Wednesday, November 30, 2016

NDP 'survey' hits new levels of farce in the party's unfolding tragedy

For some reason -- likely due to a combination of its unintentional humour and truly sad and pathetic questions -- it is impossible not to share the latest attempt by the clowns at the NDP's federal HQ to pretend to actually give a shit about what the members of the party think.

This comes in the form of a "survey" that, if you are on their email list (I am on all of the major party email lists) the federal NDP has been pushing you to fill out and "weigh in and help guide the work of our movement over the coming months and years". (According to an email I got this morning from Robert Fox)

That is a pretty big deal! This must be one hell of a survey.

Almost existential I would assume. These must be questions of a profound nature.

Later I got a follow-up email (by later I mean about 5 hours) that said "Help shape where our movement goes next".

"This is your opportunity to shape the future of our movement".


So how can you, a New Democrat, do that?

Ok. Really? But maybe this is just a slow start. Not sure why they are limiting anyone to three choices here either. I would imagine many would include all of these choices, and that the NDP braintrust can't learn much of anything no matter how you respond (learn what about what exactly?).

I mean are they going to discard any of the "values" based on your answer? Or not fight against all of the awful things on the second question? 

What possible point could these questions have? 

I am sure the next questions are more trenchant. 

"Our movement" has made "huge strides" has it? In what? Irrelevance under a leader the party membership does not even want anymore? 

But again, why three of these causes? What could be learned by the NDP about the supposed direction the party should take from any of these answers? 

Are there any things the NDP intends to stop working towards based on this? Every answer is a fundamentally important one. 

Is this all just a show to perhaps seek meaningless "input"?

Why do you love the NDP? 

How do you help it?

I can see the impact answers will have here!

The next question must be something that binds it all together. Right? 


And then...

Jeez...I kinda feel bad that I am doing it for "My kids" and not "my parents" or "my community" or "all Canadians who've been left behind".

Why only one?

That is the last question?

I thought that was supposed to "help shape where our movement goes next".

We were supposed to "weigh in and help guide the work of our movement over the coming months and years".

But, of course, this is a joke.

These are not questions that actually seek input, they are "questions" that are designed to simply get committed New Democrats to say why they became/were/are committed New Democrats and then hopefully by doing so feel better about what the party has become and about their commitment to it.

That might be clever, were it not cynical and typical.

But hey...nothing beats pretending to want feedback does it?

Monday, November 28, 2016

The TTC 'fare evasion' fraud and Toronto's fiscal chickens coming home to roost

Lost late last week in the cacophony of reaction to Mayor John Tory's announcement that he would be considering the implementation of road tolls on Toronto's highways was a very interesting article from the Toronto Star's Edward Keenan. 

Keenan reported on the fact that -- as many such as myself have long believed -- the notion that TTC riders cheating on fares is a serious or significant contributing factor to the transit system's fiscals woes is nothing but balderdash. It is a convenient, though false, attempted diversion by Toronto politicians from real issues.

His article is worth quoting at some length. As I also noted here on The Left Chapter about Mihevc and others a few months ago, Keenan writes:
Earlier this year, TTC chair Josh Colle and TTC commissioner Joe Mihevc were spinning tales about this scourge on transit finances, and the topic came up again, inevitably, at the transit budget meeting this week. Monday night, Mayor John Tory found himself musing about it on his call-in television show. “I even said we may have to get to the stage where we have to shame people and publish their picture in the newspaper and say this is somebody, who for the sake of a TTC fare, you know, made everybody else pay,” Tory said....
...All this finger pointing at schemers, apparently, makes for great political drama. It’s satisfying! There’s someone to blame. We get to say that part of our difficulty balancing our budget and keeping fares low is that bad guys are cheating us. Having a villain makes for easier politics and better storytelling. If we can somehow work a high-speed streetcar chase through the financial district into the climax, it will make for an entertaining film adaptation.
As a way to actually discuss any real problems — budgetary or otherwise — that the TTC faces, however, it leaves much to be desired.
 TTC spokesperson Brad Ross tells the Star there’s no reason to think fare evasion is a particular problem at the TTC, nor any reason to think it has risen dramatically. Most transit systems, he says, see about 2 per cent of riders try to sneak on without paying, and that’s about what the TTC estimates it suffers from — a percentage that has remained “fairly consistent” even as the TTC has introduced all-door boarding and free rides for children.
So: management says they see no evidence of this problem that politicians are banging on about. 
After noting that there are far bigger problems facing the TTC, Keenan also writes:
 The New York City website Streetsblog recently reported on a discussion panel in which transit executives from Boston, London, San Francisco and Oslo talked about how, in order to serve riders well, they basically stopped worrying about fare evasion. “Fare payment isn’t the point of running a bus system, (the point) is getting people to the places they want to go,” David Block-Schachter of Boston’s transit authority reportedly said. London, England’s transit authority is no longer even handing out fines for turnstile hopping. “When you stop worrying about fare evasion, but you focus on the convenience of the fare system — you focus on the service it provides to the rider — it opens up a lot of options for the agency, which could allow you to offer better service at lower cost,” one speaker at the event said.
This isn’t because it isn’t annoying that some people cheat the system. It’s because some people will always cheat the system, and the cost and hassle of making it difficult for them is not worth it — especially since most enforcement measures make the system a hassle for all riders. And what you want to focus on, if you want more riders, more honest, fare-paying riders, is making the system as hassle-free as possible.
This point is key and needs to be emphasized again: "This isn’t because it isn’t annoying that some people cheat the system. It’s because some people will always cheat the system, and the cost and hassle of making it difficult for them is not worth it — especially since most enforcement measures make the system a hassle for all riders."

And this is critical to understand. In a piece this past February both here and on, Joe Mihevc and Toronto politicians are "ripping off" the TTC -- Not transit riders! I wrote:
...hiring the new TTC goon squad that would be required to harass and police all those riders getting on at the back will not be free! It will cost millions and millions of dollars annually, so perhaps Mihevc could also investigate whether paying for the policing of transit users and constituents is actually even worth it.
Like all those now defunct "welfare cheat hotlines" that politicians promoted a generation ago I suspect it will turn out not to be.
The point is both that the enforcement measures are very expensive and that they don't only deter so-called 'cheats', they also deter everyone else. It is not simply the unpleasantness of having to interact with and be interrogated by wanna-be cops, it is also the soon to come hassle of having to have Presto cards, user IDs and even a proposal for TTC IDs for children as young as 10 to prove they should get to ride for free, which is simply absurd.

There is no doubt that the new layers of harassment the TTC is seeking to instigate in conjunction with yet another round of fare hikes will deter people, and especially casual users, from taking public transit.

Why would it not? You don't make a system appealing by making it cost more, forcing riders to jump through various hoops to use it and basically saying that you don't trust the people who are taking it! It is worth reminding the TTC's City Council overlords that they put in place the policy of opening the back doors on the streetcars to speed up the streetcars and reduce hassle. To then turn around and behave as if those riders doing what they are supposed to do and using these doors should somehow be regarded with suspicion is bizarre.

In addition, even if enough policing were put in place to seriously deter actual fare cheats, it still would not generate new revenue for the system as in most cases these are riders who are hopping on to go a few stops or who do not have the money to afford to pay. If enforcement does succeed in deterring them all the time, they will simply not use the system. They will walk or find other means instead. The net gain financially to deterring this type of behaviour is actually negative as the TTC will have to spend a lot of money to stop people who were never going to pay in the first place.

This is why when you hear politicians talk about "lost revenue" from fare evasion they are largely wrong and blowing hot air. It is not "lost" if it was never going to happen to begin with. Again: "the cost and hassle of making it difficult for them is not worth it — especially since most enforcement measures make the system a hassle for all riders."

Now, I think most Toronto politicians are smart enough to actually know this, but they need a scapegoat.

They need a scapegoat for terrible wastes of money like the disastrous multi-billion dollar proposal for a one-stop Scarborough subway extension, the increasingly idiotic "SmartTrack" John Tory signature transit 'plan', and the terrible decision to adopt the "hybrid" eastern Gardiner Expressway plan that is seeing predictable and very large increased cost projections. 

As John Tory becomes desperate enough -- after a generation of governments on all levels being unwilling to maintain (let alone increase) taxes to the extent required to actually fiance the infrastructure and public transit projects the city of Toronto requires and that are in some cases decades overdue -- to be willing to touch that 'third rail' of civic politics that is road tolls, we see that Toronto's fiscal chickens are coming home to roost.

Councillor Gord Perks called the idea of road tolls a 'distraction' and writes rather convincingly (and at some length) about the reasons for this, not the least of which is that -- in addition to not generating what is actually needed in terms of revenue --  it will be years before the laws and infrastructure is in place for tolls to even generate a single dime for Toronto.

There is also an argument to be made that they are regressive, though that can be countered by the fact that they do discourage car usage -- a societal and environmental must -- as well as the reality that public transit users are made to pay "tolls" every time they use their system which makes one wonder why car drivers should not, especially given how clearly harmful car usage is?

But tolls are not going to generate anywhere near the money required to fund TTC expansion and keep fares down.

Doing that will require our politicians and parties on all levels to start being willing to actually have a serious conversation about the kinds of progressive income and corporate taxes, in conjunction with other taxes and revenue tools, that are required to achieve the funding for the Toronto and TTC we desperately want and need.

Until that day comes -- and it does not even seem to be on the horizon -- all the rest is, indeed, a distraction and trying to make an issue of fare evasion is nothing more than a pathetic, silly, simplistic and costly waste of time.

See also: TTC fare increases continue Toronto's war on transit riders

See also: Reality again derails Tory's fantasy SmartTrack plans

See also: The new TTC youth fare rules are a revolting attack on children

See also: Joe Mihevc and Toronto politicians are "ripping off" the TTC -- Not transit riders!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Castro, Climate Change, Trump & more -- The Left Chapter Sunday Reading List November 20 - 27

This week's list of articles, news items and opinion pieces that I see as must reads if you are looking for a roundup that should be of interest to The Left Chapter readers.

This list covers the week of November 20 - November 27. It is in order of date of the article's  release.

1) Suddenly It’s Okay to Be pro-Israel and anti-Semitic

Gideon Levy, Haaretz

All of a sudden it’s not so terrible to be anti-Semitic. Suddenly it’s excusable as long as you hate Muslims and Arabs and “love Israel.” The Jewish and Israeli right has issued a sweeping amnesty to anti-Semitic lovers of Israel – yes, there is such a thing, and they’re en route to taking power in the United States.

Read the full article.

2) Many in Milwaukee Neighborhood Didn’t Vote — and Don’t Regret It

 Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times

Four barbers and a firefighter were pondering their future under a Trump presidency at the Upper Cutz barbershop last week.

“We got to figure this out,” said Cedric Fleming, one of the barbers. “We got a gangster in the chair now,” he said, referring to President-elect Donald J. Trump.

They admitted that they could not complain too much: Only two of them had voted. But there were no regrets.

Read the full article.

3) Lessons from Italy: the Dangers of Anti-Trumpism

Cinzia Arruzza, Verso

Comparisons between Donald Trump and former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi abounded throughout the presidential election campaign and have only proliferated since Trump declared victory. They are not entirely ungrounded.

Trump and Berlusconi are both men who came to power from business rather than politics and both have presented their inexperience with the political establishment as a mark of purity. They have both insisted on their entrepreneurial success as the most evident proof of their qualification to rule the country. Like Plato’s tyrant, they both exhibit an ethos based on a dream of continuous and unlimited jouissance and an aggressive and hubristic eros (though Berlusconi prefers to think of himself as an irresistible seducer rather than a rapist). They both indulge in gross misogynistic and racist jokes and have reshaped public language by legitimizing insult and political incorrectness as acceptable forms of political communication and by embodying an exhilarating return of the repressed. They both revel in kitschy aesthetics and don the orange hue of artificial tanning. And they both allied with the far right in order to advance a political project of authoritarian neoliberalism and unbridled capitalism.

Read the full article.

4) I have never been sexually assaulted

Deidre Pearson, Feminist Current

 I have never been sexually assaulted.

When I was five-years-old I went to an in-home daycare, run by a woman who had a son and some daughters (a combination of my age at the time and the years that have passed make me unable to remember precisely how many). The woman’s daughters were older than me, but younger than the boy. He may have been in grade six or even in high school — to me he was just a “big kid.”

Read the full article.

5) French politicians are now marching to Marine Le Pen’s immigration tune

Philippe Marlière, The Guardian 

The first round of the French presidential election is five months away, yet France is already in political turmoil. There are several reasons. First, François Hollande, the incumbent president, is so weak and discredited that some expect him to pull out of the race altogether. This would be an unprecedented move for a president in office.

Second, Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, is going from strength to strength. She is consistently polling at more than 20% of the share of the vote (against 17.9% in 2012) and seems guaranteed to make it to the second and decisive round of next year’s presidential elections. What’s more, Le Pen’s rise has been directly affecting her opponents across the political spectrum.

Read the full article.

6) Lashing Out at ‘Identity Politics,’ Pundits Blame Trump on Those Most Vulnerable to Trump

Adam Johnson, Fair

Over the past two weeks, pundits from all ends of the spectrum have been scrambling to explain Clinton’s unexpected loss, with reasons spanning from the plausible to the highly dubious; WikiLeaks, Bernie Sanders, fake news, Jill Stein, Russia, bad algorithms and the FBI have all been accused of having sole or part responsibility. Lately, however, a new, entirely bogus culprit has emerged from center and center-left circles: “identity politics” and its close cousin, “political correctness.”

Read the full article.

7) Writers, Do Better

Kathryn Borel Jr., The Walrus

The first person who helped me after I was sexually assaulted by a stranger in 2012 was a tiny female jogger. Before she came to my aid, and after the assault was over—for reasons I’ll never understand—my rapist followed me. I walked fast for an hour trying to get to my house while he tailed me. As the sun was coming up, there was a woman across the street, out on her morning run. I didn’t even see her cross over to my side—but suddenly she standing between me and my rapist, yelling at him. He fled. She walked me home, made sure I was inside, then jogged off. I never saw her again.

Read the full article. 

8) Trudeau attended cash-for-access fundraiser with Chinese billionaires

Robert Fife & Steven Chase, The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the top draw at a $1,500 Liberal Party cash-for-access fundraiser at the mansion of a wealthy Chinese-Canadian business executive in May. One of the guests at the event was a well-heeled donor who was seeking Ottawa’s final approval to begin operating a new bank aimed at Canada’s Chinese community.

Read the full article.

9) Dear Democrats, you must stop blaming Hillary’s loss on black folk and Bernie supporters 

Shaun King, New York Daily News

I thought this would happen.

As Democrats begin to deal with the severe emotional reality of a Donald Trump presidency and a conservative Congress, they need someone to blame. They are good at that.

No doubt, many people blew this election, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment chief among them, but black folk and Bernie Sanders supporters simply don’t deserve one iota of blame.

Read the full article. 

10) Mystery solved in the case of the missing transit revenue

Edward Keenan, The Toronto Star 

To hear some members of city council tell it, Toronto is like the setting of some heist film — Ocean’s Fourteen: The Great Transit Caper. Hardened thieves are scheming and sneaking and disguising themselves as children all to the ends of ripping off the transit system. Sounds like a case of [Duh-duh-duuuuuuuuuuhhhhn] fare evasion.

Read the full article. 

11) Petition - PayPal: Stop discriminating against Palestinians.

Sum of Us

PayPal does business in 203 countries around the world and is the default method of online payment for millions. But it won’t serve Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank -- even though it has no problem providing Israelis living in illegal settlements with the same service.

Read the full article and sign the petition. 

12) Guest Editorial: Sawant’s Response to Mudede’s “Brazenly Dishonest” Argument About Anti-Trump Protests

Kshama Sawant, The Stranger

I share the horror of millions of people over Donald Trump’s ascendance to the White House. While Trump lost the popular vote and the majority of the American people do not agree with his right-wing positions, bigots are nonetheless feeling emboldened. A surge in bullying and hate crimes has taken place, and the KKK felt confident enough to hold a victory rally in North Carolina.

Read the full article. 

13) Impassioned Sandra Jansen calls on legislature to stand against misogyny

Rick McConnell, CBC News

Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen drew a standing ovation Tuesday after she rose in the legislature and gave an impassioned speech denouncing the hateful and misogynistic comments she has faced since crossing the floor to join the NDP last week.

The first words out of the former Tory MLA's mouth likely raised eyebrows when she said: "What a traitorous bitch!"

Read the full article.

16) Trump’s climate denial is just one of the forces that point towards war

George Monbiot, The Guardian 

Wave the magic wand and the problem goes away. Those pesky pollution laws, carbon caps and clean-power plans: swish them away and the golden age of blue-collar employment will return. This is Donald Trump’s promise, in his video message on Monday, in which the US president-elect claimed that unleashing coal and fracking would create “many millions of high-paid jobs”. He will tear down everything to make it come true.

Read the full article.

17) Buckingham Palace advertises for new gardener... who will earn less than the London Living Wage

Lizzie Edmonds, The Evening Standard

Buckingham Palace is advertising for a gardener where the successful candidate will earn less than the recommended London Living Wage.

An advert has been placed on the Royal Household website for a live in gardener with a salary of £17,000, which works out at £8.72 an hour for a 37-and-a-half-hour working week.

Read the full article.

18) Conservative MP Kellie Leitch calls for CBC to be dismantled

Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch is proposing to sell the CBC, saying she doesn’t believe the broadcaster should be “propped up by taxpayers.”

Read the full article.

19)  Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level

Fiona Harvey, The Guardian

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

Read the full article.

20) Colin Kaepernick has tense exchange with reporter over Fidel Castro T-shirt

Brandon Schlager, Sporting News 

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being asked once again to explain a controversial message — this time for wearing a T-shirt featuring Malcolm X and Fidel Castro during a news conference.

Read the full article.

21) The 13 impossible crises that humanity now faces

George Monbiot, The Guardian

Please don’t read this unless you are feeling strong. This is a list of 13 major crises that, I believe, confront us. There may be more. Please feel free to add to it or to knock it down. I’m sorry to say that it’s not happy reading.

Read the full article.

22) Galloway sex-assault complainant breaks silence

Laura Kane, Canadian Press

The former University of British Columbia student who accused Steven Galloway of sexual assault says her complaint against the acclaimed author was not about a "consensual affair."

Read the full article.

23) Jo Cox's murder was followed by 50,000 tweets celebrating her death

Mark Townsend, The Guardian

More than 50,000 abusive and offensive tweets were sent celebrating Labour MP Jo Cox’s murder and lauding her killer, Thomas Mair, as a “hero” or “patriot” in the month following her death, prompting calls for the government to do more to tackle hate speech online.

Read the full article.

24) Fidel Castro 1926-2016

Greg Grandin, The Nation

Fidel Castro is dead at 90. He took power in 1959, at the head of the joyful, raucous, and brash Cuban Revolution, which was immediately placed under siege by Washington. Castro almost outlasted 11 US presidents—Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and passing in the waning days of Obama’s last term. Perhaps he just couldn’t bear the thought of President Donald Trump. Having been sanctimoniously lectured by all 11 US presidents on what constitutes proper democratic procedure, he might have thought Trump, about to take office with a minority  of the vote and with significant voter suppression, a vindication.

Read the full article.

Finally, while not from the last week, this article is worth sharing again in the wake of the death of Fidel Castro:

25) Nelson Mandela on How Cuba "Destroyed the Myth of the Invincibility of the White Oppressor"

Nelson Mandela, Democracy Now

We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa? How many countries benefit from Cuban health care professionals and educators? How many of these volunteers are now in Africa? What country has ever needed help from Cuba and has not received it? How many countries threatened by imperialism or fighting for their freedom have been able to count on the support of Cuba?

Read the full article.

And...In Memoriam: Fidel Castro 1926-2016 

"Nothing in the world is irreversible, not even capitalism."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro 1926-2016 w. Photos from Revolutionary Cuba 1975

All photos from Cuba Today, Havana 1975, published to mark the celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution that were held in 1974. 

"Nothing in the world is irreversible, not even capitalism."

"A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past."

"I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating."

"They talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?"

"Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me." 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

McMaster University shamefully removes anti-Nazi posters -- Yes, you read that right

In what has to be one of the single most demented and offensive examples of some bizarre version of pseudo-liberal 'impartiality' in recent memory, the good folks at McMaster University have seen to fit to remove anti-Nazi posters from the campus on the grounds that "McMaster's goal is to ensure a welcoming and inclusive community."

Yes, you read that correctly. McMaster University, it would seem, wants "to ensure a welcoming and inclusive community" including, apparently, for neo-Nazis!

How did this outrageous circumstance occur?

A few days ago posters were put up around McMaster that were explicitly tied to racist and white supremacist views and that were linked to several websites, including explicitly racist and white supremacist websites like 

This website has articles like "Amerikaner Free State" that calls for "creating a White ethnostate in the United States".

Or to sites like that includes misogynist tripe like "Premier Man-Thing, I Think I Love You" about Kathleen Wynne or articles like "Folk-Right Versus Multiculturalism". 

After these posters were noticed, the university removed them.

In response some anti-racists at McMaster posted the following posters around the campus:

There is absolutely nothing that these posters say about the 'Alt-Right' or Neo-Nazis that is not totally accurate.

But according to a spokesperson for the university they were removed because they "do not reflect a welcoming and inclusive community".


Have the folks at McMaster lost all grip on reality and all perspective?

Are they seriously equating posters linked to racist websites with anti-Nazi posters?

The spokesperson also said "It is the responsibility of all those who come to the campus each day to engage in civil and respectful conversations and dialogue."

With racists and neo-Nazis?

This is an example of some grotesque bureaucratic version of balance from completely deluded liberals.

It is impossible to "engage in civil and respectful conversations and dialogue" with neo-Nazis and it is astonishing that the McMaster administration would actually remove posters that were fighting back against racist, alt-right, neo-Nazi propaganda.

There is no equivalency between those supporting racist and white supremacist views and those opposing them and it is simply staggering that McMaster would imply that there is.

McMaster's administration should be deeply ashamed of its actions here which are wrong on every level and not only show how the path to hell is paved with liberal nonsense, but also how the clueless can help to legitimize racists and fascists. They do this by taking actions against the opponents of the far right that make the far right somehow look like just one-side in a "debate" as opposed to the dangerous hate movement they are.

A hate movement that can and must be vocally opposed, including at McMaster and including by posters.

Instead of tearing them down, the university should have been putting some of its own up opposing the far right.

Shame on McMaster. Shame.

See also: What is far-right organization Right Sector doing marching in Toronto's Ukrainian Festival Parade?

Beef Chuck Chili with Jalapeno Cornbread

Today we are going to take a look at a classic style of chili with beef and vegetables that gains a wonderful texture from the addition of corn meal.

We are going to pair and serve our chili with a perfect side accompaniment -- a simple, spicy and delicious Jalapeno Cornbread.

To make our chili we are going to start by chopping up one large green pepper and about 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms.

Heat some olive oil in a large pot to medium-high heat and then saute the chopped pepper and mushrooms in the oil for 2-3 minutes.

Then add to the vegetables 2 pounds of beef chunks. This is usually stewing beef or cubed chuck steak.  You want to brown the beef chunks while adding to the beef and vegetable mixture the following spices (stirring constantly to blend them in):

4 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
1/2 to 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
6 minced cloves of garlic
salt to taste

Once you have blended all the spices in and browned the meat add to the pot enough beef stock to cover all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an hour and a half, uncovered, stirring occasionally. If necessary you can add a little more beef stock here or there as you go.

Simmering it for this long will make the beef very tender and moist.

After 90 minutes taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Then stir into the chili 2 tablespoons of yellow corn meal while continuing to let it simmer. Blend the corn meal in thoroughly so that it thickens the chili without lumping.

 Simmer for another 20-30 minutes and the chili is ready to serve.

This chili is great with nacho chips and some sour cream on the side, but it is also perfect with some jalapeno cornbread.

You can bake the cornbread while the chili is simmering.

To make the cornbread mix together the following ingredients in a bowl:

1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
a dash of salt
a dash of cayenne pepper
1 minced medium-sized jalapeno with seeds (do not seed the pepper!)

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten

Add the buttermilk and egg mix to the first bowl and blend together. You want there to be no dry areas. Once blended pour into a lightly greased baking dish (8 inch).

Place in an oven preheated to 425 F. and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. The cornbread is done when the top is golden brown. (If you want you can test by inserting a thin tester into the cornbread. The bread is done if it comes out clean at the middle).

Let stand 10-15 minutes and then cut into squares to serve on the side of the Chuck Chili!

This tasty and warming fall classic goes well with some ice cold beer or a hearty table red wine.


See also: Slow Cooker Beef & Mushroom Chili

See also: Betty Crocker's 1959 "Spicy Chili" Revisited & Reinvented! - Vintage Cookbook TBT

Monday, November 21, 2016

Butter Chicken Roti -- Fiery Spicy & Delicious Indian Rotis on Queen W.

Lamb Vindaloo Roti...$11.95
Butter Chicken Roti on Queen St. W. in Toronto delivers absolutely delicious, and some of Toronto's most fiery, Indian-style rotis.

As any regular reader of this blog knows I am a very big fan of Indian food, rotis and spicy food generally. The three combined is pretty much my idea of heaven.

But if you love and regularly eat spicy food you quickly become aware that the version of spicy that most places offer up is often not all that spicy! I cannot tell you how many times I have ordered up "suicide" wings at a bar and been very disappointed in the lackluster heat or flavour. When going to restaurants that do serve spicy fare I like to make sure there is some extra hot sauce on the side or I ask the waiter to get the kitchen to crank it up a notch.

When I go to West Indian or Indian take out joints I actually do carry my own bottle of hot sauce in my pocket or bag along with me to make sure I can amp it up to my liking when I get to where I am going to eat.

But at Butter Chicken Roti there is, I can assure you, absolutely no need. The rotis are truly as you order them. If you order 'Hot' the spice is very intense and would be a challenge for most diners. The 'Medium' is as hot or hotter than the roti you would get if you ordered it 'spicy' at most other places.

When it comes to heat Butter Chicken Roti is the real deal. In fact, if you order a Medium/Hot or Hot they ask you up front if you have eaten there before and warn you if you have not!

I have tried both heat levels and either will certainly wake you up. There is also an "Extra Hot" option, but frankly I have a hard time understanding who would order it!

Most palates will find that the Mild/Medium or Medium are a good heat level.

Importantly though, the heat is not just for the sake of heat. The food at Butter Chicken Roti is excellent and very flavourful. The levels of spice deliver different flavour profiles that enhance the food, they do not simply raise the heat.

Butter Chicken Roti offers a wide variety of chicken, lamb, shrimp and vegetarian/vegan roti options. If you are not in the mood for a roti you can have the same dishes served on a bed of rice (this can also help offset the heat!).
Chicken Curry Roti...$10.95

The roti bread itself is terrific and very well made. While Butter Chicken is their signature dish -- and it is very good -- everything I have had on the menu is worth trying. The basic curry option is rich and tasty and comes with potato. The Jalfrezi adds cauliflower and green peas. The Vindaloo is notably different from many other vindaloo sauces as it has the tang you expect but also a taste of citrus that is complex and refreshing.

You really can't go wrong and the food is very affordable with the rotis ranging from $7.95 to $14.95. Portion sizes are generous. A roti here is a full meal.

But take my word on the heat levels! I would recommend that even serious spicy food eaters try the Medium/Hot before ordering a dish Hot. I know many of you will ignore this warning (I went straight for the Hot on my first visit) so get ready for it. Because Butter Chicken Roti delivers real kick!

Butter Chicken Roti is located at 1076 Queen St. W a couple of blocks west of Ossington. It is open 7 days a week until 10 p.m. There is a reasonable amount of casual seating available. It is not licensed. (647) 350 7684.

Visit their website with their full menu: 

See also: Maurya East Indian Roti in Mimico -- Some of the best Toronto has to offer!

See also: Vena's Roti on Bloor St. -- "Best Roti in Town"

Sunday, November 20, 2016

In the Round 2016 @ Queen W. Toronto Gallery Graven Feather

The gallery and studio Graven Feather on Queen St. W. in Toronto has an annual show called 'In the Round' where local artists design and create at least three original pieces of work all of which has to be done within the context of a small (6") circular piece of wood.

These works can be three dimensional or open up outside of the boundaries of the original space, but they must emanate from it.

They have been holding this show for four years now and the diversity of art and technique that it produces is amazing.

As in past years, a wide array of local artists with a myriad of different styles participated. This year there were over 150. (Much, though not all, of the work is available for purchase for $65 +HST ea.) each.

Among these artists was Natalie Lochwin whose art we have featured on The Left Chapter many times in the past.

We visited the show which is continuing for another week until next Sunday, November 27.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Natalie Lochwin's Three Pieces in the Show

Graven Feather is located at 906 Queen St. W. just east of Shaw St. The show is on until November 27, and the gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday 12-6 pm and Sunday 12-5.

Their website can be found at