Monday, December 06, 2004

Messing With Texas

BushCo's war of attrition against the federalist ideal of states' rights continues, as the Justice Department fights tooth and nail for federal preemption of Texas state law, in order to protect Dow Chemical from a lawsuit by Texan farmers.

The name of the case is Dow v. Bates. It involves a lawsuit brought by 29 Texas peanut farmers, seeking compensation for crop damage they say was caused by a Dow Agrosciences weed killer named Strongarm. According to the farmers, who sued for damages in a Texas state court, the pesticide nearly wiped out their entire crop.

But Dow intervened in federal court, where it persuaded a judge to to halt the farmers' lawsuit on the ground that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodentricide Act (FIFRA), preempts remedies provided under Texas state law. Hence the farmers would be prevented from winning damages under states' common law.

Now, with Dow v. Bates before the Supreme Court, the Bush Justice Department brief is arguing in favor of federal preemption over state law--which happens to be a reversal of its own established position against expansive federal preemption of state remedies under FIFRA.

Remember when conservatives were all about states' rights, that wise preventative against the centralization of power? Remember how, instead of consolidating power in Washington, federalism diffuses it through the fifty states, thus reducing the tyrannical effects of big government?

God knows the concept of states' rights was never perfect; among other things, it can allow state governments to become local tyrants that don't have to answer to federal law, segregation being the classic example. It also raises issues about how one state's rights affect its neighbors (as in the West's dispute over Colorado River water). Still, the fact that BushCo has delivered blow after blow against every aspect of states' rights, to the appaluse of self-proclaimed conservatives, tells us a lot about the Right's current view of centralized, big-government tyranny: they absolutely love it.

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