Monday, July 22, 2024






        Summer has been relatively quiet on the 10 campuses of the University of California. But with wars raging around Israel likely to continue at least weeks longer, today’s quietude probably won’t last far beyond the opening of the fall term, now very close.


         This is partly because the UC Board of Regents with authority over the state’s most elite bastions of public education, has yet to adopt rules governing anti-Semitism. So hate speech and actions against Jews still figure to be tolerated when that would never fly if the targets were Blacks, Muslims or Asian-Americans, to name just three other minorities with substantial presence at UC.


        Under prodding from legislators, many UC officials now indicate they won’t tolerate encampments this fall and beyond. But they set no limits or penalties on things like hate speech and vandalism.


        Meanwhile, since 2016, the Regents have nominally maintained a “no anti-Semitism” policy. Yet, student groups at the UC Berkeley Law School that banned most Jews from speaking at their meetings have neither been penalized, nor even chastised. Most students who blocked Jewish classmates from some academic buildings last spring at UCLA and Berkeley will also return, as if they did no wrong. Students who shouted “No Jews in here” while taking over Dodd Hall at UCLA, home to classes in social and political science, also saw few or no repercussions for their loud anti-Semitism. Together, encampments and protests cost the UC system $29 million during the last school year. Perpetrators won’t be dunned for this.


        There has also been no action against faculty and department heads who placed or allowed political and bigoted statements onto many UC websites.


But at least the Regents in mid-July partially banned this practice. One flagrant example that now might not be repeated was the handiwork of the ethnic studies department at UC Santa Cruz, where statements backing Hamas actions including murder, rape and mutilation of scores of Israeli Jews stayed on the departmental site for months. The site approved Hamas hostage taking, too.


        These messages were never official university policy, but readers could have been excused for thinking they were. This contrasted starkly with New York’s Columbia University, which demoted three deans who texted one another with age-old anti-Semitic tropes.


        The Regents dithered for months before acting on any of this. They still have not voted on a proposed policy forbidding hateful behavior and rhetoric.


        No one doubts the bigoted statements and the on-campus cries of “Gas the Jews” would have drawn swift punishment if aimed at other minorities.


        The current policy bans any more official-looking political and bigoted statements on departmental home pages, even though no one has spelled out punishments if they reappear.


        The new policy still allows political and some other opinionated statements on department websites, just not on their homepages. Such material remains OK on other taxpayer-funded pages, but must carry disclaimers stating they represent neither any campus stance nor the UC system.


        Of course, California State University, where websites at campuses like Northridge and San Francisco, among others, sometimes carry similar messages – starting long before the Hamas sadism of last Oct. 7 – has no such policy. Perhaps Cal State has awaited action by the Regents before moving.


         Whatever policies have been or will be adopted, chancellors of individual UC campuses and presidents of each Cal State would have to enforce them.


        But their performances over the last year indicate most will be reluctant, even resistant, to enforce the new restrictions for fear of alienating some faculty and risking censure votes by academic senates at individual campuses. With so many professors joining and sometimes leading the anti-Semitic, pro-Hamas protests of the last year, it’s easy to see why campus chiefs did not act quickly.


        Campus bosses are always reluctant to penalize their onetime faculty peers.


        Contrast this behavior with reactions to sexual harassment by sports coaches and other staff, where even hints of sexism quickly draw reprimands and/or firings.


        The bottom line: The entire scene makes it highly unlikely the new school year will look very different from the last one.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







        President Joe Biden’s heeding overwhelming pressure from within his own Democratic Party by quitting his reelection race and backing Vice President Kamala Harris to succeed him ended with California becoming decisive in presidential politics for the first time since 1972. Call the state a queen-maker now, as Harris needed less than two days to cement her party’s nomination via California's votes.


        This came more than 50 years after a June 1972 California primary race where South Dakota Sen. George McGovern easily beat Maine's Edmund Muskie and Minnesota's Hubert Humphrey to earn that year’s Democratic nomination to run against Richard Nixon. Since then, California has been little more than a political moneybag when it comes to picking presidents, with candidates from both parties raising vast sums of campaign cash in homes and halls from San Francisco to BelAir, Brentwood, Newport Beach and San Diego.


        Not this time. Harris – who has never overwhelmed voters within her own party or among the general California electorate – quickly clinched a first-ballot nomination at the August Democratic convention when she won all 494 California votes in telephone tabulating, putting her over the 2,112-delegate count needed to nominate the potential next President.


        On that vote, party leaders and elected officials who are automatic delegates to the Chicago convention, AKA superdelegates, could not vote. Still, Californians cast more than 20 percent of the 2,112 votes needed to put the nomination out of reach for anyone else.


        Had this gone to a second ballot or beyond, the state’s 55 superdelegates, including mayors like Karen Bass of Los Angeles and state officials like Attorney General Rob Bonta, would have been added and given the state 549 votes, well over one-fifth of what was needed.


        That left one big question for the next two weeks: Who might Harris choose for a running mate?


        Folks like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly may not say they are seeking the job, but now that Harris has demonstrated where the vice presidency can take its occupant, bet on any of them accepting the running mate slot if it’s offered. That nominee almost certainly won’t be Newsom, who hails not merely from the same state as Harris, but the same city. That’s San Francisco, where Harris was district attorney and Newsom the mayor. Many contend the Constitution forbids filling both ends of a national ticket with people from the same state.


        A more important question might be this: Among the current list of possibilities, who might best help Harris beat ex-President Donald Trump and his Republican running mate, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance? With them in mind, perhaps a swing-state Midwesterner or a southerner like Beshear or North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper might better fill the bill.


        For sure, a likely debate or two between Harris and Trump will be very different from the Trump-Biden encounter of June 27, which eventually drove Biden into retirement.


        Harris, the former prosecutor, was known for her tough questioning in Senate hearings. She would never let Trump escape unscathed with lies like his claim that some Democrat-run states allow babies to be killed just after their birth. That’s murder everywhere.


The impaired Biden did not respond at all to that claim, nor to Trump’s 30-odd other lies during their debate.


        But if Harris did take on a prosecutorial tone, would it appeal to voters?


        Meanwhile, a wild card in current lists of vice presidential possibilities is Kelly, husband of Gabby Giffords, herself an assassination target who suffered far more serious damage from her shooting than Trump’s spectacularly bloodied ear. A former astronaut, Kelly also carries some of the celebrity status that helps propel Trump.


        Harris likely won’t put that question to a convention vote, but if she does, California’s clout will rest on delegation unity like what was shown in the presidential phone vote.


        One thing for sure: The more doubt remaining about any Democratic choices as the campaign enters August, the greater California’s influence could be – putting this state in a position many here have long coveted.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, July 15, 2024







        Blackmail has been the rule for the last year as insurance companies terrified California’s insurance commissioner into giving them their way on almost everything they want. Deception has now joined this scene.


        The blackmail began when company after company cancelled policies last winter, while threatening to pull out of the state’s insurance sales market. When Commissioner Ricardo Lara gave in and granted price increases whose need had not been proven and thoroughly vetted, the industry turned to deception.


        This comes via manipulation of Lara, who is desperate for the companies to keep existing policies and write new ones for owners of property in areas the insurance industry deems endangered by wildfires, even if those areas have never burned.


        Instead, Lara could have stood tall, telling the industry, "Either sell property insurance here, or sell no other coverages, either, like auto or life."


        Here’s how the new situation looks: If a company increases its market share in supposedly endangered areas to 85 percent of its statewide market share, that company will be authorized to use secret, so-called “black box” algorithms (another term for formulas) to set its rates in all parts of the state.


        If a company writes 20 percent of all property policies statewide, it could get secrecy in rate-setting by insuring 17 out of every 100 homes in threatened areas. If a company writes 10 percent of policies statewide, it could get rate freedom by selling 9 percent of policies in threatened places.


All other Californians will pay for such new availability in fire-prone areas via higher premiums. It was no accident that State Farm and Allstate, two of the largest insurers in America, announced planned price increases of 30 percent or more for homeowner policies soon after Lara’s plan was announced.


But wait. Now deception kicks in. For in order to get those increases, companies won’t really have to raise their market share in possible wildfire areas to 85 percent of their statewide market share.


Rather, they could get still get full freedom in setting premiums if they merely increase their number of policies in risky areas by 5 percent. If, say, State Farm now writes 200 policies for homes in fire-plagued Malibu, it would only have to add 10 policies there and in similarly fire-periled places to win virtually unfettered profits elsewhere.


        What’s more, the rate levels from which that 5 percent increase would be figured would be the latest ones, not counting policies they previously cancelled.


        This is complete deception, coming after Lara trumpeted the supposed 85 percent of overall market share figure as a consumer boon.


        The reality is that his new rules will put even more pressure than before on homeowners whose mortgage lenders require them to have fire coverage. Go without a homeowner policy for long and you could end up homeless.


        This pressures homeowners to turn to the already overused state Fair Plan, California's insurer of last resort, which for the most part charges higher premiums than any individual company, while offering less coverage than most other policies.


        So the coverage expansion that was supposed to help consumers and eliminate panicked hunts for coverage will for the most part be small potatoes if this plan goes forward.


        The bottom line here is that rates will soon rise for every Californian, including renters for whom insurance rates are often a pass-through added to their monthly expense.


        Said Carmen Balber, executive director of the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group, “The massive loopholes in the text of the (new) regulation won’t get insurance companies selling (much) again in the hardest-hit areas of California.”


        What’s more, price hikes will likely start quickly, while even the tiny requirements for more policies in the hardest-hit areas won’t begin until two years from now.


        While Lara said the 5 percent increase alternative for sales in threatened areas is intended for small companies, it could also be used by giants like State Farm, Farmers and Allstate.


        It adds up to a pernicious mix of blackmail and deception with every property owner in the state now figuring to be victimized by rate increases topping even those already assessed over the last two years.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit






       “Lock her up, lock her up!” went one loud chant about Hillary Clinton at ex-President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign rallies. During the same events and in later election seasons, Trump also encouraged violence by his supporters against hecklers, sometimes promising to fund their defense if they should be criminally charged for their acts.


        And so, the Iwo Jima-like Associated Press photograph of a bloodied and heroic-looking Trump surrounded by Secret Service agents with an American flag flying above has the potential to be used as campaign fodder both by him and his opponents.


        For Trump has not merely joined the long list of victims of American political violence, stretching from Andrew Jackson to Abraham Lincoln to James Garfield to William McKinley to gangster Al Capone to John Kennedy, to Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and Gabby Giffords. Unlike any others, he is in a way a victim of his own policies.


        Long an ally of the National Rifle Association’s perpetual campaign to overturn any gun-control law passed anywhere in America, Trump was wounded by what the FBI calls an “AR-15-style” weapon.


        The shooter nicked the ex-president’s right ear, bloodying his face. That shot missed killing him by only an inch or so. 


        Meanwhile, the three justices Trump placed on the U.S. Supreme Court have unanimously nixed almost every gun-control law they’ve encountered, a prominent exception coming last spring when the court refused to take up an anti-assault weapon law in Maryland, not far from the Butler, PA site of the political rally where Trump was shot.


        But as this summer began, the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reported that Pennsylvania has no law prohibiting transfer or possession of assault weapons. This one belonged to the shooter’s father.


        So, it appeared likely to have been legal for attempted assassin Thomas Matthew Crooks, 20, from nearby Bethel Park, PA, to take his dad’s assault gun. There’s no doubt he shot Trump and blasted other bullets killing one man and wounding two others from a rooftop near the rally site. Had he wanted to get his own AR-15, he could have gotten one legally under Pennsylvania laws allowing purchase of long guns by almost anyone over 18.


        Republicans in Pennsylvania and most other states steadily resist toughening those laws to make them like the ones forbidding handgun purchases in 22 states by those under age 21.


Pennsylvania also has no minimum age to buy long guns from unlicensed sellers. No permit is needed before purchase of automatic rifles, nor training after the purchase. The state’s GOP-controlled state senate has thwarted efforts to fix this.


Republicans immediately after the Trump shooting blamed President Biden for his metaphorical remark the other day suggesting it was time again for Democrats to “put Trump in the bullseye,” rather than merely resisting calls that Biden stand down after his impaired performance in a June 27 debate with Trump. But the GOP can certainly look in any mirror to see who has consistently furthered the legal climate surrounding the attempt on Trump’s life.


Similar shootings are also possible in California under a 2021 decision from San Diego federal Judge Roger Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee whose 79-page opinion ruled unconstitutional this state’s controls on semi-automatic rifle ownership.


        About that ruling, Gov. Gavin Newsom last year said “It's time to wake up. Unless we enshrine a right to safety in the Constitution, we are at the mercy of ideologues like Judge Benitez. All of our gun safety laws that are proven to save lives are at risk.”


        But Newsom’s effort to create a constitutional amendment to limit gun ownership and sales of assault weapons has gotten little traction even in other Democatic-controlled states like New York and Illinois.


        Partly because Trump survived the attempt on his life and shouted “Fight, fight” before some Secret Service bodyguards took him from the rally stage while others fatally shot would-be assassin Crooks, it’s not likely much will change.


        Nevertheless, the reality is Trump is at least in part the latest victim of his own rhetoric and policies.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, July 8, 2024






No one ever explained why the so-called Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 allowed 26 years – until 2040 – before all users of California’s ever-smaller groundwater supplies would have to meter their wells.


Meanwhile, two straight winters of record-level rain and snow have not solved the problem of aquifer depletion. Sure, groundwater supplies ticked slightly upward this spring, after massive downpours filled the state’s rivers and reservoirs and piled snow on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


But the groundwater increase was pretty slim, about 8.7 million acre feet of water was replaced over the two years. One acre foot is the amount of water need to cover an acre of ground to the one-foot level.


        That hasn't even begun restoring land levels in the Central Valley. The same old irrigation pipes and water lines that stood several feet above ground in many parts of the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys in 2014 still stand tall.


        But there is some progress aside from those almost 9 million acre feet of liquid now stored underground. Increasingly, wells on private property and those operated by water districts are being metered, with many owners paying fees to the state for using a supply they once could waste, but now is beginning to be treated properly as a rare public resource.


        That’s what five or six years of drought will do to state policy. Still, no one knows precisely what portion of California wells are now metered.


        For sure, it’s difficult to track water loss. For example, the owner of a 100-foot-deep well can have no idea how much the aquifer below their land might be reduced when the nearest neighbor taps into the same aquifer with a far more costly to drill 300-foot well. For sure, since water flows downward, the owner of the deeper well can grab more water than whoever owns the shallower one. But no one can see it happening through the hundreds of feet of dirt and rock between the well bottom and the ground surface.


        It’s also impossible for anyone to know exactly how much water is actually available in the state. Yes, the Department of Water Resources tries to track this, but well metering is far from universal and the actual amount of water in California’s 4,000-plus miles of irrigation canals is also uncertain because many irrigation canals are on private land.


        But UC Davis experts estimated last year that California loses 63 billion gallons of water yearly to evaporation from canals. That’s probably a lowball guess, too, with many irrigation canals unmapped.


        Just what this can mean was revealed last spring in a Fresno County courtroom, where the former general manager of the Panoche Water District, which serves much of the land on both sides of Interstate 5 in the western San Joaquin Valley, pled guilty to stealing water from the government and selling it to farmers and other water districts.


        Dennis Falaschi admitted finding an abandoned water pipe connected to the Delta-Mendota Canal that was leaking into a nearby ditch. Rather than fixing the leak, he and other Panoche employees set up the pipe to be opened and closed at will and took an unspecified amount of unmetered water.


        That could not have lasted very long if anyone knew how much water the canal carries at any particular time. Which implies that metering water wells is not enough; tracking of supplies should also start on at least the major canals of both the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, which includes the Delta-Mendota Canal.


        Perhaps this kind of water crookedness is one reason big corporate farmers resisted metering for decades.


        The 2040 deadline for all wells to be metered seemed a long way off when the law setting that date passed 10 years ago, and it still does.


        Which makes it about time politicians from the governor on down stop bragging on how beneficial the existing law has been and get on with passing a much tougher measure that might actually bring both honesty and equity to California’s water scene,



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







        The drive to deprive cities and counties of their authority over local land use is well known; it’s one major goal of the more than 100 housing-related laws state legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom have passed over the last five years.


        Now those same local governments appear about to lose control over another major traditional responsibility: assuring as much safety as possible on streets and boulevards.


        That’s the upshot of withdrawal last month of a state Senate bill that aimed to give locals the power to regulate operation of autonomous vehicles within their areas.


        When it became clear this plan had no chance of intact passage this year because of powerful lobbying by the likes of Google and General Motors, it was withdrawn from consideration by the state Assembly’s Transportation Committee.


        That came when the bill was about to be stripped of its basic content, which was assurance of local control. It may reappear next year.


        At issue is whether Waymo, owned by Google’s dummy parent company Alphabet Inc., or Cruise, owned by General Motors, can expand their current operations beyond San Francisco, where Waymo has operated what is essentially a taxi service since late 2022. The company has a similar operation in Phoenix.


        But the state Public Utilities Commission – long known for doing what it can to please the electric and natural gas utilities it also regulates – has now authorized Google to expand use of driverless cars to both San Mateo County and Los Angeles.


        Neither locale has approved such service.


        It’s no wonder Waymo, the only driverless outfit now picking up passengers in California, is controversial.


        At this moment, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is examining nearly two dozen crashes and traffic violations involving Waymo vehicles in Arizona and California. These involve cars with rooftops carrying apparatus holding lenses that point in all directions, giving these cars far more visual information than any human driver normally sees.


        But automakers in 2022 reported more than 400 crashes of vehicles with fully or partially automated driverless or driver-assist systems. Tesla’s Autopilot beta accounted for 273 of those accidents.


        There have also been several incidents in San Francisco, where Waymo and Cruise have run tests on driverless cars for several years, seeking to prove their operations safe in one of America’s most crowded urban traffic environments.


        In one incident that a passenger said left him feeling helpless, a person who appeared to be homeless tried to cover the sensors on a Waymo cab as it began to move when a traffic signal turned green last winter. “It was nighttime, pouring rain,” the passenger told a reporter. “We felt trapped, didn’t know what to do.”


        In another San Francisco incident, a Waymo driverless car reportedly collided with a bicyclist, not detecting the human rider until it was too late to stop. The cyclist was riding close to the tail end of a large truck and suffered no injury.


        Altogether, automated Waymo cars have reportedly been involved in 150 crashes since July 2021, while rival Cruise has had 78.


        Yet, Google maintains that Waymo, which it has operated since 2016, “continues to make roads safer.”

    The firm had recorded 14.8 million rider-only miles as of April 1, claiming to be 3.5 times better at avoiding injury accidents and twice as good as normally driven cars at avoiding crashes reported to police in San Francisco and Phoenix.


        Meanwhile, it’s not only Waymo and Cruise operating in California. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles allows more than a dozen companies to test similar technologies here.


        The abandoned state Senate bill would have let local governments limit the number of robot cars on their streets and times of day they operate, as well as time periods when they could charge for driverless rides.


        Even though it is now authorized to operate in San Mateo County and Los Angeles, Waymo has not yet said when it will start full operations in either place.


        Plus, one lawsuit challenging their authorization has yet to be decided by the state Court of Appeal. This battle is far from over.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, July 1, 2024








       No one doubts there’s a shortage of low-end housing available for purchase in California.



        The combination of high prices, high rents and the lower-than-normal property taxes paid by long-term homeowners has kept California’s inventory of low-priced housing down for many decades.



        The often-innovative city of Berkeley earlier this year proposed one possible way to ease some of the shortage: allow homeowners to sell off the “accessory dwelling units,” also often also called “granny flats” or ADUs that have become a popular item all around the state.



        But then along came San Jose and beat Berkeley to it. In early June, that city’s council voted to allow the separate sale of additional dwelling units (ADUs, sometimes called “granny flats”) starting almost immediately.



        This is a logical consequence of a 2016 state law allowing homeowners in almost every urban area to build ADUs on their property and rent them out, regardless of local zoning limits. More than 50,000 such units have been permitted around the state since that law passed, allowing owners to add as many as three such rental units to properties with existing homes.



        It’s become routine for new tear-down-and-build-ups in single family neighborhoods to include ADUs, often atop new garages built as separate structures from the houses they serve.



        “Why not spent about $150,000 to build a place that will bring you income of $2,000 or more per month?” asked one pitch from an ADU specialty contractor.



        But that’s peanuts compared to what homeowners might make if they could build ADUs and then sell them off as separate homes, sans homeowner associations. In some areas, sales could allow homeowners to quickly double or triple their investment in an ADU, while still selling for far less than the current statewide median price of more than $850,000.



         This putative price differential comes partly because homeowners who add ADUs avoid the land-purchase cost that makes up a large percentage of the approximately $1 million it takes to build a typical “affordable” home in California today.



         This is exactly what an unpublicized new law known as SB 1033, which became effective Jan. 1, now allows, if cities and counties go along.



         San Jose became the first to act, with Berkeley also having approval on its future docket The East Bay city has ordered its staff to draft a local law authorizing sales. San Diego County is also considering quick approval. It’s only a matter of time before many more locales jump aboard.



        If rental ADUs became popular as new ways to enrich existing homeowners, imagine what selling ADUs might do. This could become a major new financial bonanza for homeowners who have watched their equity build for many years, nevertheless unable to touch it without selling until they grow old enough to qualify for a reverse mortgage.



        Buying studio or one-bedroom ADUs could also become a way for young families to begin building generational wealth in areas most cannot afford even to consider today.



         For the existing homeowner, of course, this will usually mean exchanging a somewhat smaller yard for a larger bank account.



        Still, nothing prevents homeowners from continuing to rent out ADUs or letting their adult children or extended families use them to live close by.



        “I think it’s a great opportunity to buy their first home that’s relatively affordable and get their piece of the California dream,” Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco, author of AB1033 and a former county assessor, told a reporter.



        Some Berkeley officials, who have long wrung their hands over the inability of city workers like police officers and teachers to live locally, say they expect ADU sales to be legal there soon, especially with San Jose showing the way.



        If this becomes as popular as rental ADUs have been, expect it to be a major factor in continuing the reversal of California’s population drain of the last few years, without lowering property values of existing residents who have resisted other new laws calling for an end to single family (R-1) zoning.



        In all, this is a logical move that should have happened years ago – and probably would have, if anyone had thought of it.




    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit