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Benching Bush's Nominees

What do you think of a judge who's published fewer than 10 percent of his
opinions? You might think that he's hiding something because his record reflects
an unsuitable judicial temperament or extreme views on such subjects as race and
reproductive choice. And according to those leading the opposition to the
nomination of U.S. District Court Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth
Circuit
Court of Appeals, you'd be right.

Participants include the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership
Conference on
Civil Rights
, NARAL, the NAACP, and People for the American
Way
--a coalition
reminiscent of the one that defeated Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987.
For comprehensive research on the record of Pickering and other nominees of
George W. Bush, go to TARGET="outlink">www.independentjudiciary.com.

For instance, Pickering once urged strengthening of Mississippi's law banning
interracial marriages. As a judge, he ruled several times that legislative
districts did not have to be redrawn, despite acknowledging in some of the cases
that the districts at issue violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act or the
Constitution. As a state senator, he voted several times against measures to
expand electoral opportunities for African Americans and he worked tirelessly
against the Voting Rights Act.

Pickering has disparaged Miranda and other landmark Supreme Court
doctrines created to ensure that constitutional rights are respected. He supports
a constitutional amendment to prohibit all abortions, regardless of the risk to
the mother's life. And though he initially denied it, documents have revealed
that he was closely involved with the hateful Mississippi Sovereignty Commission,
which took whatever steps it could to maintain segregation in the wake of the
Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

While Pickering's record on women's rights and civil liberties is horrific,
his nomination is but one among several alarming picks made by President
George
Bush
. Bush's nominee to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals--Jeffrey
Sutton
--has
sought to immunize states from suits over environmental predations and from
civil-rights challenges. He has also contended that federal protection from
discrimination by state government against people with disabilities is
unnecessary. Timothy Tymkovich has been nominated to the 10th Circuit.
He's
defended an amendment to Colorado's constitution that bars the state and
municipalities from protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination--a
restriction that the Supreme Court has rejected as unconstitutional. He has also
defended a Colorado statute that required the state to withhold funding for
abortions in cases of rape and incest, despite the measure's clear conflict with
federal law.

Carolyn Kuhl, nominated to the Ninth Circuit, was one of two Justice
Department officials who persuaded Reagan administration Attorney General
William
French Smith
to reverse an 11-year policy of the Internal Revenue Service
and
reinstate the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University and other racially
discriminatory schools. The Supreme Court disagreed with Kuhl's position and
reversed the IRS shift. She also worked on several high-profile
reproductive-rights cases on behalf of the government, in one case arguing
before the Supreme Court to allow states to ban all abortions, even though the
constitutionality of Roe v. Wade was not at issue.

Civil libertarians and human-rights advocates are serious about defeating
extremist nominees. And given the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision,
voters remember the importance of judicial selections. Last week, Ralph
Neas
,
who heads People for the American Way, was rewarded with a vicious personal
attack on The Wall Street Journal's notorious editorial page--a sure sign
that the campaign is having some effect.

The Facts and the Farm Bill

Let the facts speak for themselves. That's what the D.C.-based Environmental
Working Group
hoped to do when they launched a Web site listing federal
subsidies sent to every farm in America ( TARGET="outlink">www.ewg.org/farm). Now, with stories
having appeared in news venues from the Bismarck Tribune to The New York
Times,
small farmers, environmentalists, and traders at the New York Cotton
Exchange are all celebrating a recent Senate amendment to the $45-billion farm
bill that would cap annual subsidies at $270,000 per farm. This is a blow to big
industrial operations. The proposal's surprise adoption was helped along by the
site, which reporters (who love easily searchable databases of local
information) and members of Congress have praised.

The site revealed that nearly 60 percent of farm subsidies go to the largest
10 percent of growers--often encouraging big farms to overplant crops to receive
more subsidies. Overplanting results in more surpluses, and this in turn squeezes
smaller-yield family farms. It also leads to more topsoil destruction.

The new subsidy caps would create higher crop prices--hence the coalition
between commodities traders and mom-and-pop growers. (Most profits go to
intermediaries, however, so there is little effect on final retail prices.) Less
planting also means less land destruction through plowing, less grassland
annexation, and less pesticide use. And fewer subsidies could make more money
available for conservation efforts.

The amendment passed 66 to 31, but its fate is uncertain. U.S. House of
Representatives Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest proposes to
raise the existing cap to $550,000, and the House-passed version of the farm
bill differs significantly from the Senate version in other ways--so the
legislation is likely headed for conference committee.

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