Thursday, March 31, 2016

Is the NDP really still debating Mulcair's failed leadership?

What the hell is going on in the NDP?

With just over a week to go until the party's first convention since the complete debacle of the 2015 election campaign, bigger-and-bigger guns are coming out in support of Tom Mulcair's continued leadership. It increasingly -- if there was ever really any doubt -- looks like he will win his leadership review vote.

Five of Canada's most important union leaders released a statement backing Mulcair Tuesday. These included the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the National Union of Public and General Employees, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the United Steelworkers.

Mark Hancock of CUPE specifically, said ""Tom Mulcair is a truly progressive voice for CUPE members and all working people," The joint press release stated, "Mulcair is known and respected throughout every part of Canada and has the organic relationship with Quebec to keep and expand our strongest geographic base."

What are they talking about?

Setting aside for the moment that Mulcair's "progressive" bona fides are fairly dubious to begin with and were on scant display when it mattered (namely during the election), Mulcair is now largely known across Canada and among Canadians outside of the NDP as one of two leaders - the other being Harper - who blew the election!

Let us take just a cursory look at the facts about Mulcair's leadership:

  • Mulcair led the party from Official Opposition and 103 seats to third party status and 44 seats
  • He played a major role in allowing the third party Liberals to leapfrog over the Official Opposition (the NDP) to form a majority government - a feat never before accomplished by a third party in federal Canadian parliamentary history!
  • Under his leadership the NDP lost every single seat the party held in Atlantic Canada
  • The NDP lost every single seat in Metropolitan Toronto - without which no progressive party can hope to achieve power,- including one of the "safest" NDP seats in the country. 
  • His "organic relationship" with Quebec apparently was strong enough to see the party's Quebec caucus totally decimated! It went from 59 elected members to 16.
  • Starting the election either in the lead or close to the lead in federal opinion polls, the NDP now sits at a mere 11.7% in the polls, the lowest level of support for the party in over a decade.
What kind of "leadership" is this? In any other party he would have been run out of town!

It is true that Mulcair has gone on a tepid progressive charm offensive, suddenly showing great concern about (though no policies to tackle) income inequality and "social democracy" while also repudiating his "signature" economic policy plank during the election, the disastrous and reactionary balanced budget pledge. 

But who can possibly believe this at best mild change of heart is authentic? 

Given that his leadership, in electoral terms, has been a fiasco of epic proportions one has to think that what is really afoot is that the powers-that-be want to prevent a genuine cleaning of house and the re-examination of the party's fundamental directions and structures that might come in the wake of Mulcair's ouster. 

While it is true that Mulcair alone is not to blame for what ails the party, the party will not be changed, democratized or radicalized in any meaningful way if he remains. Which is likely what his backers wish to avoid. 

Apparently at the expense of political common sense. 

He has had his critics, but they have been few. Figures like Sid Ryan and Cheri DiNovo who have spoken out publicly are, sadly, not within the elite of the party's federal power structure. 

Meanwhile, party president Rebecca Blaikie has backed away from her previous implication that Mulcair would have to resign if he got less than 70% of the vote, setting him up to stay on if he scores in the 60s. 

She probably needn't have bothered. 

Ultimately the decision does lie with those who attend the convention, and while labour leaders and others wield considerable clout, it is conceivable, though unlikely, that their support for Mulcair will be repudiated. 

Those New Democrats not in attendance had best hope so. Otherwise, can the last person leaving the convention hall please turn out the lights? 

Because the party's over.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Boneless Slow Roasted Pork Loin Roast

We have already looked at how to prepare the spectacular "Frenched" bone-in pork roast, and today we are going to look at how to make a perfect boneless pork loin roast every time!

I have found that a boneless pork loin roast is best prepared using the  high-low method similar to that used when making sirloin roasts or a standing prime rib roast.

First, I like to prepare the pork roast for cooking by seasoning it very liberally with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt as well as 3-4 cloves of minced garlic. Rub in as well around 2 teaspoons of olive oil. (You can, instead, use pre-minced garlic in oil).  Do this on the side with a fat layer (if there is one) and let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, fat side up, prior to cooking. Alternately Montreal Steak Spice or Chicago Style Steak Spice blends also work very well.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven fully to 450F. When it has been preheated, put the roast in in the middle of the oven on a baking tray with a baking rack so that the roast is slightly elevated in the tray.

Let cook at high heat for 10 minutes. This will give it a nice sear. Then lower the oven to 250F and let cook until done.

The remaining cooking time will depend on whether your roast is thick-and-short or longer-and-thinner more than it does on weight. It will range from around 50 minutes to 90 minutes. The one I cooked that is pictured here required only 50 minutes of cooking time at 250F. Pork roasts are done and ready to sit when they have reached an internal temperature of 145-150F.

Let the roast sit at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing.

Then slice the roast up to your liking (I like thinner slices) and serve!

Pork roast pairs nicely with mashed or smashed potatoes and goes well with either white or red wine.


See also: Frenched Pork Rack Roast with Montreal Steak Spice.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2016

BunBun & Beetle

Happy Easter from BunBun & Beetle

BunBun & Beetle - Acrylic on Canvas by Natalie Lochwin
Click on image to enlarge.

(Prints of Natalie's art are available, email for details)

Friday, March 25, 2016

No faith in the system -- The profound injustice of the Ghomeshi verdict lies in its context

The acquittal of Jian Ghomeshi and, most especially, the vicious and ugly judgement from Justice William Horkins that unnecessarily went out of its way to vilify the victims in the case and to perpetuate basic rape culture myths, has been met with widespread outrage and anger in many quarters.

Predictably it has also been widely celebrated or apologized for and by exactly the usual suspects and in the usual ways that one would expect.

Generally those who seek to justify the verdict do so by disingenuously acting as if the outcome, the tactics used by the defense and the contemptuous attitude of the judge are somehow unique to this case. That the outcome of a man walking free despite multiple complainants is somehow unique to this case. That a man getting away with the sexual assault of women is somehow unique to this case. That the "whacking" tactics and excessive scrutiny of the conduct of the victims after the assaults occurred (as opposed to, say, perhaps taking a look at the subsequent conduct of the accused)  is somehow unique to this case.

That it was all really only about the rights of the accused and the details of this specific case.

The problem with that view, even if you accept its premises, is that the Ghomeshi trial and verdict did not occur in a vacuum. At all.

It occurred in a society and a context where over 99% -- over 99% -- of sexual assaults result in no judicial consequences for the perpetrators of any kind.

Only a fraction of assaults are ever reported, only a fraction of those result in serious charges, and only a small fraction of those result in convictions.

There is no other crime where the victims are treated in an analogous way, where the wheels of justice so rarely turn and where turning to the courts, the police and the crown turns out to be so frequently not just futile but to result in the public and judicial pillorying and humiliation of complainants,

People talk about the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelming that the system has evolved to shield the male perpetrators of violence against women and children from being held legally to account for their crimes. It does this in countless systemic ways that range from the way the authorities respond to sexual assault and abuse to the basic attitudes and beliefs about it and about women held by those in positions of power throughout the system.

As Scaachi Koul put it in her brilliant deconstruction of the circumstances around the Ghomeshi case, I Hope The Ghomeshi Verdict Makes You Fucking Furious:

Women, and girls, and anyone who has ever had someone take a piece of their life away through sexual violence or harassment, knew the verdict wasn’t going to go our way because the system wasn’t even built for us. It was built for the men it protects, the ones we try to expose. Men who are accused of assault get a fair trial, but the women who accuse them are the ones who actually have to fight to protect their reputations. 
As was noted in 2014 in The Globe and Mail:
It’s a crime like no other. A violation of the self as well as the body – an assault on trust, on privacy, on control. It’s also an offence with an afterlife: a sense of bruising shame and guilt.
And it happens to women in Canada every 17 minutes.
Some of those women place calls to services such as the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter – about 1,400 of them last year alone. 
“These are not just women who live in poverty or need,” says Summer-Rain Bentham, one of the counsellors who answers their calls. “These are women who are teachers, doctor or lawyers; women whose husbands may be police officers or judges.”
But if these women are hoping for more than support – if they are hoping for justice – the phones might as well keep ringing.
Less than half of complaints made to police result in criminal charges and, of those charges, only about one in four leads to a guilty verdict.
Women know this. Which explains why, according to the best estimates, roughly 90 per cent of sexual assaults, even those referred to crisis lines, are never brought to the attention of the authorities.
Queen’s University law professor Pamela Cross, an expert on sexual assault, says that if someone she knows personally were attacked, “I would advise thinking very hard” before calling the police.
A survey by Justice Canada itself found "that two-thirds of the men and women who took part had no faith in the justice system, the process of filing a complaint against their abuser and the prospect of seeing a conviction."

This history of injustice towards women and sexual assault victims -- a crime the perpetrators of which are 98% male -- exists and has to be taken into account when one looks at the Ghomeshi case. As one woman commented in a thread I saw on Facebook, "The disbelief of women is historical and deep and has little to do with these particular complainants."

The whole system is stacked against sexual assault victims from the second they even try to report and we have seen this time-and-time again.

Ghomeshi was known for his behaviour widely for years and was institutionally protected at the CBC due to his power and stature. He has been protected again by the justice system. It is widely known that there are many, many more victims.

No one with an ounce of intellect actually thinks that everyone who has publicly or anonymously said that he assaulted them could all be lying in some vast conspiracy. Anymore than anyone actually believes Bill Cosby is innocent. As Now Magazine put it, "Does anyone really believe that Jian Ghomeshi did not assault those women?"

And yet Ghomeshi is acquitted. And yet the crown, the judges and the courts fail yet again. And yet a justice writes a judgement eviscerating the victims.

This outcome, this result of a profound and deep systemic injustice, this product of a system designed by and within the power structures of patriarchy, this is part-and-parcel of our society's history of violence towards women and girls.

 This is the real social and justice issue that needs to be confronted.

See also: Jian Ghomeshi's acquittal and the systemic misogyny of the justice system

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jian Ghomeshi's acquittal and the systemic misogyny of the justice system

As many have suspected would happen, Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted today.

The verdict, sadly, is not much of a surprise and is grotesquely indicative of how in sexual assault trials it is still really the victims who are on trial. In this case, the treatment of the three complainants shows this very clearly.

What is truly revolting and stunning is how the "judgement" by Ontario Court Justice William Horkins in parts reads like it was written by Paul Elam at A Voice for Men or by some other "men's rights" ideologue!

After dismissing and attacking the credibility of all three of the women in the case,  the judge wrote of , while avoiding stereotypes about victims, "the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful".

Fucking seriously. He actually wrote this.

In 2016.

It is a shockingly ideological statement that simply turns reality on its head. As if there is an equivalence between the two in a "justice" system where the VAST majority of sexual assaults are never reported, let alone to brought to trial and where those that are most often result in acquittal!

The facts.
A report by the Justice Department itself found:

A majority of sexual assault victims have little to no confidence in the police, the courts or the criminal justice system, according to a new government survey that echoes what advocates have been saying for years.
The responses in the Justice Canada survey indicate that two-thirds of the men and women who took part had no faith in the justice system, the process of filing a complaint against their abuser and the prospect of seeing a conviction.
The majority of victims of both child and adult sexual abuse did not even bother filing a complaint with the police, fearing they would be blamed or wouldn’t be taken seriously, the document says.
“Survivors also often feel they are not believed and are somehow to blame,” says the report in The Victims of Crime Research Digest.
“There was a perception among some that while the survivor must cope with the traumatic experience, the accused is not punished.”
"Little to no confidence in the police, the courts or the criminal justice system". I wonder why.

 According to a different study by University of Ottawa professor Holly Johnson:
Her research also shows how often sexual assaults reported to the police aren’t recorded as a crime. This happens when after an initial investigation, the police decide a crime didn’t happen and so will register the complaint as “unfounded.” In her paper, Johnson writes “sexual assaults are subjected to ‘unfounding’ to a far greater extent than any other crime.”
There are countless other studies and statistics that all say the same thing.

The general and systemic "false assumptions" about sexual assault victims are the exact opposite of what Horkins implies and the notion that there is an equal need of vigilance against sexual assault victims being truthful is, as one commentator put it, idiotic.

Justice Horkins' entire judgement shows the very real ideological and male supremacist patriarchal beliefs that are a part of the bedrock of the justice system as a whole. A part of its foundation. There is, indeed, a "political correctness" at work in our courts and society, and it is systemic misogyny.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece used the widely shared but incorrect quote: "We must fight against the stereotype that all sexual assault complaints are truthful". This was wrong. What was actually said in the judgement was "However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial, illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful"  The piece has been modified to reflect this. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rob Ford - A political obituary

There has never been a politician in Toronto quite like Rob Ford.

And there is a good chance there never will be one again.

I saw Ford in person a few times over the years, but I had an encounter with him last November that really sticks out.

I was standing outside Mount Sinai Hospital in the downtown of the city after visiting a friend there.

I looked north up University Ave. and saw, coming straight towards me, a middle-aged man walking by himself, in a faded and worn "Ford for Mayor" T-shirt and tattered shorts, holding a Tim Horton's coffee (or tea or whatever) who walked right past me and into the hospital.

And it was Rob Ford. Entirely by himself. No entourage, no aides, no one with him at all.

At the time I was rather flabbergasted. To this day I cannot possibly imagine seeing a similarly well known public political figure in a remotely analogous situation.

But it was totally emblematic of the type of politician Ford was and what also lay at the root of his appeal for so many.

Ford has been frequently described as having had an "everyman" persona -- but those are not uncommon in politics, especially with figures who aspire to populism. What was unique about Ford was that his was entirely unfeigned. It was not a put on or a show for the masses. It was Ford.

He genuinely seemed to care very little what anyone thought of him and he presented himself and behaved, even when on official business, exactly as he was and with seemingly little impulse control -- a quality both highly unusual in politics and one that was very dangerous and destructive for the both the city and ultimately for Ford himself.

There is little of a positive nature that can be said of Ford's tenure as Mayor. If he had a governing philosophy it might best be described as one of nihilism as opposed to conservatism. He seemed to hate the notion of governance or social services at all. There were multiple occasions on council his would be the sole or near sole vote in opposition to a motion -- a pretty shocking circumstance when it also happens when one is the mayor.

While normally being a big city mayor is about building coalitions with councillors and trying to fashion a majority for your administration's goals, Ford was totally uninterested, and likely incapable of this.

He had no visible desire to build bridges or to try to understand the perspectives of those with different views, and this ultimately even alienated his allies on the right. As did his reprehensible and outrageous conduct that was often, quite aside from the drugs,  misogynistic, racist, violent, homophobic and juvenile. 

That he was never legally held to account for his conduct also, to many, seemed to be a very explicit representation of how powerful, wealthy white men are treated so very differently by the police and our justice system.

All of this made him loathed by many in Toronto's political class and in the public at large, but it also paradoxically made him deeply and even fanatically loved by others.

The fact that he so openly and avowedly thumbed his nose at social and political convention and that he appeared to be taking on the city's "elites" (despite that he was a man born of and protected by great wealth) and standing up to anyone who got in his way, made him a politician who literally would draw enraptured and cheering mobs wherever he went -- often side-by-side and in competition with jeering and angry people at the very same events!

At one Christmas parade in Etobicoke I attended that Ford marched in there were those (myself included) who refused his attempts to hand out candy, but I also saw people run up to and embrace him or cheer him on as I have never seen happen with any other Toronto politician.

One woman even leaped out of her chair at a beauty salon, with curlers still in her hair, the salon gown still on and with no shoes, to run out to get a chance to see and greet him!

This type of adulation is, to say the very least, incredibly uncommon when it comes to municipal politics.

I argued once that much of Ford's appeal had nothing to do with ideology, but rather with the fact that he became the city's "entertainer-in-chief". You never knew what he would say or do next.

Yet these very qualities that his fans and followers so adored also completely derailed his tenure as mayor, fatally damaged (perhaps a good thing) any attempt at a coherent agenda,  led to a series of serious scandals and cannot but have contributed to his issues with his health.

A terrible contradiction for him and the city.

Rob Ford really did embody the rejection of the highly scripted, tightly managed, hollow political messaging spoon fed us by mainstream politicians who are not as very different from each other as they would have you believe. He highlighted the thirst in many to reject this politics and showed that a very real, and potentially very dangerous, anger and rage simmers among those who feel pushed aside, marginalized or left out by government and the political process.

He was an undeniably unique figure. How he came to be able to ride such a wave of civic discontent to power and what that means about Toronto, its residents and its politics is something that will be analyzed, debated and discussed for a very longtime to come.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

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

Toronto City Councillor Joe Mihevc thinks the TTC has a problem -- and that problem is all those dastardly fare evaders who are allegedly ripping the fine city of Toronto off!
“I take the streetcar virtually every day on St. Clair. I notice the number of people boarding on the back door and I do wonder whether some of them are getting a free ride,” Mihevc told CP24 on Friday afternoon. “I have never been asked by a fare checker and I have never seen them checking other people either. The honour system is present in many cities around the world but those cities don’t rely as much on the fare box as we do. We can’t just turn a blind eye to it.” 
He goes on to say:
“If you are cheating shame on you. You are ripping all of us,” he told CP24. “We are now looking at a 30 million deficit at the TTC which means less streetcars and less buses and some of that is because some people aren’t paying. That’s not fair.”
This is all pretty rich coming from a Toronto politician!

Never mind that, in his rush to blur and hide the actual reality of why the TTC faces deficits and is chronically underfunded -- which of course is directly the fault of elected officials on all levels such as himself  -- Mihevc has no evidence that those people using the back doors (as they have been encouraged to) which are an essential part of the "proof of payment" system meant to try to speed up overcrowded and frequently late streetcars are, actually, fare evaders!

None. At all. He simply tosses it out there as an "explanation" for the TTC's troubles. If he really does take the TTC everyday he clearly does not think terribly highly of his fellow riders and constituents!

But, moreover, the fact is that "fare evasion" insofar as it exists (and of course on some level it does and always will) is not at the roots of the structural issues facing the TTC in anyway. 

When he points out that most cities do not rely on fares to fund their transit systems to anywhere near the extent that Toronto does he is absolutely correct, but that did not just happen -- it is the result of successive municipal and provincial administrations unwilling to do what it took in terms of finding revenue streams through taxation or tolls that would be dedicated to transit funding and who have instead made the burden on transit users greater and greater.

Transit users who are doing the environmentally right thing and who are also disproportionately the young, people from lower income groups, seniors, people on fixed incomes, and the marginalized.
If anyone has been "ripping off" the people of Toronto when it comes to transit it is city council and provincial politicians by not funding the system properly -- which directly results in fares being raised year-after-year. 
Did you know, as just one example in decades of them, that in Mayor John Tory's first budget, supported by Mihevc, the annual cost of a TTC Metropass went up more in actual dollars than did the annual taxes paid by the average homeowner in Toronto?
And TTC fares increased again this year as the city's politicians chose to prioritize funding the massively bloated police service.  
Never mind that 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.
So, you know what, Joe Mihevc and other Councillors prattling on about this are really full of it. When we should be doing everything it takes to make transit more affordable, they do the opposite. 
It is the politicians in Toronto's austerity consensus -- politicians just like him -- who are the ones truly at fault for the circumstances we are in and that transit users face. Mihevc and the rest of them should stop trying to blame others and instead be ashamed of how they have fucked up the TTC. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

David Nixon's Magic Cooking Cards w. Kedgeree, Baked Hake, Fried Scampi & more -- Vintage Cookbook TBT

Vintage Cookbook: David Nixon's Magic Cooking Cards - Fish Dishes

Publication Details: Card Publications, 1968

We have looked in the past at examples of "cooking cards" which were a type of cookbook more common in the 60's and 70's.

One would generally get 20 postcard sized recipes in a folder of some type. They would have a picture and the details, normally on both sides.

This was a neat and handy format. The ones we looked at before featured recipes from an acclaimed chef and a set of Japanese recipes.

Today we are going to look at a cooking card set that was centered around fish dishes and was presented by a well known British magician at the time, David Nixon. He co-authored the cards with Jane Todd.

The recipes are, overall, really terrific and we look at 10 examples in this post.

It would seem the publishers had some kind of deal with Kraft to promote Kraft's margarine. Many of the recipes call for the use of margarine as a result, something which I would strongly advise against!

No one uses margarine in cooking like this anymore and unless you have some odd affinity for it you should substitute unsalted butter -- or possibly olive oil depending on the recipe and your taste -- in every case.

Also, Basmati rice can be used in place of Patna rice.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mulcair's leadership failed even on its own premises -- It is time for the NDP to move on

As the clock ticks down to judgement day in Edmonton next month for Tom Mulcair's leadership of the NDP, the lines are being drawn in what is shaping up as a left-right fight. 

Both former OFL chief Sid Ryan and Ontario MPP Cheri Di Novo have offered up very effective public critiques of Mulcair from the left and have pointed out the obvious fact that if party members want to see a shift towards the politics of  Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn, or Gary Burrill in Nova Scotia for that matter, then Mulcair has to go.

He likely has to go as well if party members wish to make the NDP less top-down and run basically exclusively by backroom strategists. For a party that has "democratic" in its name the NDP's record on internal democracy is pathetic and disturbing.

Both during and after the disastrous campaign of 2015 writers such as myself, Matt Fodor and Fraser Needham on The Left Chapter repeatedly pointed to the sharp turn to the right that was occurring under his tenure. Attempts since by Mulcair to re-frame himself as suddenly deeply concerned with inequality and the fight for social democracy come off as entirely disingenuous.

In fact, probably no one has made the left's case against Mulcair better than, ironically, the Winnipeg Sun in its sneering, condescending and reactionary editorial endorsement of him that reads in part:

...Mulcair understood he had to appeal to the centre. He went to the voters, rather than making the voters go to him.
This is an important distinction to make. Because the very faction calling for Mulcair’s ejection don’t think this way. It’s the socialists within the party who want Mulcair turfed.
But they don’t represent average Canadians. Their ideas are on the fringe. Those ideas are hard to sell to the public and for good reason. Canadians aren’t socialists.
We had a lot of respect for Mulcair during the last campaign as he didn’t run on nutty far-left ideas. While we disagreed on a number of his positions, we respected his commitment to lowering the small business tax credit and his refusal to pledge reckless deficit spending.
He understood that taxes and debt payments just end up harming the little guy at the end of the day. However the socialists don’t care about the little guy. They just care about implementing their utopian agendas.
With friends like these...

But, of course, the Winnipeg Sun is not wrong. Mulcair did support right wing ideas like tax cuts for "small business" and he did oppose personal tax increases on anyone, including even the wealthiest Canadians. He also did, of course, make a ludicrous and totally wrongheaded balanced budget pledge that could never have been kept anyway without a severe austerity program.

In the end, however, it may be that this increasing framing of Mulcair's leadership review as a "left-right" or "left-moderate" issue will actually help Mulcair to keep his job. Many on the left have already abandoned the NDP altogether and the party's organized left-wing, in groups like the Socialist Caucus, are completely marginalized and insular.

What is unfortunate about this is, setting aside the very important ideological issues for a moment, that Mulcair's leadership should be ended entirely on its own premises!

While it is true that any serious attempt to reorient or reinvent the party cannot happen if he stays on, and while it is also true that the shift to Third Way policies and tones that began under Layton and were consolidated under Mulcair can only be stopped by his ouster, it is also true that the entire purpose of the "pragmatic" shift and the entire justification of his elevation to the top spot was predicated on his ability to turn the Orange Crush of 2011 into Canada's first NDP government.

He failed to do this rather spectacularly. He even lost a considerable number of seats in Quebec, which his leadership was meant to easily preserve as the NDP's new stronghold. He was wiped out in Toronto and Atlantic Canada and while the deluded can try to point to the "second best election result in NDP history" (which is not quite true anyway) as some sort of solace, we all know that New Democrats could taste power this time.

Mulcair was meant to deliver it. He was supposed to be easily able to best the neophyte (and as it turns out grossly underestimated) Justin Trudeau. He was going to transform the NDP into Canada's permanent "credible" alternative to the Conservatives. He was going to win!

As a Montreal area NDP riding association president Alain Charbonneau put it recently on the CBC:
"We lost so much," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
"He was hired, basically — voted in as leader — because he was supposed to be the one who could win. That was his mission. He failed."
While there are precedents, especially in the NDP, for leaders to stay on after failing to lead a party to power, these were leaders who were either not expected to win or who at least delivered the party back to a position it already held.

Mulcair not only failed to take government, he lost the party's status as Official Opposition and allowed the deeply loathed Trudeau to leapfrog the Liberals from third party in the house to majority government -- a feat that had not previously been accomplished in Canadian parliamentary history.

Defenders of Mulcair staying on have had to resort to saying one variation or another of "if not Mulcair, who?" and insist that of all the possible options available to the NDP, he remains the best.

While hardly a ringing endorsement of either Mulcair or the qualities of those who surround him in the party establishment, it also not only misses the point that a leadership race would possibly give rise to the unexpected, but that Mulcair is a spent force even if one is totally uninterested in a shift to the left.

If Mulcair could not sell himself and his anemic "vision" against Trudeau and the Conservatives from a position of strength as leader of the opposition and from a starting point in terms of seats that was far ahead of the Liberals, there is absolutely no reason to think, in the game that is bourgeois politics, that he will be able to do so down the road and from the position of weakness he and the party are in now.

The NDP's very peculiar and inward looking culture is vividly on display here.  Perhaps never really comfortable with or believing of the idea that they could actually win, or perhaps unable to admit that they were wrong about Mulcair all along and that it turns out that the critics were possibly right that if you sell your soul for power in a party like the NDP you are likely to lose both, the NDP seems on the verge of rewarding what by any measure was a catastrophic defeat.

It is not solely or perhaps even primarily that Mulcair is a barrier to a return to roots, it is that having tried to supplant the Liberals by mimicking them Mulcair lost. He is not only not the politician to bring to the NDP any type of authentic social democratic narrative, he has also shown that he cannot win on the terms he claimed that he could win on.

While New Democrats may not be willing to acknowledge the error of their ways and their misjudgment of  Mulcair, the electorate is far less forgiving of failed narratives.

If Mulcair remains the NDP is left with the worst of both worlds. An opportunistic and centrist leader who lost badly and one who also could not connect with voters and win when it mattered.

This is not simply a choice between Mulcair and any possibility of a left revival, it is a choice between Mulcair and a long and meaningless journey into political irrelevance and oblivion for the NDP.

See also: The NDP's campaign disaster was much more than a failure to communicate

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

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Victoria 2's Communist Flags Revisited!

Submitted by Nathaniel Laxer

Victoria 2 is a grand strategy game created by Paradox Interactive where players can take the reigns of a nation or territory in the Victorian era and lead it to greatness or wherever the player's goals lie.

In a previous post I looked at some of Victoria 2's communist flags ,but I missed other interesting ones so without any further ado... more communist flags!!!

You can get these or any ideological flags in Victoria 2 by transitioning your government to the specific ideology. This is done by either letting rebels from the ideological group take control of your capital and install a government, or by electing a government of the ideology of your choosing and reforming the government into that ideology's form of government (i.e: electing a Communist government and changing election rules in order to transition to a proletarian dictatorship.)

In a future post we will be looking at a Victoria 2 mod -- one that allows you to create 50 American Communist states, each with their own flag!

Nathaniel Laxer is a 14 year old gamer who lives in Toronto. 

See also: Victoria 2's Communist Flags

America Beyond -- Bernie Sanders fights to make the "impossible" possible (with campaign video)

We have all heard it from politicians and governments -- even allegedly progressive ones -- countless times. They tell us that things like free university tuition, universal pharmacare or dental care, comprehensive anti-poverty programs and any number of other initiatives that would dramatically improve the lives of millions and millions of Americans and North Americans are "not possible"

We "can't afford it". It is not "realistic". It "will never happen". We have to "pragmatic".

In fact, at times, it seems our politics and our progressive politics is all about lowering expectations and limiting the possible.

Even though we can afford billions and billions to bail out Wall St. or finance wars and the military industrial complex, the money and governmental will to fund the initiatives that would transform our society for the better for everyone are somehow out of reach.

But part of what has made the Bernie Sanders campaign so electrifying is that he does not seem to accept that. He knows its not true.

One of his key platform planks is to make university tuition free for all Americans.

It can be done. And it has the power to change the futures of millions of people.

Sanders, again, is saying things that no one has been willing to say for a generation or more, and saying them in powerful, important and deeply moving ways.

America Beyond. A better future is possible.

“Being able to have a college education transformed my view of what I can be in this world. It shouldn't just be a small group of people who get access to that kind of experience. Every American, regardless of their income, should have access to a college education.” - Troy LaRaviere, Award-Winning Chicago School Principal

See also: Tenemos Familias -- The Bernie Sanders campaign ad that stands up against racist economic exploitation

See also: It's Not Over -- Bernie Sanders releases campaign ad unlike any you have ever seen

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Is Chicago a turning point against the Trump campaign?

He encouraged the chaos.

Donald Trump has spent months at his rallies denouncing his opponents in the most ugly and demagogic terms and encouraging his supporters to, quite literally, attack protesters at his events -- even going so far as to promise to cover their legal costs should they be arrested!

Trump's antics and bombast have echoed some aspects of the mass European fascist movements of the 20's and 30's but under very different conditions -- a critical point. In the end Trump's campaign only echoes these movements. It is not analogous more broadly. The drawing of overreaching parallels are not simply historically inaccurate but also exaggerate the danger posed by Trump versus that posed by Republican hopefuls like the religious zealot Cruz.

This does not mean that Trump is not dangerous. He certainly is. But he poses a threat very different from the existential threat to American society that Hitler and Mussolini, for example, posed to theirs.

Despite ahistorical and frequently specious commentary to the contrary there is a profound difference in the historical situation and objective conditions existing in the US today and the conditions of Wiemar Germany or post-WWI Italy that led to the rise of Nazism and outright fascism.

The United States is a dramatically more diverse and dynamic society with far stronger nominal and actual forms and traditions of liberal democracy than either of those.

We are a very long way from what happened in the March on Rome, with the Brownshirts and mass organized fascist paramilitary wings (which were openly affiliated to and directed by their political masters), or with the acquiescence of key pillars of the state, political and economic elite, police, military and armed forces that allowed the collapse of democratic government in Wiemar Germany and Italy. It is entirely clear that the powers that be will not yet either capitulate to or actively aide the rise of a movement of this type in the United States -- which was, in fact, an historical precondition to its triumph in both of those other countries.

Trump, however, certainly reminds one of some of history's demagogues like Huey Long or Peron, and mimics -- intentionally or instinctively -- their anti-elitism, self-aggrandizement, egomania and attempts at strongman intimidation tactics. He has relied upon a blatant attempt at a personality cult and the blind and almost fanatical devotion of his followers. Their near worship of and reverence for him personally. This type of politician is profoundly dangerous in their own right as they are driven by narcissism as much as ideology. In Trump's case this is especially pronounced.

As with all politicians of this type his phenomena rests on a certain mythology, built-up over time, and after first having been written off (entirely mistakenly) as a sideshow farce, he has been very successful in delivering this mythology.

But something happened last night in Chicago that may prove a dramatic and possibly derailing detour on the road to Washington for Trump.

Thousands of protesters shut him down.

Trump (and not the police as he tried to claim) was forced to cancel a planned rally and went on to back away from and attempt to tone down his previous violent rhetoric.

As Dave Zirin of The Nation put it:

It's now confirmed that Donald Trump is lying when he says he consulted with Chicago PD and they told him to shut his rally down. He never even left his hotel. This was so clearly staged by Trump as a show of power, a show of violence by his supporters, and an open provocation in the heart of major city. And he lost. Thank you Chicago.
This is the critical point. He lost. His bluff was called by the people of Chicago and with a state and armed wing of the state that will not indulge mass violence on the part of his supporters (even were they organized enough to effectively practice it) to the degree that would be needed to stop future protests on this scale, this could end up being a real turning point.

The appeal of a demagogue partly depends on their ability to appear unstoppable and to be able to, or to claim to be able to, project their "will" through both force of personality and the naked force of their supporters.

Now that he has been stopped in the streets of Chicago, the facade becomes far more difficult to maintain and protesters and organizers in other states and cities will have been greatly emboldened by what unfolded.

Trump's rally scheduled for Cincinnati on Sunday has been cancelled in the wake of Chicago and in his comments to the press the edge has fallen away from Trump's bluster.

He may well still win -- and is indeed very likely to win -- the Republican nomination, but the legend of the invincible strongman Trump lies shattered in his hotel room and in the streets -- shattered not by other Republican candidates or by political or media elites, but far more importantly by mass popular resistance and anger.

See also: There is nothing funny about Donald Trump. And he is dangerous as hell

See also: ISIS is not Nazi Germany and the "appeasement" argument is ludicrous

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dumpling House Restaurant Spadina w. Dumplings, Hot & Sour Soup and Spicy Seaweed Salad

Fried Dumplings at Dumpling House
One of my favourite things to eat is a plate of hot Chinese style dumplings. We frequently make them at home fried or steamed (admittedly we use store bought)  served with noodles, greens, and spoonfuls of Lao Gan Ma based home blended dipping sauces!

A great place to go for dumplings in downtown Toronto is the appropriately named Dumpling House on Spadina Ave. a couple blocks north of Dundas in the heart of Chinatown and just beside the Kensington Market district.

Steamed Dumplings at Dumpling House
Dumpling House has dumplings available both steamed and fried. While I prefer fried overall, which come with a terrific crunchy "webbing" connecting them, we generally also get a plate of steamed just for the contrast of texture.

There are the general assortment of fillings from pork to chicken, to lamb, beef and shrimp paired with mushroom, chive, egg, etc. All are delicious and made in-house. In fact, you can watch the kitchen staff at work in the front window preparing them.

I recommend (especially if it is your first time going) getting the assorted plate where you can try three different dumpling fillings. An assorted plate with 15 dumplings is a very reasonable $8.59. In fact, the prices overall at Dumpling House are a great deal.

While dumplings are certainly the main attraction there are also noddle dishes, rice and mains and a variety of soups and sides available.

The Spicy Seaweed Salad is a standout. It has a touch of heat and is very refreshing with seaweed, carrot and cilantro in a vinegar sauce. It is a steal at $4.99.

Spicy Seaweed Salad

The Hot & Sour Soup is also excellent, made slightly differently than many others, with a rich flavour based around tofu, egg and cilantro. A bowl is $3.99.

Hot & Sour Soup

Dumpling House is quite small relatively speaking and generally busy so you can expect a line and a wait at peak hours especially.

Service is very fast, however, so normally you do not have to wait too long! You should also note that the restaurant is cash only. It has no liquor licence.

While closed Tuesday, it is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every other day.

Dumpling House is located at 328 Spadina Ave. (416) 596-8898.

Making the dumplings!


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

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

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

We have already taken a look at doing that old classic, pot roast, twice on The Left Chapter but today we are going to look at doing it in the slow cooker.

The very long cooking times of slow cooker pot roast make for a delicious meal and produces a tender version of a comfort food.

For slow cooker pot roast you want to use one of the "lesser" roasts (which are also the less expensive roasts) like chuck or blade roasts. We used one that was just over 4 pounds, but any roast in the 3-5 pound range works.

There are any number of ways to make slow cooker pot roast but we are going to do ours with some vegetables, in a fair amount of liquid, and with just a touch of heat for a slight extra kick of flavour.

The first step is to take out the roast about 45 minutes before the start of cooking and to season it liberally with freshly ground black pepper and with salt to taste. Then rub or brush 4 teaspoons of minced garlic in oil all over roast. You can make you own with around 4  garlic cloves and olive oil or use store bought. Let the seasoned roast sit for 45 minutes at room temperature.

When ready to cook, brown the roast on every side for around 4-6 minutes to get a good sear. If possible do this in a cast iron pan (ridged if you have one) that you have preheated to a medium-high heat on the stove top. 

Meanwhile, slice up 3-4 carrots into larger and long pieces and cut 2-3 celery stalks in half and add to the slow cooker. Place the browned roast into the cooker on top off and surrounded by the vegetables. 

Pour into the cooker 3 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of red wine. Add to this the contents of one large packet of onion soup mix. Then add 6-12 pickled or fresh jalapeno slices, 1-2 teaspoons of a Tabasco or Cholula style hot sauce and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. 

Finally, if you have it, I like to sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Vegeta seasoning over the roast just prior to cooking. 

Put the top on your cooker, set to low, and cook for 8-10 hours. If you have the time, the closer to ten hours you can go, the better!

When cooking is complete serve sliced with the vegetables and some of the very rich broth that the cooking will produce. The meat will be very moist and there will be either a hint or a slight bite of heat depending on how much jalapeno and hot sauce you used. 

Pairs nicely with mashed potatoes and salad, and, of course, a red wine of your choosing.