Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Jamba Juice

On the way to work I walk past a Jamba Juice. I've never bought anything there, having pretty much sworn off of liquid calories (I'm a recovering Coca-Cola and Wendy's Frosty addict). Anyway, every time I walk past the place, I start singing "Gin And Juice." I wonder if they've ever considered using the Snoop Dogg song in a commercial:
Just rollin' down the street, smokin indo, sippin' on Jamba Juice
Laid back
With my mind on my money and my money on my mind
By the way, I have heard two interesting covers of "Gin And Juice." Richard Cheese and Lounge Against The Machine do a swingin' version that I could imagine the Brian Setzer Orchestra performing. Even better is the countrified version by the Gourds from the album Shinebox. Instead of gangsta, maybe you'd call it y'allsta. Great stuff.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Now Reading... The Sixteen-Trillion Dollar Mistake

Lately I've been reading The Sixteen-Trillion Dollar Mistake by Bruce S. Jansson. The book discusses U.S. fiscal policy from FDR to Clinton, contending that bad decisions have cost us $16 trillion over the last 70 years. It was difficult reading at first. The back-and-forth between the President and Congress on budget matters buried me beneath a bewildering pile of numbers, and it was particularly hard to keep track while tiredly riding the El home from work. I kept asking myself why I ever bought the book. At one point, the fact that I paid $20 for it was the only thing that kept me reading. Things began to pick up with the Cold War, however, and I sense that it will get progressively more interesting approaching the present. After all I wasn't born until the Nixon years, so New Deal budget battles are pretty esoteric to me.

One consistent theme that I have found is that Republicans have a tradition of pressing for tax cuts regardless of what's in the country's best interests. At least now I know it's nothing new. Another surprise was that JFK was such a hawk throughout his political career (FYI, a "hawk" is a pro-war person, as opposed to a "dove"--when I told my wife about JFK being a hawk, she thought I was talking about his womanizing!). I guess I was surprised because it didn't fit the romantic vision of Camelot that my mother gave me about the JFK years. Then again, she was thirteen years old when JFK died, so maybe she wasn't fully immersed in politics.

On the other hand, when I was thirteen and Reagan was in office, I was too into politics. I read the Chicago Tribune daily, and I was sure we were all going to die in a nuclear war (Sting's
"Russians" gave me chills). Maybe that's why I was so disgusted by people deifying Reagan when he died--his macho posturing with the Soviets scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Just the same, I can't wait to get to the Reagan years in this book. Isn't that where G.W. learned how to cut taxes and increase spending?

Truth About Keyes

One of my favorite blogs these days is Truth About Keyes. Truth Girl has taken on the task of parsing the ridiculous rantings of Alan Keyes, the Maryland Republican candidate in the Illinois senate race. It's hard to believe that the Illinois GOP had to go out-of-state to bring in someone who doesn't even represent the views of the Illinois Republicans that I know. I suspect that they knew Barack Obama would be hard to beat and decided to sacrifice an outsider. Picking an extremist was a big mistake, though--a lot of people will remember what he said long after he has gone home, and they will associate those views with the entire party.

I'll write more about Keyes in the future. I'd sooner vote for
SpongeBob SquarePants, but Keyes is almost as entertaining!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Faux Mitzvahs

Like Joe Jackson, I always learn something in the Sunday paper. In today's Tribune, I read about "faux mitzvahs." Apparently Gentile kids in areas with large Jewish populations feel left out when their friends are having bar and bat mitzvahs, so their parents throw elaborate parties for them. Of course, they strip out all the religious elements.

Americans have bastardized most Christian celebrations already; it's all market-driven rather than spiritual. Heck, it was a big revelation for me to figure out that Easter is actually more important than Christmas, as far as spiritual significance goes. Since I got a lot more gifts for Christmas than Easter, I grew up with the opposite impression.

Now it is Judaism's turn to be fully assimilated by the American marketing juggernaut, which is creating a new pseudo-religion that keeps the fun stuff and downplays the serious, religious, moral, historical, and spiritual aspects. For another example, look at all of the Buddha statues that adorn American gardens (a friend says people only get away with that because Buddhists are non-violent). I think this makes a mockery of religion. On the other hand, one could argue that this sort of religious evolution has been happening forever, just not at hyper-speed.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Illinois Toll Hikes: An Activist's Misleading Criticism

Governor Blagojevich (who happens to live just a few blocks from me) just unveiled a plan to double tolls for truckers and for people who pay cash instead of using the automated I-PASS system. From yesterday's Daily Herald:
Wadsworth resident Susan Zingle, of the Lake County Conservation Alliance, was not so patient. She said doubling tolls for drivers who pay cash will have a "devastating impact" for Lake County residents.

"That is an unconscionable burden to put on people," Zingle told the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's board Thursday morning...
Now wait a minute. Ms. Zingle is trying to tell us this will have a "devastating impact" for Lake County residents? I sincerely doubt this. First of all, Lake County is pretty affluent overall. I don't think the guy driving his Lexus to work is going to sweat a higher toll. He probably has I-PASS anyway. Besides, there is only one tollway in Lake County, and there are plenty of alternatives (US 41 and IL 21, for starters). "An unconscionable burden," she says? Anyone who uses the tollway enough to be burdened will get an I-PASS unit. The people who will really bear the brunt of this increase are truckers, out-of-towners, and occasional users (am I going to get an I-PASS transponder for the 2-3 times per month that I drive on the tollway?).

Why are higher tolls "unconscionable?" With all the things going on in our country today, I hardly think toll increases are worthy of such hyperbole. Heck, using the tollway is completely voluntary. Nobody is forcing anyone to pay anything. In that sense, it is one of the fairest "taxes" around (vs. taxes for schools, libraries, forest preserves, etc., which we pay for whether we use them or not).

Ms. Zingle is clearly full of it, but at least I know why. Although Blagojevich said nothing about it, increasing tolls could eventually fund an extension of IL 53 into Lake County. That's why Zingle is getting all bent out of shape. I just wish people would be more up front about their agendas or at least that the newspapers would call them on it.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Welcome To The Jungle...

...the blogging jungle, that is. For a long time I thought blogs were goofy. Lately I've been reading a few good ones (some of which are in the "Links" section of this page), and that made me consider starting my own. Finally, I was bored tonight and decided to jump in. I don't have a specific subject, but I'll probably write about music, politics, bicycling, books, and whatever else is on my mind. If you'd like to read more before this blog gets up to speed, check out Dave's Bicycling Pages, especially my "Coast to Coast Bicycle Tour 2002."