Saturday, June 29

World Cup Tomorrow

It comes down to this: hard-to-resist force versus difficult-to-move object. Brazil has scored many of the prettiest goals of the tournament, while Germany is on a record pace for fewest goals allowed in a World Cup, having surrendered only a lone stoppage-time goal to Ireland. Yet neither team has been overpowering. Brazil was outplayed by Belgium for much of the game in the round of 16 and is still living down a poor qualifying campaign that almost kept the four-time champions home. And Germany, as Bill Davis noted on Wednesday, has had probably the easiest road to the final in World Cup history. Germany has yet to face a team ranked in FIFA's international top ten (Brazil, ranked #2 in the pre-World Cup rankings, will be the first). Germany's victories have come against the US (#13), Cameroon (#17), Paraguay (#18), Saudi Arabia (#34), and South Korea (#40, although they'll be ranked much higher when the post-World Cup rankings are released in early July); Germany also tied #15 Ireland.

One of the leading explanations for France's poor showing and early departure from this Cup is that, as defending champion, France had an automatic spot in the tournament and thus was not hardened by the qualifying campaigns that the other teams in the tournament had to endure. The same principle may be at work in tomorrow's final: Germany's opponents to date haven't exactly been pushovers (except for Saudi Arabia), but Germany hasn't had to face anyone like Brazil. I suspect it will come as something of a shock. Brazil, 2-1, and it will only be that close because of the brilliance of German keeper Oliver Kahn.

Trifecta Update

Since last night’s post, I have discovered by way of Daily Pundit that on at least one occasion during the 2000 campaign—a September 22 interview with Paula Zahn on Fox—Bush acknowledged that his tax plan might lead to a “short term” deficit in the event of a recession:

Well, first, I don't anticipate the economy turning south. As a matter of fact, that's one of the reasons people ought to elect me, is to—is because I got a plan to keep the economy from turning south.

Secondly, if the economy turns south, that's a reason to accelerate the tax cut. See, I come from the school of thought that during a recession, it's important to give people more money back faster. Now, that may cause us to run a short-term deficit, but the fundamental question is: How do you cause the economy to grow?

I was wrong to suggest that Bush never acknowledged the possibility that his tax cut might result in a return to deficits (although it remains the case that no one has found an instance of Bush referring to the possibility of national emergency or war). Bush’s trifecta joke, then, apparently represents a substantial exaggeration and embellishment, not a baldfaced lie. It still hardly speaks well of his truthfulness, however—recall that most of the statements for which Gore was lambasted in the 2000 campaign were at most embellishments rather than outright falsehoods. Bush continues to repeat the statement even though it remains the case that there is no record of his saying during the campaign what he now claims he said; that goes to his character. As does the fact that his repeated mistruth is in the service of a "joke" that is in exceptionally bad taste.

World Cup Today

ABC, in its wisdom, has decided to show today's third-place game only on tape delay this afternoon, so there's no live English-language broadcast this morning (I can't speak for Univision, as my cable system doesn't carry it at the moment). Tomorrow's final, at least, will air both live in the morning and on tape in the afternoon. Meanwhile, I'll try not to give too much away, but anyone planning to watch the game should be sure to tune in on time this afternoon (1:30 EDT).

Franlin Foer at Slate has the best explanation I've yet seen of why the officiating during this World Cup has been so awful: it's a consequence of FIFA president Sepp Blatter's relentless pandering to the federations of smaller soccer nations. Far too many of the referees and assistant referees in this tournament have been from countries where they simply could not gain sufficient experience with soccer played at its highest level. Imagine sticking a junior college baseball umpire in a World Series game, and you'll have the functional equivalent.

Friday, June 28

Trifecta

For the last few months, President Bush has been telling a joke of sorts at Republican fundraisers across the country. The New Republic quotes a recent telling:

Back in Houston last week, President George W. Bush again told what is gradually becoming his favorite political anecdote: "You know, when I was one time campaigning in Chicago, a reporter said, `Would you ever have a deficit?' I said, `I can't imagine it, but there would be one if we had a war, or a national emergency, or a recession.' Never did I dream we'd get the trifecta."

There are at least three problems with this joke, such as it is. One is that the president actually seems to think it's funny. This in itself—the president of the United States playing the deaths of thousands of American citizens for laughs—seems wildly inappropriate (Avedon Carol had some thoughts along these lines the other day). Try to imagine FDR repeatedly offering a similar crack in the months following Pearl Harbor; you can't help but cringe. The second is that the joke represents one in a series of efforts by the Administration to make political hay of our national tragedy, all the while impugning the motives of anyone who questions the Administration's direction of the war on terror.

The third reason Bush's remark is disturbing is that it is almost certainly based on a falsehood. Since Bush began making this remark, journalists have scoured both published reports and their own notes, attempting to find any instance during the 2000 campaign when Bush actually stated that his tax cuts might lead to a budget deficit in the event of war, a national emergency, or a recession. To date, they've been unsuccessful.

Is Bush simply lying about what he said in the past? RonK at Cogent Provocateur offers a possible excuse, at least for the first few times Bush told the story. Bush, Ron supposes, may have been operating under a manufactured memory: "This would create a plausible alternative to the current appearance of a damn lie -- namely, an innocent error compounded by political opportunism and loyalty-laced incompetent staff work." Maybe so. But at some point, wouldn't the continued failure to find any evidence that candidate Bush actually said such a thing give the president and his advisors pause, particularly as the story begins to hit the mainstream press?

That the president should continue to misrepresent his campaign position in the face of overwhelming evidence of his actual campaign statements is bound to infuriate those of us who (enthusiastically or, as in my case, reluctantly) supported Al Gore. Gore, after all, was the victim of a campaign in which his prior statements were first blatantly distorted and then used to suggest that he was an inveterate liar; Bush, by contrast, was held out as a model of honor and integrity. Even more infuriating is that this particular mistruth of Bush's is not an isolated incident, nor is it the most significant mistruth of the Bush presidency. Indeed, Bush has been known to build entire policies around lies. The most blatant example was the tax cut package, the size of which the administration and Republican leaders in Congress significantly understated by using various tricks, such as a sunset provision that they had no intent of ever allowing to take effect.

Democrats failed to make the case that the tax cut was being sold dishonestly when the package was approved last summer. So far, Democrats have also failed to explain the political significance of the series of corporate accounting scandals that once again came to a head this week. But that may be beginning to change. On yesterday's Diane Rehm Show (a RealAudio file of which can be found on this page), Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution made the connection between the Bush tax cut and the current accounting mess in the private sector:

I could make an argument that the kind of budgetary manipulation engaged in by President Bush and the Congress last year to make a big tax cut look affordable—and the games played on that were shameful—has its analogues in what we're discovering in the private sector. So sadly, this kind of gaming to hide bad news over the hurdle in order to achieve some immediate objective can be seen in government today.

The argument isn't fully formed yet. And given the general ineptitude of the current crop of Democratic spokespeople, it may never be developed properly. But the potential is there to make a powerful case that Bush's propensity for mistruth goes beyond the relatively trivial, if tasteless, joke with which he regales GOP audiences and extends to the very heart of his economic plan. We've seen what that kind of dishonesty has done to Enron, Global Crossing, Worldcom, and now Xerox. If we're not careful, it could happen to us all as taxpayers, and not simply as shareholders.

The Pledge, Once More

I continue to be troubled by the response to the Ninth Circuit's Pledge of Allegiance decision, because it suggests to me a general lack of seriousness about the Constitution in this country. Howard Bashman made the point in a post last night:

One of the most interesting aspect of yesterday's television coverage of the ruling was when reporters took to the street to interview the average person. Those interviews suggest to me that it would be quite amusing for television stations to take to the streets regularly to ask the people what they think about having the Constitution enforced in ways that are not favored by the majority. For example, we could ask the person on the street what he or she thinks about the Fourth Amendment when it is used to exclude evidence that was necessary to convict an actually guilty individual, or what he or she thinks about excluding the unconstitutionally coerced confession of someone who is guilty. The beauty of the Constitution is that it doesn't matter if the person on the street likes the consequences of the document's provisions, because the document exists in large measure to protect the most vulnerable and least popular.

Howard suggests the response to these questions would be amusing, but I find it more disturbing. It can't be seriously disputed that the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge in 1954 represented an effort to promote religion. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, led the push for the change, and religious leaders across the country supported it. In signing the bill, President Eisenhower released a statement that said in part: ""From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and every rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty." What's more, the Pledge doesn't simply favor religion over non-religion, as some of its proponents suggest. it also promotes a particular religion or, more accurately, a particular family of religions: those centered around the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Hindus do not believe in God, Buddhists do not believe in God; practitioners of numerous other religions do not believe in God.

That being the case, the Pledge issue boils down to two questions: is the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge de minimis, and is it coercive? These are points on which reasonable people can differ; as I suggested on Wednesday night, the Ninth Circuit's decision was not inevitable. But neither was the opinion "ridiculous," "sad," "absurd," or "just nuts," as so many of our elected officials declared in its wake. That so many people seem to think so suggests to me that it might be profitable to spend less time pledging allegiance to the flag and more time pledging allegiance to the Constitution.

Update: Slate's David Greenberg reviews the history of the Pledge, and in particular of the 1954 amendment, in a column posted this afternoon.

Thursday, June 27

No Blogging Today . . .

. . . at least until this evening. I have an imminent deadline and much work that I've been using this blog to avoid. I'd much rather spend the day reading, thinking, and writing about the final four decisions of the Supreme Court term, which are due to be released any minute. There's bound to be some interesting stuff there. But duty calls, so I'll have to leave the instant commentary to others.

Wednesday, June 26

Site Landmark

According to Site Meter, today at 10:17 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (still applicable here in Indiana—it's a long story), Cooped Up received its 1,000th visit. When I began blogging in mid-May, I honestly doubted that anyone would care to hear my voice in the cacophony of blogworld. I set out to write this blog, then, for selfish reasons, to satisfy my own desire to work through certain ideas that, in the absence of a blog, would remain inchoate in my mind. And I've had more fun doing so than I thought I would. I readily acknowledge, though, that the fact that people are reading these words (and some even return periodically) greatly adds to the pleasure. So, to those who have stopped by, thank you.

The Pledge

Politicians of both parties and conservative portions of the blogosphere are agog over the Ninth Circuit's decision today declaring unconstitutional the inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance (the opinion can be downloaded in pdf format here). But as constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh (hardly a raving leftist) notes, the decision is a plausible, if not inevitable, application of existing Supreme Court precedent.

The major consequence of today's decision will not be that "schoolchildren could no longer recite the pledge, at least in the nine western states covered by the court," as the Washington Post article on the decision inaccurately suggests. Nothing would prevent public schoolchildren from reciting the Pledge in its original form, as it stood before Congress added "under God" in 1954 (a number of bloggers have opined today that the Pledge was better in its original form anyway). No, the major consequence will be that we will have a massive hue and cry, largely from the right, about an issue that ultimately is trivial. Prepare to revisit the flag factories, folks. And at this point in our history—with our troops still in harm's way in Afghanistan, with terrorists still plotting violence against us, with the economy stumbling amid weekly revelations of corporate malfeasance—we really have more important things to worry about.

Two more additions to the blogroll: Ann Salisbury (who has kindly linked to me) is another lawyer-blogger (where do they find the time?); she focuses primarily on California politics, a subject of interest to all political junkies in this important election year. And to complete the triumverate of Slug-bloggers, Armed Liberal writes forcefully about creating a new kind of liberalism (new not merely because it's armed).

Update: Alex Frantz offers a hilarious explanation of how the banana slug came to be the mascot at UC Santa Cruz.

World Cup Today

So this unconventional tournament will culminate with a conventional-looking final: four-time champion Brazil vs. three-time champion Germany (strangely, the two have never met in World Cup play). Brazil put on a dazzling display of attacking soccer in the last 15 minutes of the first half against Turkey but somehow never finished. The icebreaker finally came in the 49th minute, when Ronaldo dribbled forward ten yards despite being surrounded by four Turkish defenders and poked a shot just past Turkish keeper Rustu Recber into the corner of the net. Turkey roused itself in the final ten minutes but was unable to tie. Unlike the first semifinal, this one was highly entertaining, as Brazil's beautiful play was stymied again and again by Rustu's outstanding goaltending.

It's sad to think that there are only two more matches (and only one of consequence) in this World Cup—it's been a great run.

Scenes From a Hamas Kindergarten Graduation


You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be carefully taught.

-Oscar Hammerstein II

Original link to pictures via Tal G.

Tuesday, June 25

Meet the Mets, Beat the Mets

One of the wonderful things about the World Cup is that it has provided relief from the misery of following this year's incarnation of the New York Mets, a miserable, mismatched, underachieving bunch. The Mets are currently in the midst of a series against their arch-rivals, the Atlanta Braves, although with the Braves leading the Mets by 8 1/2 games the rivalry is looking a bit one-sided. Last night's game was one of those terribly dispiriting affairs in which a benchwarmer, Keith Lockhart in this instance, hits a pinch-hit home run in the ninth to snatch the game away. Games like that can send a team into an irremediable tailspin—I recall the first game of the 2000 World Series, in which Armando Benitez blew a save in the ninth and the Yankees won in extra innings; following that game, there was no way, no way, that the Mets were going to win the Series. Eric McErlain today is reminded of another game seared in Mets fans' memories, the September 1987 matchup with the Cardinals in which Terry Pendleton hit a game-tying ninth inning home run that effectively broke the Mets' spirit and ended their title challenge.

It need not be so, of course. The Mets lost a similar game a couple of weeks ago in the opener of their series with the Yankees, as Derek Jeter tied the game in the ninth against Benitez (him again) and ex-Met Robin Ventura won it in the tenth with a two-run homer. Thoughts of gloom and doom immediately filled my mind—yet the Mets bounced back to pummel Roger Clemens the next day and won five of the seven following games leading into last night. And tonight the Mets again rebounded, beating the Braves 7-4.

Yet despite tonight's win, this Mets team doesn't appear to be going anywhere: it's old, slow (except for Roger Cedeno, but he never gets on base), terrible in the field and anxious at bat; the offensive juggernaut that many predicted in spring training has never materialized. Eric places the blame at the feet of general manager Steve Phillips, who assembled this rotisserie-league lineup without regard for how the pieces fit together; I blame manager Bobby Valentine for the lack of spark that this year's team (like last year's) has shown. Regrettably, both are under contract through next season, and neither is likely to be fired in the immediate future: owner Fred Wilpon gave both a vote of confidence last week. We Met fans thus appear doomed to another season of mediocrity.

World Cup Today

South Korea's marvelous, if controversial, run through the tournament ended for all intents and purposes today (though there's still the third-place game this weekend), as Germany beat the co-hosts, 1-0. This was methodical, organized, stereotypically Teutonic soccer. It wasn't particularly exciting to watch, but it's hard to argue with success. In six games the Germans have allowed precisely one goal; except for Robbie Keane's stoppage time blast that gave Ireland a shocking tie in the first round, no one was able to get the ball through the stifling German defense and past spectacular keeper Oliver Kahn. Kahn was at it again today, diving to deflect (barely) a shot by Lee in the eighth minute. And again the only offense was supplied by Michael Ballack, who will miss the final because of yellow cards in two consecutive games but who will surely take solace in having scored the winning goals against both South Korea and the US. Germany entered the tournament regarded as a pale shadow of the great German sides of the past, and England supporters must be gritting their teeth, given England's 5-1 lashing of the Germans during qualification, but the Germans have done what was required so far in Japan and Korea.

Anyone looking forward to an exciting final had better hope that Brazil beats Turkey tomorrow. Not that having Brazil in the final guarantees brilliant soccer—witness the artless Brazil-Italy final in 1994 and France's cakewalk over Brazil in 1998. But, having seen Turkey struggle to score against a sieve-like Senegal defense, I have trouble imagining them coming close to a goal against Germany.

What Now?

President Bush's speech yesterday about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not as bad as I'd feared it might be. In particular, the concept of a provisional state, while still rather murky, clearly is not meant to reward Arafat and the P.A. for 21 months of terror, as some originally feared. Indeed, the speech is quite clear in dismissing Arafat as a potential partner in peace—which is entirely understandable, given Arafat's history of duplicity, support for terrorism within Israel, and internal corruption.

The difficulty with the speech is that, while its vision of a democratic, tolerant, economically reformed Palestine co-existing peacefully with Israel is worthy, the speech offers no real suggestion of how that end is to be achieved. The notion that the Palestinians, now immersed in a wave of terrorist violence against Israel that apparently enjoys majority support, will suddenly become a pluralistic, multiparty democracy ready to live in peace with its neighbors seems wildly unrealistic.

Steve Den Beste suggests that the speech was not meant to present a roadmap toward a final resolution of the conflict and that it instead represents a "policy statement": we'll talk to the Palestinians once they've cleaned up their act. Again, it sounds good in the abstract. But events will move forward, whether we have a publicly-declared plan or not; what happens when the suicide bombings continue and when the Palestinian people don't spontaneously rise up to dispose of Arafat as leader?

Despite Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer's protestations to the contrary, we seem to be moving inexorably toward a re-establishment of full Israeli occupation of the West Bank (with Gaza possibly to follow, although Sharon today denied it). With full reoccupation will come responsibility for civil administration within the territories. This might not be entirely a bad thing: it would allow a redirection of the Palestinian school curriculum, which has spread nothing but poison since Oslo, and it would muzzle the viciously anti-Semitic propaganda of the Palestinian media. But reoccupation cannot be permanent: Israel cannot continue to subjugate another people (or, worse, expel them) without losing its national soul.

If reoccupation does come, Bush should offer support, but with stringent conditions, making clear that the goal of reoccupation is not conquest, not annexation, but rather that reoccupation is a temporary measure (measured, regrettably, in years, not months) to facilitate the building of institutions and infrastructure that the Palestinians (saddled as they are by the corrupt Arafat regime) cannot build themselves. To this effort, the United States would have to devote substantial resources, as it did under Oslo—but this time, we would have assurances that the resources would be put to their proper use, not diverted to the pockets of Arafat and his cronies. The goal would be a larger-scale version of what we are now attempting in Afghanistan: the recreation of civil society and civil administration in a place devastated by war. It's nation-building—a despised term among the Bushies—but there doesn't seem to be any real alternative.

Monday, June 24

Links Update

I've added a link at the left to Alex Frantz's consistently interesting Public Nuisance. Meanwhile, I'm proud to say that, after six weeks of hard blogging, I have finally achieved the status of "insignificant microbe" in N.Z. Bear's blogosphere ecosystem. Thanks for the link, Mr. Bear.

Moral Clarity?

Max Sawicky writes the interesting MaxSpeak blog, which serves as a needed counterweight to the generally right-wing economics of blogdom. He spent last week challenging Glenn Reynolds, the law professor-blogger whose posts too often amount to little more than conservative/libertarian quips and barbs. Today, Max broadens his sights, declaring this "Moral Clarity Week" and challenging all the "jingoistic warbloggers" who regularly recount Palestinian atrocities to respond to three stories:

* An Israeli tank shelled a Palestinian marketplace, killing three children and a 60-year old man. (link)

* Following a funeral for an Israeli mother and three children murdered by a Palestinian infiltrator, a group of Jewish mourners went on a rampage in a Palestinian village, burning a house and cars, and murdering a Palestinian. (link)

* In Jenin, the IDF wrecked a hospital. (link)

I don't think of myself as a jingoistic warblogger—indeed, I've said very little so far about the middle east—but I think a response is worthwhile, because I fear that Max has left himself open to much the same kind of criticism that he directs at conservative warbloggers. Let's take the three incidents in turn.

First, the tank shelling in Jenin: This was, no question, a tragic and, one would think, easily avoided loss of life. But, as the article to which Max links notes, the IDF immediately admitted error and stated that an investigation was ongoing. The extent of the investigation and its consequences, if any, have yet to be seen, and it will be interesting to see if there is any follow-up reporting. In the meantime, though, it is worth noting that the IDF termed the killing of Palestinian civilians a mistake, while Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the like see the killing of Israeli citizens as a goal in itself, the achievement of which is worth celebrating. This is not to say that the IDF lacks moral culpability for its action in Jenin, but its action was not the equivalent of a Palestinian suicide bombing. To suggest that it was, as Max seems to, does not indicate moral clarity.

Second, the murder near Nablus of a Palestinian by rampaging settlers following a funeral for an Israeli settler family killed by a Palestinian gunman: Tit-for-tat killings are not justified and ought to be condemned, regardless of which side commits them. Again, though, the difference in response is instructive. As Ha'aretz reports, one man has already been arrested by Israeli police on suspicion of murder, and the police are searching for other participants in the violence. The Palestinian Authority, by contrast, does not arrest people suspected of assisting suicide bombers; indeed, in some instances it pays their expenses.

Finally, the damage to the hospital in Jenin. An excerpt suggests that the destruction within the hospital was little more than retaliation to Palestinian suicide bombers:

"A soldier pounded the [laundry] machine and said, 'This is not more important than 20 persons killed in Jerusalem,' " referring to a suicide bus attack Tuesday, according to Ali Jabarin, vice chairman of the hospital.

"He was a terrorist, but you are not a terrorist," Jabarin said he replied, pleading with troops not to damage the building and its contents. "You are a soldier . . . and this is a hospital."

The soldiers' action was not directed against those who perpetrated or directly supported the suicide bombings; no rationale for targeting the hospital is offered. As such, the damage done is indefensible; the only mitigating factor, if there is one, is that the soldiers appear to have ordered the evacuation of the building before they commenced their destructive acts.

As I said at the outset, I respect Max's blog; I visit it daily. It's pretty clear, though, that we have some substantial disagreements on the Israeli-Palestinian situation (an issue that, I believe, does not break down simply along right-left lines). More than that, I fear that Max's current line leaves him open to easy counterattack from those he calls the JWs. Here's hoping that the rest of "Moral Clarity Week" has a bit more clarity.

Judicial and Legislative Functions

There has already been much commentary on the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday in Atkins v. Virginia, in which the Court concluded that applying the death penalty to mentally retarded criminals violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment (Howard Bashman has a typically thoughtful analysis here). My response is similar to that expressed by Walter Dellinger at Slate: I personally find the death penalty repugnant and thus oppose its application to the mentally retarded, yet I recognize that my personal preference does not amount to a constitutional principle, and the lawyer in me finds the Atkins majority's constitutional reasoning unpersuasive (Justice Scalia's withering dissent, by contrast, has considerable force, but is voiced with such scorn that the opinion's final three words—"I respectfully dissent"—can only be seen as disingenuous).

Yet I also find one aspect of Dellinger's commentary baffling. Dellinger writes:

It is also striking—and indicative of the court-centeredness of this court's view of the Constitution—that none of the justices, on either side of the debate, acknowledges that Congress would be a more appropriate national institution than the court to review and restrict questionable state executions…. The national institution that is far better suited than the court to evaluate the existence of such a social and moral consensus is Congress.

No, it's not striking at all that no one on the Court would suggest that Congress should "review and restrict questionable state executions." The reason is simple: however better situated Congress may be than the Court to assess the existence or non-existence of a national consensus on certain issues, Congress has no constitutional authority whatsoever to create national standards for criminal sanctions imposed by state law. Or perhaps the former acting solicitor general has access to a different version of Article I than I do.

Credit Where It's Due

The title of my morning post comes from a song on One All, the new album by former Crowded House songwriter and frontman Neil Finn. I plan to post a full review next weekend (it seems a weekend-appropriate topic); in the meantime, I'll just say this: buy it.

I Could Go Anytime

The death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile at the age of 33 sent shock waves through baseball over the weekend. The Cardinals organization was especially hard hit, as it was still recovering from the death earlier in the week of legendary broadcaster Jack Buck. Yet while Buck left a larger imprint on the game than did Kile in his successful but relatively brief career, Kile's death was by far the more appalling. Buck, after all, was 77 and was known to be suffering from cancer; his death was a cause for sadness and reflection among the legions of baseball fans who had enjoyed his broadcasts over the years, but it hardly came as a surprise. Kile's death, by contrast, was stunning in its suddenness and its mystery: Kile was by all accounts a model citizen and, outwardly, the picture of robust health. No violence, no drugs, no bacteria or viruses or premature cancers figured in his death; he simply checked into a hotel room and never emerged. Such things are not supposed to happen to 33-year-olds, or so we want to think. Kile's death resonates not simply because of the loss of a particular young man but because of what it reminds all of us (and especially those of us in our thirties): we could go anytime.

Sunday, June 23

Wine of the Week

J. Rochioli Old Vines Sauvignon Blanc 1997
I drink a fair amount of sauvignon blanc during the summer—I find it generally more refreshing than chardonnay, and thus more appropriate for the warm weather. The fact that sauvignon blanc is usually cheaper than chardonnay doesn't hurt, either: there are some truly excellent sauvignon blancs coming out of New Zealand at $13-17 a bottle (about which I'll have more to say another time), and top-line American sauvignon blancs generally fall into the $18-25 range, at least a $10 a bottle less than chardonnays of comparable quality.

Rochioli is a small winery in the Russian River Valley that's best known for its terrific pinot noir. Its regular bottling of sauvignon blanc is one of my favorites; the Old Vines bottling, however, is truly something special. The typical sauvignon blanc flavor profile of figs, herbs, melon, and lemon is here in spades—the wine has great concentration and balance and a long finish. It has more heft than most sauvignon blanc, yet it remains clean and refreshing. It also ages well—American sauvignon blanc generally should be drunk young, while it maintains its fresh vitality, but the Rochioli Old Vine has more than enough concentration to survive and thrive with time in the bottle. Really just great stuff.