March 6, 2013

Letters to the editor
Less visible now, racism still hurts many

A Feb. 27 Associated Press piece quotes a lawsuit against the Voting Rights Act brought by Shelby County, Ala., which says that the " 'dire local conditions' that once justified strict federal oversight of elections no longer exist." This is representative of a widely held belief that we live in a "post-racial society."

Antonin Scalia
click image to enlarge

Justice Antonin Scalia, above, called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” at a Supreme Court hearing last week. “This is like complaining that there isn’t a White History Month,” a reader says.

The Associated Press

Justice Antonin Scalia even said that the Voting Rights Act is a "perpetuation of racial entitlement." This is like complaining that there isn't a White History Month. We actually do, it's just called "March through January."

The privileges the lack of melanin affords are so built into society that they're nearly invisible to those of us who enjoy them.

As a white male in the whitest state in the country, it would be easy for me to ignore the fact that, if I had a "black-sounding" name, I'd be 50 percent less likely to get called back for a job interview, or that if someone Googled me, they'd probably get ads for criminal background checks.

Racism hasn't gone away, it's just conveniently less visible for those not directly affected by it. It's in New York City's stop-and-frisk laws, in the unprecedented level of outright hate for the first black president. It's in the awkwardness many dark-skinned Mainers feel when well-intentioned folks ask them about "their people."

I've been told I'm oversensitive, fighting others' battles, but these are real societal problems that destroy the lives of other Americans, and to pretend it doesn't happen is a disservice not only to those affected but to my country.

We can't magic away an ugly part of our country's psyche by being optimistic. There are many who benefit from racism, and our leaders and laws need to continue to discourage and prevent such disgraces to democracy.

Wes Pelletier

Topsham 

 

Article misstates company's tax package, political giving

The article "Risky business tax breaks cost Maine $100 million per year" (Feb. 20), authored by John Christie and Naomi Schalit of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting and posted on your website, failed to create a responsible dialogue about the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program.

It also misrepresented Poland Spring/Nestle Waters North America's participation in BETR and our political giving.

The article states that Poland Spring "was the leading recipient of BETR in 2009," when in actuality we trailed six other companies. And while we received $1.9 million from BETR in 2009, that same year we invested $60 million to build a plant in Kingfield, where today we employ nearly 50 full-time local residents.

With 800 employees here and more than $500 million in investment since 2000, Nestle Waters has never been more committed to Maine. In addition to spending $65 million annually with Maine business partners, we support a $40 million annual payroll and provide a full benefits package for full-time employees.

The Christie/Schalit article also misstates our political giving. The writers' figure is four times higher than Nestle Waters North America's campaign contributions to Maine candidates, leadership PACs and party committees – a figure we can only guess they reached by including ballot and issue spending on matters such as beverage taxes, land conservation and public education.

These figures are dwarfed by the $5.5 million in community causes we support, and 165 years of stewardship of water resources and land.

Poland Spring is proud to turn a renewable natural resource into good jobs for Maine people. We're proud to invest in this state that has also supported us.

Because we agree with the "experts and legislators" quoted in the story that the public needs "actionable data" to evaluate policies, we appreciate the opportunity to clarify the data that was attributed to our company.

Brian Flaherty

director of public affairs, Nestle Waters North America, Stamford, Conn.

 

Founding Fathers took care to shield gun owners' rights

While Dennis Bailey's Maine Voices column ("How the gun-rights crowd gets the Second Amendment wrong," March 1) brought up several interesting points, it needs to be said that the restrictions to gun ownership and possession that he describes occurred prior to and during the American Revolution, preceding the yet-to-be-afforded constitutional protections soon to follow.

The Founding Fathers were well aware of those abuses and were careful to make constitutional considerations on such matters.

Kurt Christiansen

Windham

 

Armenian enclave continues to be targeted by Azerbaijan

The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh ended in a cease-fire in 1994, two years after I came to United States as an Armenian refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan.

Twenty-five years later, the Armenians of Karabakh have full control of their borders, their own constitution and democratically elected government, along with a functioning economy and military.

However, the reality of today is that Nagorno-Karabakh, historically Armenian land, is not formally recognized as an independent state, nor has it rejoined Armenia.

The Azeri rhetoric against innocent Armenians has tripled in today's Azerbaijan. Azeris have been fed anti-Armenian propaganda for more than 20 years by their government, which still threatens to regain control over Nagorno-Karabakh.

There is a generation of Azeri children that are taught that Armenians are monsters by government-regulated schools. Anti-Armenianism plagues the policies of the Azerbaijani government. This is the present-day Azerbaijan.

But it's clear as day that there are two Azerbaijans. There is the modern, rich and tolerant Azerbaijan that its government portrays to foreign investors and to its citizens, who are terrified to dissent.

And there is the true Azerbaijan, which hides in the shadows of the world's thirst for oil, behind skyscrapers, caviar and its hidden history of violence toward Armenians in 1918, and then again in 1988-1990.

The Azerbaijan I know and the Karabakh Armenians know cannot be erased from the memories of hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees and innocent dead victims of this government's anti-Armenian hatred. We continue to honor the victims of the Azeri-orchestrated atrocities, especially Feb. 27, on the 25th anniversary of the Sumgait Pogroms.

Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte

author of "Nowhere, a Story of Exile"

Westbrook

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