Monday, December 4, 2023








        There’s little doubt California Gov. Gavin Newsom got what he wanted from the unique red state/blue state debate he staged in late November with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.


        But each for his own reasons, both men skirted the key point  in the energetic Fox TV exchange where moderator Sean Hannity continually brought up the so-called “California exodus,” which saw about 750,000 residents depart this state in 2021-22. Not even Newsom mentioned there was also an influx of about 475,000 new residents, meaning the net population loss amounted to about 300,000.


        This was just one of Hannity’s failings in a debate where he allowed the two contestants to shout over one another constantly, whining that “I don’t want to be a hall monitor.”


        But the elephant in the room was never mentioned by anyone, even though every academic study shows it has been by far the main reason for emigration from California over the past 10 years. That is the price of real estate, both to buy and to rent.


        Right now, the median home price in California, including condominiums and other types of homes approaches $900,000. In Florida, it is considerably below half that at $415,000.


        This means a typical Californian selling out before leaving can buy a larger new home in Florida for less than half what they’ve gotten for their former place. They can then live well on the remainder, or the interest on it, for years to come. That’s if the properties are owned outright. If mortgages are involved, house payments, like rents, will be much smaller in Florida.


        But in this debate, Hannity, Newsom and DeSantis preferred to pretend political and societal factors like homelessness, book banning, tax rates and abortion policy are the main reasons for the interstate population exchange, which has in fact been nearly even over the last 18 months.


        One reason for this switch from the previous two years, when Florida drew more from California than the other way around, is that many employers now demand workers spend at least part of their week in an office rather than working strictly at home. When workers have total freedom of location, they head where prices are lower, if other conditions are similar. That’s what really sent many thousands of Californians to new locales.


        But since wages are higher in California than in places like Florida and Texas, the trend slowed when many employers began asking workers to be physically present at least sometimes.


        Neither governor wanted this to come up as they debated. It’s not comfortable for DeSantis to admit pay is higher in California. It is equally discomfiting for Newsom to discuss the ultra-high home prices and rents that contribute both to homelessness and the current massive movement of young adults toward moving back in with parents.


        Yes, the governors lobbed insults back and forth as if they were playing verbal catch in someone’s backyard rather than performing in a TV studio before almost 5 million viewers.


        There was also the possibility this was a preview of the 2028 presidential race, when both men will have been termed out almost two years from their current jobs.


        What did Newsom get from all this? After spending about one-third of his time defending President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on a network where neither gets many positive words, he emerged clearly as their No. 1 surrogate. This sets him up to begin collecting political chits around the county as a leading Democratic campaigner and fund raiser, things that could be very useful in a 2028 presidential run.


        He also strongly reinforced his record of refusing to be bullied, just as he did when easily beating back the 2021 recall effort against him. Such a stand-up reputation could be important if he ever runs for a job where he’d have to contend with international strongmen like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Iran’s ayatollahs.


        So even with the elephant left sitting huge and silent in the room, Newsom got what he needed from this debate. What more could he ask from a brief trip to Georgia?



    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








        Federal courts are now being asked to step in and order prevention of bigotry and open hatred on California college campuses because leading university officials have failed to stop frequent hate incidents.


        That’s the upshot of a late November lawsuit against the University of California trying to stem some of the outright bigotry, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that has invaded higher education here since the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre and kidnapping of more than 1,500 Israelis and the ensuing war in Gaza.


        Top university officials at UC and elsewhere have issued pious statements lamenting prejudice, meant to placate all sides, but have not slowed the spread of bigotry that began long before Oct. 7 and accelerated exponentially afterward.


        UC President Michael V. Drake and chancellors of all its campuses vowed to make their schools safe again for Jewish and Muslim students, putting up $7 million for voluntary classes and committees to end “acts of bigotry, intolerance and intimidation.” So far, that’s been about as successful as most government committees.


        “There is no place for hate, bigotry and intimidation at the University of California, period,” went the UC leaders’ statement. “Anti-Semitism is antithetical to our values and our campus codes of conduct…It will not be tolerated…Similarly, Islamophobia is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”


        Yet the incidents persist at UC and elsewhere. Many Jewish and Palestinian students have said they now fear going onto prominent campuses where they must attend classes in order to graduate. Yet, no student has yet been expelled from any California university this fall for the kind of actions and speech the UC leaders decried.


        That, says the Washington, D.C.-based Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, led it to sue the UC Board of Regents, Drake, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and other officials for the “longstanding, unchecked spread of anti-Semitism” at Berkeley that has resulted in “a hotbed of anti-Jewish hostility and harassment.”


        Even with its wider implications, the suit zeroes in on Berkeley Law, where 23 student groups operating with at least some state funding now prohibit participation by anyone with Zionist sympathies. The suit also reported for the first time some dramatic incidents of intimidation, harassment and physical violence against Jewish students. So far, no one has reported a similar series of offenses against Muslim or Arab students.


        Among the Berkeley episodes cited was one where two protesters struck a Jewish student in the head with a metal water bottle while he walked past a pro-Hamas rally. Jewish students and faculty have received hate mail that evoked the Holocaust by calling for their gassing and murder. Pro-Hamas protesters disrupted a Jewish prayer meeting and then honored Hamas “martyrs” killed while “butchering Jewish civilians.”


        Similar incidents began long before October, the lawsuit notes. As far back as 2016, Palestinian students set up a mock roadblock near a Berkeley campus entrance, accosting anyone walking past they thought was Jewish with realistic-looking weapons made from thick cardboard. At UCLA, a pro-Israel Jewish student was intimidated by Palestinians and supporters into giving up a student government office to which she had been elected. No similar episodes have targeted Palestinian activists or their campus supporters, although some alumni have lately said they won’t hire those students in the future.


        Jewish students charged in the lawsuit that Berkeley “does so little to protect (them), it feels as if the school is condoning anti-Semitism.”


        Said Kenneth Marcus, Brandeis Center chairman and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education in the George W. Bush and Trump administrations, “This is a direct result of Berkeley’s leadership repeatedly turning a blind eye to unfettered Jew-hatred. The school is quick to address other types of hatred; why not anti-Semitism?”


        Marcus added that Berkeley, “once a beacon of free speech…and equal treatment of persons, regardless of race, religion…and ethnicity, is heading down a very different and dangerous path.”


        University officials now have ample time and opportunity to respond and prevent federal intervention. They could create a policy of expelling students who repeatedly act out or encourage hatred. No California campus has yet done this, but for UC and others, it would be a major statement that they mean business when they say they won’t tolerate bigotry.



    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, November 27, 2023








        For many years, the various regions making up this vast state bore distinctive looks, featuring everything from tree houses in California’s far northwest corner to Pueblo-style architecture in the deserts of eastern Riverside County.


        Then came San Francisco’s Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener with his ideal of dense housing everywhere, accompanied by state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s conviction that every part of California must do its share of high-rise building if the current housing shortage is to be solved.


        Wiener, a resident of San Francisco’s ultra-dense Castro district, never says this, but makes plain that he would like all of California to look like his neighborhood, filled with decades-old wooden apartment buildings.


His many results include additional dwelling units (ADUs, once known as “granny apartments”) behind or beside a large portion of newly built homes everywhere in the state and eight-story buildings in many neighborhoods formerly zoned for single family homes.


        The new state housing laws provide little or no room for cities to worry about their ambiance or their longtime character, both major traditional concerns for local governments. Never mind what local residents anywhere want.


Resist massive new housing projects and you will be labeled a NIMBY (not in my back yard) and your concerns scorned, valid or not. Never mind, also, that much of the newly-built housing stands vacant because relatively few Californians can pay either the $3,000-plus monthly rents asked in many new buildings or the astronomical condominium prices even where new units are labeled “affordable.”


        One of Wiener’s newest housing bills, SB 423, extends for 10 years an existing law that allows virtually automatic approvals for so-called affordable building projects almost everywhere. There is no requirement to allow new high-rise buildings only if there’s high occupancy of existing housing in the same areas. No provision for developers to finance new schools or parks. Also, there’s no requirement for owners to lower prices when units stand vacant for long periods.


        Now this one-size-fits-all mentality has begun to infect other policy areas.


        Proposed new water use rules, for one example, would require all the state’s more than 400 water-supplying agencies to develop new water-use budgets yearly, starting in 2025. These demands stem from two 2018 laws calling for the state to create new standards, including permanent water consumption goals.


        Making goals annual, and not perpetual, is an attempt to add some flexibility because water supplies vary greatly from place to place and from one year to the next. But there will be usage cuts everywhere starting no later than two years from now, even in places with plentiful water.


        No one has yet said how this can be compatible with building 2.5 million new housing units over the next eight years, as one recent estimate from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development claims must happen.


        Meanwhile, some new one-size-fits-all measures do make sense. Example: All ballots listing referenda aimed at canceling laws passed by the Legislature or local governments will now carry both more information about sponsors and new language describing the meaning of votes.


        This was spurred by the reality that in some referenda, a yes vote has meant keeping a new law, while in others, yes meant getting rid of recently-passed measures.


        From now on, yes and no on ballots will be replaced by “keep the law” and “overturn the law,” making it more certain voters know what their choices mean.


        Said Democrat Isaac Bryan of Los Angeles, the 31-year-old former Assembly majority leader, “Voters now have better tools to understand the impact of referendums (sic) and ensure their vote reflects their intent. Our democracy is stronger today than it was yesterday.”


        That’s one case where one size really does fit all of California, greatly improving public understanding of ballot measures.


        But such rationality is rare among efforts to enforce identical rules and solutions on every locale. They ignore realities of population movement and the preferences of millions who have invested life savings into neighborhoods they had every reason to believe would remain as stable as they previously were for generations.



    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








        Rarely has the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seen such widespread opposition to one of its proposed actions as when it voted unanimously in mid-November to remove one of the major benefits of placing solar panels on homes and apartment buildings.


        That benefit: Any excess power generated beyond what a owner uses could until now be sold back to the state’s grid, meaning that rooftop solar not only took owners off the grid and exempted them from seemingly annual electricity price hikes, but also could be a source of income.


        Naturally, the big utilities hated this. For Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, this was not merely an expense, but lost income, plus the loss of large amounts of potential future income.


        It was loss of future utility income for new solar owners that decided the issue for the PUC, which has favored the big privately-owned companies over their customers in virtually every electric price dispute of the last half century.


        This has been true no matter whether commissioners were appointed by Democratic or Republican governors.


        This time, solar income issues coincided with a request from PG&E to dun customers for undergrounding more than 1,200 miles of electric lines to make them less prone to start fires in an era when most large wildfires have been sparked by arcing power lines. That alone will raise average PG&E rates by as much as $30 per month starting in January. Similarly sky-high increases for other electric companies will soon follow.


        But the question of rooftop solar panels was different and the exact costs to consumers remain uncertain, except for the inevitable reality they will rise considerably, atop the costs of undergrounding, which will also be done by the other big utilities. Meanwhile, the PUC never said it was handing the companies a bonus by ending their payments to solar panel owners.


        Rather, they said, not paying the solar owners will reduce rates for other Californians who don’t own panels and now help subsidize people who do. Commissioners also held that solar power will expand faster if it’s done via large desert-area solar farms than through citified rooftop panels.


        So they expanded an earlier order to cut payments to new residential solar owners, also eliminating them for apartments, schools and businesses with panels. But it's clear this won’t work out so well for other Californians no matter what the PUC claimed.


        What the commissioners did not say (they almost never mention this key factor) was that getting power to cities from large new solar thermal farms in desert locations, hundreds more miles of transmission lines will be required. Rooftop solar requires no such power lines.


        While the solar farms are owned by other companies and often subsidized by big federal grants, transmission lines are built and owned by the utilities. They cost billions of dollars, depending on the distance of a given solar farm from where it links to the grid.


        Privately-owned utilities fund the lines with loans or bonds whose interest is paid by consumers. At the same time, they are assured an annual profit usually ranging between 10 percent and 14 percent for each dollar they spend on capital improvements, lasting 20 years. For sure, transmission lines are capital investments. Erecting them costs about $2.29 million per mile over many hundreds of miles.


        This means that every $1 billion in consumer-financed dollars PG&E or Edison or SDG&E spends bringing solar power to its customers translates into pure profit of at least $100 million per year, with no risks attached.


        That’s the actual essence of what the PUC has now ordered, because the mere prospect of taking income out of the solar ownership equation has already cut installations of rooftop solar substantially.


        That's precisely what the utilities wanted. They can now expand their stated need for solar thermal power as the state moves steadily toward full dependence on renewable energy. For them, more big renewables mean more transmission lines and more profit.


        Which also means that regardless of what commissioners said, the latest PUC move will translate to ever higher electricity payments for almost every Californian for decades to come.



    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, November 20, 2023






        If there’s one California politician who has consistently run as a child welfare advocate, it is Gov. Gavin Newsom, father of four.


        So if there’s one bill he should not have vetoed this fall, it was the lone proposed law that actually promised to put money into the hands of youngsters who need it most: foster children.


        And yet, there was Newsom’s Oct. 8 veto message: “I am returning Assembly Bill 1512 without my signature…”


        Some background here: California has between 55,000 and 60,000 children in foster care at any given time. Many are disabled youths from poor families. Some have seen one or both parents die. Others have been placed there because parents cannot cope with them for any of a host of possible reasons.


About 20 percent of foster kids get monthly payments (ranging from $1,000 to about $2,400, depending on the child’s financial background) under the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. But across the nation, including in California, some counties take all or part of the money from those kids and use it to refund themselves for payments they make to foster parents and other expenses of caring for foster kids.


     So, unlike almost all non-foster kids, youngsters who have suffered the most tragedies and other difficulties often are actually paying for their own support. This can come at the expense of their future.


Newsom had a chance to correct this by signing AB 1512, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Isaac Bryan of Culver City. The measure would have prevented California counties from taking benefits like SSI payments away from orphaned or disabled children to cover costs of their foster care.


     But Newsom turned into a bean-counting bureaucrat in considering this potential law. He said he vetoed it because the question did not come up during last summer’s negotiations on the state budget. Uh-huh. As if a $19 million expense (the approximate cost of letting the kids keep their own cash) would be anything more than the proverbial drop in the bucket of a $311 billion state budget. Letting kids keep their cash for future use would add a small fraction of 1 percent to that budget.


     Said Newsom, “With our state facing continuing economic risk…it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications, such as this measure.” Less than one-tenth of one percent is significant?


        By contrast, the money that might pile up in bank accounts held for foster kids might be very significant to them once their foster care eligibility ends when they turn 18.


        No foster child has anything more than a high school education when that time arrives. High-paying jobs in technology and management will never be open to most of them unless they are especially determined and somehow find scholarship money, loans or part-time employment allowing them to attend college, which can increase earning power exponentially.


        But if foster kids have SSI money awaiting them at age 18, things can be different. Those funds can add up to tens of thousands of dollars per child, enough for modest living expenses while attending community colleges and later transferring to four-year schools. It’s also money that can prevent former foster kids from becoming homeless.


        Newsom has essentially foreclosed these possibilities for many fostered youngsters for at least another year.


        It’s not as if California would have been the first to tell counties to keep hands off that money. States like Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon did that soon after confiscations were exposed in a 2021 investigation by NPR and the Pulitzer Prize winning Marshall Project.


        Meanwhile, two of California’s biggest counties, San Diego and Los Angeles, backed AB 1512.


        Said Bryan, if counties don’t take money, “it is not lost revenue for them; this is stolen money to begin with.”


        The fact that Newsom didn’t recognize both this and the boost the money might give aged-out foster children boggles the mind.


        The bottom line: If ever a vetoed bill deserved a rerun, it is AB 1512, which appears certain to be reintroduced after the Legislature reconvenes in December. Maybe if this bill reaches his desk again, Newsom will actually live up to his child advocacy rhetoric.

    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






There’s no doubt that if interim Democratic Sen. LaPhonza Butler, appointed in October to occupy the late Dianne Feinstein’s California seat in the U.S. Senate, had opted to try keeping the job for the next full term, her residency would have become a major campaign issue.


        That’s because Butler, who lived many years in Los Angeles before moving to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2021, had to re-register to vote in California before accepting her appointment from Gov. Gavin Newsom. She moved to Maryland to do her former job as head of the Emily’s List political action committee, a 3 million-member group that raised more than $44 million for liberal female candidates in 2022.


        It’s true, the U.S. Constitution does not require senators to be registered voters in the states they represent, but only to be “inhabitants.” Since Butler appears to have moved back to California just before her appointment, she probably qualifies. But the whole point became moot for Butler when she opted out of next year’s campaign.


        Residency also could have been an issue between Democratic Congress members Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine, the current polling favorites to face off next November in the race to replace Feinstein long term. But it won’t be.


        Porter led Schiff by one point in one major survey late this fall and Schiff led Porter by three in another. Porter leads among younger voters in both the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll and that of the Public Policy Institute of California, while Schiff had wide margins among voters aged 50 and up.


        Recent entrant Steve Garvey, the Republican former all-star Dodgers and Padres first baseman, was about seven points back of the pair in both surveys, just ahead of Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland.


        What about the residency of Schiff and Porter? (Lee and Garvey have no such issue.) First, residency can be important. Only about 10 years ago, then-Democratic state Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood lost his seat after being convicted of listing an old residence within his district as his primary home, but a court ruled he actually lived elsewhere. Former legislator and Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon also lost his council seat soon after it was discovered he lived outside his district.


        Schiff’s issue with this could have been that mortgage records show he sometimes claimed a house in suburban Maryland as his primary residence, while at other times stating a 650-square-foot condominium he owns in Burbank is his primary home. In 2020, he listed the Maryland house as a secondary residence. So, which is it?


        Meanwhile, Porter, still on leave from a teaching job at UC Irvine’s law school, lives in the school’s University Hills housing development, where she bought a home at below market price in 2011, part of UC’s effort to make housing affordable for new faculty members. Some have questioned her right to keep living there after almost five full years in Congress. When they eventually sell, buyers of such houses cannot reap the same level of capital gains as people who buy market rate property elsewhere.


        Whenever Porter decides to move out, she will have to offer her four-bedroom house first to UCI faculty or staff or the university itself. But her defeated 2022 reelection opponent, Republican Scott Baugh, questioned her right to keep living there. Baugh currently seeks the seat Porter will vacate at the end of 2024.


        Other current non-teachers also live in University Hills, including retired faculty and surviving spouses of faculty members who have died.


        Said Baugh in 2022, “(Porter) should have given up this taxpayer subsidized housing benefit four years ago when she was elected.”


        But university policy says faculty on unpaid leaves, like Porter, can stay.


        Chances are that unless Garvey soon makes a charge and slugs his way into a Top Two slot in the November election, this will not become a big issue between Schiff and Porter, despite the awkward positions of both.


        Why? People who live in glass houses usually are wise enough to avoid throwing stones.


    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, November 13, 2023






        Until a consumer advocacy group used the Public Records Act to unearth previously secret records, it was uncertain just what the insurance industry won when it blackmailed millions of Californians last summer and fall.


        Now it’s clear the companies won immense new freedoms from longstanding regulations that have saved California insurance customers billions of dollars since 1988, when voters passed Proposition 103 – and despite this, some firms are still not back in the market here.


        Here’s how the blackmail worked: Companies like State Farm, Allstate and Farmers stopped selling new property policies anywhere in California, claiming intolerable losses from wildfires. They neither specified how much they lost nor mentioned the $13 billion they clawed from electric companies to compensate for most of their wildfire payouts of the last six years.


        But they loudly insisted they would never again sell homeowners coverage or other property insurance here without relief. The tactic met the dictionary definition of extortion, one form of blackmail: “The act of getting something from someone through violence, threats, or other forms of coercion.”


        There was no violence here, but plenty of threats and coercion.


        To its credit, the state Legislature rejected a bill that would have knuckled under to the insurance companies.


        But elected Democratic Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara quickly reacted by doing just that in the form of new, eased regulations. He gave the industry what it wanted, but did not immediately reveal all the details.


        Now the Consumer Watchdog group, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, main sponsor of Proposition 103, has uncovered what Lara gave away under the guise of compromise.


        Supposedly, the companies committed to sell homeowner policies in wildfire areas up to 85 percent of their market share in non-threatened places. They could, Lara said, meet that commitment by selling bare bones policies akin to those offered by the hyper-expensive, last-resort Fair Plan.


        But there was a lot Lara did not say. For one thing, if his new regulations withstand legal challenges, he and future commissioners could waive the 85 percent market share commitment in wildfire areas when insurers claim they can’t do it.


        This information was found in emails and proposed legislative language given to lawmakers and lobbyists by a deputy insurance commissioner.


        It contains no solid standard of proof for potential insurance company claims that “it is not possible” to meet their commitments.


        Plus, insurers can reach their 85 percent level by pulling customers out of the Fair Plan and giving them the same low-coverage, high-cost policies as the Fair Plan, but possibly at even higher prices.


        The proposed new regulations did not say how the new industry commitments would be enforced or monitored. So Lara and future commissioners would be accepting the companies’ word for any claims they make. There is no stated penalty for failure to meet commitments.


        The new rules also mimic what the Legislature rejected by allowing insurance companies to set future rates via private predictions of future catastrophes, without disclosing how predictions are reached.


        Lara also apparently gave away some key consumer protections in Proposition 103, even though that may be illegal. One example: his plan authorizes insurance companies to pass through to customers the unregulated cost of “reinsurance,” policies the companies buy to protect against large losses. These would be limited to “California-only risks,” even though no one has proven risks are higher here than in other fire-prone states like Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Texas and Arizona.


        There also would be no requirement to disclosure communications between insurance companies and state regulators. Plus, there are new limits on public participation in reviews of proposed new rates.


        It all amounts to a massive giveaway, unprecedented except in the prior insurance industry blackmail of the 1990s that ended the companies’ obligation to sell earthquake insurance in California.


        All this angers Democratic U.S. Rep. John Garamendi of Fairfield, who was the first elected insurance commissioner. Lara’s plan, he said, threatens “protection of consumers against unchecked corporate interests.”


        No one knows how much of this will pass legal muster, but one thing is certain: While Lara denies surrendering, his almost total cave to the companies will cost every property owner in California big bucks on future insurance bills.



    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