Saturday, January 08, 2011

You cannot negotiate with terrorists

By now I am sure you all have heard the horrible news out of Arizona.

A 9 year old girl was murdered to make a political point. A judge was murdered to make a political point. A congress person was shot through the head to make a point. At least 5, possibly 6 people are dead because a terrorist couldn't get his own way. (I'm working on sketchy internet access here, so apologies if I get some facts wrong- the sentiment is still the same).

We already know how this story is going to play out in the news. Rethuglikans and tea baggers will claim this was the act of a lone, disturbed man and has nothing to do with their rhetoric. Democrats will try to use this to guilt rethuglikans into bipartisanship (it won't work). And Democratic politicians across the country will be even less likely to do anything but give into the right because of real fear of being killed for doing otherwise.

But Giffords is a moderate. She was already doing what she could to find common ground with people who will be gleeful that the bullet through her head gives them a chance to steal her seat. There is no middle ground to be found with them. There is no way to negotiate a fair deal with people who will happily load the gun that will be held to your head later. You don't negotiate with terrorists because their end goal is your destruction, and there's no middle ground between dead and alive.

There will be Democratic pundits and voters who will claim that this is what happens when you don't vote blue. Actually, this is what happens when you do vote blue. As unhappy as we on the left were under Bush, nobody tried to shoot Tom Delay and the violent factions of our country were resolutely quiet for 8 years.

So this is the word we live in now. The political left pays ransoms to the political right in hopes of saving their own skin and the political right stokes the fires violence. 9 year old girls die in the crossfire.

I have always thought that the measure of a person is not what they would kill for, but what they would die for*. If there is no amount of moderation that can save you from the bullet of a teabagger, then perhaps it's time to give up the idea of bipartisanship. They will kill you anyways. Go down fighting, or let someone take your place who will.

(Isn't it also funny that the people most likely to murder in these situations are white Christian dudes. I may be a godless atheist, but I'm pretty sure that the bible doesn't say "Jesus killed for our sins". What would Jesus do certainly never involved mass murder.)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Everybody fucks up

but very few people admit it well.

So Roger Ebert, who is usually awesome, weighed in on the controversy about replacing the word n****r in Huck Finn with the word slave by tweeting that he'd rather be called a n****r than a slave. (sorry folk, rules of reclamation mean I won't type the whole word).

When someone pointed out this little bit of privilege, he responded with “You know, this is very true. I’ll never be called a N***** *or* a Slave, so I should have shut the **** up,”

That's how you apologize when privilege comes leaping out of your mouth or keyboard. Imagine a world where after any number of stupid things said by, oh say Keith Olberman, we got a "you're right, I'm never going to be date raped in Sweden, so I should just shut the fuck up".

Or the virtuous foodies "you're right, I'm never going to have to choose between organic steel cut oats and paying the electric bill. I should just shut the fuck up,"

Or members of the political class "you're right, when we say sacrifice we mean only for people who have less than us. We should just shut the fuck up".

(I think I had a little wordgasm typing that last one).

As far as the actual controversy goes, I think Renee sums it up better than I can. But I will add one little thing, would it be so fucking hard to include books written by actual people of color when talking about race and or slavery?

It's the end of the world as we know it.....

Anyone else find it funny that all the dead animals are in predominantly Christian countries?

Oh please, oh please, oh please, the rapture can't come soon enough for this non-believer.

Careful what you wish for?

So a few years ago, when we had a house of our own, I used to say that what I wanted more than anything was to live out of a suitcase and spend my time writing*. Well, the Kid and I have certainly done that for the last year or so, and lemme tell you, it's way less romantic than I imagined.

I don't believe in god or kharma or magical forces of any kind, but every now and then I have to look at the order of the universe and go "What the fuckity fuck kind of sick joke is this?"

*What I actually used to say is- I want to travel around the world, living out of a suitcase, and getting to yell at people for a living.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

by the skin of our teeth

whew. what a morning it has been. today we went from short term
temporary housing to longer term temporary housing. we made it her
with exactly one dollar left (thank you soo much to all of you who
made it so that we didn't spend december living in a tent) as you can
see, i am back to interneting on my phone. don't know when that can be
fixed but forgive the typing please. it's still a long, hard, scary
road ahead, but we are safe and there is a thin possibility of
something better to come. happy belated new year, i think that might
actually be true this year.

The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all of your time.
Willem de Kooning

He was a gatekeeper

(FTR, the blog tittle should be sung to the Beattles' Daytripper)

New Left has an interesting little blurb up about gatekeeping in regards to college educations. Go read, I'll wait.

Gatekeeping serves a major purpose in entrenching the dominant paradigm and reinforcing cultural hegemony. If you can only get a a decent job through a college education, and you can only get a college education by subscribing to capitalism and free marketeering, then the only people who get good jobs are those who will support the current system. But that's just a small gate, there are much bigger gates to be guarded. Another small gate, say you are a lefty poly sci student. You can be as progressive as you want, but if you want to get a paying job doing what you spent years in school studying, you have to shelve those alternative ideas. Maybe occasionally someone (Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader) gets to be king of the ideal left, but you should note that they are usually white dudes who get to betray their elite status with radical ideas. If you have any kind of oppression points at all, that won't be possible.

Our election system is one grand example of gatekeeping. We only get 2 versions of what's possible, and strangely both those versions are business friendly. They may bicker over talking points, but at the end of the day real change and reform just isn't going to happen when both parties rely on massive corporate funding and the elimination of third parties. You can start out as Mr. Smith (or Mr. Alan Greyson) goes to Washington as you like, the reality is that you either work to keep the system intact or you get sent home.

But gatekeeping doesn't just happen in politics. This is where I may get into some trouble, so forgive me in advance. Take a look at Oprah Winfrey, undisputed media queen of the world. Oh yes, she is a dark skinned black woman. She is one hell of a business woman and talented too. All of that is true. Yet she wouldn't ever have gotten where she is today if she didn't repeat the false American dream ideas over and over and over. Your failures are individual failures. She pulled herself up by the bootstraps and look where she is. Anyone can do it if she did. All it takes is education and drive and hard work. Except that's not all it takes. It also takes a certain degree of luck and the willingness to ignore cognitive dissonance. Oprah works really hard everyday, but does she really work harder than a minimum wage hotel maid? If Oprah didn't repeat that hard work equals success narrative, if she started questioning the economic system that has made her so much money, would she still make so much money? Would she have been allowed to have a television show on networks whose job it is to sell ad space to companies that want to sell us on the American dream? No. (See also the new OWN network, if Oprah suddenly got all progressive her network would fail because major corporations wouldn't advertise with it).

That same thing works in small ways too. If the only employer in town is Walmart, you shut up about how Walmart closed down all the little stores and the factories that went overseas to make the products that Walmart sells. You shut up and hope that you can get a Walmart job. You spew the company line, because if you don't subscribe to it, you don't eat. You become the gatekeeper for mass consumerism.

But some of us can point out the gatekeeping. We can explain that freedom doesn't mean the choice between donkey flavored coke and elephant flavored pepsi. we can remind them that progressive economics are water for those dying of economic thirst.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Incentives, incentives

So health insurance parasites companies are cranky. See, they've been tiering their prescription drug coverage so that patients have less incentive to take more expensive drugs because of the higher co-pays that the insurance parasite company charges compared to other, sometimes generic drugs.

But pharmaceutical companies (also often parasites, but at least they produce an actual product) have been countering by giving patients coupons to cut their copays. They are providing their own incentives. But the insurance parasites have to eat the larger drug costs because the coupons only pay for out-of-pocket (OOP in health and welfare speak) costs. Suck it, parasites.

And the insurance parasites are pouting. Hands on hips, bottom lip stuck out, pouting. "But but but it's not fair" goes the parasites' whambulance.

You know, if they don't like it they could always get out of the game. But somehow I don't think we'll be that lucky. I would like to see big pharma and big parasite arm wrestle for legislative supremacy on this one. Usually they are all sunshine and rainbows for each other when it comes to lobbying the pols. Who will the pols side with? Who has deeper pockets come election time?

And this would all be unnecessary if we had single payer. Coupons for drug co-pays are already illegal for medicare users.

RQ Cooks- The Other White Meat

So it's winter, which means it's cheap pork season. Kid and I found thick cut pork chops for 99 cents per pound (2 chops equals a pound) and we'll be eating pork chops a few times this week. For some reason (religion, fear of undercooked pork from parents, I don't know what) most of my friends are afraid of cooking pork and unfamiliar with what to do with it. If you find a cheap pork roast- throw that shit in the crock pot and eat up. But chops are as easy to work with as boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The thinner cut chops are more tender, but thick cut chops can be yummy too.

When I have the cash I like to bread the chops and make pork chops limonata. It's just your basic breading- flour, dip in egg wash, dip in seasoned breadcrumbs. I add lots of extra seasoning to the bread crumbs. Garlic salt (Lowrys California style with parsley- I swear by that shit. I don't know why it's different and better, but it is) lemon pepper, regular pepper, oregano or basil, paprika, and as much finely grated lemon zest as you can get your hands on. In a heavy skillet, heat up a generous amount of oil (if you have leftover bacon fat in the fridge, throw some of that in with vegetable or olive oil, but not bacon fat all by itself because it will burn to fast). Fry the chops. If they are thin, this will only take a few minutes on each side. Squeeze a lemon wedge or two over each finished chop for extra tangy goodness.

When I don't have the cash, or the space, or the patience, to bread I just saute. This is the exact same thing I do to boring chicken breasts, and I NEVER have dry or bland meat. I have a meat nose in the same way that bakers have a bread nose. I can tell the doneness of a steak by sniffing it.

So how to saute cheap white meats...

In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil on high. Throw your well-weasoned meat in. Sear it on each side till it gets a little orangey-golden and then flip. Don't play fidgety Phil with your meat. Extra flipping doesn't help. If you're using a cast iron or stainless steel pan, the meat will stick at first. Ignore it. Once it gets hot enough to start releasing liquid, it will unstick itself.

When it's nice and golden on each side, you steam it. You don't add any extra liquid. Just turn the pan down to medium low and stick a lid on it. If I am making rice to go with dinner, I usually judge timing like this- the time it takes for the water to boil is the time it takes to sear. The time it takes for the rice to cook (20 to 25 minutes) is the time it takes for the meat to steam. Halfway through the 20 minutes of steaming, I flip and check. (If you are using thin cut pork chops- this time is cut way the fuck down).

Once the meat (or chicken) is cooked through, I turn the pan back up to high to crisp up the outside or re-sear. Takes just a few minutes. If you want, while the meat is resting off the stove, you can then turn all the yummy drippings into a pan sauce. Add a little stock or wine or water, a little butter, a little flour and whisk over low heat, making sure to get all the crunchy pan numminess mixed in.

So for under 5 bucks, Kid and I had a delicious dinner of sauteed pork chops, rice pilaf and brussel sprouts. (I cheated, the rice is a Near East mix that was on sale for a buck. But pilaf is easy, use stock instead of water to cook your rice in and mix in some sauteed onions and garlic and whatever).

Now if someone can teach me how to buy fish (that isn't tilapia or salmon) and cook it for cheap, I will heart them forever.