UNSKEWING THE FEDERAL COURTS
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s 10-to-9 rejection of Mississippi Federal Judge Charles Pickering for the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit showed a rare Democratic combativeness. That Senate Democrats might actually apply standards of ethics and judicial temperament–Pickering consorted with segregationists and challenged the Voting Rights Act–drew cries of foul from Republicans. But New York’s Charles Schumer shot back: “There’s clearly no mandate from the American people to stack the courts with conservative ideologues. So if the White House persists in sending us nominees who threaten to throw the courts out of whack with the country, we have no choice but to vote no.” The next test of the Democrats’ political fortitude comes with Federal Judge D. Brooks Smith, nominated for the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, whose oft-reversed decisions have paralleled the agenda of the conservative legal and corporate groups that foot the bill for his frequent judicial junkets.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, MARY ROBINSON?
Following heavy US pressure, the UN won’t ask Mary Robinson, its High Commissioner for Human Rights, to stay on to complete her three-year term. Her sins included supporting the Durban conference on racism despite the US/Israeli boycott, criticizing refusal of POW status to prisoners in Guantánamo Bay and vociferous condemnation of Israeli behavior in the occupied territories. The Bush Administration kept its campaign to oust her quiet to avoid alienating Irish-Americans, but the UN Human Rights Commission bureaucracy found Robinson’s outspokenness hard to reconcile with their softer approach. Human rights organizations wonder whether any replacement will be as independent and committed to human rights as Robinson.
BRING BACK BILL
Some thirty public television stations suspended Bill Moyers’s Now during pledge drives, apparently on the theory that the program’s controversial stories might offend donors. If your PBS station isn’t carrying it–protest (and withhold your donation). Note: House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who says PBS is too liberal, recently called for totally defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as a way of trimming the deficit.