To Help Eliminate the Great Park Veterans Cemetery, Bob Huff’s Wife Lies About My Orange Juice Articles

Mei Mei and Bob Huff

Mei Mei and Bob Huff

I ran against State Senator Bob Huff in 2012 — because someone had to do it — and tried to keep information provided to me about his family and personal life out of the picture.  His current wife Mei Mei Huff, though, has taken me on in a somewhat cowardly way — only, that is, in posts where those who don’t engage in Chinese language discussions wouldn’t see them.  To be charitable, I’ll just say that she’s mistaken in how she depicts my position.  If I were less charitable, I would say that she is deliberately lying.  Here’s what I received from an associate in Irvine; I’ve put the section that deals with my writing on OJB in bold:

Here is the message Mei Mei Huff posted many time on TOC main WeChat group;

“The issue with the veteran’s cemetery at the Great Park is not settled. Funding has not been identified to build it, there are environmental issues to be dealt with, and the City of Irvine has not actually transferred the property for the cemetery. The bill Senator Huff voted for made it clear the Orange County veteran’s cemetery would be done in cooperation with the local city government. In Irvine, Councilman Larry Agran and his Democrat allies refused to listen to the concerns from the Chinese-American community when this issue came up. In fact, the Democrat’s endorsed candidate for Orange County District Attorney posted columns on his website labeling concerns from Chinese-Americans as a communist conspiracy, while he also mocked feng shui beliefs (http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2014/07/why-speculators-from-communist-china-are-snapping-up-u-s-real-estate/). Fortunately, the Republicans in Irvine, led by Mayor Steven Choi and Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway, are willing to listen to the Chinese-American community. It is imperative that we support Mayor Choi, Mayor Pro Tem Lalloway, and Lynn Schott for City Council so there can be a fair hearing before the City Council as this issue proceeds. 如果Irvine 的華裔居民認這個公墓的issue 目前的進展對他們是不理想而想要改變的,那支持共和黨的候選人就是明智的決定。千萬不要很天真的認為不參與政治的運作就可以改變及塑造自己的未來.

A “first approximation” translation of hat last section (through Google Translate) is: “If Irvine’s Chinese residents recognize the current progress of the cemetery issue is not ideal for them and want to change, and that support for the Republican candidate is a wise decision. Never very naive to think that the operation is not involved in politics can change and shape their own future.”

I neither remember “mocking” feng shui beliefs nor labeling concerns from Chinese-Americans as a communist conspiracy.  But just to be sure, I went to the URL she provides.  Here’s the text of that July 21, 2014 article in full:

Before we discuss tomorrow’s Irvine City Council vote about a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park — a vote that, as predicted long ago here and elsewhere, the ad hoc committee has tried to delay until it was defeated — can we get real for a moment and discuss what it’s really about?

THIS is what it’s about.

Chinese Flag Great Park Balloon

By the way, it’s FIVE POINT and it’s fellow opponents of a Great Park Veterans Cemetery who are saying that we can’t build one because these houses need to be sold to investors from Communist China. All WE’RE doing is illustrating it!

Nate Silver’s 538.com blog, of all places, covered the story beautifully a week and a half ago.  Investors want to get money out of the People’s Republic of China — and the developer Five Point, with the aid of Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, Irvine Councilwoman Christina Shea, and maybe, maybe, “ought to know better” Irvine Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway — wants to get a huge chunk of that money.

The aspirations of U.S. veterans and their loved ones are getting in the way — and so they must be quashed.  Nicely quashed, inadvertently (or so they’d like it to seem) quashed — but quashed real good.  Some of that money, after all, will turn into campaign contributions — enough, opponents of a Great Park Veterans Cemetery hope, to overwhelm to shame and disgust at the city’s council choosing filthy lucre over the hopes and dreams of veterans.

It’s such bad politics that you know that the financial benefits to opponents must be huge.  Choi and Shea are past their sell-by dates, politically, but Lalloway isn’t — and that’s why he, the guy who PROMISED last March that he would bring a Veterans Cemetery to the Great Park but is now widely believed to be wavering at best, may still, belatedly, come through.

But that’s tomorrow’s story; for now, let’s stick to today’s.  Here’s how 538.com puts it: Chinese nationals are investing in the U.S. because of (1) a favorable exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar, (2) easily access to credit, and (3) demand for secure investments — although anyone who was reading the Irvine Housing Blog around 2008-2009, when Irvine was the epicenter of the upscale market housing bust, may need to lie down for a while after reading that until their eyes stop rolling.

According to the National Realtors Association (NAR) survey, the Chinese spent $22 billion on U.S. housing in the 12 months through March — 72 percent more than they spent the year before. Among foreign buyers, Canadians ranked highest in the share of transactions, at 19 percent, but the Chinese bought by far the most expensive homes, with a median price of over half a million dollars. That’s compared to the $213,000 spent by the average Canadian buyer of U.S. real estate, $141,000 spent by the average Mexican, and about $200,000 spent by the average American.

More than any other foreign nationals tracked by the real estate website Trulia, Chinese buyers prefer homes in cities to vacation homes.  Where?  The West Coast, mostly: Seattle, Palo Alto, San Jose, Los Angeles — and Orange County.

But why buy here at all?

They’re looking for a safe investment. When NAR surveyed more than 3,500 realtors about their international clients, it asked about the most important factor influencing purchases. Most cited were statements like “the U.S. is viewed as a good” or “profitable” investment. But the idea that U.S. real estate is a “secure investment” had risen the most — to 25 percent in 2014, up from 20 percent in 2009.

According to a report by JPMorgan cited in an April Bloomberg story, China’s ratio of household credit to GDP has risen enormously — to 187 percent in 2012 from 105 percent in 2000. Overall credit extended to the private sector as a percentage of GDP rose to 134 percent in 2012 from 113 percent in 2005, according to World Bank data.

They’re benefiting from a stronger yuan. Exchange rate movements over the last several years have made U.S. assets more appealing to Chinese buyers. As the U.S. dollar has depreciated against the yuan — giving the Chinese more buying power — China’s rise in U.S. real estate purchases has moved in lockstep. Seventy-five percent of realtors surveyed by NAR said the exchange rate was an important factor in their clients’ decision to buy.They’re dealing with a possible housing bubble at home. After years of strong gains, by several measures China’s housing market appears to be cooling. The possibly overvalued market at home — along with increasing regulatory constraints on real estate purchases — might be encouraging the Chinese to buy overseas.

So, they are pricing Americans out of the upper end of housing markets — like, say, the housing in the Great Park.  But hey, that’s capitalism!  Other would-be buyers will buy a little less expensive homes, and the people they supplant will buy homes a little less expensive than that, and so on down the line, through buyers, through renters, until some people can’t find housing at all.  But that’s OK, because Irvine doesn’t mind if those people sleep in the streets — so long as it’s in Victorville.

Here’s what strikes me about this story: if it’s true — and there’s every indication that it is true — then these buyers will buy these homes anyway, regardless of feng shui, because the homes are good investments and the buyers want to get their money out of China, which is experiencing a housing bubble!

So, if that’s true — if the whole Five Point story about spooking investors with the proximity to U.S. military fallen is just made up — then what is the reason that Five Point (and Choi, and Shea, and maybe Lalloway) don’t want the honor of a Veterans Cemetery putting the “Great” in “Great Park”?

Maybe there’s something else that they want to go there — like luxury hotels catering to foreign tourists.  And ifthat’s true, then my feeling is: to hell with them.  How about you — especially you Irvine voters?

Irvine’s Council meeting, where this will all get hashed out, takes place tomorrow, July 22.  Festivities (and I mean that literally in this case; veterans and OCEA are going to entertain and feed you) begin at 5:00.  Parking may be a tad scarce, so plan accordingly.

I don’t think that there’s a “conspiracy” at all; as I say, I think that Chinese citizen investors trying to get money out of the People’s Republic of China are acting rationally in response to geopolitical and market forces.  They think that Irvine is a better place to park some of their real estate money than China; I tend to believe them, given the value of diversifying investments.  And, as should be clear, in that story I’m talking about what motivates the investors to invest in Irvine Great Park real estate — NOT about the fears of Irvine residents living OUTSIDE the Great Park that their own houses may decline in value.  I don’t think that their fears will be borne out, but even if they will, that’s part of the inherent risk of real estate investment.  What is most likely to reduce the prices of their housing is their own loud public predictions that their real estate prices will fall when the Veterans Cemetery is built!  I don’t think that they will; Irvine will have plenty of buyers — including plenty of Chinese and other Asian buyers — who won’t care much about living a mile or more from a cemetery that they won’t even be able to see or hear.

So, when Mei Mei Huff  says that I was “labeling concerns from Chinese-Americans as a communist conspiracy,” EVERY WORD THERE THAT’S MORE THAN FOUR LETTERS WRONG IS INCORRECT.

  • I’m not talking about Chinese-Americans at all; that’s not who Five Point identified as its target market.  They want people to export their huge profits from the People’s Republic of China into their pockets in Irvine.
  • I’m not talking about “concerns” about falling housing prices at all.  I’m talking about what motivates people to pay — overpay, apparently — for these houses inside the Great Park.
  • I’m not talking about a “conspiracy” at all — this is all out in the open, discussed not only at the article I cite from fivethirtyeight.com, but also openly in presentations and comments made by Five Point!
  • As for the term “communist,” the People’s Republic of China — as distinct from Taiwan, which is the Republic of China — is governed by the Communist Party of China.  That Soviet red and yellow balloon I substituted in there for the orange Great Park balloon?  THAT’S THE CHINESE FLAG.  Here’s the Communist Party’s symbol, which you may find vaguely familiar:

So what exactly is Mei Mei Huff’s problem with my describing investors who are taking their profits out of Communist China as “communist”?  Is that too delicate of a topic to mention?  My understanding is that successful investors in China often have benefited from their relationships with Communist Party leaders — and that the nature of markets in China under the domination of the Communist Party has likely facilitated the profits that they now want to insulate from any economic dislocations.  If the People’s Republic of China is like most other authoritarian states — and I see little reason to think that it isn’t — then some of that money may be coming directly from Communist Party officials.  That doesn’t make it a conspiracy — well, except maybe to the extent that front men and agents are used — and even if so that is not the thrust of my criticism.  They have the right to take advantage of good exchange rates to find a less expensive safe harbor for their money. Five Point has the right to say that “this is the money that we want to attract.”  I hope that, so for as the above goes, Mei Mei Huff and I are on the same page.

Where I think that their being successful investors from Communist China is relevant is this: DO WE BELIEVE THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE THE POWER TO SAY THAT WE CANNOT HONOR OUR VETERANS ON PROPERTY THAT THEIR DEVELOPER DOES NOT OWN BECAUSE IT SUPPOSEDLY MAKES THEM UNCOMFORTABLE?

I think that OBVIOUSLY we don’t.  These non-citizens can park their money in Great Park real estate — that’s fine.  But these investors — whose fate we helped to rescue in World War II, who fought directly against us at times in Korea and who fought a proxy war against us at times in Vietnam — SHOULD NOT HAVE VETO POWER OVER THE DECISION TO HONOR OUR VETERANS IN WHAT IS APPARENTLY THE ONLY SUITABLE SITE IN ORANGE COUNTY!

Is that so unreasonable?  I think that even Bob Huff should agree with that, right?  His office phone number is (714) 671-9474 — you can ask him.

Bob Huff’s concern, as his wife quotes, was that the “bill Senator Huff voted for made it clear the Orange County veteran’s cemetery would be done in cooperation with the local city government.”  THAT ALREADY HAPPENED!  It happened the day after I published that article!  So — what’s the problem?  Does Bob Huff think that Irvine should now try to renege on its agreement to donate the land to the State of California?  (I doubt that they even can at this point.)  Does his protege Ling-Ling Chang, candidate in AD-55, think so?  I’ve been directed this question towards Huff’s ally Young Kim — and I have it on good authority that they’re aware of what I write about the AD-65 race — for months now, and she STILL hasn’t taken a stand on the Veterans Cemetery, although privately I’m told that she has told people whom she perceived to be on both sides of the issue what she thought that they wanted to hear.

I’m sorry, but this “one message for the Asian community and the opposite message for everyone else” routine — which you also see at work right here — has to STOP!

As for feng shui — here is the ONLY reference to feng shui in that story:

Here’s what strikes me about this story: if it’s true — and there’s every indication that it is true — then these buyers will buy these homes anyway, regardless of feng shui, because the homes are good investments and the buyers want to get their money out of China, which is experiencing a housing bubble!

So, if that’s true — if the whole Five Point story about spooking investors with the proximity to U.S. military fallen is just made up — then what is the reason that Five Point (and Choi, and Shea, and maybe Lalloway) don’t want the honor of a Veterans Cemetery putting the “Great” in “Great Park”?

Do you see where I “mocked feng shui beliefs” beliefs there?  I believe that Mei Mei Huff owes me an apology.

I have written elsewhere that I don’t ascribe to them.  I don’t mind if other people ascribe to them, as my wife does for some of them, but I don’t.  I categorize them with other beliefs such as both Eastern and Western principles of astrology that — as a matter of my religious belief — I just don’t think are scientifically plausible.  (Actually, I have more sympathy for feng shui that for astrology, because it seems likely to include a lot of systematic observation about how people react to different environments that may well have some scientific validity.)  But I have friends who practice astrology, and who practice pagan religions, and who practice other spiritual traditions to which I don’t ascribe — and we all pretty much get along because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which I do revere, prevents any of us from imposing our religious views on one another through the mechanisms of state power.

That’s really important to our society and culture.

So if feng shui is in essence to be treated like part of a religious belief system, then it faces the same limitations as other such systems: you can’t use it to trample on others’ rights.  An we have a collective right to decide through the democratic process, as we did, that a certain parcel of public land will be used to honor veterans.  It is not “mocking feng shui” to say that beliefs grounded in it may trump those rights.

Now, one may say: but what about the effect on the prices of houses?  Good question.  I don’t think that they will go down — I think that many veterans themselves may find these houses very desirable specifically because of the proximity of the Veterans Cemetery — but let’s say that that’s true.

If true, it still can’t be allowed to trample on others’ rights.  I’ll give you a good example of this.

There is a lot more reason to think that some other things may reduce property values a lot more than a veterans cemetery.  These have included when ethnic minorities move into majority-white neighborhoods.  (You may recall that an African American family was hounded out of Yorba Linda by its neighbors not too long ago on this basis.)  It’s happened also, at various times and places, with Latinos, with Muslims, with Jews, with gays and lesbians — and with Asians.

We don’t allow it here in our country.  We don’t allow xenophobic fear, racial prejudice, and other such beliefs to allow people to determine what others can or can’t do on their property.  And we don’t honor the argument that “but my property values may go down!” to get around others’ legitimate rights, even if it is true.

I don’t think I mock feng shui by saying that I treat it like every other such spiritualist belief.  In fact, I’m taking it seriously:  defending for its practitioners all of their legitimate legal rights, but not rights they don’t have, like the right to prevent the majority of the population from honoring its commitment to its military dead.

And if Jeff Lalloway and Steven Choi agree with Mei Mei Huff rather than me, they should have the guts to say so.  Then they should face me in public to discuss their beliefs — and intentions — before their elections.  Do they really want to attract votes based on these defamatory lies?


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)