Monday, October 31, 2005

Cheers, Boos, and Speeches

Some people still don't get it. An op/ed piece (and several letters) in the Minneapolis Star Tribune revises history to say that a single speech was the only thing wrong with the Wellstone memorial three years ago. The documentary, Wellstone!, makes the same error. I discuss the situation at length in my post below.

It was not just the speech of Rick Kahn, but the speeches of the sons (who were understandably in shock, losing both parents and a sister) and Senator Tom Harkin, as well as the cheers and the boos (mostly of republican politicians) in the arena. Aside from Vin Weber, Republicans mostly kept quiet in the hours after the memorial. Governor Ventura of the Independence Party made the most noise on the cable news channels the next morning. Ventura also walked out of the memorial. If former Vice President Mondale had walked out of the event, instead of clapping along, he would be in the Senate today.

And they still fail to mention the pilots, Richard Conry and Michael Guess.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Guns, Crime, and Moore

I finally saw Bowling for Columbine. It was just in time, too, since I judged a high school debate this weekend where a student cited the film as evidence that Canada is a great and peaceful country.

Even ignoring disputes over the accuracy of the film, it is poorly made. Moore can't decide whether we are too afraid of crime, or not afraid enough. Do we have too many guns? Nope. Moore tells us that Canadians have just as many. One explanation is that this film project, originally about gun violence, was interrupted by 9/11.

Anyone familiar with "TV Nation" will recognize Moore's tactics. What once seemed original and gutsy is now tired and formulaic. It has been more clear than ever since Michael Wilson nailed it in his film, Michael Moore Hates America.

The money quote in the movie comes from the prosecutor for the county that includes Flint, Michigan. In this part of the film, we are told that Americans are too fearful of things. Prosecutor Arthur Busch offers his proof:

"American people are contitioned by network TV, by local news, to believe that their communities are more dangerous than they actually are. For example, here in this community, crime has decreased every year for the past eight years, yet gun ownership, particularly handgun ownership, is on the increase."

I wonder if there is another lesson that might be gleaned from those statistics?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Irish Whip, Body Slam, and The Claw

Last night I attended a reading of "The Baron." That is all you need to know.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Past, Present, and Future

I have been meaning to write something about the life and death of Rosa Parks. In the past, I have said that every minority wants to be Jackie Robinson or Rosa Parks. (For some, the comparison to Jesse Owens or Sammy Davis Jr. may be more apt.)

At a basic level, Rosa Parks was someone who took an obvious evil, waited for an opportunity, and challenged the injustice at great personal risk. No one has a right to claim to be the Rosa Parks, but we can all learn from her example.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Memorial, Memorial, and Memorial

Today we observe the third anniversary of the plane crash that killed eight people, including Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, and their daughter. It is worthwhile to reflect on the political career of the late senator. One way to look at it would be a tale of three memorials.

Following his improbable victory in 1990, Senator Wellstone held a controversial news conference in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. During the visit to the memorial, the senator and his wife located the name of a veteran from Northfield, Minnesota, where Wellstone had taught political science to college students. There was no indication in the media that they had known the man they were mourning. Veterans groups were angry.

While Wellstone later regretted his actions at the memorial, it was right in sync with the style of many of his supporters. Candidate Wellstone had delighted supporters and the media with a two-minute campaign commercial in the style of Michael Moore's Roger & Me. Although the ad was expensive to run, some media outlets ran it as a news segment on the creative grass roots campaign against Senator Rudy Boschwitz. "Looking for Rudy" was vulnerable to some of the same criticisms that are leveled at Michael Moore -- editing out of context, exploiting low-paid receptionists and security guards, etc. -- but the ad worked like a charm. Wellstone supporters celebrated their narrow victory at election-night headquarters, singing "Bye, Bye Boschwitz."

The only time I saw Senator Wellstone in person was at the Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day 1993 or 1994. The master of ceremonies praised Wellstone's constituent service work on veterans benefit issues and invited him to the podium. Wellstone sheepishly said a few words and gave the floor back to the other speakers. I was unaware at the time of his work with veterans benefits. It fit well with his strengths of empathy and one-on-one communication. It also meshed with his view of a progressive government role in people's lives. This remarkable turnaround from his earlier appearance at a Vietnam Memorial was a testament to his quiet good works in Washington and Minnesota.

It has been said about President Clinton that there is a "Saturday Night" Bill and a "Sunday Morning" Bill. One could say that there was a "War Protestor" Paul and a "Veterans Benefits" Paul.

Senator Wellstone built friendships across political parties. He gained respect, even from those who disagreed with him. For example, one of my colleagues in the Army JAG Corps found out I was from Minnesota and remarked how he admired my senior senator -- even though he did not agree with the senator on any issues. Some of Wellstone's college students who were political conservatives had similar thoughts. The admiration among political opponents meant that people across the political spectrum needed to grieve and wanted to show their respects to the senator after his death.

Although Senator Wellstone matured in office, some of his supporters did not. This is one of the major explanations for the controversy surrounding the memorial after the plane crash.

Another explanation for the controversy is religion. The close race in 1990 between Boschwitz and Wellstone was turned upside down by an exchange of letters. Supporters of Wellstone sent a letter to members of the Jewish community in Minnesota promoting his candidacy over that of Boschwitz. Angered, Senator Boschwitz had supporters send a letter to the same mailing list pointing out that Wellstone had married outside his faith and was not as involved in the Jewish community as Boschwitz was. This was an important issue to Boschwitz, having escaped from Nazi Germany as a young boy and having played matchmaker within the Jewish community in Minnesota and on Captiol Hill. Like most hockey referees, the media did not report the initial infraction, only the retaliation. Aside from a few references in passing, one would not know from news reports that Wellstone supporters had sent the first letter the the Jewish community.

The letter controversy made religion an off-limits topic in Minnesota politics. Yet religion was probably part of the reason why there was not a public funeral as we saw for Vice President Hubert Humphrey and others. Religious funeral and burial traditions are an important and delicate subject for families with blended religious backgrounds. There are many reasons to have a private memorial service, and religion may have been one of them in this case. If this had been explained better, politicians from other parties may not have been expecting a somber funeral when they attended the memorial.

Despite attempts at revisionist history, the memorial at the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena was terrible. If the two pilots, Richard Conry and Michael Guess, were mentioned at all, it was in a dismissive "Professor and Maryann" way. After campaign treasurer Rick Kahn made a bizarre speech appealing to Congressman Jim Ramstad and other Republicans to support replacement Democrat candidate Walter Mondale, some mainstream Democrats were uncomfortable. In between speeches, former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer, a Democrat, quipped that he was glad Rick Kahn was being bi-partisan. Neither the cheering crowd nor the subsequent speakers could take the hint. While it is understandable that the Wellstone brothers, who had just lost both parents and a sister, would not be at their best, the Democratic politicians in attendance also joined in the political pep fest. As Senator Tom Harkin concluded the final rallying speech, the musicians struck up the "Vote for Paul Wellstone" song, reworked as "Remember Paul Wellstone."

Immediately after the plane crash, both parties were working behind the scenes to salvage the election. Many Republicans were resigned to a loss, as happened in the race between the late Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan and Senator John Ashcroft two years earlier. When the memorial ended in the late evening, only one Republican, Vin Weber, gave an immediate response. Others were still filing out of Williams Arena, or were keeping an appropriately low profile. The newspapers had already filed their stories. So the reaction to the memorial was in slow motion, with Independence Party Governor Jesse Ventura taking the lead.

The mainstream Democrats could have come out ahead if they had expressed outrage of their own. Other than George Latimer's comment, there were no reports of any disapproval from Democrats while they were in the arena. One wonders what would have happened in the election if former Vice President Mondale had walked out in the middle of the speeches.

Beyond the political implications, the memorial trivialized Wellstone's life and accomplishments. Instead of his politics being about something larger, it was reduced to a single election and a single candidate. People who disagreed were denied a chance to grieve.

If Wellstone is to be remembered for a memorial, let it be the second memorial mentioned above.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Willis, Charlene, and Willis Jr.

The entertainment program Extra is reporting on rumors that Janet Jackson may have a secret 18 year-old child. If true, I suspect Willis Drummond is the father.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Fidel, Faddle, and the ALA -- Part II

Here is part four of the series on the American Library Association and Castro's Cuba.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Good, Bad, and Ugly

I saw this sports report recently:

Raiders get good news about Moss

From news services

The Oakland Raiders received some much-needed good
news Monday when it was learned the injuries sustained
by wide receiver Randy Moss in Sunday's 27-14 loss to
the San Diego Chargers are limited to bruised ribs and
a bone bruise in the groin region. (emphasis added)

That's the good news? Ewww.
Vikings, Past and Present

When talking about the current scandal with the Minnesota Vikings, we should not forget that allegations of criminal behavior go back to the "good old" days of the Vikings. Ahmad Rashad mentioned some things and wrote a tell-all book to that effect.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Iraq, Palestine, and Cartoon Network

UNICEF is using the image of the Smurfs to raise money for children in war-torn areas. Here is the money quote:

"We could have shown real-live images of children wounded in Iraq, Palestine or other places. But we refused this option because they would not respect the dignity and rights of the depicted children...So we decided to use 'fictive' cartoon images."

Interesting. No images of children as victims of suicide killers in Israel, mind you. Only those in "Palestine." Also, never mind those children who starved in Iraq while many in the United Nations enriched themselves through the Oil for Food program. And they would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!

I must admit that I carried a little box for UNICEF when I was a young trick-or-treater. I didn't know better.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Dead Rabbits, ROTC, and Million Marchers

Here are a couple of quick takes:

Eva Young takes to task the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March. Controversial aspects of the event and the anniversary have been ignored by the mainstream media, and by pretty much everyone else.

Aaron Solem corrects the record on a factually impaired article in The Nation. Not only is the "chickenhawk" argument tired and lame, they managed to wrongly give the label to an active-duty ensign in the Navy. SwanBlog has written about "chickenhams," the Hollywood variant of the label.

Finally, I watched an interesting documentary this weekend called The Real Gangs of New York on the Discovery Times channel. Check out this quote from the narrator concerning the corruption of the legendary Boss Tweed:

The New York Times had begun to investigate the outrageous overages in the construction of the Tweed Courthouse. It published front page stories that would shock shameless defense contractors today. Eleven thermometers purchased for $7,500....

A nice little documentary about the 19th Century has to throw in a Reagan-era complaint from the Left. No class.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Fidel, Faddle, and the ALA

Remember my recent posts about the American Library Association's "Banned Books Week"? Front Page Magazine has a four-part series on Fidel Castro and the ALA.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Winks, Nods, and a Backward "S"

Senator Patrick Leahy is worried that certain individuals have secret knowledge how Harriet Miers would vote on Roe v. Wade:

Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the Senate and the rest of America deserve to know what Dobson and the White House know about Miers.

"We don't confirm Justices of the Supreme Court on a wink and a nod. And a litmus test is no less a litmus test by using whispers and signals,'' the Vermont senator said. "No political faction should be given a monopoly of relevant knowledge about a nomination, just as no faction should be permitted to hound a nominee to withdraw, before the hearing process has even begun.''

Does Senator Leahy apply that same standard to Justice Souter, the "pro-choice mole"? (Bleg to Dennis Becker of Eagan: Did Leahy vote to confirm Souter?) Are there any nominees whom liberals have "hounded"?

Here's a thought: Harriet Miers is the Bizarro Souter. Talk amongst yourselves.

UPDATE (10/13) Leahy voted for Souter. Did he have inside information?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

News, Weather, and Sports(?)

I once met the owner of a Downtown Minneapolis nightclub. Some friends and I were his guests for the evening, the weekend before New Years. We sat in what might be described as the "owner's suite." It had one-way glass overlooking the dance floor. If you pressed a remote control, the waitress would come for your drink order (free to us, as guests of the owner).

At one point, we went bar-hopping to other establishments in a couple of taxis (paid by the club owner). As we left, the owner told someone, "If [name of sports figure] stops by, let him have the room." He also bragged about other sports figures he knew. The perfectly innocent explanation is that local celebrities don't want to be bothered, sitting out in the open.

In light of recent allegations against certain Vikings players on a boat trip, there may be reasons to have a suite with one-way glass that are not so innocent.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Souter, Rudman, and Biden

With all the coverage of the recent Supreme Court nominations, it would be a good time to revisit the 1990 nomination of Justice David Souter. Liberal groups were concerned about the right to privacy being preserved in court decisions. They were so concerned about privacy, in fact, that some liberal groups leaked the video rental and emergency room records of a previous nominee to the media. Justice Souter faced similar attacks and rumors, based no doubt on his perceived conservatism.

The attacks made Souter want to have his nomination withdrawn. In Bob Woodward's Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate (1999), we learn that Senator Warren Rudman physically restrained Justice Souter from calling President Bush. We also learn that Souter was probably selective about sharing how he would rule on abortion.

The anguish of scrutiny was too great a price to pay. Souter said he was going to phone President Bush and insist that his nomination be withdrawn.

Rudman was beside himself. He argued forcefully that Souter had to be tough. He should not throw away the nomination on these side issues, even though they may strike at his soul.

At that particular moment in history, the future of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which established abortion rights, hung in the balance. The newest member of the Court was likely to be the deciding vote….

Although Rudman had not talked directly to Souter about Roe v. Wade, he was certain that Souter would not vote to overturn the decision if he made it to the high court. Rudman, who was pro-choice, felt strongly that abortion was in part a matter of compassion, and he believed that Souter was compassionate and would see the brutality in taking away a woman’s right to choose abortion. Rudman also knew that Souter believed in the principle of not overturning Supreme Court precedents unless there was an overwhelming argument. For practical purposes, Rudman was planting a pro-choice mole on the high court….

Two years later, Souter and two other justices wrote a highly unusual three-justice signed opinion, joined by two others, upholding Roe v. Wade. Rudman was coming back from New York by train the day the decision in the case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, was announced. He was overjoyed, certain that Souter had played a pivotal role. The efforts of the Reagan and Bush administrations and the religious right to overturn Roe were probably defeated forever, Rudman calculated. In the train station, he ran into Senator Joseph Biden, who had chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Souter confirmation hearings. Biden, a Delaware Democrat, was equally delighted that Roe had been affirmed. The two senators embraced, laughed, yelled and even cried.

“You were right about him,” Biden said. “Did you read that opinion? You were right!”

First of all, I want to repeat that I do not like stealth candidates coming from the right or the left. If either the Senate or the President have inside information on how a nominee will rule on a hot-button issue, the information should be shared openly.

Secondly, it is doubtful that Rudman’s certainty about Souter’s position on abortion came only from his compassion (as defined by Rudman) and his reliance on stare decisis. Rudman did not talk to him “directly” about abortion, but they clearly had an understanding.

Kudos, Kudos, and Kudos

I have praise for two unlikely recipients today:

First, I predicted that Bill Maher would mention Bill Bennett's comments about abortion, without criticizing the fact that the White House spokesman criticized Bennett. You see, Maher was outraged that former press secretary Ari Fleisher spoke ill of Maher's own comments after 9/11. It is true that Maher did not mention the White House condemnation, but he did defend Bill Bennett. Kudos for Bill Maher.

The other unlikely recipient of my praise is the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Let's start with the Associated Press story from Friday morning.

Last update: October 7, 2005 at 10:23 AM
Senate OKs $50 billion more for wars
Associated Press
Published October 7, 2005

WASHINGTON--The Senate voted Friday to give President Bush $50 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. military efforts against terrorism, money that would push total spending for the operations beyond $350 billion.

* * *

Me: How's that for editorializing? Some may argue that Iraq is not part of the war on terrorism, but Afghanistan? More here:

* * *
Passage comes at a time when public support for Bush and the Iraq fighting has slipped, U.S. casualties have climbed and Congress has grown increasingly frustrated with the direction of the conflict.

The Senate bill provides $5 billion more for the wars than the House version. The final bill is expected to include the full $50 billion extra after House-Senate negotiators work out their differences over the coming weeks.

* * *

Senators rushed to finish the bill before leaving Friday for a 10-day recess because military officers have informally told them they will need the money by mid-November to continue war operations. The Bush administration has not formally requested more war money, but costs are certain with no end to the Iraq conflict in sight.

* * *

Me: Plenty to chew on here. Inconsistency in whether "war" is singular or plural. General inconsistency in switching between Iraq alone, and the entire war on terrorism. "No sight." Is it a "conflict" or a war? Glee at the unpopularity of the war. No mention of successes in Afghanistan.

Where does the praise for the Strib come in, you ask? Well, to its credit, the Strib corrected many of the problems in the Associated Press story:

Last update: October 7, 2005 at 11:03 PM
Bush gets additional $50 billion for war in Iraq from Senate
Published October 8, 2005

The Senate voted Friday to give President Bush $50 billion more for the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and the overall war on terrorism, money that would push total spending for the operations beyond $350 billion.

In a 97-0 vote, the GOP-led Senate signed off on the money as part of a $445 billion military spending bill for the budget year that began Oct. 1. The measure would also put restrictions on the treatment of detainees who are suspected terrorists -- a provision that has drawn a White House veto threat and demonstrated a willingness by Republican lawmakers to challenge Bush.

The Senate bill provides $5 billion more for the wars than the House version. The final bill is expected to include the full $50 billion extra after House-Senate negotiators work out their differences in the coming weeks. Overall, both the Senate and House bills provide for a 3.1 percent pay raise for the military and increased benefits. Associated Press

Me: The Strib got this one right.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Miers, Schumer, and Biden

I received the following e-mail from a longtime friend:

you gotta address this mier thing on your blog. It’s ok… swallow your pride. Repeat after me: “Bush is not a good Republican.” After three or four days, the pain fades away to the tune of “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac.

I do what I am told. I also smirk at the mention of the worst non-original campaign song since "Teach Your Children Well" reminded voters of the sixties during the 1984 presidential campaign. Yes they won, but not because of the song. The worst original song was for former Congressman Gerry Sikorski. Local radio station KQRS still plays the sappy ballad to "Ger-ry Si-kor-SKEE." "Happy Days Are Here Again" and "God Bless The USA" are the best campaign songs. "High Hopes" just doesn't do it for me.

Anyway, the problem with liberals is that they seek to achieve through the courts what they could not achieve at the ballot box. The solution to a bad law is to repeal it, not to run to the courts. This is not to say that the courts should be meaningless. I am sure that readers can come up with examples of court decisions overturning statutes that I would agree with. But in general, the most divisive issues should be resolved through the political process among democratically elected legislators. A more detailed discussion of the doctrine of judicial restraint will have to come in a later post.

A related problem with Senators Schumer, Biden, and others is that the "advise and consent" role is being abused. They want to find out how a nominee would vote on the four or five hot-button issues existing today. Rather than asking how a judicial nominee how s/he would vote on abortion, affirmative action, gay marriage, etc., they use code words like privacy. When the nominee refuses to take the bait, they feign outrage that the would-be judge can't even talk about a bedrock principle like privacy. I have explained elsewhere that federal judges, who are not elected, should not reveal how they would vote on specific cases. This is true no matter how cleverly the question is worded.

When William Rehnquist was nominated to be a Supreme Court justice, who knew that he would decide on the issue of enemy combatants? The four or five hot-button issues will be different 20 years from now. If you vote on specific cases instead of an underlying judicial philosophy, you may pick a judge who goofs up on the big case in 2025.

Conservatives should not be the mirror image of Senator Schumer. I am confident that Justice Miers will surprise us on certain cases. The confirmation process should determine broad themes about the nominee. Short of a stealth candidate whose stealthiness hides liberalism, the worst thing a judge can do is to "grow" on the bench, like Justice Kennedy. The growth is always in one direction, and it's not to the right.

Let's see what she says in the confirmation hearings.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Kalb, Veterans, and Indecision

Last week, Powerline posted an e-mail exchange with Marvin Kalb. Kalb initially challenged a viewer to provide evidence of forgery in the 60 Minutes National Guard document scandal. When provided a small sample of the evidence by Powerline, Kalb changed course and stated that the "key point" was that President Bush could have volunteered for Vietnam, but did not. Kalb was going to stay loyal to the "young men [he] covered who went to Vietnam for their country."

Here is my correspondence with Kalb:

From: Peter A Swanson
To: marvinkalb@XXXXXXXXXXXX
Sent: Friday, September 30, 2005 11:51 PM
Subject: Journalism and Morals

Dear Mr. Kalb:

I have been following your letters about the 60 Minutes scandal on the Powerline weblog.

I am glad that you now acknowledge that the documents are clear. Your first e-mail to Charles Thomas was snarky and dismissive on this point.

I am more concerned about your response to John Hinderaker. You write, "[W]ell, you go your way, I'll go with the young men I covered who went to Vietnam for their country. We can disagree." This statement suggests that you can support President Bush or the men who served in Vietnam, but not both. Are those the only two options? What does that say to people who oppose the Iraq war, but "support the troops."

Your statement conveniently shifts from media criticism, the facts of which support Hinderaker, to political commentary. You have made a moral judgment about President Bush, but who cares? Some voters agreed with you last November. More did not. That you disagree with the voters should not figure into your assessment of the 60 Minutes story, which was the reason for your interview with Dan Rather and the subsequent e-mail exchange. In fact, your strong feelings about President Bush's military record may have affected your approach to the Rather interview.

George W. Bush had been elected to two terms as governor and had served as president for over three years when the 60 Minutes story aired. If it were just about the fact that he didn't serve in Vietnam when others did, that was old news. I remember the younger Bush being interviewed on the floor of the Republican convention in 1988 about the Dan Quayle National Guard controversy. Bush mentioned that he had also served in the National Guard. So your particular gripe about the President was not exactly breaking news in September 2004. It was, however, just in time to stop the post-convention bounce and to counter the Swift Boat ads.

Speaking of the Swift Boat Veterans, are you including them when you say [you] will go with those who "went to Vietnam for their country"?

In every election since 1992, the candidate with the less impressive military record won the presidency. The elections in 1972 and 1980 are notable in this regard, too. Senator Bob Dole is probably wondering where your support was during his campaigns.

Dan Rather failed. You also failed in your critique of his journalism. There are so many lessons an experienced journalist like yourself could take from this. Too bad your dislike of President Bush got in the way.


Peter A. Swanson

From: marvinkalb@XXXXXXXXX
To: lawdog@XXXXXXXXX
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2005 12:21 PM
Subject: Re: Journalism and Morals

Dear Mr. Swanson:
You may be right.
Marvin Kalb

There you have it. I changed his mind. He was not just brushing me off in an arrogant way that does not call for a response. He really is open minded. His next interview will be free from the errors that plagued his Rather interview. I look forward to the new and improved Marvin Kalb.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lies, Librarians, and Moore

In my annual "Banned Books Week" post, I promised more on the American Library Association. Check out this 60 Minutes piece on Michael Moore. Moore claims that his book, Stupid White Men was suppressed by the publisher until a librarian stumbled upon the issue.

How much do you want to bet that the sequence of events is not how you describe it? Do you really think that Moore was a humble reader to a small community group, whose disappointment was overheard by a local librarian?

I am quite certain that Moore told anyone and everyone he met about the dispute with his publisher. And the librarian helped him stir the pot because s/he agreed with Moore politically. And the pressure from other librarians was similarly based on ideology.

A private business, in this case a publisher, has the right to choose what messages it disseminates. The organized campaign by librarians have the publisher release Stupid White Men unedited is not all that different from an organized campaign by parents to have input in what books are chosen for a school curriculum. The only major difference is that the former group does not use tax dollars to disseminate its message.
August, Nipsey, and Perspective

Playwright August Wilson passed away. So did poetic game show fixture Nipsey Russell. Who is more well-known? What should we think about this? What would August and Nipsey say about this?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Umpires, Judges, and Elections

I criticized a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice here for glossing over the difference between elected judges and appointed judges. Attorney Greg Wersal won some important victories allowing those campaigning for elected state judgeships to express their views. Like his former election opponent, Wersal also misunderstands the federal appointment process in this letter to the editor:

Are judges mere umpires? Does anyone believe that?

Judges create and enforce policy. It was judges who changed the policy of the Old South of separate but equal. It was judges who limited the power of government and gave power to those accused of a crime by creating and enforcing a policy that the police must advise those arrested of their Miranda rights.

No, judges are not mere umpires; they are policymakers.

The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee did a miserable job in questioning John Roberts, President Bush's nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court, because they failed to attack the false assumption that judges are mere umpires.

Greg Wersal, St. Louis Park.