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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Democrats Could Be In Trouble

Democrats could be in big trouble. Donald Trump is one of the most unpopular presidents in US history, but if the economy remains strong, they will have a hard time beating him in November. They still might win the popular vote, but winning the electoral college might be a bridge too far.

Making matters more difficult, they could nominate someone who has little to no chance of winning. Among the candidates on the left, Bernie Sanders seems to have the best chance of securing the nomination, and while I personally like him ("Bernie Sanders and Civil Discourse"), I'm skeptical that he'll attract enough moderate voters to win. (I actually have imagined one scenario in which he can win, but that's for a future post.) Among the moderates, Mayor Pete's my favorite ("Pete Buttegieg Won't Save American Christianity, But He'll Probably Help It") and I think Amy Klobuchar would do well, but Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg probably have the best chance of beating Trump. However, the former appears like he has little or nothing left in the tank, and the latter has to show that he can do more than produce slick (albeit impressive) campaign ads.

The Democrats best hope might be for the economy to tank. Pointing out that the current economic expansion began under Obama will have little effect. Nevertheless, the economy will stop expanding at some point. There's always a recession in the future when you're in the midst of an expansion. But predicting when that will happen is anyone's guess. If it begins in the next couple of months, then the Democrats' chances will improve substantially, regardless of who's nominated. But if it doesn't begin until the late Fall (or after), it will probably be too late.

Does this mean Democrats should just give up? Of course not. Who knows what might happen. The one thing they have going for them is Trump's unpopularity and what political scientists call "party fatigue." Party fatigue occurs when voters grow tired of a particular party being in power and vote for the party out of power. It is possible that as disruptive as Trump's presidency has been with its daily tweets and mercurial behavior, enough voters will simply have had enough and swing the election to whomever the Democratic nominee is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What Makes a Good Restaurant?

Peter King is a former chef who now writes mystery novels. His first set of mysteries focus on an unnamed “Gourmet Detective,” who isn’t really a detective, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, he’s a former chef who specializes in tracking down rare food ingredients and advising restaurants and producers where to locate substitute or replacement foods, especially for those that no longer exist. Still his “detecting” inevitably leads to real detecting, usually when someone connected to the food industry (chefs, owners, critics) gets him or herself killed.

All of the books feature descriptions of dishes that can leave the reader's mouth watering. In the fourth book, Death al Dente, the Gourmet Detective is asked to evaluate three chefs who run restaurants in Italy, so we are treated to the Gourmet Detective's opinion as to what makes a good restaurant. Here's a sample:
  • The lighting should be good, as if to emphasize that there is nothing to hide, and the acoustics should be excellent — points overlooked in too many restaurants.
  • Skepticism concerning quality is justified when the menu is as thick as a magazine, for it means that many of the products are frozen.
  • The service is a clue to the restaurant itself. Close your menu and someone should be there to take your order. Put down a piece of silverware and a fresh one should immediately take its place. If you leave the table, your napkin should be removed and a clean, folded one should await your return.
  • Any waiter must be able to answer any question about the food, its ingredients, and how the dish is prepared. If you eat all the sauce and food remains, you evidently liked the sauce and a good waiter will offer you more. When the bread basket is emptied, it should be refilled.
I can't say I've been to too many restaurants that meet all of those criteria (if at all). I'd be interested to visit one that does, however (as long as I can afford it).