Monday, September 9, 2019




       There’s been a three-month hiatus in the growing phenomenon of anti-Semitism on California’s college and university campuses, but students and former students were nevertheless involved in some of the most blatant and violent of the spring and summer’s hate crimes again Jews.

       Example A was John T. Earnest, the shooter who apparently killed one and injured three others in the Chabad of Poway rampage late last April. While on campus, Earnest, a sometime student at Cal State San Marcos, picked up some ideas he later used in a rambling manifesto attempting to justify his offenses. Like anti-Semites on other campuses, those at San Marcos in north San Diego County like to say they don’t hate Jews, but are merely anti-Zionist, meaning they want Jews to be just about the only people on earth not entitled to their own country.

       That’s the same tune spouted by the partially terrorist-funded movement called Boycott, Divest and Sanction, which seeks an end to the state of Israel, its adherents often spouting a popular Palestinian nationalist slogan, “From the river to the sea.” That one refers to Palestinians not wanting to control just the lands now known as the West Bank and Gaza, but all of Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

       The BDS movement has been strong on some of California’s most prominent campuses, including UCLA, Stanford University, UC Davis, UC Berkeley and San Francisco State. It spurred faux roadblocks where the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (partially funded by the Hamas terror organization that controls the unoccupied city of Gaza) stopped Jewish students walking on the Berkeley campus with cardboard fake submachine guns.

       It caused sympathizers at UCLA to try to deny a student government seat to a properly elected Jewish woman, claiming no Jew can be fair – an anti-Semitic statement on its face. It inspired smearing Nazi-style swastikas on buildings and walls at Davis and moved a Stanford dormitory resident assistant to threat violence against Israelis and other Jewish students. And it often leads a San Francisco State professor to post BDS material on her school’s official website.

       BDS caused an attempt by Pomona College faculty to cancel the school’s exchange program with the University of Haifa, the most diverse college in Israel, with an enrollment almost half Arab, pretty much matching the populace of that picturesque, usually peaceful seaside city. When the campus president vetoed this, the faculty voted to censure him.

       It all makes some California campuses among the most hostile to Jewish students, who for the most part are still not intimidated from attending.

       Prospects are that this year will see new incidents and further dissemination of obvious falsehoods, like the BDS canard that Israel is an apartheid state, despite the fact it has taken in thousands of black Ethiopian Jews and despite studies by Arab scholars finding Israeli Arabs enjoy more political and economic freedom than their ethnic brethren anywhere else in the Middle East.

       A midsummer U.S. Department of Justice conference on anti-Semitism reached five conclusions supporting that prospect. It said campus anti-Semitism is increasing “at an alarming rate.” It found the most common forms of campus anti-Semitism are Israel-related, denying many Jewish students the “ability to…fully participate in campus life.” It found that faculty are “major contributors to campus anti-Semitism.” And it said most university presidents and deans “have not afforded Jewish students equal protection to their peers from (threatening) behavior.”

       Much of the inaction stems from a lack of understanding of the link between Jews and the homeland that has been part of Jewish rituals and liturgy for more than 2,500 years.

       Wrote Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, “Uniquely, Jewish religion and nationhood coincide… Jewishness is not a mere ethnicity, a form of culture. In Israel, Jews are a walking lexicon of almost every ethnicity under the sun, so it’s not ethnicity. Jewish nationhood is a matter of religious vocation…”

       Which means that those who say anti-Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitism don’t get it. But lack of understanding has never deterred anti-Semites. Rather, it often inspires them to greater viciousness and violence.

       And there are few signs things will improve on campuses in California or elsewhere in the new academic year.

    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




       In a legislative season marked by a host of lousy ideas from forcing consumers to bail out negligent utilities to a refusal of warning labels on highly-sugared sodas, one good idea eventually emerged. It stands to reason this one comes not from the state Legislature itself, but from an appointed board.

       The idea: Keep track of five-year graduation rates from California’s public high schools, not just four-year ones.

       This is not merely sensible, but recognizes the new realities of a world where it is simply not practical or advisable for all high school and college students to get their diplomas within the standard four years.

       Yes, four-year high school graduation rates as reported by state officials are up considerably from the dismal 62 percent figure reported as recently as eight years ago. But those numbers were often questionable anyhow, as no system was in place to track students when they switched school districts or dropped out of standard and charter schools, switching to continuation schools and alternative schools operated by county education departments.

       Nor did they account for students forced to drop out for a year or two because of family economics, pregnancies or health emergencies, but who then returned to extension or correspondence schools and finished high school.

       So when the state Board of Education at midsummer joined many other states in giving districts and high schools credit for students who graduate in five years or more, it was merely recognizing reality in an economy where families often need more than one income to survive.

       Using only four-year graduation rates to rate and judge school districts was certainly useful when that was the only available measure. But it severely underplayed the successes of California’s often-criticized education system. Of course, four-year graduation rates will also continue to be tracked and publicized now, as they should be.

       “Many schools are making investments in serving students beyond the traditional four-year program,” Santa Clara County school superintendent Mary Ann Dewan told a reporter. “Data that reflect the true completion rate is vital to continued support for these programs.”

       In other words, Dewan suggests that reported graduation rates of only about 80 percent of students can cause public support for school funding and programs to wane, a development that could reduce actual educational opportunities open to young Californians in an era when education is more vital than ever for individual success and prosperity.

       And the schools apparently deserve more credit than they’re usually given. Former state Schools Supt. Tom Torlakson last year reported that half of all high school graduates met requirements for admission to either the University of California or the Cal State system.

       That included a 30 percent increase in eligibility for UC since 2007 and a 53 percent increase in those prepped for the Cal States.

       The numbers didn’t include students from alternative high schools, which usually serve students who have dropped out previously, been expelled or felt they just could not fit into a traditional high school. Some of these schools run online programs to make education more accessible for dropouts unable to attend any classes.

       Eventually, graduation performance by school districts that is reported to the public will include both four- and five-year rates, giving many schools credit they previously didn’t receive for innovative work and outreach. 

       The impact of the changed system will be seen most dramatically among English-learner students and low-income children, whose four-year graduation rates of about 72 percent each are significantly below the overall levels.

       The new system will also make comparisons of California schools’ performance with those of other states more accurate, as it leaves only 18 states still using only four-year graduation numbers to track school performance.

       The entire change will add an element of realism to thinking about public and charter schools, an element that might actually improve their public image and that of California as a whole.

    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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019




        No one doubts there’s a crisis in California housing. State lawmakers took plenty of actions this summer, getting set to pass a batch of bills that Gov. Gavin Newsom will gladly sign into law.

        These will temporarily suspend the right of cities and counties to make new building standards, raise fees on low-income housing construction or impose moratoria on new housing. They will streamline the approval process for housing developments where income of buyers or renters is limited to 120 percent of the area’s median income. And other tactics aimed at making housing available to those with lower middle-class incomes.

        But no one appears to be looking out for first-time home buyers, mostly hopeful young adults who often save for years toward the usual 15 percent to 20 percent down payment on a house or condominium.

        Those folks face a real crisis. A new study from the international real estate service firm Point2 Homes notes that the share of first-time buyers in the total sales nationally and in California dropped from 50 percent in 2010 to 33 percent in 2018, and even lower this year, which is not yet complete.

        At the same time, the median price (half of all homes are above this level, half below) of an entry-level home has risen faster than home prices in the move-up buyer segment, people getting their second or third homes. First-time buyers pay 31 percent more today nationally than 10 years ago, the study showed, but far more in California.

        Meanwhile, repeat buyers pay only about 28 percent more on average than in 2010.

        Part of this comes because home prices were depressed during the mortgage crisis that helped fuel the Great Recession of 2008-11. But most of it is due to the continuing upward swing of almost all home prices, most notably in California.

        This is true even now that prices appear to be leveling off in some parts of the state. Home prices increased by 35 percent nationally in the years since the crash, but in parts of California, the rise was much steeper.

        In San Diego, for one example, the average home price rose by 101 percent, more than doubling. San Francisco was only slightly behind, with a 100 percent rise from a median price of $638,661 in 2009 to $1.274 million last year. Never before has California seen such large increases.

        The huge problem this creates for youthful prospective first-time home buyers is unprecedented and constitutes a crisis state government must address. If California doesn’t take care of its young adults, many of whom are also young parents, many of those people will go elsewhere, a trend that has already begun. These same folks often make up the most educated portion of the state’s workforce, so businesses will follow to wherever they move in large numbers.

        Yes, this might ease the traffic gridlock afflicting many urban areas of California, but it can also lead to recession. If they go, they will lessen demand for new housing, costing thousands of construction jobs and lowering the state’s tax receipts just as it has taken on new responsibilities like providing Medi-Cal health insurance to many more residents.

        It could also lower the equity now held by millions of homeowners, for whom their living quarters represent by far their largest assets.

        So what’s California to do? The state could begin by dedicating some of its current $21 billion budget surplus to helping young home buyers whose purchasing power has dropped precipitously through no fault of their own.      One way to start could be a low-interest loan fund for first-time buyers amounting to several billion dollars that could enable this vital group to get onto the housing merry-go-round that has so frustrated them.

        If California had what could amount to its own version of Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Assn., it could stem the flow of educated young persons to other states and make its economy almost recession-proof.

        But so far, Newsom and the Legislature appear focused on Band-Aids rather than the needed radical surgery. As it stands, they brag about increasing housing, but ignore a major chunk of the problem.

     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, go to




        Since California legislators in July passed the utility bailout plan known as AB 1054, the deal wangled by lobbyists for companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric looks worse every day.

        It’s not only that the utilities quickly volunteered to contribute more than $10 billion as their share of the bankroll for the state’s new Wildfire Fund, but also that the state can now issue unlimited bonds to pay off liabilities rung up by the utilities, which have been found at least partially responsible for several of the firestorms which hit many parts of the state in 2017 and 2018. Utility customers will have their rates raised whenever needed to pay off those bonds. There’s no limit on this, either.

        Here’s one reason the deal looks so bad even before it’s had to be activated: It turns out this bill was spurred not only by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who accepted more than $200,000 in campaign money from PG&E last year, but also because of that company’s heavy spending on the lobbyists who actually wrote AB 1054.

        According to a lawsuit seeking to strike down the new law on grounds it amounts to an unlawful gift of public funds to the privately-owned utilities, PG&E alone spent more than $12 million lobbying legislators and another $14 million lobbying Congress.

        That was after contributing $550,000 to sitting legislators, $1.32 million combined to the Republican and Democratic state and county political parties – plus that $200,000 to Newsom during the 2018 election cycle in which he was elected. All this from a company that was in bankruptcy through much of the election cycle and the spring and summer legislative session.

        If this does not sound quite pure, that’s probably because it’s not.

        Then there’s what the bill also authorized, in fact demanded: Power shutdowns whenever the utilities think there could be a danger of fire caused by their power lines. The shutdowns can last more than a week; some might linger even longer. This pressures homeowners and businesses to buy expensive generators or solar paneling to produce their own electricity at times whenever utilities try to protect themselves from new liabilities caused by their inadequate maintenance practices of the past three decades.

        Meanwhile, the law sets no standards for conditions that must exist in order for power to be cut off in potential fire areas. 

        This represented an enormous show of trust by Newsom and legislators for the very companies that have been shown to be repeatedly irresponsible. PG&E has even been convicted in federal court of criminal negligence, but not a single executive or manager served a day in prison or paid a penny in fines for the conviction, which therefore had little or no sting.

        At the same time, state officials continue refusing to provide lawyers and reporters the fiscal impact report required of the state Department of Finance prior to the very brief, very greased legislative hearings that preceded passage of AB 1054.

        Attorney Michael Aguirre of San Diego, who has represented fire victims in several cases, demanded those fiscal reports because they are the only fairly reliable forecast of how much AB 1054 is likely to cost Californians. Said Aguirre in a court filing, “There was a compelling public interest in a timely…production of those records because (Newsom) imposed a deadline of July 12 for passage of AB 1054.” That date was just one week after the bill got an almost total rewrite.

        The upshot is that no one knows how much any of this will cost utility customers individually or as a class, nor how much it will cost citizens to prepare for prophylactic power outages. Property owners in potential fire zones also have no way to know which of their trees or shrubs will be chopped off by utility crews doing power line maintenance that should have been completed years ago, as consumers have long paid a monthly maintenance charge via their bills.

        It adds up to a terrible law passed on a wave of utility spending and government panic, one whose negative consequences may far exceed any fire prevention benefits it might eventually provide

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, August 26, 2019




        It seemed almost like Gov. Gavin Newsom was channeling President Trump – in reverse – the other day, when his administration unilaterally ordered farmers in this, the nation’s most productive agricultural state, to stop using a pesticide often deployed on 60 different crops, including some of California’s most prolific.

        For certain, it’s high time someone acted to take the controversial chemical chlorpyrifos out of use before it can harm anyone else. Because it will take two years to become final, Newsom’s action is not quite as immediate as some might like, but it’s the most California has ever done to get rid of this poison.

        The product, made by DowDuPont Inc., whose component Dow Chemical Co. once produced the infamous chemical weapon napalm, is not your ordinary pest killer. It’s an organophosphate concoction chemically similar to and based upon the nerve gas Zyklon B used by Nazi Germany to execute six million Jews and eight million other victims in its notorious World War II era death camps.

        The chemical can control a wide range of insects on crops as varied as grapes, almonds, oranges, walnuts, apples, pears and other fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in many parts of California.

        But it also harms brain development, especially memory and quick thinking, in babies and small children, plus it has caused severe headaches and fainting among farm workers in fields where it has been sprayed and adjacent areas. Said Jared Blumenfeld, California Environmental Protection Agency chief, “This was first put on the market in 1965, so it’s been on the shelf a long time and is well past its sell-by date.”

        No one knows how widely the pesticide is spread by winds and the force of sprayers.

        The Newsom administration’s action, a move taken directly by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation and not by the governor himself, came after Hawaii banned the substance last year and New York legislators passed a law against it. But the two-year process needed for the order to become final will give President Trump’s administration time to resist the move, as federal authorities have done for more than a decade.

        They do this despite an order from the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where an 11-member en banc panel ruled last August that chlorpyrifos must go.

        Newsom, however, does not intend to leave farmers without a reliable pesticide. His May budget proposal included $5.7 million for additional research and technical assistance to get new products on the market.

        Pesticide regulators will also help stage seminars to encourage use of biologically integrated pest management on more California farms. This effort could prove similar to what CalTrans did in the early 1990s, when the thousands of California pepper trees planted along freeways were imperiled by an insect called the pepper psyllid. The highway department imported millions of tiny insects from Peru that were known to feast on psyllids but do other harm, and today there is no more psyllid threat.

        This demonstrates that while some farmers moan that “We’re trying to protect ourselves from deadly (plant) diseases and we keep losing tools,” creative natural solutions often exist. Farmers can also fight insects with botanically-sourced pesticides like cinnamon oil and garlic oil, and some have already switched to another family of insecticides called neonicitinoids. One problem with that family: It can threaten bees, even though it’s easier on people.

        There are already signs that most farmers realize their era of using chlorpyrifos is nearly over. Its use is down about 50 percent in California since 2005, to just under 1 million pounds in 2016 and even less today, state figures show.

        Farmers who refuse to see this handwriting on the wall, especially after Newsom’s move, could be left struggling to find a substitute when the actual ban arrives in 2021. They’re better off if they act now, getting ahead of the game and maybe even making hay by advertising their use of safer food-saving products.       

    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




       For years, anti-vaccination activists have demonstrated against laws compelling schoolchildren to be inoculated against diseases like polio, rubella, measles, mumps, diphtheria, whooping cough and others. Now for the first time, this cause has turned violent in an apparent recognition that it will get nowhere on the strength of its own merits and morality.

       The violence was not severe – this time: Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan, the California Legislature’s only M.D. and a pediatrician sworn to protect and save lives when possible, was pushed aggressively from behind while walking a street near the state Capitol in mid-August, within his own Sacramento senatorial district. He did not fall and suffered no apparent harm.

       The perpetrator (not named here because notoriety is often a goal of such assaults) resents Pan’s sponsoring several bills tightening California’s vaccination requirements. These have made matters difficult for parents who don’t want their children immunized, seeking to evade the shots while still keeping the kids in public schools. Anti-vaxx groups immediately denied association with the perpetrator, calling him a “lone wolf.” But they embraced him just last year, when he tried to oust Pan both in the primary election and via a still-active recall petition.

       Pan’s latest bill requires the state health department to review exemption forms written by doctors who sign more than five such waivers in any one year. The bill aims to correct a scenario where hundreds, maybe thousands, of parents have sought out scurrilous physicians willing to sign spurious exemptions for fees of about $300 apiece.

       The anti-vaccination effort mainly uses unproven claims that vaccinations cause autism and other serious reactions. A British study making those claims early in this decade was long ago debunked, its author recanting.

       Little more than this discredited study, plus purely anecdotal claims confusing correlation with causation, has ever been used to justify exemptions for anyone other than kids affected by things like organ transplants, HIV or ongoing chemotherapy.

       So the vast bulk of parents trying to exempt their kids essentially disregards the proven fact that vaccinations virtually eliminated once-dreaded diseases like polio and vastly minimized fatalities from measles, for one example which killed thousands of children annually as recently as the early 1960s.

On the basis of what amount to folk tales about autism, these parents choose to endanger all others with whom their children might come into contact if they are infected and contagious, but don’t yet know it. Such circumstances produced several significant outbreaks in California within the last six years, exposure to measles occurring at places like Disneyland and the Los Angeles International Airport.

       The moral weakness of the anti-vaccination stance is obvious, no matter how often activists masquerade as crusaders for “medical freedom.” Medical freedom can be a just cause when, for example, cancer patients with terminal diagnoses are denied access to experimental drugs or remedies not yet approved by government agencies. Things are very different when the goal is avoidance of vaccines proven effective over many decades.

       That contrast explains why Pan’s previous bills zipped through the Legislature, ending religious exemptions that formerly applied even when families involved followed no discernible religion. It’s also why the current bill had no trouble getting through state Senate committees and appears poised for Assembly passage and a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

       The anti-vaccination camp has failed for lack of merit to convince many lawmakers of the morality of its cause, frustrating adherents like the man who assaulted Pan while live-streaming his action on Facebook.

       It’s easy enough to blame an episode like this on today’s contentious political climate, but devotees of morally bankrupt causes have long resorted to violence and threats. The Ku Klux Klan does this; so do other hate groups. And the anti-vaccination camp has never been reluctant to make veiled threats, often painting Pan as a danger to children who should be punished.

     All of which makes the assault on Pan as much an admission of moral, intellectual and political failure as anything else.

     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, August 19, 2019




       A little-noticed special election in a “purple” Los Angeles city council district that suffered enormous utility-linked environmental damage over the last few years carries a major negative portent for the “Green New Deal” pushed avidly by some significant Democratic presidential candidates. Parts of the same proposed package are also embraced by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and much of the Democratic-dominated state Legislature.

       This was just about the only point of outside interest in a mid-August vote within an area of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley that has long elected Republicans to the city council, but to no other major office.

       The district includes most areas severely impacted by the 2015 methane leak from the Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage farm set in hills just uphill from the large Porter Ranch development on the north edge of Los Angeles. This disaster, largest natural gas leak in American history, continued for months into 2016 before it was staunched. It produced headaches, illness, thousands of evacuations, lower property values and a spate of lawsuits and fines – so far. Many individuals report they are still affected by lingering effects of the gas plume.

       So if any part of Los Angeles should have been enthusiastic about Mayor Eric Garcetti’s version of the Green New Deal environmental program, it should have been this district, so recently a victim of environmental depredation.

       What’s more, Democratic voter registration has increased in the area, just as in most of California, making this longtime Republican red stronghold into a “purple” area where either party has about an equal chance for electoral victory. “Blue” registration in the district now tops “red” by about 20 percent.

       The council seat became vacant earlier this year, when GOP incumbent Mitchell Englander went to work for a major sports and entertainment promotion firm. Into the race stepped Englander’s chief of staff John Lee and environmental activist/astrophysicist Loraine Lundquist, a professor at nearby Cal State Northridge. Lundquist has been an activist in efforts to close Aliso Canyon and hold Southern California Gas financially responsible for damages caused by its gas leak.

       While the local version of the green new deal was not the only major issue in this race, it was a significant one. The not-yet-adopted Los Angeles plan would completely eliminate single-use waste items like plastic straws, Styrofoam cups and take-out containers, with no trash at all going to landfills by 2050. It would also recycle all of the city’s waste water by 2035, seeks to put one-fourth of the city’s motorists into electric or other zero-emissions cars by 2025 and 80 percent by 2035, and wants to make the Port of Los Angeles (America’s busiest seaport) carbon-emission free within a decade. This is intended as a model for other cities.

       Good luck!, the voters seemed to say the other day, electing Republican Lee by a 4 percent margin in a nominally non-partisan election. Of course, Republicans have a long record of turning out in higher percentages than Democrats in special elections – and only 32,000 total voters participated. Plus, there’s a longstanding Los Angeles tradition where chiefs of staff often succeed departing incumbents on the strength of the contacts they’ve built up by working within the same districts.

Which gives Lundquist a decent chance to reverse the special election outcome when the seat comes up again in a city election set to coincide with the presidential primary next spring, sure to bring a much higher turnout.

       Nevertheless, if the green new deal is not a winning issue in a district that suffered greatly from the Aliso Canyon debacle, there’s some question it can be a winning issue in other swing areas around the nation.

       That’s something for ultra-liberal Democratic politicians like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to think about as they continue claiming an even wider-ranging green new deal should be imposed across America.

    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