Liberty Belle

While I cannot vouch for Gale Norton as a libertarian, and she is not a member of the Libertarian Party that I know of, it is interesting to see libertarians smeared in the same way and in the same week in the Voice ("Libertarian Belle," James Ridgeway, February 6) and in the anti-Semitic, populist-fascist Liberty Lobby newspaper Spotlight ("Energy Crisis Bares Libertarian Myth of Deregulation," Christopher Bollyn, January 29) by association with polluters portrayed as conservatives—many of whom are in fact associated with the left.

Libertarians are against all right-wing corruption rackets. While many libertarians think in terms of limited government, many leaders among libertarians have nothing against anarchy in the sense of replacing government with noncoercive voluntary arrangements. They are harsh on pollution—unlike the Greens, who wish to manage it, they seek to abolish it.

Common lands patrimony should be run in local trusts directly by the people, not by a coercive government that is actually the major polluter and exempts itself from its own regulations. This is said without prejudice to claims that Ridgeway seems to ignore. A libertarian president would likely return many public lands to their rightful owners, the Native Peoples. By ignoring the fact that these "public lands" are stolen goods to begin with, Ridgeway is tacitly continuing to support the oppression of Native Peoples. Would he have attacked libertarians in the days of the Confederacy for calling for abolition rather than federal slave ownership?

While I'm sure Ridgeway meant well, I'd like to point out that libertarianism is a profound moral and political philosophy of social noncoercion. Attempts to identify it with groups or factions that advocate coercion are wrong.

Michael Gilson De Lemos, Coordinator
Libertarian International Organization
St. Petersburg, Florida

Dubya See Fields

Thanks for Tom Carson's "Chads Into Confetti" [January 30]: As one of 60,000 protesters at the inauguration, I was shocked at how little media coverage there was. More protesters than at any inauguration since Nixon's—and it's relegated to a passing mention on CNN or a paragraph on an inside page? This demonstration was undeniably mainstream, as opposed to the sewer of extremism now running through D.C. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After all, this is the same media that is now all wrapped up in the pardons and pranks of the departing administration, when the party that is now in power sanctioned treason in Ford's pardon of Nixon and Reagan's pardon of the Iran-Contra defendants. This is also the same media that helped perpetrate the biggest prank of all: allowing George W.'s brother and the supremely partisan court to select our next president.

Mirana Comstock
Hull, Massachusetts

Foote in Mouth

For Christ's sake, can no Voice writer complete an article on any topic without worming in a derogatory reference to the South? In every issue, regionalism rears its ugly dome. This time it's Tom Carson ["Chads Into Confetti"] receiving, I suppose, a dime from the Yankee fairy for managing to pull Jefferson Davis out of the ether for a quick jab. Such compulsive and often irrelevant criticism seems to be symptomatic of the paper's desperately self-righteous, self-congratulatory air. Yes, we know; you are all very sophisticated. So how about giving it a rest now? Else, may Shelby Foote figure heavily in your dreams.

K.L. Cox

Natural Selection

As the president of Whole Foods, I would like to respond to Tom Robbins's article "Unnatural Intolerance in Soho" [January 23] about our former store. Because of my commitment to equal employment opportunity over the past 40 years, I am troubled by Robbins's article. It presents an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of a legal dispute between Whole Foods and certain former disgruntled employees.

Robbins suggests that Whole Foods allegedly discriminated against its Muslim employees. This is not true. Muslim employees were promoted to managerial and supervisory positions with great responsibilities. They were encouraged to practice their religion openly and privately at work. A special area was set aside with prayer mats, and schedules were modified in deference to their observances. At one point 18 of the store's 44 employees were Muslim. If Whole Foods did not wish to work with Muslim employees, they would not have been hired in the first place. In many ways, these employees received preferential treatment not afforded non-Muslim coworkers. Allegations that hijabs (head scarves) were not permitted, heaters were turned off, or only Muslims were required to pay $1 for meals are also untrue.

No employee was ever fired because he or she was a Muslim. Whole Foods had legitimate nondiscriminatory business reasons for severing its relationship with its employees. Lack of store cleanliness is a prime example.

Twenty-five employees signed affidavits attesting to the nondiscriminatory nature of management's employment practices. No employees were ever asked to lie on behalf of the store or coerced to compromise their convictions.

Either wittingly or not, I believe the Voice has been used to continue an unfounded attack outside the courts. I am confident that if our former employees are required to prove their claims in court, they will be unable to do so.

Robbins fails to acknowledge that Whole Foods has attempted to create a dialogue with its former employees through their counsel in an effort to explore options for resolving our differences. Unfortunately, these attempts have been rejected. Whole Foods has been and remains open to evaluating constructive measures for reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution of this legal dispute.

Charles Rosenblum

Tom Robbins replies: Had Charles Rosenblum or his representatives responded to our pre-publication inquiries, he wouldn't have to write a letter to the editor giving his side of events. Unfortunately, as Rosenblum is aware, his attorney declined to respond to detailed messages. As for the bias allegations, all were made in sworn affidavits filed as part of a federal complaint brought by former Rosenblum employees. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated those claims, interviewed Rosenblum at length, and sought to mediate the dispute. When that failed, the agency decided to bring the matter to Manhattan federal court, where the case is now pending.

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