Well now. Though I’d planned on working on other things tonight, mostly this new Facebook page of mine agitating for people to do something about an actual scandal (which I welcome you to read), locally somewhat semi-well-known writer R. Scott Moxley has gone ahead and published a story entitled “The World’s Most Worthless Diamond: Greg Diamond prefers digging into another man’s marriage rather than focusing on his California senate race” in which a friend confides that he apparently called me “the worst State Senate Candidate in California ever” before the headline was changed. Since I’m going to be taking apart the whole story paragraph by paragraph, I also have to publish each of those paragraphs, but I encourage you to go to the OC Weekly’s website (at the above link) and read it in its native form. In fact, to be sporting, I’ll also encourage you to get a physical copy of the weekly so that you can patronize its advertisers — especially if you’re looking to pay for sex with a stranger, a service where I’m informed it is unparalleled in Orange County.
I had been a fan of Moxley’s crime reporting for some time, back when I read the Weekly regularly, which at some point I just stopped doing because it wasn’t giving me that fun feeling I get from reading really good alt-weeklies like Seattle’s The Stranger. I got involved with its letters column within the past year, I believe, when I went there to stand behind my friend Vern when he was tweaking Moxley for being in the pocket of the corrupt and crazed Righeimer claque in Costa Mesa. It was then or not long thereafter, I think after catching Moxley in some sort of bizarre contradiction, that I started calling him “Arse Caught.”
For several months in 2011, lefty Orange County protesters gathered in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, hoping to sway public opinion on the notion that a greedy corporate and political elite are working to trample ill-informed masses. The passionate, mostly youthful activists chanted, waved homemade posters and marched in numerous cities including Santa Ana and Irvine. They even held all-night vigils.
The impact of such activism depends on who is opining. Conservatives say Occupy OC was a meaningless exercise by anti-capitalist radicals. Liberals hope seeds were sown for a vibrant progressive community. Regardless of which view is right, there is no dispute the movement excreted a byproduct: Gregory A. Diamond.
See, I really liked the story right up to that word “excreted,” which just did not strike me as accurate or responsible journalism. You can read my writings on Occupy in the OJ Blog archives. You can also meet me at the 1st anniversary celebration of our occupation of Irvine on Oct. 14, about which I do plan to write.
It’s not that Occupiers knowingly and willfully gave us Diamond. The mysterious, 50-plus-year-old, former low-level Manhattan corporate lawyer dreamed of abandoning American society in disgust for imagined Third World pleasures, but instead quietly parachuted into the bustling metropolis of Brea in 2006 (or 2007; he has given conflicting dates) after a divorce and a series of employment failures. He worked on the campaigns of two ultimately trounced Democratic candidates, and then was named Jerry Brown’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign “co-coordinator” for Orange County, a position on par in importance with being named Mitt Romney’s Castro co-coordinator in San Francisco.
I’m going to spend a lot of time just correcting things, including things that Moxley could simply have asked me if he were interested in actually writing a decently researched feature story. (I know that this takes up lots of space, but it can take 100 words to rebut a two-word lie.) I don’t think I’m mysterious; I do think that I’m 52. I was a commercial litigator (which is different from a “corporate lawyer”) for an excellent firm in Manhattan (of which I remain fond), where I was also lucky enough to spend a ridiculous amount of my time on pro bono projects dealing with excessive use of force by police, persecution of asylum victims based on misused anti-terrorism laws, fighting disenfranchisement of felons in Florida, voter rights protection work, legal aid for Katrina victims, and a whole bunch of asylum cases.
I absolutely did think about leaving the U.S. in 2006, during the Bush Administration, largely (as Moxley wouldn’t know because he didn’t ask) because I saw an economic collapse coming and I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of it. After a election that was successful for Democrats generally (though not for the Nevada Senate candidate whose campaign I was helping to manage), though, I came to California in December 2006, to stay with relatives pending a planned move to Oregon — which was delayed because I couldn’t decide: Portland or Eugene. Then I happened to meet and quickly fall in love with the woman who became my second wife. She wanted to stay near her family in Southern California — and that was that. I settled in Brea because it was in the Congressional District where my friend Ron Shepston wanted to run for Congress in 2008; I stayed because my wife and I (and our kids) just love it here. If that’s not what you got from those first few sentences above, talk to Moxley about it.
I”m not sure about the “series of employment failures” remark — and as you can see Moxley doesn’t specify. I didn’t get tenure in Political Science at the University of Illinois. I taught as a visiting professor for a year in Arkansas, then moved onto another tenure track position in Indiana. Sadly, my little Mazda GLC was hit by a truck on I-69 after a deer ran in front of my car, leaving me unconscious briefly with my seat back broken and one leg somehow through the steering wheel, sliding down the verdant and wooded median until I came to in time to hit the brakes just I’d have hit a tree. My wife, who was living back in Pittsburgh (where she still teaches), decided to put her foot down: no more commuter marriage. So I left my position there (after a year, just to be sporting and helpful) and came back to Pittsburgh, where I taught part-time and sold health insurance before I ran screaming to law school in New York. (The marriage didn’t last that move; she and I remain good friends.)
Diamond, who had been looking for a cause to give his life meaning, joined the Occupy ranks in 2011. The anti-establishment protests energized him.
I don’t recall ever saying either of those things at all to anyone, least of all Moxley. I thought that Occupy was potentially very important and that it was worth giving up a lot of my time. It hasn’t accomplished as much as I’d like, though it has done a lot of good things here, and I don’t regret taking a gamble on working with it at all. I like by far most of the people I met there and continue to make common cause with them.
Not everybody can afford to protest 24 hours per day, but the attorney (who has taken piecemeal work from a firm that is the Kinko’s of the legal community) had no daily job responsibilities.
I didn’t protest “24 hours per day” or anything like it. I didn’t sleep in the encampments (except for some of the first week, and never overnight.) The odd Kinko’s reference refers to– here’s an actual secret that Moxley somehow missed — Jones Day, where I worked as a contact attorney on several cases, during which time I did have daily job responsibilities for most of (as I recall) a year or more. After that ended in mid-2011 or so, I started to try to build my own private law practice — from which Occupy certainly distracted me, but again I’m not complaining.
For months, Diamond protested, but he also held a secret goal: to become a player in local politics.
Uh, no. I had already been a member of the Democratic Party of Orange County Executive Board for nine months before Occupy began. To the extent that was my goal — and I didn’t finally decide to run for office until January 2012 — it was not secret.
He kept a precise log of the amount of time—allegedly 3,773 hours—he volunteered.
Oh. My. God. No. That figure stretches from 10 a.m. on Saturday morning Oct. 15, where our protest officially began in Irvine (although it really began a few hours earlier) to 3 p.m. on the 158th day afterwards, when we agreed to end the abortive occupation in Huntington Beach. That’s the amount of time that Occupy Orange County was continuously and without a moment’s break on site and engaged in protest, 24/7, in Irvine, then Fullerton, then HB. That is not at all the number of hours I volunteered, nor did I ever say so. (For God’s sake, Moxley: DO THE MATH!)
Though it was forbidden for anyone in Occupy to grab leadership titles, he named himself “Primary Civic Liaison” and often nestled himself between reporters seeking quotes and other protesters.
I was the Facilitator (sort of like Chair, but not) of the Civic Liaison Committee, which negotiated with local police and city officials for the safety and the success of the encampments and protests. After a while, the other people who were involved would often leave the work to me because it became pretty legalistic and intricate. (If you had tried to introduce yourself to city officials and police as “Facilitator of the Civic Liaison Committee” enough times, you might have decide to call yourself “Primary Civic Liaison” as well. No one has seemed to mind.) As for often nestling myself between reporters, etc. — they spoke to a lot of people but often were interest in issues where I had the most expertise (and sometimes the most experience dealing with reporters); again, I didn’t get a lot of complaints. And yes, there were some protesters whom we didn’t especially want local journalists to interview.
Last spring, from his Brea rental, Diamond—whose solo law practice made him less than $1,999 in 2011—announced his campaign for a $100,000-per-year seat in the California state senate, representing the 29th District.
True that. As I recall, most of my income in 2011 came from my contract legal work (and some from when, being eligible, I was collecting unemployment.) I did relatively little work on my practice in 2011, largely because I did want to put in my time in Occupy. Partly as a result, yes, my wife and I and two of our daughters share a three-bedroom, two bath, apartment (with a two-car garage) in south Brea, for which we pay $1850. We like the place and the neighborhood — and believe it or not, I much prefer bringing up my kids middle class than wealthy. I like that I’m a lot closer in class to the average voter than is Bob Huff in his Diamond Bar mansion. Am I running for the salary? No, there are easier ways to make money, with fewer expenses. I’m running because I want to do good things for society. Seriously. That’s what I like.
He isn’t running for himself, of course. He claimed, “I’m doing it because tying my political fate closely to Occupy and fighting like hell is the best way I can think of to advance the Occupy critique.”
That’s all true. I had hoped for more support from Occupy and the sorts of well-heeled supporters who cared about it. Some of that happened, but not nearly enough to mount the sort of race I’d hoped — partly because of how badly the Occupy movement was suppressed (elsewhere, not much in OC) and how its image was tarnished as violent because some loose cannons with loose screws got involved and because the police elsewhere reacted to it violently. As Occupy fizzled somewhat (largely due to acts of suppression that have since been found illegal, sometimes with major damages), the likelihood of my staging a well-funded campaign against the incumbent, Bob Huff, lessened.
I don’t know whether or not my tying my fate to Occupy was foolhardy politically, but I’m proud of what I’ve done with its members. Lots of people were looking to Occupy to become to left-wing counterpart to the Tea Party — but that meant that some people had to run for office. It was hard to convince Occupy people — many of whom disdain the two major parties altogether — of the importance of giving someone to vote for, though by far most of the response I’ve gotten from them has been positive. Ron Varasteh (who’s running for Congress against Dana Rohrabacher in CD-48) and I were two of the few who gave raising the Occupy banner a serious try, though my sense is that I’ve made it more central to my campaign.
Bob Huff, the incumbent in the seat that includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, is the Senate Republican leader. In 2011, the League of California Cities voted the Diamond Bar resident its Legislator of the Year. Theoretically, toppling him would hand Occupy LA and OC a historic electoral victory.
Yes, he was Legislator of the Year because he was perhaps the loudest voice promoting the retention of Redevelopment funds, which he famously wanted to see used to build a football stadium in the City of Industry so as to attract an NFL team (and not incidentally create a gigantic windfall for his friends — with whom his wife works — at Majestic Realty.) Too bad the Weekly doesn’t have a reporter who’d be interested in looking into that!
“This is a chance to significantly affect our state’s policy debate by changing California,” Diamond wrote in a fund-raising pitch. “Those of you who have ever argued with me know that I’m stubborn, progressive, tenacious, incisive, dedicated—and I know how to bring it and make it hurt.” But far from working to make himself a serious candidate, Diamond is giving birth to what could easily be one of California’s worst, most inept campaigns for state senate in memory.
Moxley’s just so amazingly ignorant. That’s one of the things I found most difficult during our extended e-mail conversations. There’s so much he doesn’t know — and so much of that that he has no interest in learning about. I suggested that he read some of what I’ve written about this and other issues, but he made a point of pride of stressing that he’d never read even one of my blog posts here (or elsewhere, where I have reached more readers.) He had decided that the story was that I was not competing seriously for the seat — and that was it. (His real problem seems to be my interest in the Fullerton Police investigation of Chris Norby, but I’ll leave that until Part Two.)
I know of three State Senate campaigns within the last two cycles here alone where the Democratic candidate — there to be “a name on the ballot” — made no serious attempt to campaign at all. That just happens sometimes — it also happens with Republicans in very Democratic territory. If he wants to say that I’m a “sacrificial lamb,” my response is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a “sacrificial lamb.” I can (and possibly will) explain part of that as I go on, or maybe I’ll wait until after the election. But the point of his story seems to be to accuse me of being something that is, simply, not a disgrace. It’s so WEIRD!
That’s clearly not his motivation for the story, though. Besides petty revenge, he seems to be — well, how does he put it? I’ll have to jump to the very end.
Realizing our interviews weren’t going well, Diamond demanded we reverse roles. He sent a list of questions and threatened to write a blog post about me in the aftermath of this article. He was incredulous when I didn’t recoil in fear. To underscore his power, he proclaimed, “I’m now among the most-read political bloggers in OC.”
I’ll admit — my working hypothesis at this point was that Moxley’s sudden and pugnacious interest in my campaign was the consequence of something I’d published here the previous week, see the link the next paragraph. I’ll just quote my own e-mail to him, written well after our exchanges had begun to deteriorate:
Now, Scott: it seems to me that, unless you do the same level of research into all aspiring elected officials — and your lack of interest in information regarding Asmb. Norby suggests to me that you do not — you seem to be engaged in an effort to brandish your power as an investigative journalist. This is apparently either to dissuade me from criticizing your actions in your own job as a journalist or to punish me for having done so in the past. (Most recently, here: http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2012/09/what-barack-obama-who-moxley-finds-putrid-elephant-but-misses-the-mark/.)
So, writer to writer and subject to subject, let me ask:
(1) Have you ever used your position and prerogatives as a professional journalist to settle personal scores?
(2) Have you ever used your position and prerogatives as a professional journalist to advance a partisan or ideological political agenda?
(3) In asserting that “President Barack Obama seemed forgotten” at the recent Truman Dinner, did you weigh evidence of whether the following excerpts sited in the link above:
– (a) “Richard J. O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner Chris Townsend‘s delightful mockery of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Invisible Obama’ (aka ‘Old Man Yells at Chair’) speech at the Republican convention”;
– (b) “Rabbi Michael Mayersohn‘s invocation, including ‘We must build a more just and equitable society. We must create a society in which we all care for each other. Yes, we are expected to be our brother’s keeper. The welfare of our enemy is even our concern'”;
– (c) “Truman Award winner Sharon Quirk-Silva‘s declaration of ‘the battle between Republicans and Democrats to really be a fight over “me versus we” philosophies’ – [a sentiment derived] straight from the Democratic convention”;
supported, contradicted, or otherwise had any bearing upon your thesis that “Obama seemed forgotten”?
I’ll try to have some follow-up questions, when next we are in contact, about the “elephant in the room” of the “elephant in the room.”
Note that my interest was in Scott as a writer, albeit a confused and histrionic writer, not in the sort human foibles he focused on in his piece on me. Anyway, my comment apparently made Scott unhappy (and note the absence of a definitive assertion of truth in what I wrote there; compare it to Moxley’s writing!), ultimately leading to this from him:
It’s amusing that you get so incredulous that a reporter wouldn’t read your blogging attempts. I routinely read a cross section of accomplished county political bloggers. Examples: Art Pedroza, Dan Chmielewski, Jon Fleischman, Chris Prevatt, Geoff West, Tony Bushala and Allan Bartlett.
What had left me incredulous, of course, was that the difference between me and these others is that Moxley was not writing a story about them. He had chosen to write about me. That being so, yes, I was incredulous that he would firmly refuse to read anything I’d written here. As for his pride in naming who he reads — well, I’m just going to let that list (which contains some good people) speak for itself!
I think that that will do for now. My working hypothesis at the moment is that Moxley is carrying water for Norby — perhaps as a favor to Norby’s pal Tony Bushala of the FFFF blog — and I suppose we’ll have to get into that mess, which I had hoped to avoid. But if I have to defend my honor, well, so be it.