Ashcroft conducting his own `Palmer Raids' The Bush...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

January 05, 2002

Ashcroft conducting his own `Palmer Raids'

The Bush administration's Justice Department continues its campaign to undermine fundamental constitutional rights. Presumption of innocence, attorney-client privilege, due process and the right to trial before a jury of one's peers have all fallen victim to administration assertions that it is acting to protect Americans against alleged terrorists.

Americans have heard such reasoning before. For instance, during the Palmer Raids in January 1920, hundreds of alleged Communists were arrested in sweeps throughout the country.

In Baltimore, two Justice Department agents coordinated the arrests of dozens of men and women. Police and other citizens were deputized to search, seize and transport those arrested to the Post Office on Calvert Street. Once there, prisoners were held for days and interrogated.

Detaining them in this extralegal manner denied prisoners access to attorneys and the court system, thus depriving them of habeas corpus relief. Detention in the Post Office also provided the Justice Department time to coordinate with U.S. immigration officials to create deportation arrest warrants for the prisoners.

However, Justice Department warnings that the alleged Communists were dangerous radicals and anarchists plotting the violent overthrow of the government proved without foundation.

Most of those arrested were immigrants from Eastern Europe who worked as laborers, carpenters, tinsmiths and tailors. During exhaustive searches of their homes and businesses, no guns, bombs or explosives were found. No plot to overthrow the government was uncovered.

Eventually, all local prisoners were released, and none was prosecuted. But this shameful period tarnished our democracy.

Let us not stand by silently and be complicit by our silence in what may one day be viewed as the Ashcroft Raids.

Dean Yates, Catonsville

Fathers unequal in custody cases

The sad case of Burton vs. Burton, the custody battle involving a Maryland firefighter and his ex-wife, illustrates the nastiness that results when family issues find their way into the courts ("Firefighters fear ruling could affect custody rights," Dec. 7).

It also sheds light on the unfair but accepted practice of denying fathers their right to parent.

It would strike Marylanders as unusual and unjust if a working mother faced losing her children because she worked, even if she worked long or unusual hours.

In fact, a mother in that circumstance would be applauded (and rightly) for doing everything she could to provide for her family and keep it as intact as possible.

In this case, however, a father who desperately wants to parent his children has come under the scrutiny of the courts for the very same behavior that we would applaud in a mother.

Fathers are often an afterthought when considering the needs of a child.

Many people, though they often don't say it, believe mothers are natural caretakers and should be given exclusive consideration in custody battles.

Fathers, many conclude, are of better service to their children if they write support checks and show up on Saturdays for the occasional soccer game.

We even convince ourselves that this is what men prefer, that fathers don't like to burden themselves with everyday child-rearing issues.

Then, along comes a father who challenges such outdated notions of man as bystander in the rearing of his children.

Lt. Gerald E. Burton ignored what is best for his career and focused instead on what was right for his children.

His selfless act should serve as a model and inspiration for young fathers; instead, it has become fodder for those who feel men have no right to parent their own children.

Children have nothing at all to do with the disintegration of their parents' relationships.

They deserve the best of both worlds - and that means the best that a mother and a father can offer them.

Leon J. Henry, Baltimore

The writer is a policy advocate for the Maryland Regional Practitioners' Network for Fathers and Families.

Art deserved a closer look

As a loyal Baltimorean, art collector and published poet, I have always bristled when my friends in the greater art world have referred to our fair city as something of a parochial backwater. However, the recent essay by Glenn McNatt on Dennis Adams' project at the Contemporary Museum and the Walters Art Museum (one would hesitate to call it either a review or art criticism) illustrates virtually everything that is wrong with the contemporary art scene in Baltimore ("Climbing the wall to make a statement," Dec. 18).

How can local artists and writers, museum curators and administrators expect the evolution of a receptive Baltimore audience for their efforts if the only "art critic" on the only major newspaper in town displays such personal animus and lack of understanding?

Setting aside the conceptual basis of Mr. Adams' work, it should be noted that this single artwork by Mr. Adams encompasses virtually every popular strategy of contemporary art in the last 30 years.

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