Monday, March 26, 2007

Burger Bests

If you know me, you know I love burgers. A movie I want to see is the documentary by George Motz called Hamburger America. To be honest, I would be happy eating a burger almost every time I go out to eat. That being the case, my wife and I when eating out are almost always on an unofficial quest to experience Chicago's best burgers. And Chicago has a lot of good options.

Now Time Out Chicago has helped us along in that process by releasing their list of Chicago's 55 best burgers: It's patty time!

And wouldn't you know it, I guess I'm too late, because someone's already made it their goal to eat all 55. Where's your favorite burger found?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

March Madness Prediction

I think I have a love-hate relationship with politics. On one hand, I undoubtedly hate the bad side of politics. But on the other hand, I do enjoy watching the execution of clever campaign strategies, consolidation of power, mud-slinging, betrayal, and promises of a better tomorrow play out before my very eyes in the media. In truth, national politics is my favorite bloodsport.

This time around, the race for president is historic in the sense that it's the first time in 80 years that neither an incumbent president nor vice president is seeking the office. So in that sense, the race is wide open.

However, for the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the Democratic Party. (I might analyze the Republican field later in the year.)

For the Dems, the field really only has two serious candidates at the moment: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

For Hillary, her biggest positive is that she's got the best political machine in place. In fact, one of her key strategies is to give the sense of "inevitability" that she will win the nomination. Her fundraising so far has been stellar, and no Democrat will come close to raising as much money as she will this year. When you have the most powerful contacts and are raising the most money and lead in the national polls, people tend to start falling in line. For a politician, that's a good place to be.

However, money isn't quite everything in politics. People, to some degree, care about where you stand on the issues. For Hillary, many Democrats aren't happy that she voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. In reality, that vote is one of the biggest obstacles she has to winning the Democratic nomination.

Enter Barack Obama. He's youthful, smart, and charismatic. For people who want a fresh start, he's "the next big thing." He's drawing crowds, raising money, and gaining momentum. In contrast to Hillary, he will argue that his view on Iraq has never waivered. Furthermore, being from Illinos, he will challenge Hillary on turf that she had hoped to claim as her own.

But Obama has a big hill to climb. His resume is thin, and he's up against an establishment political machine that will eat him for lunch if it has to. I think his best chance is to keep the race close through December and January and hope things break his way when people actually start casting votes in the primaries.

I do think Obama would have an edge in the debates with Hillary, but that point could be moot. Hillary will at least do one debate before Iowa, but it's hard to say if there will be any others. If she gets through that debate okay and maintains a safe lead, then why debate further? (Remember, Jimmy Carter strongly considered not debating Ronald Reagan at all. In the end, Carter agreed to one debate--and it resulted in Reagan leap-frogging him in the polls and into the White House.)

Some of you reading this might be wondering how much longer I can type on this subject without mentioning "The Bill Factor." Well, wonder no further. Honestly, I think Bill Clinton was a Catch-22 for Al Gore in 2000, but he will be a positive for Hillary in 2008 if he wants to be. My theory here is one that you probably haven't heard bef0re--I call it "The Grandpa Clinton Theory." In short, I think enough time has passed that people's view of Bill has changed to where he's not quite as polarizing. He's older, had major heart surgery, and reminds many Democrats of a simpler time. If he chooses to campaign hard for Hillary, he'll be an asset in the primaries.

As for John Edwards, I've always viewed him as a long shot in this race. His only hope was (and still is) to win Iowa and catch fire from there.

And then there's Al Gore. Will he or won't he run? Well, in some ways, I think that he's already running. He's gotten great publicity for winning an Oscar earlier this year, and he has a new book about his current political views coming out in May. My guess is that his people are constantly doing internal polling and if Gore thinks there's any chance of him competing for the nomination, he'll jump in the ring.

So what if Gore officially runs? What then? Well, I think Hillary's path to the nomination would become a tougher row to hoe. After all, if Gore's internal polling shows that he would make it easier for her to win by him jumping in the race, then he's not going to do it. (Remember, back in 1993 Hillary took Al's White House office for her own. There's a lot of bad blood between those two.)

My gut tells me that Hillary will effectively minimize the political damage of her 2002 Iraq vote and hang on to win the nomination by emphasizing past achievements of which she's proud and the ideas she has for the future. For her V.P. choice, she won't pick anyone who challenged her in the primaries, so you can forget Obama and Edwards. I'd bet on New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson--he's a trusted Clinton person who would balance out the ticket geographically and demographically quite well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Racial Relations

This spring, I have the opportunity to participate in a class called BUILD (Breakthrough Urban Institute of Leadership Development) offered by Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago. A majority of the class is based on discussion of topics facing urban areas today on which we read. Obviously much of the discussion touches on the challenges of seeking racial reconciliation and looking at the systemic injustices contained within the city. One of the great things about the class is that the members are truly racially and economically very diverse and therefore the discussion is rich.

As a result of taking part in this class, my antennae have been tuned even more than usual towards interesting items covered by the media that directly or indirectly focus on these issues of social injustice. So, partly in order to help myself keep track of them, I thought I'd plan on sharing some of these as I come across them. I hope you also find them fascinating.

the story of Mary Smith: On March 10, a blaze on the north side of Chicago killed three young men and a woman who was the mother of a 4-year-old boy. It was set by Mary Smith, a homeless woman. How did her life unravel to the point she caused the deaths of these young people? Which system failed her?

Black immigrants: Which ethnic immigrant group do you think average the highest educational attainment? African-Americans.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Answering the Big Questions

A fascinating online feature from Wired magazine asks and attempts to answer some of the "big questions" buzzing around the world today.

Have you ever wondered why we sleep or whether mathematicians can solve the Riemann hypothesis? If so, go no further.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Achievement Gap

Why aren't African-Americans achieving all that they could? American blacks are twice as likely to be in poverty as non-blacks, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and they make nearly $5,000 a year less, on average. What exactly is standing in their way?

Thus begins
a fascinating article by Tim Harford, auther of The Undercover Economist. Delving into research by Roland Fryer on 'acting white', some very interesting tidbits are contained.

What do you think is to blame? Lack of education? Lack of personal responsibility? Discrimination?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Benefits of an Urban Life

Say one empty-nester couple who find urban life an improvement over their former suburban one:
This has had a profound effect on how we interact with people. We realize now that the cocoons of our cars kept us well insulated from the people around us. Our genuine interactions were with family and coworkers, the only people who saw us stripped of the metal that clothed and protected us. Our neighbors, we discovered, were virtually strangers. Now, we stand face-to-face with people in our building's elevators, at our corner hangouts, and on the sidewalks. We chitchat and pet our neighbors' dogs. We exchange 'good mornings' with the people we pass everyday on our way to work. We've developed friendships with several proprietors and servers at our favorite restaurants.
Granted, I'm biased--and of course, your relational networks are somewhat what you make them--but I have to agree that my impression is that urban life fosters increased interaction.

(ht: Kottke)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Link of the Day - The Town The Law Forgot

From "Boss" Tweed to Al Capone to today, the days of cities being run by gangs are undoubtedly far from over.

For a fascinating description of the chaos that results, I'd point you towards this column from the LA Weekly.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Why are Vladimir Putin’s opponents dying?

Having studied abroad in Russia during college, I have continued to pay attention to the politics in Russia. In the last five years, there is no doubt that control of the nation is being tightened within the Kremlin.
What Putin's plans are for next year after he is supposed to leave office are a mystery. But for now, this fascinating article called Kremlin, Inc. does a great job of running down the status of Russian politics. Worldwide consequences based on the leadership of that nation are certainly at stake.