President Bush's nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has sparked grumbling about cronyism, ineptitude and such from Republicans and Democrats alike. You'd think nominating pals for top jobs is something new.

In fact, it happens all the time, not only here but in the most advanced of democracies.

For example, there's this headline from the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty daily online report for Oct. 7:

"FEMALE LAWYER WITH NO JUDICIAL EXPERIENCE PICKED FOR TOP COURT SPOT"

"The Federation Council confirmed on 5 October Yelena Valyavina for the post of first deputy chairman of the Higher Arbitration Court, 'Kommersant-Daily' reported on 6 October," RFE/RL said. "According to the daily, Valyavina graduated from President Putin's alma mater, the law school at Leningrad State University, and in 1994 she was a specialist for the housing committee of the St. Petersburg mayoral administration, where Putin was also working at the time.

"Valyavina is also a classmate of presidential-administration head Dmitrii Medvedev and worked with the current chairman of the court, Anton Ivanov, in St. Petersburg's Justice Department at the end of the 1990s. Like Ivanov, Valyavina also had no prior experience as a judge before being appointed to the Higher Arbitration Court."

Who knows what a rewarding experience a seat on an arbitration court might be in the newly democratic Russia.

Collectible Clinton

And now, just in time for Christmas shopping, it's the "Bill Clinton Collection, Selections From the Clinton Music Room" CD, with the former president's apparently favorite tunes, 11 of them, for only $15.95.

The CD, said to be the "first in a series" -- we're told of four -- "of collectible CDs" is tilted heavily to jazz, with Miles Davis ("My Funny Valentine"), John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman ("My One and Only Love"), Zoot Sims ("Summertime") and the incomparable Russian alto sax man Igor Butman ("Nostalgie") who plays at Le Club in Moscow.

Vocals include "Chelsea Morning," by Judy Collins, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," by Mahalia Jackson and "I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free)" by Nina Simone. Proceeds go to the Clinton Foundation.

Don't be fooled by the fine art on the cover by artist Jay Wolf Schlossberg-Cohen that has Clinton, in shades, playing the sax. The 42nd president is not playing on any of the selections. The CD is for sale at clintonmuseumstore.com.

And no, we know what you're thinking, but there will be no Loop contest about tunes that should have been included but weren't, such as Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" or "Sexual Healing," or Mitch Ryder's "Devil With a Blue Dress On." Certain standards need to be upheld.

What Canned-Ham Shortage?

Tiny San Marino, though never a member of the mighty "Coalition of the Willing," is nonetheless about to become just the 34th country allowed to export meat or poultry products to the United States, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The country, third smallest in Europe after the Holy See and Monaco, petitioned eight years ago for the right to have its only meat processing plant ship about 500,000 pounds of canned, cooked hams to this country, according to the Federal Register announcement last week.

This will doubtless be a boost to the economy in a country of 29,000.

Moving Around

Susan C. Schwab, a former assistant secretary of commerce and more recently president and CEO of the University System of Maryland Foundation has been nominated to be deputy U.S. trade representative.

As expected, Meghan L. O'Sullivan, formerly an aide to Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer, has been named deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, a job she's been doing for several months. And Stephen B. Slick, a senior CIA operations officer, top aide to former agency deputy director John E. McLaughlin and before that a Philadelphia lawyer, takes over as senior director for intelligence programs and reform.

Antonio Fratto, who had been deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for public affairs, has been nominated to take the top job.

Correction

As noted in Friday's column, the Knight Ridder Newspapers wire may come up with a great lead for a story about Army recruiting, but the Army secretary's name is Francis J. Harvey, not Noel.