This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about The Californian’s news coverage. Your questions — which may be edited for space — are answered here each Saturday by The Californian’s Robert Price.
Reader: Robert Price’s description of the same-sex wedding cake case is a clear example of obfuscation. By leaving out glaring facts, Mr. Price depicts the case as one of discrimination against a same sex couple ("Of sugar, flour, eggs and free speech," Feb. 7). The very fact that Cathy Miller’s store was the only bakery being hauled into court shows that this was in fact an attack on a Christian-owned business. There was no Jewish or Muslim bakery in that court. The complaint was not that the same sex couple could not get a wedding cake in any store in town. The complaint was not that the couple could not get any cake in Mrs. Miller’s store.
In truth, the couple wanted to force Mrs. Miller to violate her faith to appease them. If all they really wanted was a wedding cake they would have shopped in all of the stores in town. After being refused by all of the bakeries they would have then hauled all the bakeries in town into court. It is no coincidence that all of these same sex/wedding cake cases across America are against Christian bakeries. Mrs. Miller did not refuse service to the same sex couple. She refused to violate the tenants of her faith — and for that she is being punished. These facts point to conclusion the Christian faith is under attack across America. It is disappointing that the Bakersfield Californian chose to omit these facts — and in so doing misrepresented the truth.
— Ralph I. Robles
Price: You say my column omitted facts — which will always be the case with every written work of any length by any writer — but then you cite examples that are either self-evident or simply your opinion. I may share some of your opinions, but that doesn't make them omitted facts. "Mr. Price depicts the case as one of discrimination against a same sex couple," you write. Well, yes, that's what the couple alleges in its suit. You can say it's really about antagonizing a Christian business, but that's not the question Judge David Lampe was compelled to consider.
You suggest the same sex couple should've sued every like-minded bakery in the city, not just Tastries. Well, that's not how it works: Typically, plaintiffs take on a single business that, in their opinion, is violating the law and they take legal action against that business. The eventual verdict creates a precedent that others must then heed. The plaintiff in Brown vs. Board of Education, to name one historic discrimination case, didn't try to sue every school board in Kansas. Oliver Brown sued the school board of Topeka and won, and the 1954 decision became the law of the land. (Theoretically, anyway. The reality of equality in education is something else entirely, but that's another day's discussion.)
Here's an important fact I omitted: In cases of conflicting constitutional rights — here it's the First Amendment vs. the 14th — the scales will shift depending on the specific circumstances of the matter at hand. A friend challenged me recently with this scenario: What if a radical Islamic organization like ISIS wanted to hire a Jewish deli to cater a reception for new recruits? Would the Jewish deli, under the 14th Amendment and state anti-discrimination laws, be obligated to accept the job? It's hard to imagine a judge who would issue such a decree, and rightfully so. The basic principles of the conflicting laws are the same, but radical Islam's well chronicled hatred for Israel and history of violence toward non-Muslims nudges the scales and creates a fully justifiable exemption. In my opinion.
The Tastries case, in which members of a group specifically protected by state law tried to purchase a wedding cake — as benign a request as one can imagine — has little in common with my friend's example.
No, I do not have a law degree, which I suppose is now pretty obvious.
Reader: Regarding The Californian’s coverage of Kevin McCarthy, Robert Price posed this question in May 2017: “Should we be trying to protect 'our guy' from his erroneous public pronouncements and self-inflicted embarrassments?”
Price concluded “… with all (McCarthy’s) glory comes responsibility, scrutiny and vulnerability to criticism. To be able to withstand all of that, a politician must develop thick skin and a willingness to honestly engage. Those are areas our congressman might want to address.”
I do not have a political axe to grind here as I have been a registered independent since 1990. My rub is for the public's right to know. So, why didn't you re-run the Washington Post article ("Fact Checker Analysis: Kevin McCarthy’s stint as a small-business entrepreneur," Washington Post, Feb. 2) regarding Kevin McCarthy’s Kevin O's Deli?
— Mark Salvaggio
Price: The Washington Post and other national publications print stories about our congressman all the time, and space constraints force us to ignore many of them. We had been looking at this very matter before the Post's article was published; however, Michelle Pettigrew, the reader who inspired the Post to look into McCarthy's claims about his humble beginnings as an entrepreneur, also raised those questions with us. We had been planning our own story, but now that it's out and widely distributed, we'll hold off unless there's a newsworthy development.
Reader: Regarding the horrific picture of the dying child and the vulture in waiting — please, please, please tell us the child was rescued by the photographer or someone with him.
— Amy L. Connor
Price: I asked Eye Street editor Stefani Dias about this. Her response: "In reference to the Jan. 28 story in Eye Street, "Educating women, girls key to world peace," about Sister Marilyn Lacey, whose nonprofit organization Mercy Beyond Borders works to educate and empower women in South Sudan and Haiti:
"Sister Marilyn keeps a copy of the photo in her office as 'a reminder not only of the horror of war, but of the dreadful, inescapable truth that we are all complicit.' The photo in question, shot by photographer Kevin Carter, portrays a child in South Sudan. It originally ran in The New York Times in 1993, prompting an outpouring of fundraising for Sudanese aid and eventually winning Carter a Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.
"Much like our readers, the public's reaction at the time was of concern for the child's welfare. The questions led to a special editorial from The Times stating: 'The photographer reports that she recovered enough to resume her trek after the vulture was chased away. It is not known whether she reached the center.'"
Reader: I subscribed to your paper because my wife reads it cover to cover. I am a far-right conservative that reads your comics. Why, when you are located in a city and county that are very conservative, would you print a political cartoon that very plainly says, "Shove this up your nose! We don't give a damn what you think!" This brings up a question that my friends and I ask each other often. Why do you continue to cut your own throat?
— Keith Stephens
Price: And then we print nationally syndicated columns that irritate our liberal readers. Why? Because we're committed to publishing opinions on as many sides of the issues as possible. Add to the mix political cartoons, which by their nature elicit strong emotional responses, and you've got the potential for some bruised sensibilities.
Reader: You seemed somewhat dismissive of Dennis Tope’s comments about Jennifer Rubin’s lack of conservatism in your Feb. 3 Sound Off. For the past seven-plus years Ms. Rubin has been a column writer for the Washington Post, whose readership is left of MSNBC and on a par with the Huffington Post.
While you can certainly have conservative viewpoints in a liberal publication, I do not think Ms. Rubin qualifies. While years ago she relentlessly supported Mitt Romney and seemed to support some conservative tenets this does not seem to be the case now; read some of her tweets. I agree that her ongoing Trump bashing does not make her liberal but it does not make her conservative either. The National Review, a very conservative publication, takes Ms. Rubin to task for her over the top and irrational Trump criticism which has clouded her former conservative analysis. You have an array of Trump-bashing liberal columnists; we do not need another under the guise of a conservative perspective. Kern County needs more true conservative viewpoints.
— John Scott Johnson
Price: Rubin has indeed taken a lot of heat for her relentless criticism of Trump. This is from the National Review article by Charles W.Cooke of last Dec. 18 that I assume you're citing:
"Rubin is not the only example of this president’s remarkable talent for corrupting his detractors as well as his devotees, but she is perhaps the best one. Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene, Rubin has become precisely what she dislikes in others: a monomaniac and a bore, whose visceral dislike of her opponents has prompted her to drop the keys to her conscience into a well.
"Since the summer of 2015, the many acolytes of 'MAGA!' have agreed to subordinate their true views to whatever expediency is required to sustain Donald Trump’s ego. Out has gone their judgement, and in has come their fealty; where once there were thriving minds, now there are just frayed red hats. During the same period, Jennifer Rubin has done much the same thing. If Trump likes something, Rubin doesn’t."
As a (supposed) conservative, Rubin is in good company. In January 2016 the very same National Review published essays by 22 prominent conservatives who uniformly hammered Trump. The magazine's own editorial staff added this to the mix: "Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones."
That unendorsement prompted Trump supporters across the country, including Bakersfield, to declare that America's conservative bible was no longer conservative. Um, OK.
And that underscores the difficulty of finding "true conservative viewpoints" that are also consistently pro-Trump. We've identified a few such voices and we continue to look.
Reader: Happy New Year! Thought I would send you pictures of the people you love so much! I hope that if North Korea shoots off a missile they will have San Francisco in their sights. And then D.C. Do you think Russia will share our Uranium II with other countries? — anti-American countries, that is. Sign me Deplorable Dot, and proud of it!
— Dorothy Hove
Price: Thank you, Deplorable Dot, for the lovely handmade collage of my heroes, "Heinous" Hillary, "Sh--ty" Schumer, "Putrid" Pelosi and Bill Clinton — whose assigned nickname I'd best withhold from readers.
I assume you know that a nuclear strike on a region of 7 million people would plunge California, if not the world, into utter and extended chaos. And a hit on Washington would rid us of more than Democratic politicians — it might rid us of democracy too. But at least we'd be rid of those despicable "friends" of mine.
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Robert Price's column appears Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Reach him at email@example.com or @stubblebuzz. The opinions expressed are his own.