Friday, August 15, 2008

Eating On The Road

One of the frustrating things about working on the road is eating on the road- until you find a decent restaurant that reliably serves good food.

I recently mentioned my anticipation for a stop in Woodstock, IL, to the Courthouse Grill. It was another great lunch, with a very nice buffet- coconut shrimp on a bed of pasta alfredo, chicken kiev, mashed redskin potatoes, corn chowder and a southwestern black bean soup, excellent salad bar. Because I always go for the buffet, I failed to notice the homage to the movie Groundhog Day. Next time.

Good food like this is greatly appreciated, especially when the alternatives are the usual boring fast foods.

Here are some other notables I always visit when near, in no particular order:

Decatur, IL- Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant. Amazing Enchiladas Suizas. I've had this dish in other Mexican restaurants, but nobody's compares to Guadalajara's, with three fat cheese enchiladas smothered in salsa verde and topped with succulent pulled pork.

Michigan City, IN- Swingbelly's. Being housed in an old New York Central train station and sitting trackside is enough for me, but the burgers are fantastic. I expect burgers to be a notch better at the average bar & grill, but they are two notches better at Swingbelly's.

Three Rivers, MI- Frankie's By The Tracks. Did I mention I like restaurants adjacent to the tracks? I rediscovered this one last year after first finding it in 1997 while working a railroad job. The food is as good and plentiful as ever, although sadly, they removed all the old Conrail train photos in favor of Norfolk Southern images. I like NS, but have fond memories of Big Blue hustling on this particular line.

West Lafayette, IN- Triple XXX Restuarant. I go there for the root beer, always served in a frosty mug. Every now and again, it seems I need to fill the tank near Lafayette, and if I'm going to have to get off I-65, I can always stop for a nice root beer. I stopped here every time I campaigned in Lafayette. The burgers are nice, but as you can see, it's not why I stop. Couldn't believe Reid Duffy's Guide to Indiana's Favorite Restaurants didn't even mention the root beer. Shame!

Fairview Heights, IL- Lotawata Creek Southern Grill. Absurdly huge comfort food meals, and fun, outdoorsie decor. When working earlier this year in East St. Louis, an AT&T engineer took me here. Awesome burgers.

Now, can you help me out with recommendations for Chicago's South Side?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Restrained Foreign Policy - Idealism or Realism?

Back in my college days, I took a political science course that had me tied up in knots, because it repeatedly asked the question, "was the particular policy idealistic or realistic"?

In most cases, I was tempted to label policy idealistic, because you could point to a president having laid out a plainly ideological campaign platform. But the more I looked, the more policy seemed informed by events, to the point that I wanted to call it reactionary. Two examples:

FDR condemned Hitler's invasion, but didn't declare war on Germany until after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and Hitler declared war on the US subsequent to our declaration of war on Japan.

Lincoln was plainly an abolitionist candidate. But as president, he didn't talk about emancipation as a cause for war. It was in reaction to the Confederacy's attack on Fort Sumter, and an effort to preserve the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation isn't issued until after Gettysburg, and Lincoln the politician felt the time was at last right to bring it up.

I know that I even waver on the idealism/realism question with regard to my own foreign policy positions. Yes, I do subscribe to the 'no foreign entanglements, peaceful commerce with all' policy of George Washington as a matter of ideology. On the other hand, it seems to make so much sense to not pay out of American pockets to pay for the defense of Japan, Germany, and so many other nations capable of their own defense, merely as a practical matter- especially when the US is borrowing such vast sums from China and other nations, partly to pay for extra-national defense.

The Cato Daily Podcast for July 16th is an interesting listen. It mentions Russia in the pre-Georgia context, which really stirs up the idealism/realism consideration.

Here's the link to Cato's Daily Podcast archive. Click the item titled, "A Strategy of Restraint Overseas" to listen.

It just isn't easy to put these things into neat little categories.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bob Barr Statement on Georgia & Russia

Barr points to a larger acceptance of alliances than meets my personal ideal, but I agree with the sentiments expressed here.
August 11, 2008 4:26 pm EST

Atlanta, GA -- “George Washington long ago warned America against ‘entangling alliances,’ and he was right,” says Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. “Russia and Georgia risk falling into a full-scale war in which the U.S. can and hopefully will avoid any involvement. But had Georgia been a member of NATO we would now be risking a full-scale confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia,” Barr observes.

“Obviously, America should encourage both countries to back down and resolve their differences peacefully,” explains Barr. But “the status of South Ossetia, as well as Abkhazia, another Russian-supported separatist zone within Georgia, matters a lot more to Russia, on which the two territories border, than to the U.S. Moreover, Washington itself set a precedent for Russia when it intervened in Kosovo a decade ago, attacking Serbia to win independence for the separatist ethnic-Albanian majority,” notes Barr.

“The purpose of alliances is to defend America,” says Barr. “We should not create or expand alliances where the U.S. does not have vital interests. If the Europeans want to defend distant countries like Georgia, they can do so—after all, the European Union has a larger population and bigger GDP than America, without any of Washington’s other global military commitments. It is time for Europe to accept responsibility for its own security.”

“Any war is tragic, but not every war requires American intervention,” explains Barr. “We can do our best to mediate between Russia and Georgia, but we should avoid any military involvement. It is time to put the defense of America back into America’s defense policy.”

Full release.
Now, Back To Obama

I returned from Chicago today and checked the mail. You guessed it- an irritating direct mail piece "from Obama", addressed to me.

I put "from Obama" in quotes, because the letter says, "Barack Obama" on the envelope's return space, and on the letterhead, but the back of the envelope has a return for the Democratic National Committee.

This mailing confirms another thing that irritates me. The conventions of the Ds & Rs are not what they were. They're press conferences. Coronations. Yawn.

The letter reads:
"As Democrats, you and I are united by the great traditions of our party, and bound by its longstanding commitment to social and economic justice for all of our citizens."

This is just as presumptuous and offensive as the McCain letter. I am a well-advertised Libertarian partisan. I just cannot think well of someone so sloppy that they would put their name on a letter as ill-informed as this. If you cannot be trusted to be in charge of an organization that acts on your behalf to get a basic fact or two correct, what can you be trusted with?

Beyond that, my break with the Democratic Party in 1995 occurred in large part because of my profound disagreement on the terms social justice, and economic justice. At the core of it, I do not believe it just to take the earnings of one person and give them to someone who has not earned them. It is a basic injustice, and a perversion of the meaning of the word justice. I simply cannot have anything to do with such bullshit merchants.

I could be a Democrat, if indeed the party was true to its' traditions- its' Jeffersonian traditions. Honor this quote, if you honor Democratic traditions:
A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government.

-Thomas Jefferson

Alas. Beyond this mailing, I then noticed Obama's tax plan, via Harvard economist Greg Mankiw's blog. In a nutshell, almost everyone will be paying more in taxes under Obama.

That's not a change I can believe in. So, I'm down on Obama right now, at least until I notice McCain again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chicago Again

We go where the work is, and for the next couple days, the work is in Chicago. I'll be in the western part of the city, right next to Oak Park, and then up north to Woodstock, in McHenry County. I'm really looking forward to another great lunch at the restaurant in the old jail at Woodstock. The last one was fantastic, with a pot of roasted root vegetables that was amazing.

Speaking of vegetables, here are some pics of the garden.

From left: sunflowers, seet basil, cilantro, simpson leaf lettuce, and two rosemary plants hidden in there.

We kept the bunnies out this year. This pic goes back 3 weeks. Amazing how fast it takes off!

Three weeks of rapid growth. I may tire of salad soon.

Picked three perfect cucumbers today. There will be about 50 more in three days.