Thursday, October 17

Timing

Goodness, this may not have been the best time to take a break. To all those visiting from the new Tapped page: I'll be back next week. Really. Promise.

Wednesday, October 16

Break Time

Matthew Yglesias began a post the other day by writing: "Chris Bertram has a discussion of this Thomas Pogge article (which I will read as soon as I'm done blogging about it)…." To which Patrick Nielsen Hayden responded: "Matthew Yglesias has the ultimate blog post opening. Blogging is over now. Everyone, go home and reintroduce yourselves to your spouses and significant others."

Sounds like a good idea. I've been feeling blogged out lately, and I have some other things that require attention, so it seems like a good time for a short break. Blogging will resume on Sunday night with the wine of the week. In the meantime, there are many fine sites on my newly-revised blogroll. I especially recommend Howard Bashman, Sam Heldman, and Talk Left for legal news, Daily Kos for political developments, Tom Spencer for continuing analysis of the impending conflict with Iraq, Tim Dunlop for sober discussion of the D.C.-area sniper and the Bali bombing, Jim Henley for even more on the sniper, and of course Eric McErlain for excellent sports commentary.

I've also added a number of new sites to the blogroll. Among them are several written by academics—University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, Clarkson poet Joseph Duemer, Stanford law professor Larry Lessig, and UCLA professor of policy studies Mark A. R. Kleiman. I've also added a few more conservative sites in an effort to avoid echo-chamber syndrome, including Rob Lyman's eponymous blog, R. Alex Whitlock's RAWbservations, and Tom Maguire's Just One Minute. And I've corrected a longstanding oversight by adding Oliver Willis. These are just some of the added sites; all are worth a look.

Finally, I've created a new category for blogs that are on extended hiatus. I'm pleased to see that Ginger Stampley returned to health (and to blogging) before the implementation of this category. As for the others, well, they may or may not return. But keep an eye on Protein Wisdom. Its author, Jeff Goldstein, has been largely silent since leaving for a brief vacation in mid-August (although he was kind enough to leave behind some musical entertainment). But in the last week or so he's popped up to make some characteristically awful puns in Andrew Northrup's comments, and the cover note at Protein Wisdom now contains a cryptic reference to something new in the works. Here's hoping Jeff will be back soon—the blogosphere has been a duller (if quieter) place without him.

Tuesday, October 15

California Dreaming

Alex Frantz effectively rebuts an article by Lowell Ponte (to which Glenn Reynolds linked), in which Ponte suggested that San Francisco's politics are moving to the right. Alex's analysis shows the kind of rightward shift that Democrats can support wholeheartedly.

Jaguar Update

Speaking of Apple, I may (just may) have resolved my longstanding difficulties with Apple's new OS X 10.2, also known as Jaguar. I somehow missed it before, but Apple strongly recommends that users of older hardware upgrade their firmware before installing 10.2. My office Mac is now almost three years old (which, I'm happy to say, means I'm due for a new one next summer), and as it turned out I had never upgraded the firmware. So yesterday morning I backed up my documents once again (fortunately, I have a portable firewire hard drive, so this is easy), did the firmware upgrade, wiped the drive clean once again, and reinstalled 10.2, followed by my apps (which didn't take too long, as I try to keep my work machine pretty clean—my home Mac is another matter). And since then I haven't had a single freeze. I'm reluctant to leap to conclusions based on two days of experience, but after what I've gone through for the last six weeks, two days of uninterrupted computing is a nice change.

You'd think, if it were so important, that maybe Apple could program its installer to check if the firmware had been upgraded before proceeding to install.

Think Different

Apple has modified its home page temporarily to pay tribute to Jimmy Carter, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. The alternating pictures on the home page show the former president engaged in home-building, most likely for Habitat for Humanity, and feature Apple's old advertising slogan, "Think Different." Conservative Mac aficionados, to no one's surprise, are displeased by the tribute.

They might think different themselves if this account is accurate.

(Link via Dave Trowbridge).

Indiana House Races

My DD, which does a remarkable job of tracking electoral races nationwide, looks at House races in Indiana, including two that I've followed: the Seventh District (my old district), where Republican Brose McVey is trying to unseat incumbent Julia Carson, and the Eighth (my in-laws' district), where incumbent John Hostettler is battling Democrat Brian Hartke. The Seventh District is surprisingly close, but while Rep. Carson has not compiled a particularly impressive record during her six years in Congress, she is a popular figure and has a legendary get-out-the-vote operation that poses a formidable obstacle for any challenger. I expect her to win fairly easily, even if the margin is closer than it was two years ago, when Carson received 58 percent of the vote.

The really fascinating race is the Eighth, where Hostettler's abrasive personality has brought a lot of negative publicity (some of which I discussed previously, and more of which is noted at My DD). Throwing even more confusion into the mix is the fact that Hostettler was one of six House Republicans to vote against the use of force resolution last week. My DD suggests that this won't play well among conservative Hoosiers. But given the conversations I've had in Terre Haute (a tiny, statistically insignificant sample, I admit), I'm not sure that's true.

At least some Indiana districts have competitive races. In my new home district, the Fourth, the Democrats didn't even bother to put up a candidate against incumbent Steve Buyer.

Amnesty for Wine Tourists

Up to now, a winery visitor who wanted take home some wine faced some potential obstacles. If the visitor happened to be from the state in which the winery was located, there would be little difficulty—the winery would happily ship the wine to the visitor's homes. Similarly, a visitor could have wine shipped if the visitor happened to live in one of the limited number of "reciprocal" states. But if the visitor happened to be from a state like, oh, say, Indiana (just to pick a random example), the visitor would be out of luck. Shipping wine from out of state into Indiana is a felony for most commercial enterprises; while it is only a misdemeanor for wineries, any winery found in violation of the Indiana statute is reported to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (thus placing the winery's federal license at risk) and is also barred from selling through Indiana wholesalers for a year. Wineries simply aren't willing to run the risk. So the hypothetical Indiana resident had a choice among a limited range of options: (1) hope that the wines are available at home; (2) carry the wine back to Indiana by hand (not an easy thing to do in these days of limited carry-on bags); or (3) hope to find a daredevil private shipper willing to risk entanglement in Indiana's criminal justice system (not that I'd know anything about that last option, of course).

Happily, things are about to change: Ann Salisbury yesterday pointed me to a report that Congress had passed a bill to legalize shipments of wines purchased on winery premises by out-of-state visitors. The bill leaves in place a number of onerous state-law restrictions on interstate commerce (restrictions that, proponents argue, are authorized by the Twenty-first Amendment; it offers no help to wine lovers with infant children who find themselves unable to travel to California (to take another purely random example). But it's a start.

35

A belated happy 35th birthday to Eric McErlain, who has just returned from a whirlwind trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Eric didn't have internet access on his trip, but that didn't stop him from writing; the accumulated posts are up today.

Monday, October 14

Catching Up: New Jersey

As someone who spent most of his youth in New Jersey, I've wanted to comment on the senatorial election ever since Senator Toricelli withdrew from the race two weeks ago. But the Iraq situation (and other things like, well, work) distracted me, and by now most of what needs to be said has been said by others already. So I'll restrict myself to two observations.

* Largely unnoticed in the whirlwind replacement of Torricelli by former senator (and longtime Torricelli antagonist) Frank Lautenberg were reports that another former senator from New Jersey, Bill Bradley, had been approached and had declined to run. Thus continued Bradley's sad drift into political irrelevance.

I first met Bradley in 1976 when, nearing the conclusion of his basketball career, he campaigned for Mo Udall in the Democratic presidential primaries. At the age of not quite 12, I was of course far more impressed by Bradley the Knick forward than by Bradley the budding politician. But others were looking forward to Bradley's entry into electoral politics—indeed, Bradley, the former Rhodes Scholar, had for so long appeared destined for political success that his Knick teammates had referred to him as "Mr. President." And he seemed well on the way to fulfilling those grand expectations in 1978, when, one year out of basketball, he was elected to the United States Senate at the age of 35.

Bradley's Senate career was solid if unspectacular. He tended to focus on unexciting issues like tax reform (he was one of the driving forces behind the Tax Reform Act of 1986); his choice of issues, together with his dry speaking style, generally kept him out of the headlines. In 1990, Bradley's low-key style, combined with a complaisant belief that his seat was safe, nearly produced a tremendous electoral upset, as Bradley squeaked by future New Jersey governor Christie Todd Wittman to secure re-election. Despite that slip, Bradley's name continued to surface in discussions of possible future Democratic presidential contenders, and Bradley was named to deliver the keynote address at the 1992 Democratic Convention (an address that Bradley recited in his typically plodding manner).

Despite the closeness of the 1990 election, Bradley almost certainly could have kept his Senate seat indefinitely. Instead, declaring politics "broken," Bradley announced in 1995 that he would not seek reelection in 1996 (thus opening the door for Torricelli). His Senate career behind him, Bradley began to lay the groundwork for his long-expected presidential bid in 2000. But despite a promising beginning to his campaign, Bradley remained an uninspiring speaker, and he proved inept at countering Al Gore's blistering attacks during the primary debates. With the media largely fixated on the more dynamic John McCain's surge in the Republican campaign, Bradley turned in a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary and soon dropped from the race.

Since then, Bradley has been largely invisible—not an easy feat for such a tall man. He sold his residence in D.C. and took a corporate job. And, although he has participated in some fundraising activities, he has remained largely outside the public view.

Despite his failure in the 2000 presidential campaign, Bradley represented a more compelling substitute for Torricelli than the 78-year-old Lautenberg, whose political future is limited by his age if nothing else. Yet Bradley declined the opportunity to reinvigorate his political career. Maybe the timing was too abrupt. Maybe he felt that stepping in as a last-minute substitute for the corrupt Torricelli was unseemly, even if legal. Maybe he was concerned about the health of his wife Ernestine, a cancer survivor. Whatever the reason, it's hard to see Bradley playing a substantial role in politics again. And, given his initial promise, that's a sad outcome. I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

* There has been a fair amount of criticism of the New Jersey Supreme Court's decision (available here in PDF format) to allow the New Jersey Democratic Party to replace Torricelli with Lautenberg, and understandably so. The statute seems to set forth clear deadlines. When, following selection of a candidate in a primary election a vacancy occurs a statewide general election, "which vacancy shall occur not later than the 51st day before the general election," the state party committee shall select a replacement, which selection "shall be made not later than the 48th day preceding the date of the general election." Torricelli didn't withdraw from the race until 36 days before the general election, so there was no way to comply with the statutory deadlines. Rather than ruling the replacement of Torricelli invalid, however, the court concluded that the statutory deadlines were "directory and not mandatory"—that is, if the deadlines were met, the substitution would have to be allowed, but even if the deadlines were not met, the court would permit the substitution, in keeping with a general policy of interpreting the statute so as to favor voter choice and genuine competition where possible, so long as doing so would not interefere with the state's ability to conduct the election in an orderly manner. The New Jersey Supreme Court determined that sufficient time remained to print and distribute new ballots (including absentee ballots), and that therefore the substitution of Lautenberg should be permitted.

Now, this isn't a particularly compelling piece of statutory analysis, as Stuart Buck, among others, argued. But as Ken Parish pointed out, the case was not decided in a vacuum. For fifty years, since the 1952 case of Kilmurray v. Gilfert, the New Jersey Supreme Court has consistently stated that it will interpret the election statute broadly. Kilmurray involved an attempted substitution in which the vacancy occurred (by reason of the candidate's death) after the statutory deadline for the creation of vacancies, although the party was able to name a substitute by the statutory deadline for doing so. In concluding that the deadline for the creation of a vacancy should not be observed strictly, the court wrote:

Election laws are to be liberally construed so as to effectuate their purpose. They should not be construed so as to deprive voters of their franchise or so as to render an election void for technical reasons…. It is in the public interest and the general intent of the election laws to preserve the two-party system and to submit to the electorate a ballot bearing the names of candidates of both major political parties as well as of all other qualifying parties and groups.

(Citations omitted). Of course, the court did observe that the second deadline, the one for naming a substitute candidate, was met; that factor clearly played a part in the court's decision to permit the substitution. But even here, the court focused on the purpose behind the latter deadline—"to afford the various election officials sufficient time in which to attend to the mechanics of preparing for the general election"—a purpose that the court last week determined could be met without strict adherence to the deadline.

Questionable statutory interpretations can become enshrined over time; the courts sometimes use what is referred to as a "super-strong" rule of stare decisis (adherence to precedent) in statutory cases, concluding that a legislative failure to amend the statute following its judicial interpretation suggests acquiescence in the court's interpretation. This is a fiction, of course, and not a particularly well-grounded one at that (when I'm not blogging or teaching or spending time with my family, I'm writing an article about an aspect of this fiction), but it is by now well-established. The Supreme Court follows it regularly.

For sports fans, the best known example is the continued vitality of Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption, which derives from a 1922 decision that professional baseball was not covered by the Sherman Act because it did not constitute interstate commerce. That decision made little sense in 1922, and it makes no sense whatsoever anymore, but the Supreme Court has maintained that the exemption is sufficiently long-lived that any change must come from Congress. In the less-well-known case of Ankenbrandt v. Richards (less well known, that is, except among civil procedure professors), the Supreme Court continued to recognize the "domestic relations exception" to federal diversity jurisdiction, which the Court had created from whole cloth in the mid-nineteenth century to avoid hearing cases involving divorce or claims for alimony. The exception survives as a matter of statutory interpretation to this day, even though the Supreme Court acknowledged its questionable statutory roots a decade ago in Ankenbrandt.

The New Jersey Supreme Court's decision last week rested, at its core, on the same notion that underlies the United States Supreme Court's continued adherence to baseball's antitrust exemption and the domestic relations exception to federal diversity jurisdiction: the notion that, if the legislature disagrees with the court's interpretation, the legislature is free to amend the statute. In his criticism of last week's decision, Stuart Buck suggested: "If the NJ Legislature (and other state legislatures, come to think of it) want state supreme courts to pay attention to statutory language, they are going to have to include a boilerplate phrase at the end of every statute they enact from now on: 'And we really mean it.'" To which the New Jersey Supreme Court effectively responds: Yes, that's right. Other states, in fact, have adopted deadlines in their election codes that expressly spell out the consequences of meeting statutory deadlines. The New Jersey legislature did not do so, despite amending the deadlines subsequent to the 1952 Kilmurray decision, at which time the legislature was presumed to be aware of the court's interpretation of the significance of deadlines. As I said at the outset, it's not a particularly strong decision. But to echo Ken Parish once again, neither is it a radical judicial innovation.

Not the Manager of the Year

I don't care that Barry Bonds was up. I don't care, I don't care, I don't care. You do not intentionally walk the tying run, and bring the go-ahead run to the plate, with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning of a crucial playoff game. The Cardinals got what they deserved, as Benito Santiago followed Bonds with a two-run homerun to give the Giants what turned out to be their winning margin.

Actually, I'm rooting for the Giants, so I was pleased by the result. But isn't Tony La Russa supposed to be a genius or something?

Sunday, October 13

More Wine Notes

Lynn B. pointed out an error in my review of the Turley Old Vines Zinfandel. Turley Wine Cellars is owned not by famed winemaker Helen Turley but rather by her brother Larry; while Helen made the wines for the first few vintages, she no longer does. Bad Jeff.

Meanwhile, a well-meaning (I think) reader sent me this link. Good lord, I'm not that bad, am I? At least I'm pretty sure I've never tried that lint thing.

Wines of the Week
Rosemount Estates Shiraz 2000
Rosemount Estates Hill of Gold Shiraz 2000

When I started drinking wine regularly almost twelve years ago, there were three wines that I kept returning to because of their combination of quality and relatively low price. They were the Jean Descombes Morgon (a Beaujolais distributed by Georges Duboeuf) and two Australians, the Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet and the Rosemount Shiraz. Since then, Rosemount has greatly expanded its production and its presence in this country; they've introduced a number of new bottlings in higher price ranges while offering more and more of the entry-level shiraz. With that much production, can the quality be maintained? And are the higher-priced wines worth it?

The 2000 release of the entrty-level wine (sometimes referred to as Diamond Label) is bursting with fresh cherry and raspberry fruit; it has soft, round tannins and pretty good concentration. For ten bucks, it's a tasty, reliable wine. But it doesn't have the stuffing of the vintages of a decade or more ago. The 1986, for example, aged elegantly for seven years; when I tried it in 1993, it was loaded with cassis, vanilla, and spices; it had improved over time and had plenty of life left. I doubt that the 2000 will be in such good shape in 2007.

Hill of Gold is a relatively new bottling, made from grapes grown in Mudgee, New South Wales; it costs about twice as much as the Diamond Label. When I first opened the 2000 Hill of Gold, it didn't seem that different from the 2000 Diamond Label—it might have had a bit more concentration, but it was all bright, fresh cherry, raspberry, and blackberry fruit, with little depth or character. In time, though, it deepened, and pepper and spice notes emerged on the midpalate, along with a briary, herbal note more characteristic of Rhone Valley wines than of those from down under. It's not the Balmoral (Rosemount's top shiraz), but it's definitely a step up from the Diamond Label.