Friday, April 26, 2013




          Last fall’s overwhelming, more than 3-1 Latino vote for President Obama has at last gotten leading Republican politicians to realize they can’t permanently treat all 11 million undocumented immigrants like criminals.

          Gradually, too, from possible presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to former presidential candidate and Arizona Sen. John McCain, they are coming to accept the notion that any significant plan to change American immigration policy must include some path to citizenship for illegals who have lived and worked many years in America.

          They are still far from convincing all their party mates that shifting to this stance and abandoning their far more hard-line past positions favoring mass deportation is suicidal for the party in a nation where Latinos are the fastest-growing population element and voter bloc.

          Tony Quinn, a former Republican political operative and now co-editor of the California Target Book guide to state politics, calls GOP leaders favoring changes in their policy “Republicans who can count.”

          They are, he said, “moving to take over the party with a mission to stop alienating the fastest growing parts of the American electorate.”

          Changing immigration law to create a doable path to citizenship, of course, will not be enough. (And there is some doubt that the 13-year waiting period included in the immigration reform package now before the U.S. Senate fits into the doable category.)

The GOP will also have to convince Hispanic voters its candidates are the best choices on the other issues salient to Latinos – the same ones at the top of other Americans’ agendas. Those include job creation, education reform and health care, according to the latest survey by Latino Decisions, whose polling of Latinos before last November’s election correctly forecast an Obama margin of about 75 percent to 25 percent among Hispanics.

          But without significant retreat from the GOP’s longstanding hardline stances, Republicans will simply not get much more than 2012 candidate Mitt Romney's 22 percent of the Latino vote anytime in the near future, the poll shows.

          “There is a swing vote of about 30 percent among Latinos,” said Matt Barreto, a University of Washington professor and a principal in the Latino Decisions firm. “In our polling, only 13 percent of registered Latinos are definite Republican votes, but 44 percent say they would give Republican candidates a strong look if they took leadership in getting a pathway to citizenship.”

          Barreto adds that his survey “proves the alarm clock is ringing loud and clear for the GOP. Latinos oppose the ‘no-citizenship, but work permit’ approach some Republicans have proposed, because it would create a permanent underclass. A half-baked solution without citizenship at the end is no solution at all and will leave Republicans without the Latino votes they need to get elected.”

          This creates a quandary for some GOP politicians, since much of the GOP base adamantly opposes any sort of citizenship for anyone currently in this country illegally. Wrote one conservative blogger, “The immigration restriction base for the GOP is like public employee unions are for the Democrats in California. They’re the strongest faction.”

          But Republicans who want to soften the party’s stance plainly think those voters – like the conservative Republicans who often said they could never vote for Romney for president – would eventually come back to the party because they would have nowhere else to go.

          And with about one-fifth of the 10 million Latino U.S. citizens who are currently unregistered widely expected to register in time for the 2016 election, it’s clear the GOP needs more appeal to Latinos to have a shot at winning any future national vote. Fully 58 percent of the 800 registered voters surveyed by Latino Decisions said immigration change is the decisive issue for them and another 30 percent rated it second only to jobs.

          That makes this is a gateway issue. “It’s a matter of fundamental respect or disrespect for us,” says Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union. “In the last election, Latinos felt the Republicans were being disrespectful. They can get back to the level of about 40 percent among Latinos if they show that respect.”

          The GOP will need to do more than just shift on immigration, but without opening that gate, the party will surely continue to lose ground, both nationally and in California, where Latinos are expected to be the single largest ethnic group within the next year or two.     

Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is




      Normally, it's uncomfortable at best to hear a federal judge -- let alone a panel of three such jurists -- thunder criticism at one from the bench.

      But as usual, Gov. Jerry Brown is different. For beyond doubt, prison realignment has drawn more criticism than any other single thing he has done in his second incarnation as governor, even more than his devotion to high speed rail. But the judges' tirade now provides Brown a convenient scapegoat, one on which he can pin blame for the entire prisoner-release program, and with complete accuracy.

      That, of course, wasn’t the way the three-man judicial panel intended things to go when making bald threats against the governor if he doesn’t release even more convicts.
“At no point over the past several months have defendants indicated any willingness to comply, or made any attempt to comply, with the orders of this court,” said the panel, referring to Brown and his administration. “In fact, they have blatantly defied (court orders).” 

      The three jurists – district judges Lawrence Karlton and Thelton Henderson and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Steven Reinhardt – gave Brown 21 days to submit a plan for meeting their prison population target by the end of this year. If Brown doesn’t simultaneously begin complying with the court order, the judges said, he risks being cited for contempt. So the governor said he would ready a plan to release 10,000 more prisoners in case his appeals fail.

       Imagine a California governor sitting in the basement lockup of a federal courthouse eating cheese sandwiches. Theoretically, at least, it could happen, if the judges aren’t satisfied with Brown’s response.

      The court’s latest order stems from the fact that even after Brown’s controversial realignment program reduced convict numbers by about 20,000 over the last 18 months, state prisons are remain filled to 149 percent of their designed capacity. The judges say this overcrowding constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and prior, similar rulings have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

      Meanwhile, Brown looks around the state and sees cities cutting police forces to balance budgets, well-to-do neighborhoods hiring private security to compensate, a 65 percent rise in warrants issued for paroled sex offenders supposedly tracked by GPS devices who have gone missing and a few felons turning violent after being convicted of non-violent offenses and then paroled under realignment.

      Possibly the most significant of the latter type of case was the early April fatal stabbing of a woman in a Fontana park-and-ride lot. California Highway Patrol officers later shot and killed the alleged murderer, David Mulder, a 43-year-old transient with a history of drug offenses released from state prison a few months earlier under realignment.

      Mulder, like many others, had been transferred to the supervision of county probation officers.

      Complained Fontana Police Chief Rod Jones to reporters after that incident and another where a felon released to county supervision alleged raped a woman in a hotel room, “Dangerous prisoners that belong in state prison continue to be released early.”
These and other cases caused Brown’s conservative critics to rip him, even suggesting he be indicted for assisting those crimes.

      But the entire realignment program was a response to federal court orders – upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court – to reduce prison crowding and improve prison medical care. Brown’s first two budgets in his current term provided money for local agencies to supervise the supposedly low-level, non-violent criminals involved.

      The problem, of course, is that there’s always a risk of a previously non-violent offender turning to more serious crime. Car thieves occasionally become arsonists, burning vehicles and whatever is near where they’re parked. Some drug addicts become armed robbers, rapists or killers.

     This happens even without realignment, but draws much more focus when prisoners are being released early and some go missing either because local parole officers are overloaded or tracking devices fail or are removed.

      Brown said little about those cases, except that they’ve been rare exceptions under his program, which is correct. 

      Now he won’t have to be very defensive any more. For by resisting the latest court order, even to the point of approaching a constitutional crisis, he can argue that whatever he’s done has not been of his own volition and was designed to minimize risk.

      In a state with a long tradition of voting for tough-sounding law-and-order candidates and ballot propositions, the judges’ threatening language has inoculated Brown against most soft-on-crime charges that might be leveled against him during his anticipated 2014 reelection campaign.

      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

Friday, April 19, 2013




          The operators of both the San Onofre Nuclear Power Station and the nuclear waste reservation at Hanford, Wash., could not be doing better if they actually wanted to promote a new prospective ballot initiative aimed at keeping San Onofre offline and also shutting down Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s Diablo Canyon power plant.

          Together, the two big generating stations produce about 16 percent of California’s electricity when they’re operating at full blast. And Hanford is America’s largest and most contaminated nuclear site.

But San Onofre has been shuttered for about 15 months while its operator, the Southern California Edison Co., tries to replace steam generator tubes that degraded much more radically than expected and leaked small amounts of radioactive steam in January of last year.

          Meanwhile, at Hanford, a radioactive tank leaked through much of February, causing Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to worry publicly about other tanks on the reservation, beside the Columbia River.

          Nothing could be better for the sponsors of the California Nuclear Power initiative that has been circulating since early February.

          San Onofre, says Santa Cruz resident Ben Davis, the measure’s prime author “has proved our biggest local asset as far as showing that nuclear energy is undesirable. It has helped to keep our drive alive.”

          Davis’ proposal, aimed for the November 2014 general election ballot, would ban further electricity production at both San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, which features twin 1,100-megawatt reactors set along the coast in San Luis Obispo County.

          Among other things, the initiative would demand a formal finding from the state Energy Commission that the federal government has approved technology for disposal of high-level nuclear waste “before further electricity production at these plants.” No such technology currently exists, with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducting a decades-long search for secure waste disposal sites and some reactors – like San Onofre and Diablo Canyon – storing waste on-site. For nuclear opponents, the Hanford leak demonstrates the unreliability of current waste disposal and storage methods.

          So far, the anti-nuclear initiative has little financing, causing Davis to suggest that at some point he may scrub the current petition campaign and re-submit a similar initiative in order to stretch out the current July 8 deadline for gathering the 504,760 voter signatures needed to place this measure on the ballot.

          Even if it gets to the ballot, there is no guarantee this measure will pass. A similar effort in 1975 lost by a large margin, even though it came less than two years after exposure of vast cost overruns at Diablo Canyon, caused in part by a “mirror image” problem – some key reactor components were essentially installed backwards, causing delays until 1985 for the first power from the plant.

          Even though the 1975 proposition lost, state legislators the next year slapped a moratorium on new nuclear plants, one that still stands.

          The current measure also faces some problems with the description the state’s non-partisan legislative analyst hung on it: “Potentially major impacts on state and local finances…in the form of decreased revenues and increased costs due to near-term disruptions in the state’s electricity system and electricity price increases.” No actual price tag was placed on this.

          Negative as that description may be, it’s still better than what the analyst said about an abortive similar measure proposed two years ago. At that time, the analyst’s description promised immediate rolling blackouts with billions of dollars in economic consequences if the measure passed.

          That was changed, though, after Davis and other backers cited a state Public Utilities Commission chart ( indicating California would have excess power until 2020 even without its two nuclear plants.       

          Things definitely worked out that way last summer as San Onofre was shut down through the summer season, when power use is heaviest, and there were no brownouts.

          Says the California Nuclear Initiative website, “The emergency actions taken by the state (during last year’s San Onofre shutdown) have led the California Independent System Operator to predict the state will enjoy a comfortable, blackout-free summer in 2013 (without San Onofre’s two units) and that the potential for blackouts will lessen in the future.”

          Despite all this, passage of the anti-nuclear initiative would be far from certain even if it makes the ballot next year in this very environmentally conscious state. As in 1975, the national nuclear industry would pour massive funds into a “no” campaign, using the legislative analyst’s pessimistic description to stir fears.

          The central question in such a campaign would be one of fear, with trepidation about possible blackouts pitted against worries about a possible California version of Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster and its still-ongoing consequences.

Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is




          Like flowers blooming in the spring, Republican candidates for governor have begun to pop up during the last few weeks.

          But there’s a key difference between the folks jumping up this time and many who ran in gubernatorial primaries of the last two decades:

          There are no billionaires among the early entrants. There is no one with the financial wherewithal of people like airline mogul Al Checchi, former Congresswoman Jane Harman (whose big money came from her late husband’s electronics business), financier William Simon, developer Phil Angelides, software innovator Steve Poizner and former eBay executives Steve Westly and Meg Whitman.

          There is also no one with the political experience of a Poizner or a Westly or an Angelides, all of whom held statewide office before running for governor.

          And certainly no one with the combination of experience, savvy and fund-raising ability of Gov. Jerry Brown, whose approval ratings are high in every poll after reducing the huge state deficit he inherited at the start of his latest term.

          In fact, the coming run for governor looks like a cakewalk for Brown, who was gallivanting around China as his would-be rivals started making their pitches. It is similar in one way to Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s 2006 U.S. Senate reelection campaign, where only one Republican bothered to enter the primary – the far-right former state legislator Richard Mountjoy of Monrovia, who never had a chance.

          It is similar in other ways to Feinstein’s reelection drive last year, when several Republicans vied for the GOP nomination against her, but none was adequately funded for a serious run and all were previous political unknowns who soon faded back into obscurity. Anti-autism activist Elizabeth Emken won the GOP nod, but lost the election by a 63-37 percent margin – meaning she drew virtually no votes beyond the bare-bones Republican base.

          The early list of prospects to run against Brown next fall is short so far: Onetime state Sen. and ex-appointive Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who has not formally declared, has some name identification around the state despite having been beaten soundly by Democrat Gavin Newsom when trying for the lieutenant governor’s office on his own in 2010.

          State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Hesperia also has a bit of a public profile – but not for positive reasons. This early enlistee in the anti-undocumented immigrant Minutemen organization is best known for trying to carry a Colt pistol onto an airliner at Ontario International Airport in January 2012. Donnelly's run for governor (he was the first to declare) comes after getting three years probation when he pleaded no contest to reduced charges of carrying a gun into a city without a permit and carrying a prohibited item into a sterile area. Donnelly has never admitted he had no concealed weapon permit when caught with the gun in his attaché case.

          Also lurking in the Republican weeds is Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach, a former county treasurer.

          One statewide GOP official summed up theprospective candidates in two words, "serious problem."

           The short list has already produced its share of intra-party sniping and maneuvering. Billionaire physicist Charles Munger Jr., son of the partner of renowned investor Warren Buffett, says he will donate to Maldonado’s campaign in gratitude for Maldonado’s fathering the state’s three-year-old “top two” primary system. There were no limits on what Munger could contribute to the initiative campaigns for top two and two other measures he funded last year, but there are strict limits on what he can give directly to Maldonado this time.

Maldonado is also derided by the GOP’s leading anti-tax advocate, Grover Norquist, head of the advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform and the main purveyor of the “no new taxes” pledge many Republicans sign before running for office.

          Noting that as a state senator in 2009, Maldonado voted for a temporary tax increase, Norquist told a reporter that “If you’re a Republican who raised taxes, how can anyone trust you? The state’s worse off because he did it.”

          Besides that, Maldonado last year proved unable to defeat the vulnerable Democratic Congresswoman Lois Capps in a district with far less of a Democratic plurality than her party’s current statewide edge.

          It’s almost absurd to think Brown, who has vied with the likes of ex-Gov. Pete Wilson, billionaire Whitman and a sitting attorney general in Evelle Younger, worries much about the Republicans now lining up.

          If Poizner or some other billionaire capable of writing personal checks to finance a major campaign were to enter the lists, Brown might be given some pause.

          But right now he looks as secure as any 2014 candidate in America, even though he hasn’t said a word about running.

      Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is