Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Go to Alaska

I'm back from Alaska.

Go there if you haven't yet.

Thoughts for today:

1. They call Alaska America's Last Frontier. It's appropriate. In Anchorage, moose and black bear regularly walk through backyards and parks. In Homer and Seward on the Kenai Peninsula, the rough-and-ramshackle of small-town, chipped-house-paint, dirty-kids, edge-of-the-world life mixes with ultra-modern seaports and commerical fisheries, high-end coffee, art, and gift shops, tourists agogged by the scenery, and cash flowing in the millions for chances to see mile-wide, 900-foot-high glaciers calve, Northern Pacific humpback whales breach, or grizzlies ravage red salmon. Not to mention the fishing, hunting, and generally enthusiastic fish-and-ice-cream consumption. It was a great trip.

The Kenai is like the best of Colorado and Montana (towering mountains, extraordinarily steep slopes, glaciers) plus the ocean, plus a rain forest. Hard to beat. At least in the summer.

I shot 630 hi-res digital photos with my new Nikon D70 (which I've been craving and patiently eyeing for 3 years). My wife and daughter and our extended family folk enjoyed ourselves greatly. I have no regrets, although hooking but not catching 5 gigantic end-run sockeye salmon in the Kenai River was excruciating. One took 100 yards of line, all the way to the knot on the spool. I was hopelessly out-gunned as it used the current and at least 5 super-acrobatic flips to finally break free. What a blast. Alaska. It's like another country.

2. Rove. We all know he's a political genius. That's why I don't think he was dumb enough to explicitly leak Ploom's name. However, I have a sneaking suspicion he may have pushed his gamesmanship too far this time. Time will tell. I hope, for the sake of Rove and the White House, but mostly for the sake of this country, that neither Rove nor anyone else in the Administration threatened the life of a deep-cover CIA agent or her cohorts. That--if it were proven, and above all else Rove has done--would seal his fate.

3. Roberts. A conservative president picked a conservative. OK. He's hardly the worst candidate and might be the best the Left could have hoped for in these circumstances. The idea that Bush would replace O'Connor with an O'Connor-alike was silly from the get-go. In fact, I'm fine with the choice.

Roberts is clearly all the things Dems and Repubs have been saying about him: brilliant, sincere, honest, etc. He's a great legal mind. He did file an opinion in which he suggested the Endangered Species Act may in part be unconstitutional. While I hope that this isn't true, and believe the Act has played a pivotal role in what I consider this nation's responsibility for real conservation of species threatened by human activity, he might in the end be right. The Commerce Clause and its edict that Congress can only act under it if "a link to interstate commerce" exists simply might not be broad enough to embrace protection of endangered species on private land in some instances. But single decisions and single fact patterns should not matter during the confirmation process. Does Roberts respect the law, the Constitution? Yes. Is he imminently capable? Yes. The question, perhaps, is whether he views the Constitution as "a living Constitution," or a "1920s Constitution," or a "Framers' Constituion". Perhaps a blend of the three. Perhaps not. We'll find out. No matter what, the fact that he comes from the law firm for which I will begin working in the fall is pretty cool.

4. The federal law clerkship I just completed after three years was the highlight of my work life so far. My experience there, especially the inspiration I received from The Judge and my fellow clerks--all good friends, will guide my career. Fairness, earnestness, loyalty, intellectual honesty, integrity, smarts. Applying the facts to the law. Writing well. Living and working articulately. Knowing the value of the work and living up to it every day.

Above all, I'll miss the people. We laughed so much. We had such fantastic conversations. Thanks to you guys. You know who you are.