February 2004
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Day February 16, 2004

Chave “Mon Coeur” 2000: progress report

Saturday, I opened a bottle of Mon Coeur 2000, the Cotes-du-Rhone made by Jean-Louis Chave, in partnership with Eddie Gelsman (of the Wine Library in Petaluma).  The wine is coming along very nicely, with a leather/rubber element on top of a very Chateauneuf-like nose.  Which makes sense – from what I understand, the grapes for Mon Coeur are grown in the south, and not in Hermitage and surrounding environs.  The wine is a mixture of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah, which accounts for the leathery note.  Upon release, it was a bit brash and almost harsh, but it’s settling down very nicely.  Unlike many Cotes-du-Rhones, it should last for a number of years in the bottle.  That’s not something I really need out of an everyday wine, but it’s nice to know that Jean-Louis is applying the same skills and philosophy to the Mon Coeur that we see in his Hermitage.  

For my money, this is an incredible $20 bottle of wine, and it’s still available on the market.  Pick some up, or the 2001, because there isn’t going to be a 2002 due to the storm damage in the Rhone.  

 

Gavin Newsom and the responsibility of elected officials

Gavin Newsom’s move in San Francisco to issue same-sex marriage licenses is turning out to be quite interesting – it’s not every day that we get to watch a debate over the constitutionality of a statute driven by the calculated civil disobedience of a public official.  

Since I posted my previous comments on the subject, at least two readers have picked up on my statement that Newsom is technically violating his oath of office.  I still believe this is the case, and I think it raises interesting questions.  Fried Man (although I don’t necessarily agree with his politics) makes a good point – if we applaud Newsom’s civil disobedience, how can we condemn Alabama judge Roy Moore’s refusal to obey the courts and remove his Ten Commandments statue?   (Population:One and Kalblog also discuss the parallel between the two situations as well).

This is a fascinating point, because situations like this force me to think about the consistency of my beliefs.  If I believe that our elected officials are responsible for “upholding the law,” but then go on to approve of Gavin Newsom and disapprove of Roy Moore – because I believe in Newsom’s stance but not Moore’s – then I’m inconsistent.  Fried Man would (rightly) call this hypocrisy. 

The problem here is not the civil disobedience.  CD is an effective form of public protest, and when private individuals engage in it, they do so with the knowledge that they may be subject to consequences for breaking specific laws (e.g., trespassing, etc).  That’s an individual decision, and as such, it doesn’t have implications for our constitutional system.  

Refusal by elected officials to uphold laws, however they feel about those laws, does have implications for constitutional government and the rule of law.  Normally, the path to challenging Prop 22 would involve a private individual or group filing suit against the city for not issuing a marriage license.  Then, perhaps the ACLU or other groups would get involved by filing an amicus brief, the case would claim that Prop 22 is non-applicable due to conflict with Article I, Section 7 of the CA Constitution, and so on.  It’s a time-honored way of creating “test cases” that generate opportunities for judicial review.  In a way, Newsom is trying to “jump the gun” and generate such a challenge, but he’s the wrong guy to initiate the challenge.  

The nut of the issue is:  if we allow elected officials to get away with not upholding the law in situations where we sympathize, how can we condemn Bush, Rumsfeld, and others for their transgressions?  How, for example, can we condemn the Administration’s holding of prisoners without due process at Guantanamo?  How can we condemn the Patriot Act and repeated attempts by Ashcroft to abridge our constitutional freedoms?  We can’t have it both ways.  

And I’m not willing to give up my ability to condemn these things, just to support Newsom’s actions in SFO.  I believe in equal rights and protection for all – including marriage and its civil privileges – but there are other ways to win this battle.  Demographically, those who oppose the FMA or state constitutional amendments are slightly in the minority now, but this trend is changing because of population growth in urban areas and the opinions of younger voters.  As several folks have pointed out, one strategy is to wait this out:  it’s virtually a certainty that support for the FMA will wane over time, given the vast difference in polling numbers between young and older voters.   An immediate challenge is also possible:  if Californians want to overturn Prop 22 now, then perhaps Newsom should revoke the licenses, and the 1700+ folks who received them should file suit as co-plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the proposition.  Unless Rehnquist has a lot of friends on the bench in California, there’s a good chance the law could be struck down through judicial review.