Friday, November 29

You Must Be Joking

In the midst of a thoroughly enjoyable but highly chaotic Thanksgiving week, I haven't had a moment to comment on the president's breathtakingly cynical appointment of Henry Kissinger to head the investigation into intelligence failures pre-September 11. But Patrick Nielson Hayden has collected a series of comments.

Thursday, November 28

Happy Thanksgiving

Even in troubled times, we have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 27

Sidewalks of New York

Madeleine Begun Kane strikes back at Senate Republicican leader Trent Lott for his not so subtle digs at people who live on the American coasts: The Rantings of Trent Lott.

First Amendment in Alabama

Sam Heldman (whose permalinks are broken) notes that a Birmingham, Alabama man has sued the City of Birmingham to prevent the restoration and display of a 54-foot-tall statue of the Roman god Vulcan on city land. The plaintiff contends that the statue represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion—as if the city somehow were trying to promote the worship of the ancient Roman gods. As if any reasonable person could possibly think that, viewing the statue. The case is perhaps just the slightest bit different than Glassroth v. Moore.

One!

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday, dear Noah
Happy birthday to you!

Hard to believe. It's gone so quickly, and yet it seems like he's always been with us.

Monday, November 25

Mad

Matthew Yglesias is angry. And he's right. I too am sick of people suggesting that I'm somehow less of an American because I grew up on a coast.

Must…Not…Spend…Family…Time…Blogging!

I'm very anxious to write about Chavez v. Martinez, the pending Supreme Court case that will resolve whether coercive custodial questioning in violation of Miranda violates the Constitution even if the government does not seek to introduce the results of the questioning into evidence in a criminal prosecution. A number of bloggers, including Talk Left, Kevin Drum, Daily Kos, and Atrios (whose permalinks may or may not be working), have written about the case in the last couple of days, suggesting that a decision that the Constitution would not be violated—a result for which the Justice Department is pressing—would spell the effective end of Miranda. I find that conclusion a bit overblown. A holding for the defendant would not eliminate the exclusionary rule, and it's the exclusionary rule, rather than the potential exposure to damages in a subsequent civil rights case, that gives Miranda its bite in the vast majority of cases. The facts underlying Chavez are horrific, and it certainly seems like a situation in which the defendant officer should be held liable, but my tentative assessment is that the criminal justice system will not be radically reshaped if it is concluded that, awful as the officer's conduct was, it did not violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights.

Unfortunately, I can't really say more than that, as the family beckons (and I wouldn't be comfortable saying much more without doing some reading first). But Eugene Volokh has a thoughtful evaluation of the legal issues presented by the case, including consideration of how the war on terror might be affected by the outcome of the case.

Sunday, November 24

Wine Notes for Thanksgiving

The traditional Thanksgiving meal is a difficult one for most wines, given the range of flavors presented by sweet potatoes, turkey, and cranberries. Many wine connoisseurs favor gewürztraminer as a match for turkey. But people who don't know wine may look askance at the unfamiliar name, and the grape's oily qualities can also be a bit off-putting for novices. Besides, it's a white wine, and I have a strong preference for reds. So my Thanksgiving choice is Zinfandel, and not merely because its flavors are strong enough to survive the match with cranberry sauce. It's also the all-American wine. Although the grape's origins have recently been traced to Croatia, it truly flourished in California, where it was widely planted in the second half of the nineteenth century. California still features a surprisingly large number of old zinfandel vineyards, where ancient vines produce small quantities of highly concentrated juice. Although small quantities of Zinfandel are produced elsewhere (including Italy, where it is called Primitivo, and Australia, where a handful of wineries have planted Zinfandel vineyards), it has a strongly American identity for this American holiday.

One piece of negative advice: unless you are absolutely determined to celebrate Thanksgiving 2002 with a 2002 wine, don't serve Beaujolais Nouveau. I'll taste this year's Nouveau at some point in the next couple of weeks, but, really, it's never all that good, and it's a particularly poor match for the Thanksgiving meal.

Wine of the Week
Neyers Hudson Vineyard Syrah 1996

By this point, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that my favorite wine is Syrah (or Shiraz if it comes from Australia or one of a handful of California wineries that use that name). A major reason for that is the grape's flexibility—from light, grapey, almost Beaujolais-like wines at the low end to the dense, brooding powerhouses of Hermitage in the northern Rhone Valley, Syrah is capable of a broader range of expressions than perhaps any other red wine grape.

The 1996 Hudson Vineyard Syrah from Neyers fits comfortably into the high end of middle-tier Syrah. Its principal qualities are jamminess and purity of fruit—it features wonderfully clean blackberry fruit aromas and flavors, with only the faintest hints of spice on the midpalate. The wine has a rich mouthfeel and good length, and the substantial tannins are smothered under the layers of fruit. A real fruitbomb is a good thing every now and again. Unfortunately, the wine is overpriced, the result of Neyers' small production and strong reputation. While I would never turn it down if someone else were pouring it for me, I'm not inclined at this point to seek it out for purchase again.

The Hordes Descend

We're hosting Thanksgiving this year, and the first members of my far-flung family arrive this morning, with more coming tomorrow and Tuesday. Things are about to get very busy (busy here being a euphemism for "chaotic") in the Cooper household. As a result, posting will be sporadic until next Sunday. I'll try to post the wine of the week later, along with some Thanksgiving suggestions. But no promises.