Eye-rolling at Gustavo Arellano’s Especially Embarrassing Anti-ACLU Rant


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Gustavo Arellano and I are Facebook friends — until, my guess is, about the moment that he reads the title of this post — but he is the only one of my Facebook friends on whose posts I can’t comment.  I can like them, I can share them; I just can’t comment.  If I could comment there, I would be posting this on Facebook to tell him what a whopping wanker he made of himself with his Saturday rant against the ACLU’s lawsuit against the City of Anaheim.  But instead, this being the means open to me, I’ll share it with all of you.

Gustavo Arellano flat out does not understand how our legal system works — and is apparently sufficiently self-absorbed to either not know or not care that he doesn’t know.  Here’s the bottom line, Gustavo: we have an adversary system, and when you write a complaint, you are not constructing a dispassionate recitation of all of the facts.  You are trying to present allegations in a way that helps your case.

You know, it’s like when R. Scott Moxley slurps all over Steve Greenhut because of how much he hates unions — except that in legal advocacy, unlike journalism, you’re supposed to present only one side of the argument.  After that, the opponent presents their side of the argument, and then eventually you’re supposed to hammer away from each side until some neutral fact-finder helps you get to the truth.

So the ACLU, noting that the Anaheim City Council has had a lot fewer Latinos and a lot more Anaheim Hillbillies than one might expect — no, it’s not “0% vs. 100%” for the past decade and no, it doesn’t have to be for the ACLU to win — files a lawsuit to require Anaheim to elect people to City Council from each of several districts within the city.  That way, lower income voters with lower rates of participation — who tend to be Latino — can elect a Latino; the theory is that the presence of one or more Latinos from West or South Anaheim might leaven the otherwise Hills-centric perspective of the City Council.   Not crazy, right?

The lawsuit talks about the history of white domination over Latinos in Anaheim.  Gustavo proudly trumpets his column slamming ancient and long-dead Klan members — a real profile in courage — but then he says that the lawsuit distorts the past, because it doesn’t present both sides.  Gustavo — it’s not supposed to!

A complaint is supposed to get you past the initial hurdle of stating a legally legitimate (called “prima facie”) case.  That’s it.  You don’t present both sides, you present your side.  So when Gustavo says that the lawsuit “is a fascinating study in how the ACLU writes its cases: relying solely on the plaintiffs’ version of the story” it’s like saying that it’s “fascinating” that an alternative weekly carries many ads for apparent prostitutes in the back. No, it’s not so fascinating; it’s more like standard procedure that everyone in Law understands.

But Gustavo wants to rebut Amin David and Jose Moreno of Los Amigos — so let’s give him a shot!

He says that they want to (1) “rewrite the city’s racist history to not only overstate their case” and (2) whitewash their [own] convenient alliances with said racists in the past to make Latinos appear the perpetual victim of evil gabachos.  OK, Counselor Arellano — let’s take on those arguments!

The lawsuit recognizes that one argument against the notion that whites have dominated Latinos within Anaheim politics is that in 2002 two Latinos were elected to City Council.  It’s not a make or break issue for the case, but let’s go with it.  The ACLU says (and I paraphrase) “hey, this was the first City Council election after 9/11, which led all sorts of people to love firefighters, and both of them were ex-firefighters.”

Counselor Gustavo has a blistering comeback to that argument: Chavez was still an active firefighter at the time of the election!  Good arguing, Counselor!  You (presuming that you’re right, and I don’t care enough to look it up) caught them in an error!

Of course the implication of your correction is that the fact that Chavez was an active firefighter makes it even more likely that people voted for him due to the emotional wake of 9/11, which means that there’s even more justification for dismissing the results of the 2002 election as an anomaly.  Gustavo’s correction helps bolster the ACLU’s case.  (We gabachos call that an “own goal,” Gustavo!)

In the very next paragraph, Gustavo kicks it past his own keeper again!  I quote:  “Anaheim didn’t just have “at least three councilmembers” who were Klan; there were four.”  (My emphasis added.)  ¡Oye, Gustavo! “Four” IS “at least three”!  And furthermore, having had four councilmembers who were Klan rather than three once again strengthens the ACLU’s case!

Gustavo then points out some minor factual errors (I’ll just presume that he’s right about them) that are what we call collateral to the issue at hand — the equivalent of my handing him a ordered list of 200 reasons that Mitt Romney is a pendejo and his handing it back to me smirking saying that I’m wrong about #73, #119, and #182.  Yeah, OK — that’s the adversary system at work; now it’s just a list of 197 reasons and I’ll have to dig up three more to get to a nice round number.

Gustavo, in other words, views the ACLU complaint through the lens of a Copy Editor — and while no one wants  to make even minor errors in recounting a relevant history, the little bits of evidence he claims to refute are minor — at worst, about as bad as not understanding the meaning of “at least three.”  They are not the sort of thing that undermines a lawsuit, let alone being — as he actually calls them — “hilarious mistakes.”

But then Gustavo goes in for the kill: “Far more nefarious is the ACLU’s attempt to erase the alliances Los Amigos and its favored politicians made with the city’s racists.”  UH-OHH!!!

His first example: that Los Amigos-supported politician Loretta Sanchez supports immigration agents being in Anaheim’s jail.  Well, I understand why they didn’t put in their complaint, but I have to say that it does bother me a little that … hey, what’s this next bit from his article?

“(Los Amigos did criticize Sanchez on this, it must be noted.)”

Well, yes, I do think that it must be noted, given that the point of this part of the article is to slag Los Amigos and it turns out that Los Amigos didn’t do anything there worth slagging after all.

After parsing an argument so thinly that one could read a Weekly article about Octomom’s vagina (and one can choose among several recent ones) through it, Gustavo goes in for the kill: Amin David and Los Amigos “made their peace” with former Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle when they were on the same side of the Gigante supermarket issue.  And he doesn’t get that — yes, once again, his example helps the ACLU lawsuit.

Why did Amin David have to (I’m guessing) swallow his pride and make nice to Pringle to get something done for his community?  Maybe it’s because Anaheim’s Latinos didn’t have the political power to get it done by themselves, despite their numbers, because they’re not influential enough within the city.  Therefore, they had to go get help from a not-usually-sympathetic (or, as Gustavo puts it, “racist”) white politician who did have the power to get done what Los Amigos wanted.

In other words, having had to play ball with Pringle is a sign of political weakness — which is exactly what the ACLU’s lawsuit favoring district voting is supposed to help Latinos overcome.  Maybe with a district system, David doesn’t have to make nice with Pringle under those circumstances.

(Oh, and by the way, the word “masterful,” which Gustavo says that David called Pringle can refer to a specific political battle, without being an overall testament to someone’s abilities.  I can’t even figure out Gustavo’s point there; one can never compliment the canniness of one’s political opponents?)

Gustavo ends up with this bold statement:

“Anaheim wouldn’t be in the abysmal council situation it is today if Los Amigos hadn’t sold its soul for Pringle a decade ago. Betcha they won’t bring up that in court, or ever.”

Actually, it wouldn’t shock me if it did come up in court, because it testifies to political weakness unwarranted by the numbers.  (Nelson Mandela, for similar reasons, had to seek and obtain the cooperation of apartheid South African leader F.W. DeKlerk in order to achieve his political goals.  If South African Blacks had had the majority vote, Mandela wouldn’t have had to do so, right?)  But let’s set that aside and consider two competing assertions:

(1) Anaheim wouldn’t be in the abysmal council situation it is today if Los Amigos hadn’t sold its soul for Pringle a decade ago.

(2) Anaheim wouldn’t be in the abysmal council situation it is today if the voting system allowed those in parts of the city other than Anaheim Hills to make their votes count, as would happen with district voting.

Though he might sound definitive and feisty, I’ll bet that Gustavo couldn’t defend the first statement, his statement, for more than thirty seconds under cross-examination.  It’s just blather; he has no real way of knowing.  It’s the kind of confident columnist yawp that sells newspapers (or, in the Weekly’s case, not sells, but….)

On the other hand, there’s a lot of careful analysis and political theory to suggest that the second statement is true.  And that is why, whatever Counselor Gustavo thinks, the ACLU is going to win — although if Anaheim is smart, they will settle long before it goes to court.  (A few historical mistakes in the complaint are not going to save them.)

So I score this match as ACLU 3, Arellano 0 — with all goals kicked into the wrong net by Gustavo himself.

[By the way, Gustavo apparently thinks that no one reads OJB, so if you’ve enjoyed this story (or even if you hated it) feel free to drop him a line and say so.  To make sure that he opens the e-mail, give it some title like “Public Employee Unions Undermining Octomom’s Vagina.”]


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)