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Cedar Rapids Gazette Newspaper Archive: June 30, 1991 - Page 6

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Publication: Cedar Rapids Gazette

Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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   Gazette (Newspaper) - June 30, 1991, Cedar Rapids, Iowa                                OPINION An independent newspaper established in 1883 J.F, Hladky, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors Joe Hladky, III, President and Publisher Ken Slaughter, Vice President and Treasurer Dale Larson, General Manager Jerry Elsea, Editor of Editorial Pages and Editorial Board Chairman Mark Bowden, Managing Editor Thurgood Marshall Defender of common man GAZETTE EDITORIALS Thurgood Marshall made his mark THOUGH IT could hardly be called a surprise, the resignation last week of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 82, came as a jolt to many of the nation's liberals. The future now must be confronted: Only Justice Harry Blackmun, also 82, is a full-fledged liberal. That means the decades-long swing from the liberal "Justice Warren Court" to the conservative "Justice Rehnquist Court" is nearly complete. President Bush's appointee to succeed Marshall surely will be a strict constructionist along the lines of his other selection, David Souter, and Reagan appointees Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor. So in the term beginning in October and, perhaps, clear into the next century, liberals foresee a whirlwind of change - an opportunity for the court to overturn crucial rights, including the 1973 decision, Roe vs. Wade, that set forth a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion. Such expectations seem overly pessimistic. Some justices over the years have shifted their views. Blackmun did it, leaning ever more leftward as the court tilted to the right. And Justice O'Connor, the court's first woman, has moved toward the center. So despite Chief Justice Rehnquist's apparent resolve to right the "wrongs" of the Warren Court, his court won't necessarily be an unstinting champion of conservative doctrine. Meantime, you don't have to be a certified liberal to praise Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court's first black member. Having caught the public eye as NAACP legal director - especially with his magnificent advocacy in the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case in 1954 - he continued as an unwavering defender of the common man. Though not among the most distinguished of jurists, Marshall contributed great conscience to the high court. Six years ago, for example, he was virtually alone in questioning the constitutionality of the RICO law against racketeering. Now that the statute is being used against people with no underworld connections, Marshall is seen as prescient. No one expects President Bush to nominate a successor in the Thurgood Marshall mold. One way for a president to put an enduring stamp on the nation is by finding Supreme Court nominees reflecting his point of view. But Bush should select a person - perhaps a minority-group member or a woman - who, like the estimable Thurgood Marshall, has a demonstrable concern for the rights of the individual. Scary to contemplate IT IS ABSOLUTELY not funny. But still, the first vision that came to mind when we read about the lengths to which drug dealers have gone to ply their trade gives new meaning to the term "drug bust." And, sad to say, it promises to add immeasurably to the miseries of law enforcement agencies. The Associated Press recently noted that Colombian drug dealers now are using a mixture of cocaine and polystyrene plastic to fashion the drugs into shapes that can be shipped undetected into the United States. What that means is cocaine-based toys, glass frames, camera parts - perhaps even statuary (busts). Worse, the concoction apparently is undetectable by drug-sniffing dogs or routine visual or chemical tests. "That's pretty scary," said an officer in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in a gross understatement. It further illustrates the lengths drug traffickers will go to, and the ingenuity they'll expend, in making their lethal merchandise available. Too bad drug pushers' customers aren't smart enough to kick their habits. Liberals, conservatives will miss Marshall By NICHOLAS KATZENBACH Most of us associate Thurgood Marshall with the long struggle for rights for African-Americans - with his two decades of leadership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Legal Defense Fund, his victories against restrictive covenants in housing and school segregation, especially his great victory of advocacy in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. But it is a mistake to think of him in such a narrow framework. Marshall's focus has always been far more inclusive than African-Americans. His concern is with all people who do not enjoy the full benefits of a free society. His commitment has consistently been to the common man or woman; to the belief that government and society must permit each individual to achieve to the limits of his or her intellectual and creative ability; to the elimination of artificial barriers of bias, prejudice, arbitrary authority or paternalism; to the proposition that the ordinary person, whatever his or her color or sex, needs the protection of law. History will remember Marshall more for his years of advocacy than his years as a Supreme Court justice. His is a career built more on passion than intellect, though intellect and eloquence he possesses in abundance. He will be thought of as a "liberal" by those who assign labels. Yet, fundamentally, he is in his passion for the individual a conservative, a democrat who cannot tolerate the arbitrary acts of governmental bureaucracy in its unconcern for individual rights. Most of all, he is and always has been, on and off the bench, the advocate of ordinary people. Consider these words from a dissent and ask who else could have written them: "It may be easy for some people to think that weekly savings of less than $2 are no burden. But no one who has had close contact with poor people can fail to understand how close to the margin of survival many of them are. A sudden illness, for example, may destroy whatever savings they may have accumulated, and by eliminating a sense of security may destroy the incentive to save in the future. A pack or two of cigarettes may be, for them, not a routine purchase but a luxury indulged in only rarely. The desperately poor almost never go to see a movie, which the majority seems to believe is an almost weekly activity. They have more important things to do with what little money they have. "It is perfectly proper for judges to disagree about what the Constitution requires. But it is disgraceful for an interpretation of the Constitution to be premised upon unfounded assumptions about how people live." And consider, too, this view of the Constitution written in its bicentennial year: "The true miracle was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured through two turbulent centuries of our own making, and a life embodying much good fortune that was not." Marshall's era was marked by the removal of barriers unconstitutionally built on racial bias, of the expansion of rights for all individuals irrespective of race or sex. Now the pendulum swings away from individual rights toward more deference to governmental authority. Whether writing for the court majority or in dissent, his is a voice that all of us, liberal or conservative, should miss. Nicholas Katzenbach was U.S. attorney general in 1965-66, when Marshall was solicitor general. Los Angeles Times Service Yugoslavia's rule-or-ruin minorities go own way By ROBERT HAYDEN It is tempting to see the announced secession from Yugoslavia of the republics of Slovenia and Croatia as a victory for democracy, as the latest and perhaps ultimate step in a contest between these "Western-oriented, democratic" republics and the "hard-line Marxist" regime in Serbia and the communists in the army. The reality is hardly ,so comforting. In all the Yugoslav republics, but particularly in Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia, the democratization of politics and the free elections of 1990 have produced nationalistic regimes that are veering toward totalitarianism in their militarization, rigid control of the press and use of the machinery of government. Ironically, the only major political force that supports democratic freedoms and a market economy is the federal government of Prime Minister Ante Markovic, a government that is an unelected carryover from the old one-party system. In 1990, the electoral message that worked in each republic was one of strong ethnic nationalism: that Slovenia is the state of Slovenes, Croatia the state of Croats, Serbia the state of Serbs, in which minorities would enjoy little protection. Yet the minorities are substantial: perhaps 15 percent in Slovenia, 25 percent in Croatia, and more than 30 percent in Serbia. The tenor of the nationalistic politics.of the ruling parties in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia might be compared to that of the American South in the 1950s and early 1960s, when the way to power was to be most firm in treating the "Negro problem." The nations of Yugoslavia historically have had periods of good relations, but have also en- AP photo Yugoslav army armored personnel carriers stop in a village after smashing civilian and police cars last week not long after Slovenia officially declared independence. gaged in mutual hatred and strife. With such historical tensions, any regime that wanted to avoid trouble would be solicitous of the feelings of the minorities. However, the new regimes, having come to power on nationalistic platforms, are antagonistic toward the minorities within their borders. In Croatia, where more than 600,000 Serbs live, and where some areas are almost entirely Serb, the newly elected government in 1990 antagonized the minority by, first, instituting a state emblem that was very similar to that of the wartime fascist regime, and then began a process of removing Serbs from jobs. At the same time, the Croatian government armed an ethnically pure Croatian paramilitary force. In response, and goaded by the Serbian government, Serbs in a Serb-majority area of Croatia have armed themselves, and declared their secession from Croatia. Tensions within and between republics have been kept at high pitch by a "verbal civil war" between the major media in each republic. Unfortunately, and despite their claims of "democracy," the three major republics have seized control over the television, radio and major press outlets within their territories, and have prevented or severely hindered the activity of the federal television channel created by Prime Minister Markovic In this situation of rising hostility between increasingly authoritarian, nationalistic republican regimes, the only voice of reason has been that of Markov- ic, who has attempted to implement economic and political reforms despite opposition. These reforms have been blocked by Slovenia and Serbia. The Yugoslav army, castigated by Croats and Slovenes as "communists," has taken a principled stand of intervening only to break up inter-ethnic conflict. Now, the army has been called upon to keep order and to prevent the breakup of the country. But why shouldn't Yugoslavia break up? Primarily because to do so would only condemn the Yugoslav peoples to economic chaos and perpetual armed hostility. To avoid that fate, a truly federal structure is needed, one that provides mechanisms for ensuring human rights in the face of nationalistic regimes; for ensuring a market economy in the face of protectionism; and that prevents the establishment of hostile, competitive republican armies by instituting a truly joint system of defense. Unfortunately, the governments of Slovenia and Croatia will not even consider any kind of true federal structure. By their actions and their positions, the governments of Cro- . atia, Serbia and Slovenia offer nothing but economic chaos and interethnic strife, within and between their, republics. Far from being a triumph of democracy, the secession from Yugoslavia of Slovenia and Croatia is a manifestation of the dark forces of nationalism that have driven Europe to two major wars in this ." century. Robert Hayden teaches anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. He has done extensive research in Yugoslavia. The Baltimore Sun They knew government would grab too much power Spending is out of control like a drunkard. Taxes are higher than they have ever been - even in wartime. Laws and regulations are passed by the thousands - incomprehensible to virtually all. Legislators have terms as long as the kings of old. As we celebrate our independence this week, shouldn't it cross our minds that perhaps we have squandered that independence? Antifederalist argument Intriguingly, today's sad state of affairs was predicted by those who opposed passage of the Constitution. Called the Antifederal-ists, they believed the Constitution would create too powerful a national government. Indeed, it was their opposition that forced passage of the Bill of Rights, without which today we would have precious little .freedom. George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and others, opposed passage of the Bill of Rights. They felt the Constitution strictly limited the powers of government. They were wrong. Thomas Jefferson saw "some seeds of danger which might have been kept out of the sight of the framers by a consciousness of their honesty and a perspective that all succeeding rulers will be as honest as themselves." John Quincy Adams was more direct: "For if there shall be any limits to the power of the Federal Congress, they will only be such as they themselves shall be pleased to establish." Maryland Attorney General Luther Martin noted "that government, once granted power, works to expand it at the expense of rights reserved to people, until they end in slavery." New York City lawyer Malancton Smith warned, "When a government once is in operation, it acquires strength by habit . . . it steals, by insensible degrees, one right from the people after another, until it rivets its powers so as to put it beyond the ability of the community to restrict or limit it. . .. It MICHAEL DAVIS is a corporate attorney in Des Moines. He formerly lived in Cedar Rapids. is much easier, as well as safer, to enlarge the powers of your rulers, if they should prove not sufficiently exctensive, than it is to abridge them if they should be too great." New York Governor George Clinton wrote, "You risque much, by indispensably placing trusts of the greatest magnitude, into the hands of individuals, whose ambition for power, and aggrandizement, will oppress and grind you. ..." Robert Yates of New York feared the great power of taxation in the Constitution, "which has no bounds set to it but the discretion of those who exercised it." Patrick ("Give me liberty or give me death") Henry cautioned, "Congress, by the power of taxation, by that of raising an army, and by their control over the militia, have the sword in one hand, and the purse in the other. . . . Unless a miracle in human affairs interposed, no nation ever retained its liberty after the loss of the sword and purse. ..." Pennsylvania Antifederalists predicted, "Judges, collectors, tax-gatherers, excisemen and the whole host of revenue officers will swarm over the land, devouring the hard earnings of the industrious." Many Antifederalists rejected the Constitution because it allowed for the continuation of slavery. Col. George Mason of Virgin- ia, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention who refused to sign, foreshadowed a coming conflict: "The augumentation of slaves weakens ,the states; and such a trade is diabolical in itself and disgraceful to mankind; yet, by this Constitution, it is continued for twenty years." The Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer opined that we must "put an end to an odious traffic in the human species (which) is especially scandalous and inconsistent in a people, who have asserted their own liberty by the sword." Judge Rawlins Lowndes of South Carolina wished this epitaph on his tomb: "Here lies the man that opposed the Constitution, because it was ruinous to the liberty of America." Historian and journalist Jeffrey St. John in "A Child of Fortune" (from which these quotes are drawn) describes the Antifederalists as those who believed "that when man is entrusted with power, experience has proved that he is so corrupted by it that only a severe decentralization and fragmentation of power can, in the long range, save personal liberty from being sacrificed." Looking in wrong direction Thus, as we continue to mistakenly look to governmental solution to our ills, perhaps we should reflect on the thoughts of a whole new set of American heroes during this Independence Day celebration. For the Anti-federalists were right. As we continue our descent - the savings and loan scandal, the public education breakdown, the welfare crisis, the massive budget deficits, racial quota legislation - the sobering words of Patrick Henry call us to an awesome responsibility: "Whenever any government shall be found inadequate ... a majority of the community hath an . . . unalienable . . . right to reform, alter, or abolish it." That right, after all, is what we are celebrating this week.   

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