Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The San Diego Mayor's Race Postmortem

Well, yesterday wrapped up the Special Election to replace former Mayor Bob Filner, who had to resign as a result of his felonious lechery.*  To my somewhat shock, Kevin Faulconer won by an 11 point margin.  That's quite an asskicking by a Republican in a Democratic city.  In fact, Faulconer is now the only Republican mayor of a large American city.

So, how did David Alvarez, the Democrat in the runoff, blow it? Well, there are a couple of factors at play here.  First, and as Obama proved in 2008 and 2012, the size and make-up of the electorate changes with every election.  So, the electorate who elected Bob Filner (then just known as a diehard liberal, not a lech), is decidedly different from the electorate who voted yesterday.  In fact, the electorate yesterday was about half the size.

More importantly, though, I think Labor got so used to winning that it thought it could do no wrong. As in the District 4 Special Election, which I wrote about extensively, Labor picked the candidate that it would be most friendly to its interests and backed that candidate to the hilt. Now, there's nothing new about that, and Labor, as an interest group, is acting almost in the same way as the Lincoln Club would act, and has acted in the past.

What is different, though, is the Republican Party, Lincoln Club included, met and decided who should run, and who all the Republicans would back, based upon who they thought had the best chance of winning.  And that guy was decidedly not Carl DeMaio, who ran in 2012.  Rather, it was the more outwardly moderate Faulconer.**

Rather than follow that model, Labor picked Alvarez, a 33 year old City Councilmember, over Nathan Fletcher.  And even that wouldn't be as big of a deal had Labor not spent millions trashing Fletcher. By the way, members of the American Federation of Teachers, how does that strategy look now? As a result, Fletcher voters didn't all flock to Alvarez, and a few most likely didn't vote.

In the run-off, Alvarez compounded the error by not reaching out the Fletcher voters early enough, and again, had his good friends at the American Federation of Teachers send out mailers trashing Faulconer, sometimes in nonsensical ways (such as attacking Faulconer for being a member of the San Diego Yacht Club).  Moreover, Alvarez was simply not impressive in the debates. While Faulconer was a swarmy, Alvarez never really seemed to have a grasp on the specifics that he actually had.

When finally Alvarez got the Democratic Party establishment to back him full-force, the damage was done, and so was Alvarez.

With that said, I think Alvarez did the right thing by running. The three big knocks on Alvarez - that he's too young, that he's too entrenched with Labor, and that he's unimpressive in debates - can all be fixed in the long term. In the short term, he can ride on his newfound name ID while continuing to serve on the City Council.  I don't think he was ready this time around, but next time Alvarez will come on even stronger.

No, the real loser here was Labor. Its not that they backed the wrong horse - my friends who know Alvarez have a deep emotional connection to him that rivals any elected official - but their tactics, particularly those of the AFT, were completely wrong for this race.  Had Labor backed Alvarez in the primary, but avoided negative campaigning against Fletcher, they could have either ended up with a candidate who the average person north of I-8 liked (Fletcher) who need them in the run-off, or given Alvarez a shot at attracting Fletcher supporters.

As I said, the whole affair reminded me of the District 4 Special Election when Labor decided to spend money on Myrtle Cole, who was then an unimpressive candidate, in a District that was pro-Demcrat and pro-union, and use that money to attack Dwayne Crenshaw, who up until that point was pro-union and a strong Democrat.  The end result being that Ms. Cole is now a Councilmember, but being sued by Mr. Crenshaw for slander (and rightfully so), and remains thoroughly unimpressive.  Oh, and in an act of spite, Dwayne backed Faulconer over Alvarez, giving Faulconer nonpartisan credentials (given that Larry Remer, the consultant who called Dwayne a crackhead backed Alvarez, this is no surprise).

So, sadly, San Diego goes back to the past with a relatively uninspiring moderate Republican for mayor.  Crap.

*Dibs on Felonious Lechery as a band name, album name, and biography title.

**Faulconer strikes me as being a lot more conservative than he appears.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Random Thoughts Blogging

I guess blogging has become somewhat passe', and where once everyone had a blog, now everyone just tweets or uses Instagram.  On one hand, I think that's a shame because the only way people get better at writing is to actually write.  On the other hand, writing is as much as skill as it is an obsession. My escape from writing legal papers is to write other stuff - and expecting other people to do the same is insane. 

Anyway, time for random thoughts blogging - my little foray into whatever has caught my attention over the past few weeks.  Here goes:

Woody Allen v. Dylan Farrow

First, let me admit that I'm not a big fan of Woody Allen. I've seen a few of his movies, but for the most part, his movies don't really interest me much. I should also mention that I am a fan of Roman Polanski, with "Chinatown" and "The Ninth Gate" being some of my favorite movies.  Heck, I read the book that the "Ninth Gate" was based on (and its not very good).  

I mention this because like Roman Polanski, Woody Allen has a history of sexual abuse allegations. Back in the 1990's, Allen broke up with Mia Farrow, his significant other, when she found Allen had naked pictures of one of Farrow's adopted daughters (who was either 17 or 19 at the time). Additionally, she alleged that Allen had molested another daughter, Dylan, who was seven at the time. Dylan Farrow (who apparently goes by a different name now for whatever its worth), wrote an open letter a couple of days ago slamming Woody Allen and directly accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was seven. Friends and family say that back then, Dylan would throw-up every time Allen came to visit, and the prosecutor decided not to prosecute because of the strain it would've put on Dylan.

I remember the allegations, but part of the problem with the whole affair was the intervention of Soon-Yi Previn, Dylan's adopted sister who was having an affair with Allen when she was an older teenager, which was discovered BEFORE Ms. Farrow alleged that Allen molested her.  So, at the time, it appeared that Mia Farrow convinced Dylan Farrow to make up allegations about Allen to get back at Allen for dumping Mia Farrow for Soon-Yi.  Nevermind that the relationship between Allen and Ms. Previn was RIDICULOUSLY inappropriate (he was, more or less, her adopted father), and that it might have begun before Ms. Previn hit 18. 

With Dylan Farrow repeating her allegations recently, it does appear that something happened between her and Allen.  Now, a complicating factor, possibly, is the fact that Mia Farrow's brother was convicted of molesting children around Dylan's age, although the children were both boys, and there's no indication that Mia Farrow's brother was ever around her children.

That said, most kids begin continuous memories around 7 years of age. So is it possible that Dylan Farrow could have been molested by her uncle and her allegations against Allen were transference?  I don't know, but she certainly doesn't think so.  And Allen had a history of dating underage girls (though more in the 16-17 age range).  So it is possible he is a child molester, but if you told me that there was evidence exonerating Allen, I wouldn't be surprised.  Then again, its not as if I actually watch any of his movies.

Polanski, in contrast, unquestionably raped a 13 year old girl. Actually, he drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13 year old girl.  He plead guilty to it and has been a fugitive from the law for thirty-something years.  Does that make me an asshole for loving his work (none of which, by the way, has anything to do with raping children)? I don't know.

The Candidacy of Sandra Fluke

Sandra Fluke, the young woman who was attacked by Rush Limbaugh for testifying about access to contraceptives in front of Congress (on behalf of other women, mind you), is looking to run for the Congressional seat opened up by the retirement of Henry Waxman.  While I wish her the best of luck, I would like to remind everyone that California is a Democratic state, that Waxman represents a heavily Democratic district (not even by gerrymandering), and that Congressional seats with no term limits come up for grabs almost never.  In other words, there will be A LOT of competition for that seat. If she can pull through, then good for her.

Anti-Abortion v. Anti-Choice

A recent study found that abortion rates are at the lowest rate since Roe v. Wade in large part because of expanded access to contraception.  This reminded me of a post I made awhile ago about the differences between being anti-abortion (abortion is bad because killing fetuses is bad) and being anti-choice (abortion is bad because it lets women be promiscuous without consequences).  I think this study illustrates my earlier point - there is a push right now to make contraception harder to come by.  If you are anti-abortion, this has to bother you because the key indicator of whether or not a woman has an abortion is whether or not she has an unwanted pregnancy.  Prevent the unwanted pregnancy, and you prevent the abortion - unless, of course, the pregnancy puts the woman's life in danger. 

If, on the other hand, you don't really care about the life of the fetus, but really believe that women should not be promiscuous, and that pregnancy is God's punishment (a la Rush Limbaugh), then you don't care about the abortion rate.  And that was my point earlier.  I know a fair number of pro-choicers such as Hillary Clinton, who believe that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.  That would be my hope as well.

Guns, Guns, Guns

Since Sandy Hook, there has been an increased focus on guns and gun control.  Included in that have been stories of people hurting themselves or others with guns in stupid ways.  And let's be clear, guns kill people because that's what WE DESIGNED THEM TO DO. So, my lawyer brain starts thinking, if states are bound by the 2nd Amendment (which they are not as this moment), what can we do to prevent gun violence? My mind turns to the old common law which says that a property owner who owns a wild animal is strictly liable for whatever damage the wild animal causes to other people and property.  For whatever reason, this isn't the rule anywhere.

Here's how the rule would work - if you own an gun, and that gun causes damage to anyone or anything, regardless of whether you meant the harm to be caused or not, you are strictly liable (no defense) for the damage caused. The only defenses allowable under the law would be justification - as in you were using the gun to defend yourself - and mistake - as in you reasonably thought you were in danger and used the gun to defend yourself.  Oh, and if the gun is stolen (and reported stolen) that would be a defense as well.  I would also require all gun owners to have insurance, the same way we require car owners to have insurance, so that we could guarantee that victims of gun violence are compensated.

This rule, in turn, would create pressure on gun manufacturers to produce guns that don't accidentally go off, and that pressure wouldn't be from legislators, but from gun owners (or their insurers) who would want to avoid as much liability as possible. It would be a good first step.