Chicken Thighs with Tomato-Ginger Sauce

Chicken Thighs with Tomato-Ginger SauceOne of the first things I thought of to use this blog for was my cooking. The second article I ever wrote was, No More Butcher Knives. But I don’t tend to get around to writing about food enough. And when I do, it is about things like donuts and honeydew melons. But today is different.

One of my favorite blogs is Lawyers, Guns, & Money. You can probably tell that from the fact that I am forever quoting Scott Lemieux and Erik Loomis and Scott Eric Kaufman. But the great thing about the blog is that it has a good half dozen interesting people writing for it. One of them is Beth Spencer. She tends to write on feminist issues, but she’s a generalist to some extent — like everyone there. Her day job is being an artist. You can check out her work over at Deviant Art, Vacuum Slayer. It’s amazing stuff. I haven’t spent enough time with it to fully get it. But it combines a lot of different elements: Gothic and surreal, with a sensuality that is both erotic and disturbing.

But one of the things that Spencer writes about on Lawyers, Guns, & Money is food. And last week, she posted a recipe, Chicken Thighs Braised in Tomato-Ginger Sauce. You know me: I love chickens, but I also love eating them. So chicken thighs braised in anything at all was enough to grab my attention. So I left up the recipe in its own tab and today, I finally got around to making it.

It is wonderful. I can’t praise it enough. All the flavors mix together beautifully. What’s more, it’s really easy to make. Basically, you saute some spices, dump in tomatoes and chicken, and cook for a couple of hours. It is well worth checking out. I’m going to present the recipe the way I made it, because it is slightly different — in particular, it is all done in a skillet. But here it is in a nutshell: saute garlic (lots), ginger, curry powder, pepper flakes (dash); dump in large can of crushed tomatoes; bring to a boil; add chicken; reduce heat, cover, stir every now and then.

But here’s the actual recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 dash red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Saute garlic briefly; stir the green onions, pepper flakes, and ginger, until fragrant. Stir in the curry powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes; bring to boil; reduce heat to low.
  3. Salt and pepper the thighs, then place in the sauce; cover.
  4. Cook for about an hour and a half.
  5. Serve topped with cilantro.

Done this way, it’s actually a rather good recipe for someone who doesn’t have much experience cooking. Yet it’s impressive in the final product. Spencer says to serve it over rice. I served it with angel hair pasta. But I suspect it would work very well with mashed potatoes too. I had some sauce left over, so I’m planning to try it with just pasta — I suspect it will be very good.

Dying for Big Pharma’s Profits

Jeffrey SachsThe Hepatitis-C Virus (HCV) drugs of Gilead Sciences are the poster cases of monopolistic abuse. Gilead owns the patent for the molecule Sofosbuvir, which is sold in two formulations under the brand names Sovaldi and Harvoni. Gilead charges the federal government $84,000 ($1,000 per pill) for a full course of Sovaldi and $94,500 for Harvoni, even though production costs are under $200 per course of treatment. The company is making a killing and, incidentally, adds insult to injury by booking its outlandish US profits in an Irish tax haven.

While the government buys tens of thousands of HCV treatments from Gilead, it is also forced to ration its purchases because of budget constraints. Hundreds of thousands of HCV-infected Americans, both on and off government programs, are unable to obtain the medicines. Many of those being turned away are US veterans who survived their tours in Iraq or Afghanistan only to be killed by Gilead’s not-so-friendly fire.

—Jeffrey Sachs
Rational Drug Pricing

We Crucify Mankind Upon a Cross of Free Trade

Dean BakerIt seems that the editors at The Washington Post are very concerned, The End of Globalization? The last three years the global economy has grown more than international trade. The last time this happened was in 1985. Oh. My. God! What are we going to do? I just looked outside and there are no flames as of yet, but clearly it is just a matter of time because the world is on fire. I’m sure that Thomas Friedman is hiding under his bed. How can we possibly survive without ever increasing international trade?! If people are buying more things locally, it must be a sign of Armageddon.

Dean Baker responded, The Trans-Pacific Partnership, International Trade, and Arithmetic Problems at The Washington Post. Because this is all about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). All our worries will supposedly be over if only we get the TPP — at least until the next trade agreement comes up. But as Baker noted, “The TPP actually will not do much to reduce trade barriers, since the barriers to trade among the countries in the pact are already low in almost all cases.” Like most trade deals these days, it doesn’t have that much to do with trade in a general sense and it has nothing to do with “free trade.”

This reminds me of an article that Noah Smith wrote a few months back, Free-Market Ideology and the Burden of Proof. It was about tax cuts and regulation reductions and their effects on the economy. He said basically, “Let’s assume that Reagan’s changes really helped the economy in the 1980s; isn’t it likely that making taxes even lower and getting rid of even more regulation will have — at best — a far smaller effect on the economy?” I feel the same way about trade agreements: getting rid of trade barriers in the past was doubtless a good idea. But are we really likely to gain much now? Reducing tariffs from 50% to 5% was a much bigger deal than reducing them from 5% to 0%.

And that’s why when we look at the new trade deals they don’t seem to have much to do with their stated intent. Baker has done everything but run through the streets banging pots to bring attention to this. We aren’t talking “free trade” when “one of the main thrusts of the deal is to increase patent and copyright protections.” That’s not about bringing prices down for consumers — quite the opposite, actually. That’s about providing certain industries with economic protection — industries that have a lot of political power.

There is a cargo cult aspect to this too. Thomas Friedman famously said, “I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.” That’s true of most of the trade deal boosters who don’t have a direct stake in the matter: trade deals helped the economy in the past so they must always be good under all conditions. And in the case of Friedman: the deal didn’t even have to be about free trade — it just had to claim to be about it.

William Jennings Bryan once spoke about how the financial types wanted to “crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” Well, now it is a cross of free trade. And the people advocating it today are no more well informed than the gold standard types were then.

Why the Economy Does Better Under Democrats

Mark ThomaIt is well known (among liberals at least), that the economy has done much better under Democratic administrations than under Republicans — going back to World War II. And the difference is big: it’s almost double in terms of GDP growth. But I’ve always been skeptical about the claim. While it is certainly true, it isn’t based upon a lot of data — just 12 presidencies. And besides, I tended to think that the president doesn’t have that big an effect on the economy. But then I read Mark Thoma in The Fiscal Times, The Political Party of the President Matters for the Economy.

Thoma is a liberal, but he’s no bomb thrower. He’s a very careful economist. If it had been just anyone writing such an article, I probably would have passed it by. But instead, I read it, and he makes a very compelling case. He goes through the many ways that presidents do, in fact, effect the economy. It wasn’t all new to me, but it I wasn’t thinking too clearly even about the stuff that I knew. One thing that did surprise me is that because people don’t stay on the Federal Reserve board for very long, both George W Bush and Obama were able to fill it with all their own people. That matters. As Thomas put it, if we had had a Republican in the White House “does anyone doubt that policy would have been much different? Would interest rates still be at the lower bound? Would the Fed’s balance sheet be as large?”

The more obvious way the president matters is in fiscal policy. Democrats approach recessions in ways that actually help: tax cuts for the poor and middle classes; extended unemployment insurance; infrastructure spending. Republicans approach recessions the way they do everything: tax cuts for the rich. Even though “there’s little evidence that cutting taxes on the wealthy spurs economic growth, particularly in a severe recession when the tax reductions mostly end up as idle savings.” Basically, a recession is just an excuse for Republicans to do what they want to do anyway.

What’s more, individuals and businesses are more confident about the economic outlook when the Democrats are in charge. So they spend and invest more. That, I must say, is a bit of a shock to me. If the people know that the economy will do better under the Democrats, why do they ever vote for the Republicans? I understand that turnout is an issue. But if even businesses know it, why hasn’t there been a huge amount of pressure on the Republican Party to change its economic policies?

When put this way, it all seems so clear. The Republicans really are all about the shock doctrine: they don’t care about doing what is best for the economy; they have a set of things they want to do — which they always want to do — and that is what they do. It would be like going to a dentist who only knows how to pull teeth. Before long, you would have no teeth.

If you want to do a little low key activism, you might discuss this issue with people who aren’t much into politics. You don’t have to mention policies. You just have to talk about how they feel about the economy under Democrats and Republicans. Because the last time the economy did reasonably well under a Republican was under Reagan — 30 years ago. And all the Republican Party has offered since are the same policies, only more so. And it hasn’t worked. And it isn’t intended to. It is intended to just take more money away from you and me and give it to the rich.

Morning Music: Japanese Punk Rock

Bin Bin JiroThis week, we are in Japan. Since I first discovered The Blue Hearts a few years back, I’ve been vaguely aware that Japan had a strong punk scene. But I’m just going to warn you right now: I’m not going to have that much to say about these bands. I often (as is the case today) won’t even be sure what the names of the songs are. And in general (as is also the case today), I won’t have much of an idea what the songs are about. But the songs are all great.

We start the week with Garlic Boys — a band that started in 1985 and are still performing today. According to Wikipedia, they are considered by some the “godfathers of [the] new school Japanese hardcore.” In this country, hardcore has become something of a farce. The bands have little character. I doubt that either Black Flag or Dead Kennedys — Much less Minutemen! — would be accepted in the movement. I don’t know if that’s true there as well. But it certainly isn’t true of today’s song. We are going to listen to the very chant-y song that is named, “あんた飛ばしすぎ” — which Google translates as, “You’re Skipping Too.” It is off their 1996 EP ビンビンジロ, which means (if that is the right word) Bin Bin Jiro.

This song seems to be about a guy drinking to forget a woman who left him. But it’s really hard to say. There is definitely a lot of drinking in the song. And I get the impression that the singer looks down on people who drink to excess — thus the powerful denouement when he admits to doing it himself. But reading Japanese translations are very much like the stereotype, “Drink resounds in left to good though it is usually timid person a rant in it off that involved drunk people of guy rules useless change drunk too skip.” The fact that English speakers learn Japanese, and Japanese speakers learn English is very impressive.

I hope you appreciate all that information, because even finding out that much was a lot of work!

Anniversary Post: Pope Urban VII’s Short Run

Pope Urban VIIOn this day in 1590, Pope Urban VII died. Given all this Pope Francis madness last week, I thought it would be nice to talk about Urban VII. He did some nice things. He banned tobacco from in and around churches. He subsidized bakers in Rome so they could sell bread cheaply to the poor. But mostly, he’s known for dying: he was only pope for 13 calendar days. That’s the shortest papacy in history.

But he has a lot of competition. Of the 266 popes that the Catholic Church has had, there are ten who served for between 16 and 34 days. A total of at least 23 served less than a year. And there’s also Pope-elect Stephen — a man who died so fast (Three days!) that he didn’t even make it to his consecration and thus isn’t generally considered a pope.

Currently, Pope Francis is sitting at roughly a quarter the way up with two and half years, but he is still alive of course. Benedict XVI served almost 8 years, and that puts him in the middle of popes. Of course, he’s still alive too — just not pope. Well, he still has the title — it’s kind of weird. He’s pope but not the real pope. Anyway, I suppose I should mention that the longest reigning pope was Pope Pius IX (1846 – 1878). He did live a long time, but it was mostly due to the fact that he became pope at the age of 54. He is the joker who came up with “papal infallibility.” The same is true for the number two man, John Paul II, who was only 58. That gave him 26 years to shame AIDS-ravaged Africa into avoiding condoms. We might have been better off if these men had served terms more like Urban VII.