Random walk

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Sep 29, 2005 12:00 AM

A collection of news items and quotations readers may have missed - with comments expressed or implied..

- With John Roberts heading toward confirmation as chief justice, who's next up - this time to replace Justice Sandra O'Connor? How about Miguel Estrada: brilliant, philosophically just right, a Honduran immigrant, and only 44? No, he's not a woman, but he's Hispanic. Yes, he was filibustered (and ultimately withdrew from consideration) when nominated by President Bush for a seat on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. But why not choose this moment to force the Senate left to give him an up-or-down vote regarding a seat on the nation's highest court?

- Jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller, in a detention center in Alexandria, Va., for refusing to be questioned by federal prosecutors investigating the Valerie Plame leak, has become one of the nation's leading celebrity inmates. During nearly three months in jail she has received more than 100 visitors - among them, let's see: Tom Brokaw, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Sens. Arlen Specter and Christopher Dodd, retired columnist William Safire, and former Sen. Bob Dole.

- Cheryl Halpern has rotated into the chairmanship of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which subsidizes public radio and television. Predecessor Kenneth Tomlinson took heavy flak from a lot of the usual big guns for encouraging ideological balance in programming. The outgoing Tomlinson says he has no regrets for having encouraged objectivity. The incoming Halpern says she will follow in the Tomlinson tradition - a pledge that must be giving the screaming meemies to those who see in public broadcasting only relentless moderation.

- Oh, those Clintons and their claque. Shameless Bill, enlisted by President Bush to join with his father to raise funds for victims of Katrina, has blasted the president for responding lamely and parsimoniously. Shameless Hillary has said much the same thing, tossing in Big Oil among the principal blameworthies. And shameless Sandy Berger, President Clinton's National Security Adviser, now has been slammed with a $50,000 fine and two years of probation for snitching classified documents from the National Archives in the summer of 2004. Perhaps it wasn't so much shame that Berger expressed at his Sept. 8 sentencing, as dismay at the size of the fine.

- National Review magazine will celebrate next week the 50th anniversary of its founding by William F. Buckley Jr. Yet hard on NR's heels is the Weekly Standard, now 10. National Review was the manual of a conservatism fighting for power; the Weekly Standard is the guidebook for a conservatism in power - and now increasingly fractured. Notes the Washington Post's David Broder, "We don't know where conservatism will be on the Standard's 20th birthday, 10 years from now. But the rumbles of an important debate can be heard."

  - Anything good about Katrina? Newsweek's Eleanor Clift thinks so. While lamenting that "it may be too much to predict an upsurge of progressive government," she finds this "upside": "The Republican agenda of tax cuts, Social Security privatization, and slashing government programs is over."

- Joel Kotkin, among the nation's leading writers on urban affairs, finds in the past four weeks "two different governmental responses to disaster, one efficient, the other, frankly, disastrous." The New Orleans "establishment," he writes, was "lulled to sleep" in the face of a predictable, looming disaster - spending not on shoring up levees but on frivolities. In contrast Houston, with foresight, "has been industrious, building elaborate drainage, sewer, flood, and other systems to handle the delivery and control of water into the metropolis."

-  "Importantly," Kotkin adds, "this should not be seen as a partisan issue but one of civic patriotism. As New York's Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once noted, 'There is no Republican or Democratic way to clean streets.'"

- Among the many displaced by Katrina were, according to University of North Carolina researchers, 6,000 - that's 6,000 - physicians. If some or all choose not to return, imagine the consequences for the delivery of health care along the Gulf Coast.

- Meanwhile Cindy Sheehan, having pulled up stakes from her summer campsite outside President Bush's ranch, appeared at a peacenik rally in Washington - and, seemingly smiling all the while, succeeded in getting herself arrested.

- The caring Jane Fonda had planned to cruise around the country in a bus fueled by vegetable oil, protesting the American presence in Iraq. But she has elected to cancel her tour so as not to distract attention from the Sheehan enterprise, and giving Cindy Sheehan all the space she needs. La Fonda terms "what the right wing" has done to Cindy Sheehan "despicable." Yet consider this query: What are Mesdames Fonda and Sheehan doing to the morale of America's fighting forces?