Sound Off

Saturday, Sep 07 2013 10:00 PM

SOUND OFF: It's not just the opinion, it's your choice of topics

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    Californian executive editor John Arthur.

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By JOHN ARTHUR, Californian executive editor jarthr@bakersfield.com

READER: In the "Our View" column on Sept. 4 ("While some gauge winds, a decision awaits"), The Californian makes a valid point about Rep. Devin Nunes' comments of asking President Obama to consult with Congress and then criticizing the president for doing so. However, I think the Californian editorial writers need to take a more objective look in deciding which topics to write about.

Regarding Syria, The Californian chooses to focus on the relatively unimportant comments by Rep. Nunes and not examine President Obama and his administration's handling of Mideast with all their mistakes, misjudgments and plain incompetence.

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Which is more noteworthy: President Obama's handling of the Mideast or Congressman's Nunes's comments regarding President Obama?

"Our View" has a pattern of focusing on Republican reactions or trying to justify the Obama administration's handling while downplaying the more serious issues.

Another example of this was "Our View's" justification of the IRS scandal trying to show that Progressive groups were also singled out by the IRS for scrutiny. The numbers show there were approximately 300 conservative groups reviewed as compared to approximately 15 progressive groups. The prying nature of the inquiry and the delays were significantly harsher towards the conservatives then the progressive groups. None of this was mentioned in that editorial.

The issue that should have been addressed by "Our View" was the actions of the IRS singling out groups based on ideology, not an attempt to show it happened to both sides.

Richard Schwartz

Bakersfield

 

Editorial Page Editor Robert Price responds: I don't mean to sound flippant, but the question "why did you write about that and not this" can be answered just one way: because we did. Richard's suggested subject is a perfectly valid topic for an editorial, but so is the continuing dysfunction in Washington. We focused on Rep. Devin Nunes' comments on Syria because (1) it gives an international crisis a local context; (2) it serves to illustrate the challenge Obama will face in Congress as he makes his case for a strike; and (3) it underscores one of our favorite gripes: politicians whose first allegiance seems to be party.

As for our editorial about the IRS scandal, Richard's point is a good one. Conservative groups did bear the brunt of the government's harsh scrutiny, but at the time much had already been written and debated about that aspect of the scandal. We felt an important point was being overlooked: that, as the editorial noted, we shouldn't "abide any organization that misrepresented its qualifications for tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization." We should have stated more clearly and forcefully that conservative groups were unfairly targeted, but in that editorial we were focusing on a broader, less discussed issue: this relatively new avenue for deceit and influence laundering.

While we certainly have been guilty of it on occasion, I would disagree that our editorials "have a pattern" of "trying to justify" the Obama administration's actions. Since just last year, our editorials have criticized the president for speaking at the dedication of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument "in the midst of a harried, tension-filled (presidential) campaign" ("Chavez decree is all about wooing Latinos"); his failure to conduct government business in a transparent way, as promised ("Obama didn't deliver on this pledge"); and his sudden enthusiasm for under-the-table campaign financing after having condemned Republicans for that same practice ("Hypocrisy in Obama's shift on super PACs.") But Richard's comments are not without merit and are duly noted.

 

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READER: Why do you let Norm Haughness rant in your newspaper? When he states "this much we already know: if an armed black adult with (George) Zimmerman's record had stalked and accosted an unarmed white kid, that same Florida jury would (very quickly) have reached a second degree murder verdict."

How does he or anyone know that? And as usual he and every liberal leaves out the fact that Zimmerman was being assaulted by Trayvon Martin. When someone states he already "knows" how a jury would vote I pretty much figure everything else they say is going to distort the facts and chalk it up to another whiny liberal looking for attention.

Do us a favor and please print both sides of the story from people who present something we would actually like to read and think about.

Steven Barnes

Bakersfield

 

Robert Price responds: The last part of your email says it all: give us the opinions of "people who present something we would actually like to read and think about." If you "liked" everything that appeared in the Opinion section it would be a soothing read, perhaps, but it wouldn't be especially challenging and it wouldn't encourage debate, which I see as one of our chief roles.

As for Norm Haughness's certainty about the outcome of a trial involving a black Zimmerman and a white Martin, others have been just as certain that Trayvon was a thug who had it coming. "Eric Holder and the media are trying to lynch an innocent man who shot a raging lunatic. So the shoe is on the other foot now," wrote one letter writer. We tried to be as balanced on this issue as we could be by printing many divergent opinions, as we try to do on all issues of importance.

 

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ARTHUR: Our discussion the other day about the use of the word "implosion" to describe the PG&E plant takedown prompted this comment on Facebook:

First, it's called "controlled demolition." This refers to the traditional method used to bring (down) buildings made of plaster and brick with steel frames. This was a steel structure that should have been cut apart in sections.

Even if they didn't use explosives, the force of the building twisting the dynamics of the steel tearing apart could have sent shrapnel flying everywhere.

Robert Danford

Bakersfield

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