal sandwich with hot peppers ($8) from their booth at the Food Building. A Toronto classic, you can never go wrong with any of their Italian sandwiches. They have all the classic options: Veal, chicken, steak or eggplant. 

Bouchard's Poutinery in the Food Building offers a variety of well executed and tasty versions of the Quebec classic.

I like the traditional poutine option, and a large (and it is quite large) is good for a couple folks. They range from $11 to $15 depending on the toppings. 

See you next year!