Our Gifts to You (Especially You Politicians)

As Vern notes in our annual write up of our top stories of 2022, my writings in even-numbered years are mostly for related to elections — both reviews and endorsements of the candidates, in advance, and the best coverage available of elections once they pass — and that’s why it makes perfect sense that these “public services” posts should be counted separately from our more common stories that you see listed below. I’ll add my two cents on some of the latter — but I want to focus for a moment on why I think that what we do is valuable, especially to politicians.

Essentially, our purpose is the scare the ever-loving shit out of you. We don’t do this for the hell of it, but because the fear of facing consequences for screwing up is a large part of what keeps politicians on the straight and narrow. (And by “screwing up,” I don’t mean “choosing other policies than the ones we favor” — I mean corrupt practices at the behest of big donors, cronies, and reprobates with power.

As has been said of Former Viable Politician Trump in these waning days of the year: he has never really faced any serious consequences for his corruption, vice, and other villainy — but now he’s finally facing them. If the media had held Trump’s feet to the fire — its job! — with the fervor that it swallowed the bullshit over Obama’s birth certificate, Benghazi, Hillary’s emails, and Hunter Biden’s laptop, we might not now mark January 6 as another day of infamy.

On the local level, where the press is more scarce and less powerful, the advantages of being “scared straight” has rarely been so obvious as this year in the cities of Anaheim and Irvine. Even though Disney and the Angels have run the former, while developers run the latter, these actors don’t have the ability to keep people out of disgrace and out of jail. Yes, they and their glossy mails can elect and re-elect them, but at some point people do take notice — including, this year, the FBI and the Coastal Commission.

(I’ll quickly add that this blog is a relatively small player in Orange County political media, dominated by the Register and the Times, the TV and radio stations, and our friends at the VOC. But we have the advantages of running almost entirely on volunteer labor and of having complete freedom to be as outraged and outrageous as reality demands.) Ridicule — the bane of actors in royal courts and the life blood of (mostly right wing) social media — really does have outsized power, and we’ve been pretty adept at deploying it.)

What (if anything) is going to keep Anaheim Councilmembers Steve Faessel and Jose Diaz and whoever replaces Avelino Valencia on the straight and narrow, when megadonors have once again demonstrated that they can elect almost a full City Council? What is going to get them to represent the residents of Anaheim (now and yet to come, to pick up on today’s “Scrooge” narrative) when powerful interests want them to represent them at the bargaining table, in an orgy of collusion, fakery, and disingenuity? If not their own moral structure, where it exists, it’s just the fear of being discovered to have sold out the people of the city.

In other words, our gift to politicians is the prospect that, by threatening exposure if they do wrong, we give them some of the cover they need to do right. Note that we don’t actually have to have and print the story for the threat of discovery and infamy to stay their hands. All that needs to happen is for there to be enough of a possibility of discovery that they can get away with telling the powerful interests “NO” when they come a-calling.

This was not just the year of the FBI’s exposure of Harry Sidhu and the Anaheim Cabal, it was the year that the Poseidon ripoff ran into the jagged rocks of the Coastal Commission and sank. This is an area where we can take some credit — it’s astounding how many people celebrating in the wake of the Coastal Commission victory this year knew about and read the Orange Juice (and our friend and contributor John Earl) not just this year, but for much of the past decade.

(That’s a story I never got around to publishing, like so many others languishing in our Draft folder — including a full account of my brother-in-law Onassis “Oni” Yumul’s death and funeral, the full perfidy of Michael Gates’s attack on Huntington Beach’s Democratic majority City Council earlier this year, and Dwight Manley’s literally writing a six-figure check to the City of Brea for legal expenses during a City Council meeting to convince the Council to reject a plan for district elections. There’s only so much volunteer time available in the week.)

We know from watching some of our favorite incumbents — Sharon Quirk-Silva, who spent years having us bending her ear over Poseidon while all of the smart money tried to pull her in the opposite direction; Josh Newman, who has given us frank acknowledgment of the political pressures on big votes; Dr. Jose Moreno, who has essentially been his own media organization on the Anaheim City Council for the past year and more, which we’ve happily amplified — how strong the lobbying for private gain over public interest has been in our county. But we also believe that they and many others want to do the right thing, and that our setting forth the stakes helps them do well while doing good.

We could not be more proud that the FBI downloaded our entire back files in trying to better understand county corruption. And we hope that this new year will see many more new developments stemming from that material. OC is not going to be a clean political environment anytime in the near future, but at least it can increasingly be one through which properly equipped clean people can swim. We’re happy to pump some oxygen into their air tanks.

The sad thing is how much money and support goes into people within local political blogging and politics who are pushing in the opposite direction. We have the comically named Liberal OC, making common cause with the various sputtering outlets of Cabal-Adjacent Matt Cunningham, to undercut democratic reformers. We have the Charter School Mafia showing more success — but also more failure, in part because we’ve been outing their camouflaged candidates for School Boards — with the unquestioning help of the local Republican Party. We have the Democratic Party run as essentially a one-person autocracy — although that, frankly, is nothing new.

We can’t stop it, of course. But we can and do make it easier for voters to identify it and politicians to resist it. And that is our present to them — and, to the extent it helps, to all of you.

Some comments on our top stories

Vern has started doing a “ten years ago in OJB” feature on our Facebook feed (and some other feeds); it has been very interesting and even sentimental to be reminded of what we’ve seen and covered over the past decade. So I’ll add some comments on some of them.

#1: 10 years ago today, Martin Hernandez was killed by Dan Hurtado, after he surrendered

Our #1 story of 2022 — and now #7 on the list of top stories of the past decade (roughly speaking, the “Vern Regime”) — is Vern’s piece on Martin Hernandez’s murder by Anaheim cop Dan Hurtado. I strongly urge each of you to read it. Vern <strike>not merely rehash his original story, but</strike> supplements what would have been a quintessential “Vern Story,” had he written about it at the time, with a decade of hindsight and context about OC’s history of police shootings. One feature of OJB is its ability to provide some historical memory in the non-traditional media — sadly missing with the departure of OC Weekly — and this piece shows how useful that is.

#2: OJB Endorsements for the 2022 Primary!

These political round-ups take for-freaking-ever to complete. I would love for some volunteers to step up and help to carry the project forward. It’s a lot of reading and research, but it seems to pay off nicely in term of a more informed electorate.

#3: Is it all over for Harry Sidhu? Todd Ament wore a wire for the FBI!

Election results aside, the FBI landing in Anaheim was probably the political/corruption story of the year in OC. Vern’s take on it came early, outshining all of the professional competition, and has lasted the test of (this much, so far) time.

#5: Anaheim’s Days of Rage: Remembering This Weekend Ten Years Ago (2012.)

Vern again looks back at a critical story in recent Anaheim history: the “riots” (mostly just protests) that took place in the days after killings of Manual Diaz on Anna Drive and Joel “Yogi” Acevedo on Guinida Lane. Again, for historical perspective, this is essential.

#6: Grand Jury explores ways to protect OC from Michelle Steel.

Vern does some contemporary political reporting on the Buck Johns giveaway, engineered by Michelle Steel, who — the pieces goes on to note — is not nearly as anti-communist as Jay Chen.

#7: OC Election Results, Tue. 11/8, 8–11:30 p.m. and #8: FINAL 2022 OC Primary Election Results

It’s possible to recreate the results of the election, as it unfolded, from the “Statement of the Vote” in the Registrar of Voter’s archives — but it would take for-freaking-ever squared. If you want to see how the early vote-by-mail voters voted compared to the early tranches of in-person voters, you either follow Greg’s real-time (more-or-less) updates on Election Night or you let that information be lost to history, because no one else seems to archive this material. And our final installment is your best source for the future.

#9: Melahat Put Everyone Around Her Since 2019 at Risk

My story just reminded people in national, state, and especially local politics that if Melahat Rafiei was an FBI informant for three years, meaning that she could potentially wangle better treatment for giving up dirt that she had on others, everyone she had dealt with during that time was put at danger of her turning them in. This is most obvious in the case of her wearing a wire (which she seems to have done less than it originally seemed), where she could be manufacturing situations where she knew that she was being recorded but they didn’t — meaning that she could craft a conversation with them that inculpated them for and exculpated her from any wrongdoing of which they both knew — but also that she could engage in entrapment to benefit her own plea dealing generally! I’m all for reducing corruption within the national, state, and local Democratic Party — but I would think that there would be more handwringing about this!

#11: BOE-4: Dems Shouldn’t Endorse, But Not Because of an Alleged Racist Meme

Democrats did David Dodson dirty in their endorsement of objectively anti-Democratic nominal Democrat Mike Schaefer for the position position representing Board of Equalization District 4, denying Dodson contact information for delegates who would vote on the California Democratic Party endorsement, which — as is the party’s custom — was essentially fixed in favor of the nominally Democratic incumbent. There was a scandal about a racist image found on Schaefer’s Facebook account; though after talking to Schaefer Greg became convinced that he wasn’t involved in it — hence the story’s headline. (Having later learned more about the con man, Greg became de-convinced — but that was a different story.)

#12: Chaffee Lets Hate Crime Braggart James Mai Start Full County Commission Term

Much unpleasantness came from the our coverage of James Mai’s bragging to a supporter of having desecrated the doors and windows of an Indian restaurant after a supposed dispute about a bill — but even knowing in retrospect how it turned out, Greg doesn’t see the offramp where he could have stopped covering a legitimately disturbing story any earlier than he did. Supervisor Doug Chaffee was Mai’s biggest booster — and this story covered how, even in the run-up to an election, Chaffee was sticking by him. It turned out that Chaffee wasn’t actually reappointing him at the time that this story emerged — but eventually he did do so.

Here are a few that didn’t make it into the countdown, but truly do deserve to be read:

OCPA-Melahat-gate. INTRO: The Treseder Letter & a Probolsky Tale

This story continues to develop — and Farrah Khan and her friends continue to pretend that it doesn’t.

The Anaheim Cabal dishes on its Council Puppets

Vern’s story on the Cabal is one of the best you will see in any publication.

Is Trevor O’Neil running for Anaheim Mayor? And Fear of an Honest Hari!

Vern’s realizing the feint in this year’s Anaheim races was the best prediction of the year.

Whoops! 6 Dem State Lawmakers Wrongly Backed Serrano’s Pension-Hiking Scheme

Fiona Ma must be stopped.

Will Judge Hoffer’s Bizarre Stadium Ruling Be Appealed?

This needs to be revisted.

Spitzer’s & Rackauckas’ 17-year Cover-up of the Whip Walton Murder

This story is simply astounding.

And finally, these two:

Gloria, Trevor and Diaz vote to “KEEP ANAHEIM DIRTY!!!”

Unchastened: Disney Buys Anaheim Elections AGAIN.

The more things change, the more they stay the same — until people start going to prison. And with that, Merry Christmas — and here’s to an even better (or less bad) 2023!

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.)