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Weighing in on letter writers

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POSTED January 10, 2017 10:30 p.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I’m writing in response to Robert Blanch’s letter, “Fact checking Larry Baca’s letter” (1-9-17). I agree with some of his points and disagree with others. He takes Baca to task for “accusing two other letter writers (Vadasz and Sullivan) of hypocrisy in their opinion to the paper”. I agree that name-calling and insults rarely bolster or legitimize one’s argument. However, Blanch tries to deflect from Baca’s relevant assertion that Vadasz “doesn’t mention the fact that Carrier was the recipient of $7 million in tax incentives” (from Pence’s state of Indiana), by bringing up money President Obama spent in incentives for General Motors, among others. Perhaps Vadasz was unaware of the Indiana tax incentives and thus cannot rightfully be accused of ignoring or denying them.
Yet the $7 million deal is a fact and undoubtedly had some influence in Carrier’s decision to keep some (not all) of its jobs in Indiana, rather than Mexico. Trump did not just wave a magic wand and the company complied — businessmen look at the bottom line and what profits them most. This can also be applied to the Ford jobs situation where the market shifted from a demand for smaller, fuel-efficient models, making economic sense not to expand production of this particular model in Mexico. This is not to say that Trump had no part in the decision-making process, just that he was not the “be-all, end-all”.
  Baca did not criticize the tax incentive deal, but merely  emphasized its significance in the Carrier outcome. It puzzled me then, to see Blanch criticize President Obama’s tax incentive agreements. Remember in childhood how we (or at least some of us) used the old “He started it” justification or the “He did something worse” assertion to try to pivot focus or get out of trouble with our parents? Blanch’s argument strikes me as something very similar. Why bring up Obama’s stimulus packages and incentives to an observation that was not critical of the Indiana deal, but just noting its existence and questioning its impact on Carrier’s decision?
 Amy Sullivan’s letter criticized Baca, taking “exception to the personal insults regularly from Larry Baca’s letters” and noting she “would appreciate a forum where his letters stayed focused on the facts without the rhetoric”. I share that opinion, believing that insults only distract from and weaken assertions and positions. Bewilderingly, however, she gives Aquila a free pass, claiming his letters are “very thought provoking and substantive”. Here our opinions differ. Unlike Sullivan, I do not view Aquila’s letters as well “research(ed), but unfortunately see more of a regurgitation (but in his own words) of right-wing internet sites. Although a liberal, I am still interested in other views, conservative, libertarian, etc. and the reasons and experiences behind them. But I sometimes find Aquila’s letters to be oversimplifications of complex problems or solutions, filled with generalizations, stereotypes, and a demonizing of opinions which don’t coincide with his.  I wrote a past letter detailing this with concrete examples, available on the archives.
Blanch takes exception to Baca’s characterization of Sullivan as “a hypocrite for her letter”... I agree that word is insulting. Yet, I would think that, as a self-described educator, Sullivan appreciates (and hopefully teaches) the importance of critical-thinking skills and so is able to recognize the limitations of her one-sided approach to advocating for a balanced, informative, insult-free forum.
 Aquila is far from blameless. Blanch correctly notes that the Manteca Bulletin archives letters “for people to review”. He astutely uses these archives to access Aquila’s letter, “Crybabies got Trumped” to examine Aquila’s exact wording and context  in order to refute Baca’s  assertion that Aquila “said anyone who opposed Trump ‘Must not be American’ and should ‘Go back to their own country’”. Blanch is right that Baca’s argument is more of an inferred interpretation of Aquila’s words (and meaning) rather than a faithful reproduction of them.
However, using that same logic, Baca never called Sullivan a hypocrite directly, although his actual words of “Can you say hypocrisy? Sure you can” imply it. We must apply the same standards if we are putting forth an argument calling for accuracy and context. It is also important to point out that Blanch omitted the fact that Aquila called Baca a “hometown loudmouth” in the same letter that he referenced. That is an obvious insult on Aquila’s part. Both Blanch and Sullivan engaged in a bit of cherry picking and ignored Aquila’s participation in an insult-exchange that continued over the course of several letters. I would like to see a forum that was a thought-provoking, healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. Personal feuds may superficially entertain us briefly, but get old fast. We need to recognize that insulting letters are not only coming from one individual. The responsibility to improve the quality of the “Letters to the Editor” forum lies with all of us.

 Karen Pearsall

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