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The biggest surprise, interviewing Attorney General candidate and famed Rancho Santa Margarita “birther queen” Orly Taitz at her dentist office Friday, was that she spoke passionately and in detail about many topics for nearly an hour and never once mentioned President Obama or his birth certificate. Was that a great effort? It doesn’t seem like she is a paragon of self-restraint, so maybe not, maybe she’s finally overcoming that obsession – that self-destructive obsession which has been costing her the support of even Tea Party and conservative groups.
Another surprise was she’s a lot taller and “bigger” than my photographer Marselle and I had expected. (See below.) I guess with those giant, false-eyelashed eyes and poodle-like demeanor, you expect her to be diminutive, but she is one healthy specimen of Moldova.
And as far as we can tell she’s a fine dentist. (No, I did NOT get around to asking for an original copy of her dental license.) My upper right first premolar had been hurting a lot, and I thought it would be cool if she could take it out, but after X-rays and a careful exam, she advised me to keep it for now and prescribed me some antibiotics. Her offices (at 29839 Santa Margarita Parkway) are huge and spacious, with at least half a dozen examination rooms, yet that afternoon it was deserted; her Polish-American assistant told Marselle that they’re usually off Fridays so that may explain that. There WAS one customer there, just finishing up when I got there – a wild-eyed, grizzled man who told me “This woman is amazing, she’s a legend!” So apparently she gets SOME work from those who appreciate her political activities.
I’d come to help her get her word out for the June primary, thinking that it would be funny for the Republicans and general right to be stuck with such a … polarizing figure as the standard-bearer against AG Kamala Harris. But just like when I met and listened to Tim Donnelly, I found myself agreeing with her much more than I expected, and now I’m hoping she makes it through June just because a lot of what she has to say deserves to be heard, things we’re not hearing from the other candidates including Kamala. Even though, yes, more than half of it is rightwing paranoid nuttiness.
I had the inside track with Orly Taitz – her cell number, trust, and so on – because of our mutual friendship with medical marijuana activist Debbie Tharp. If you remember, when Debbie knowingly got arrested two years ago for collecting signatures for medical marijuana regulation in front of Costa Mesa Mother’s (while they happily encouraged signature collectors for GMO labeling) it was Orly who represented her pro bono, while we photographed and reported on the arrest. “I love Debbie, she is so brave!” enthused the dentist-attorney. It turns out, as I suspected, her interest is not in medical marijuana per se, but in states’ rights, in defending the will of California’s voters, who overwhelmingly passed the Compassionate Use Act long ago now, against the meddling federal government. That is something she would fight for if she, by some chance, became this state’s Attorney General!
‘The Party Left Me’
I guess I hadn’t noticed the little detail in Greg’s last Orly post, but Orly is no longer a Republican. She is running as an independent (NPP) against popular Democratic incumbent Kamala Harris and five other obscure challengers – three Republicans, a libertarian, and another independent. “Why did you leave the Republican Party?” It was one of those “the Party left me” stories. She feels that NEITHER of the two major Parties are addressing the most important issues facing the nation. “Oh yeah? You’re probably right. What do you think those issues are? Name the top two.” And she did.
First she went on in great detail about the problem of millions of American jobs being outsourced to low-wage countries like China and India, and Marselle and I were surprised to find ourselves in agreement with her. This was a bipartisan-caused mess, she emphasized, because of bipartisan co-operation going back to Clinton and Gingrich both pushing for WTO/GATT and NAFTA. As this isn’t something she could do much about as Attorney General, I didn’t pursue solutions too much, but I gather she’d like to re-visit those regrettable agreements.
The second issue she mentioned as one of the nation’s biggest problems might be unsurprising – the plague of Illegal Immigration. After nodding at official figures of 11 million, she quotes sources of varying respectability until she reaches what she believes to be the accurate figure of 42 million. “Well, do you at least concede that immigration from Mexico has zeroed out, and that the President has protected the border as much as is humanly possible?” “NO! Those are government reports, and we KNOW that the government lies to us all the time!” “Oh.” And in her reckoning, this never-ending tsunami of brown is the main reason unemployment is so high among American citizens. Like her fellow immigrant-bashers, she refuses to acknowledge that American citizens are just unwilling to pick crops, mow lawns, and clean houses, at least for the chintzy wages our Mexican neighbors happily do it for. Oh well, moving on…
Why Attorney General?
Okay, these are some intractable-ass problems, but not much you could do anything about as California Attorney General. What made you decide to run for this particular office? (Last election it was Senator, election before that it was Secretary of State.) What would you do as Attorney General, differently from AG Harris?
For one thing, she is sure that voter fraud is rampant in this state and across the nation. She’s done lots of studies she’ll talk about at length, showing that in the OC and in LA especially, the city a person was born in is not taken down by the authorities, and neither is their social security number. Does this really lead to any serious voting fraud though? Anybody voting who’s not supposed to vote, or voting more than once? She seems sure of it, but I don’t think she’s proved it by a long shot, except to herself.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled in favor of the Second Amendment protecting Californians’ right to Conceal & Carry Weapons (“CCW”). Apparently our gun-control-enthusiast AG has appealed that decision. Orly strongly agrees with the 9th circuit’s decision, and would put an end to that appeal if she took Kamala’s place.
Then there’s the turning-on-the-water in the Central Valley thing, a rightwing cause celebre (really mainly of concrete interest to big agribusiness up there, despite all the handwringing over “mom and pop farmers.”) Orly says “thousands of jobs” have been lost in the Central Valley due to the drought and the refusal of authorities, encouraged by Federal environmental law, to “turn the water back on.” “And do you know why that is?” “You’re going to start making fun of the Delta Smelt now, aren’t you?” “Yes, I AM going to make fun of the Delta Smelt!” Complete with the obligatory putting-two-fingers-close-together to show how little the smelt is, she bemoans the ridiculousness of Federal environmental law placing the well-being of this runt over so much humanity – ignoring of course that a world of salmon, fishermen, and a biosphere beyond that depends on the smelt. She asks, “Do you know how many studies have been done on how many smelt have actually been killed by having the water on? NONE. ZERO studies have been done.” If someone knows this to not be true, please weigh in in comments. Anyways, that’s one thing she’d do as AG is fight the Feds to get the water turned back on for the agricultural interests up there.
The Police State
When I asked my colleagues here what questions I should ask Orly, Ryan Cantor cryptically suggested “POBR” – the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights. But, what could an Attorney General do about a law like that, a law which keeps our cops’ misdeeds hidden from us and protects them in other unnecessary and destructive ways? I mean, besides speaking out against it from her “bully pulpit?” I don’t think she could behave as though it didn’t exist.
But when I brought up police brutality and the growing American police state, she won our hearts all over again. It’s not just in this state, but across the country, she says, that our police forces are being militarized. Look at the drones they’ve been given, the armored vehicles. We are under a de facto military occupation, with boots on the ground, in direct contravention of the Posse Comitatus Act.
clause of our Constitution. It sure would be nice to hear Kamala Harris, or much of any Democrats or Republicans talk like that.
There’s another place where we don’t have much useful distinction between the two major Parties, I pointed out, both of them beholden to police and prison guard unions, not to mention encouraged by a generally cowardly, fearful public. One thing she would do as AG is use some of her funding to EDUCATE THE PUBLIC on what their Constitutional rights are, regarding police and the law in general. Now THAT sounds great. Kamala should steal the idea (providing she beats Orly in November.)
Another thing she mentioned that had flown under my radar (if it’s true) – apparently judges have been routinely and unconstitutionally denying jury trials to defendants who request them. As AG she could and would put a stop to that un-American practice. Kamala?
Easy to Make Fun Of…
Our friend Matt Coker writes about an article a month poking fun at Orly’s latest misadventures – her apparent loss of Tea Party support, her birtherism getting shut down at CPAC, her apparent legal sloppiness getting repeatedly slapped down by judges. You can read all of that over here if you want to have a chuckle at her expense, it spares me from jumping on that bandwagon.
But one of those stories came up, when she described herself as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” – always a description many of us would find WINNING. Except I said, “Well, I was just reading in the Weekly how you were defending that cake maker in Colorado who didn’t want to make cakes for gay weddings…”
“Oh, that wasn’t an anti-gay thing, I support gay rights! That was ALL about this man’s religious freedom. HIS religious teaching tells him that gay marriage is an abomination, and he should be free to not only follow his religion, but refuse service to any customer he wants to.”
I try to suppress my own secret feeling that 1) some gay activists are just stirring up trouble with some doofus they should be ignoring; 2) as Bill Maher has said, who would want to even take a bite of a cake that someone baked for you under duress? and 3) it’s hard to have a serious philosophical discussion about cakes without laughing; and instead point out: There’s a Civil Rights Act that prevents this guy from refusing service to a customer because he’s black; he shouldn’t be able to refuse service because the customer’s gay either.
“And that’s exactly what the Chief Judge said to me, and I told the Chief Judge that there’s a big difference between refusing service to a PERSON because of what he is, versus refusing to make a cake for a ceremony that he finds sinful!”
“Well … well… what if this guy had a religion that taught that black and white people can’t get married?”
“I don’t know any religions that teach that.” Marselle and I look at each other, both thinking, “Didn’t the Mormons at least teach that, until recently anyway?”
But then we all came to this agreement: Better than any lawsuits would be if people just stopped going to this homophobic cakemaker. If gays AND all us straights who support them found some wedding bakers who didn’t have a hateful stick up their butts and supported them instead. THAT solution we all liked.
Here is Orly’s campaign site – I do hope November sees a good fight between her and Kamala instead of any of these five safe mediocrities. If there’s anything I didn’t ask her that you want to ask her, she’ll be at my concert April 27 – Sunday April 27, 4-6pm, Huntington Beach Central Library … see you there! And let’s give her props for not mentioning Obama’s citizenship for an entire hour!