Thursday, June 30, 2016

West African Peanut Chicken

Today we are going to take a look at a recipe inspired by West African cuisine -- chicken simmered and served in a rich, smooth peanut gravy with a touch (or more) of heat.

To start, heat some olive oil in a large saucepan to medium-high. Add 2 chopped cloves of garlic and a small copped onion (or half a larger onion) and lightly brown them for around 3-4 minutes stirring constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add 3 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Pour in 2 1/2 cups of water, add 1 large sliced tomato, salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

While this is simmering stir together thoroughly 1 cup of all natural chunky peanut butter and 1 cup of water. You must use an all natural, 100% peanut peanut butter for this.

After 30 minutes, stir 1 tablespoon of ketchup into the chicken and then add the peanut butter and water blend stirring it in thoroughly as well. Bring to a boil again and then again reduce heat and simmer, this time uncovered, for another hour stirring occasionally.

While the dish is simmering prepare 3-4 hard-boiled eggs.

When the chicken is ready you want to stir in some cayenne pepper according to how spicy you want it. 1 teaspoon will give it a hint of heat, 2 will make it hot while more than that begins to make it fiery!

Serve this very flavourful dish on top of rice with plenty of the peanut sauce over the chicken. Add a slice or two of the egg to each plate or bowl.


See also: Pepper Goat Soup

See also: Fiery Caribbean style peel-and-eat shrimp

Canada Post's 'problems' are driven by the neo-liberal assault on public services

The "problems" facing Canada Post are entirely ideological.

Canada's politicians and media have bought into a long-term project driven by right-wing notions of society and the economy that seeks to re-frame public services as "businesses" that should be run "efficiently" along the lines allegedly followed by the private sector. 

While the mythology of the private sector's supposed efficiency is nothing more than that, mythology, that is a matter for a different article.

What is abundantly clear is that by seeking to apply fictional market ideals to government run services successive governments have sought -- intentionally or instinctively -- to change the way the public views these services by no longer treating them as services at all.

Canada Post is run not as a public service for the public interest but as a corporation that seeks to make a profit, which is not the purpose of a public service. 

Last year Canada Post actually made a profit of $63 million. While this is, I suppose, a positive thing, it also means that there is at minimum $63 million that could be put back into providing a still very necessary service for the Canadian people and businesses. 

Yet Canada Post on its own webpage bemoans this profit as somehow insufficient and states "The profit is modest compared to the Corporation’s revenue and the significant challenges we face as a company."

What company? What Corporation? Reading this you would have no idea that this "company" was government run and was, at least once-upon-a-time, designed to serve the interests of the people of Canada. It reads as a private company's announcement to shareholders would and shows how far along the path to eventual privatization Canada Post's management has taken it.

All of the "issues" facing Canada Post, from the desire of management to eliminate door-to-door delivery, to the constant increase in postal rates, to its confrontational stance taken towards its own workers that are leading to this impending lockout, are driven by this notion of the postal service as a for-profit enterprise and all of them could be dealt with by changing this fundamentally flawed and anti-public service neo-liberal approach.

The irony is that this ethos is even harmful to the very private sector that encourages it. Canada Post's rates have gone up-and-up-and-up and are not at all competitive versus the United States Postal Service as anyone who depends on parcel delivery for their business is well aware. Instead of the government subsidizing the postal service sufficiently to keep rates low, Canada Post has kept increasing rates despite having turned a profit in all but two of the last 21 years. This puts Canadian retailers at a direct competitive disadvantage. 

The ethos is also the very basis of Canada Post's "rush-to-the-bottom" attitudes to employees imported from the private sector that seeks to maximize profit at the expense of workers even if this leads to a socially and economically harmful labour and service disruption. 

This is what creates the ideological conditions in which we see a statement like:
"We need a more flexible model," Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton told CTV News.
"We need a model that allows us to deliver on evenings and weekends and peak times without having to pay double time, which is pricing us out of the market."
Of course, it is only pricing Canada Post "out of the market" if Canada Post and its operations are driven by market forces.

And they are only driven by market forces due to the actions of Canada Post itself and successive governments that have sought to turn a critical public service into a for-profit enterprise driven entirely by neo-liberal and private sector notions to transition it from acting in the public good towards preparation for privatization.

As part of the critical struggle to reverse the assault on the very idea of government and a civil society beyond the market that has been intrinsic to the neo-liberal ideological austerity era, we need to fight to reconstruct the idea of the state and its enterprises and services as existing to benefit the people who own them -- the public -- as opposed to operating on business lines and models that are inimical to this and for which they were never originally intended.

See also:  The Ontario government's grotesque lottery addiction

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

30 Vintage Streetscapes of Estonia in the 1980's

Historic gate in Tartu
I am partially of Estonian ancestry and while I have never visited the country I know something more of its traditions and history than I would otherwise.

Recently I came across a tourist guide for Estonia published in French in the 1980's when Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union.

The guide is full of terrific photos of various Estonian locales as well as some basic information about Estonian culture and society.

Today, in keeping with one of the themes of the blog, we are sharing 30 of the guide's photos that are primarily streetscapes.

They are from several different Estonian cities/towns.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Tallinn the Capital & Area

My favourite photo of the collection

Tartu, Estonia's Second Largest City

Parnu, a Baltic Spa Town

Viljandi, a Southern Estonian Town

See also: 26 Incredibly Evocative Photos of 1956 Soviet Moscow

See also: 20 Vintage Toronto Streetscapes of Yonge St, Yorkville, Kensington Market & More! (Plus one bonus one of Oshawa).

Monday, June 27, 2016

4 dudes and an accused rapist -- what some folks think passes for the "left" these days

Julian Assange
Have you all seen that Telesur article about "What 5 Leading Leftists Think About the UK Leaving the EU"?

I have. All over the place. Shared countless times.

And it is just an awful reminder of how far the left has to go.


Because, reading the piece they should make the title "What 5 MALE leftists think" as the folks who wrote it could not be bothered to find out what a single
leftist woman thought on this staggeringly important know in 20fucking16.

Five guys, four of them white, get to meditate on Brexit and represent the "left"!


And one of them is accused rapist Julian Fucking Assange. A man who is not a leftist -- at least not one that any of us should want to have anything to do with.

He is a man who has managed so far to flee justice despite the actual facts about the case against him that so many seek to continuously ignore.

For many leftists I guess "I believe women" only applies when it is the women you want to believe and when it does not involve rapists you see as heroes.

The reality that so many on the left seem to still admire this guy and seek out his opinion -- not for what he once may have done but still in spite of the facts about him that are well established -- is a depressing comment on the prevalence of misogyny and rape culture in our movements.

The fact that a major publication could post and that so many would share an all male lineup as somehow representative of leading leftist viewpoints in the here-and-now is not just tone deaf but distressing and pathetic.

We can and have to do better than this.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The beers of Muskoka Brewery -- Canada's first 'living wage' brewery

On June 24 Muskoka Brewery, a central Ontario cottage country beer maker, became the first brewery in Canada to commit to paying its workers a living wage:
Muskoka Brewery and the Poverty Reduction of Muskoka Planning Team – known as PROMPT- announced at a press conference Friday morning the company had become Canada’s first brewery to commit to a living wage for its employees.
What is a 'living wage'?

Different from the minimum wage, a living wage is based on the principle that full-time work should provide families a basic level of economic security above the poverty line. 
The living wage calculation includes the cost of living in the local community and social inclusion. The result is a decent quality of life and the ability to live healthier lives. 
PROMPT and Muskoka Brewery have joined forces to launch Muskoka’s living wage initiative to create “a better standard of living for the people in Muskoka and to educate local employers on the benefit for community, businesses and workforce,” according to a press release issued at the press conference.
To celebrate this step we are going to take a look at some of their line of truly excellent craft beers.

Craft Lager

Their Craft Lager is an unfiltered brew that is very easy to drink. Unfiltered beers may have a haze and a bit of sediment that is a totally normal part of this brewing method. Perfect for a hot afternoon, it is smooth and yet very flavourful.

An excellent introduction to their line for those who generally drink the big brewery beers.

Mad Tom

No, this is not named after the leader of the NDP!

This delicious beer is an India Pale Ale (unfiltered as well) that makes the most of the Chinook and Centennial hops for a full bodied and robust brew.

Kirby's Kolsch

Named after a friend of the brewers who passed away, Kirby Evans, this a really easy-drinking and fruity beer.

Its can features an illustration of a hammock by the lake, which would be a perfect setiing to enjoy it in!

Cream Ale

I am a huge fan of Cream Ales and this is one of the best I have had. Unfiltered, it hits all the right Cream Ale notes and is exceptionally smooth.

It is an award winning beer and if you have never had a Cream Ale, there could not possibly be a better one to start with.

You can see the full line up of their beers at their website.

So this summer if you want to enjoy top-notch craft beer with a side of social justice, check out this terrific brewery and what they have to offer.

See also: Lake of Bays Brewery combines beer, football and a good cause with its Pigskin Pilsner

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The problem with Bernie's 'movement' is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party

Update: On July 12, Sanders, as predicted and as he said he would, endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Largely lost in the cacophony of bewilderment and anger over Brexit was the "announcement" by Bernie Sanders that, come November, he would be voting for (and presumably supporting) Hillary Clinton for President.

Sanders framed this in "Stop Trump" terms going on to say "I think the issue right here is I'm gonna do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump," setting it up as a "strategic" vote.

While Sanders has yet to formally endorse Clinton, it is clear that he will do so, for now simply continuing the pretext that he is withholding the endorsement until he wrangles some programmatic concession or another from Clinton that he can then claim as a victory going into the convention.

This comes shortly after Sanders wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post "Here's What We Want", in which he said that his self-described "political revolution" will carry on. He outlined what this "revolution" was fighting for and it was a list of very worthy and important goals from the need for greater economic justice and equality to the importance of fundamentally changing the American criminal justice system; from campaign finance reform to taking real action to tackle climate change. And it was all very eloquently stated.

Sanders continues to campaign in the lead up to the Democratic convention saying that he is building a movement that will be centered around these goals and that will ultimately transform the United States.

How? Well that is not entirely clear. And that is because Bernie has a Hillary problem. Or, more exactly, his problem is the Democratic Party itself.

While some on the left seemed surprised or even felt betrayed by Sanders' announcement that he would vote for Clinton, they should not have been.

He has said he would support Clinton if he lost the nomination from Day One and said this, regardless of how he is framing it now, well before Trump became the Republican nominee.

The Huffington Post reported on what Sanders said about the possibility of losing the nomination as early as July, 2015:
“If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system?” Sanders said in the interview broadcast by C-SPAN. “No, I made the promise that I would not and I will keep that promise. And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States.”
 The article then goes on to say Sanders would want to avoid a Nader like situation of splitting the "left" vote and perpetuates the myth that Nader in 2000 was the reason that Bush was elected.

 And this has been the profound and ultimately irreconcilable contradiction that lies at the heart of the Sanders campaign.

Sanders' talk about the need for a "political revolution" to shift the balance of political power in the United States from Wall St. to the people is totally incompatible with his pledge to work within the Democratic Party and support its nominee, in this case Hillary Clinton. And this is for the simple reason that the Democratic Party is a Wall St. party and Hillary Clinton is the very personification of a Wall St. candidate.

Not only will a political revolution never emerge from the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party establishment and its elected representatives -- and Hillary Clinton included and even more than most -- will actively work to prevent any fundamental realignment of political or economic power in the United States.

While Sanders has managed to get some leftists appointed to the Democratic National Committee, and while this and his delegates at the convention may, as he seems to see as a critical objective, force the Democrats to add some more aggressively progressive planks to their "platform", this will accomplish very little once the election begins and everyone falls in line behind Clinton who will then, one can rest assured, ignore this platform entirely.

In fact, every indication is that Clinton will shift, and shift very rapidly, to the right after the convention in an attempt to attract Republicans who cannot stomach Trump.

As a Canadian I am very familiar with this path the Sanders "movement" is taking from putting real pressure on party elites only to be ultimately subsumed within and dissipated by working within a party fundamentally resistant to what he stands for. I have seen this play out over-and-over again in futile attempts to be reshape the New Democratic Party.

Those attempts at least were attempting to work within what had once been a socialist party. The Democrats have never been this. They have always been one wing of American capitalism and imperialism and the party has always accepted and even celebrated their fundamental premises.

Sanders has done many exciting and even electrifying things during the course of his campaign, many of which I have examined and celebrated on this blog. His campaign has brought socialism as an idea back into the American discourse (even if Sanders' version of socialism is not really all that socialist as many, including his ally Cornel West, have pointed out), it has energized millions of people around what is a very radical platform and set of ideas in its context, it has aired TV commercials unlike any others that have ever been seen in an American political campaign on this level, and it has been far more successful than anyone anticipated.

But all of this will have been for naught when the moment comes that Sanders folds this campaign into the Democratic Party and into that historical death knell of real leftist politics, the call to support the "lesser-evil".

And this moment is coming very shortly. Sanders has said it would from the beginning.

For all of Sanders' talk of how the "struggle continues" and how the "movement" he has created will keep mobilizing to try to change America in the days ahead, as soon as he backs the Democratic ticket and the party's various candidates in the election, that struggle and mobilization has effectively come to an end.

It can and will go nowhere within the context of the Democratic Party.

And a remarkable, historic opportunity to break with the Democrats and the politics of Wall St. and to really try to build a mass alternative to it, will have been lost.

See also: Rejecting the lesser evil -- Why you should not buy into mainstream narratives about voting

See also: There is no socialist case for supporting Hillary Clinton

See also: Rejecting a Mulcair or electing a Sanders or a Corbyn is not enough

Friday, June 24, 2016

Marinated BBQed Beef & Mushroom Skewers

Today we are going to take a look at a terrific way to make beef kabobs on the BBQ using the relatively inexpensive packs of cubed stewing beef that you will find at most large grocery stores.

We will be making them with a side of BBQed marinated mushrooms.

Stewing beef is often regarded as an inferior beef cut as it tends to be pre-cubed from tougher cuts and to require long cooking times to make it moist and delicious.

But, thanks to the type and length of marinade we will be using, this beef will taste great after just a few minutes of cooking on the grill.

The first step is to take your beef cubes and put them in a large mixing bowl. We used 2 lb. of beef. Season the cubes liberally with pepper and Montreal Steak Spice. Then pour into the bowl enough Balsamic Vinaigrette style salad dressing to cover the cubes.

You can buy a pre-made bottle or make your own by mixing together thoroughly:

1 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste (remember that Montreal Steak Spice is already salty)
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard

These portions should work with 2 lb. of beef, but you can adjust according to the amount you are making.

Cover the marinading beef and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours and hopefully for as long as 12 hours.

Meanwhile, take your mushrooms and place them in a large mixing bowl whole. I like to season them with French Fry Seasoning (there are several brands) and black pepper, but you can also just season with salt and pepper.

The mushrooms we are going to marinade in a garlic and herb marinade that also works well with any other number of vegetables such as chopped red onion, chopped peppers, etc.

You can, again, buy a ready made marinade or make your own by mixing together thoroughly:

6-8 cloves of minced garlic
1 cup EVOO
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Again, cover and let marinade in the fridge for the same amount of time as the beef.

When almost ready to cook, get your charcoal BBQ going as we laid out in a previous post. 

Meanwhile prepare your skewers. If you have metal ones, you are good to go! If using bamboo or wood skewers as we did here, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes so that they do not catch fire while on the grill!

While mixed meat and veg skewers are great to look at and can work, in this case we will be doing the mushrooms and beef separately because of different cooking times.

Take out of the marinade and place the beef cubes onto the skewers trying to center as much as possible and leaving a small gap between each cube. Discard the marinade.

Do the same with the mushrooms.

When your coals are nice and hot, put the skewers directly onto the grill with the beef ones over the coals and the mushroom skewers a little more off to the sides.

The beef skewers will be done in as little as 2-3 minutes a side (turning once) for a medium-rare to medium depending on the size of the individual cube.

The mushrooms will take around 5 minutes a side.

These can be served on or off the skewer and should be served with Tzatziki sauce for sipping on the side. They also go great with a Greek Salad.

An easy and fun BBQ treat.


See also:  BBQed Rainbow Trout with Herbs-de-Provence & Garlic Butter

See also: Beer Can Chicken with "French Fried" Asparagus on the BBQ!