Tuesday, August 25, 2015




          The more time goes by since last fall’s passage of the high-minded Proposition 47, the more it begins to look like a well-intentioned mistake.

          This was the ballot measure that turned some “minor” felonies into misdemeanor crimes, thus easing the crowding in state prisons and many county jails. It has unquestionably helped some ex-felons rebuild their lives.

          But as crime statistics for the first half of this year pour in from around the state, this measure looks worse and worse, on balance. The numbers are bearing out warnings Proposition 47 opponents made in their official ballot argument against the initiative before it passed by a whopping 60-40 percent margin.

          “Proposition 47 is a dangerous…package of ill-conceived policies wrapped in a poorly drafted initiative which will endanger all Californians, said opponents, led by Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd, president of the California Police Chiefs Assn.

          Here’s a bit of what’s happened since passage: In San Francisco, car burglaries are up 47 percent this year over 2014, while car thefts have risen 17 percent and robberies rose by 23 percent. In Los Angeles, overall crime is up 12.7 percent this year and violent crime rose almost 21 percent. That’s after 12 straight years of crime decreases in the state’s largest city.

          Some saw Proposition 47 as a mere expansion on Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison “realignment” program, designed to reduce prison populations at the demand of federal judges up to the level of the U.S. Supreme Court. Convicts on a de facto basis were already seeing sentences reduced or being shifted from tougher state prisons to county jails. Many lesser offenders who might previously have gotten at least some jail time were going free on probation. Prior to Proposition 47, this had cut the prison population by almost one-fifth, while not causing crime rate increases in most places.

    But the initiative does much more than mere realignment, switching many crimes from the felony category to misdemeanors. This includes most drug possession arrests, petty thefts, forged checks and receiving stolen property, with property crimes having to exceed $950 to be a felony. One result: Myriad drug addicts have adjusted their practices, trying to hold their take from “minor” crimes under that amount. Because of crowding in local jails, it’s common for misdemeanor offenders to be turned loose soon after their convictions.

          Proposition 47 supporters also touted the fact their measure allows all those crimes to be treated as felonies if the accused has previous convictions for rape, murder or child molestation or is a registered sex offender.

          Not enough, said the opponents, noting that persons with prior convictions for armed robbery, carjacking, child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and other serious crimes would still be allowed misdemeanor status for new non-violent offenses. They pointed out that thousands of convicts who stood to be released because their crimes would be converted into misdemeanors have prior records of violent crimes not listed among the most dangerous.

          At the same time, many convict firefighters (about 40 percent of crews battling major fires in California are convicts) have been released because of reductions in the category of their crimes.

          Prison-provided fire crews nevertheless retained the same manpower as last year during the early blazes of this wildfire season. No one yet knows if in-prison recruiting of some new firefighters will produce the same quality of work (several fires this summer spread far wider than officials expected) or whether more convicts on wild-land crews will now try to escape.

          Proposition 47 also earmarked much of the prison money it saves for mental health and drug treatment programs, aiming to cushion the effects of making most drug possessions no more than minor offenses.

          But enrollment in drug treatment programs has dropped, probably a sign that many addicts no longer feel pressured to kick their habits. They know they’ll never do significant time either for using or for most crimes that support their addictions.

          So it’s become quite clear the opponents made good points. On balance, Proposition 47 is turning out to be bad policy. Now it’s time for legislators to do what they can to fix the flawed measure. A start would be increasing the list of serious prior offenses than can turn the new “minor” crimes back into felonies.


    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net




          Back in June, the president of the University of California promised on national radio that the UC Board of Regents would vote in its next meeting – in July – on whether to adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.

          It didn’t happen. There was no vote, no discussion, not even an agenda item.

          No regent, including Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom or Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, spoke a critical word on the quiet disappearance of that item from the meeting.

          But the question is slated to reappear when regents gather again Sept. 16-17 in Irvine, not as a policy opposing anti-Semitism, but as a general discussion of “tolerance” on campus.

          UC administrators, of course, know all about tolerating anti-Semitism. No suspects have yet been found in several episodes of Nazi-like swastikas daubed onto university buildings and there have been no penalties for student government members who publicly questioned whether Jewish students can make fair and objective decisions or judgments on campus issues.

          That’s consistent with the lack of action against  students who set up mock roadblocks on the Berkeley campus where Jewish-looking students – and no others – were accosted by toughs carrying machine-gun mockups. This was some Muslim students’ idea of a legitimate protest against Israel’s anti-terror tactics, which have cut deaths by car- and suicide-bombings to a fraction of their former level.

          Toothless bromides about tolerance were all those events – and multiple others since 2010 – elicited from administrators and faculty apparently reluctant about doing anything to counter their system’s rising reputation for enabling outright anti-Semitism in the guise of a Palestinian-sponsored campaign to boycott Israel, divest from companies doing business there and create international sanctions against the Jewish state.

          No one suggests Israel’s policies should be immune from criticism, protest or debate. They are debated ceaselessly in countless Jewish forums.

          But adopting the State Department’s definition would let UC officials know when protest becomes bigotry. The State Department criteria, recently reaffirmed, are simple: If an action aims to delegitimize Israel, denying its very right to exist because it is a Jewish state, that’s anti-Semitic. If a protest demonizes Israel in ways not employed against any other country, that’s also anti-Semitism. And if a protest employs a double standard judging Israel differently from other countries, that’s anti-Semitic, too.

          Here’s one clear-cut example: When Israeli terrorists firebombed a Palestinian home and killed a child this summer, government officials immediately condemned the act and began a manhunt for the perpetrators. Palestinian officials and police have never tried to capture any countryman who killed Jewish citizens of Israel. Similarly, campus protestors who vilify Israel for the baby killing ignore the many more similar acts against Israelis. That’s as clear as a double standard can get.

          While Napolitano and the regents spent part of the summer backing off a tough stance against anti-Semitism, both the state Senate and Assembly passed a resolution calling on UC campuses to condemn it in all forms, a recognition that this age-old prejudice has morphed into new forms on campus, partly because of the presence of students from countries where anti-Semitism is official policy.

          A formal definition is needed, say groups that battle anti-Semitism, because of confusion over the relationship between Jew-hatred and animosity toward Israel.

          Since the Assembly under Atkins’ leadership passed its resolution unanimously, it seems logical she should lead her fellow regents back to specifics, rather than going along with the milquetoast attempt to simply discuss tolerance. The university already has myriad policies encouraging tolerance and excoriating “hate speech.”

          While those policies have not been enforced against anti-Semites, they effectively prevent hate activities directed against African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Muslims and other groups.

          “Action on anti-Israel behavior devolving into anti-Semitism is still on the table,” said a hopeful Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, lecturer at UC Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, which fights on-campus anti-Semitism. “We need a formal definition of what Jewish students are experiencing as anti-Semitism.” Without that, she said, administrators struggle to separate ordinary student protests from acts of hate. This may be one reason many egregious anti-Semitic acts have elicited no punishment.

    It’s high time the Board of Regents realizes that if it lapses into generalities and refuses to adopt specific guidelines like those of the State Department, it will be promoting an age-old hatred.

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 tdelias@aol.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2015




          Gov. Jerry Brown has never professed to be the model of political or ideological consistency. In fact, he’s a decades-long advocate of the “canoe theory” of politics, which goes like this: You paddle a little to the left and you paddle a little to the right, and you keep going straight down the middle of the steam.”

          You also keep all sides guessing a lot of the time and you make sure opponents of some of your policies are allies on others.

          So the governor who once proclaimed that “small is beautiful” and announced an “era of limits” for California apparently has no stomach for limits on huge developments.

          That’s the meaning of the agreements he made with legislators to exempt some of the most significant building projects on California drawing boards from many environmental regulations. These deals were part of the horse-trading that led to easy passage of the new state budget.

          Brown’s press release on the budget, of course, made no mention of such deals, which also exempt the project-enabling bills from thorough legislative hearings because like the developments they promote, they are fast-tracked.

          Yes, the same governor who demands that Californians cut gasoline use by 50 percent before 2050 and who is forcing electric companies to draw the bulk of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 has no qualms about facilitating a $200 million high-rise development in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles or the Golden State Warriors’ proposed new arena in the Mission Bay area of San Francisco, near the Giants’ AT&T Park.

          This is the same governor who has not opposed changes in the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, that allow developers to qualify initiatives okaying their projects for local ballots and then let city councils adopt those initiatives without a public vote or debate.

          That’s what happened in both Inglewood and Carson, medium-sized Los Angeles County cities where okays for competing 70,000-seat National Football League stadium plans came like greased lightning last winter, with no public input. Brown previously had quickly approved the Legislature’s easing of regulations on another, now inactive, NFL stadium plan for downtown Los Angeles.

          Brown’s collusion in efforts by developers and their pet legislators to ease the path of massive, neighborhood-changing projects stems from his late 20th Century years as mayor of Oakland, where state regulations stymied or delayed several housing and school projects he wanted.

          It was like a rude awakening to the real world for the onetime seminarian.

          But that’s no justification for depriving citizens of their right to input on projects, as Brown has now done several times, all while trying to maintain an image as America’s most environmentally-conscious governor.

          For the 45-year-old CEQA, which remains the same law today that onetime Gov. Ronald Reagan originally signed, the deals Brown has agreed to amount to a “death of a thousand cuts,” says one official of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

          Essentially, the exemptions for the largest projects now planned for California, the ones with the most potential environmental impacts, mean that the very wealthy can skirt the law by lobbying Brown and local legislators and city council members (read: making campaign donations), while homebuilders and others must live within the regulations.

          The latest ones also mean that residents of Hollywood and San Diego’s Mission Bay, like people in cities like Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Torrance and Manhattan Beach who are certain to affected by whichever new stadium goes up near the already clogged I-405 San Diego Freeway, will have little to say about their futures.

          If this is what Brown really meant when he campaigned in 2010 on a promise to devolve more government authority to locals and away from the state, it will surely go down as one of the least green and least positive legacies of his long political career.

    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 tdelias@aol.com




          The days when oil companies could deny they’ve gouged California motorists through much of this year should have ended with the second-quarter financial reports of Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., which together control about 40 percent of the California gasoline market.

          But their denials won’t end despite the humongous windfall financial gains they and other gasoline refiners reaped from a spring of obviously excessive gasoline prices. When the same companies unveil their third-quarter financial reports, the refiners’ take will likely be even higher.

          Valero saw California gasoline profits rise from $24 million last year to $294 million in the April-through-June period this year. Per-barrel profits rose from 99 cents in 2014 to $11.23 this year.

          Tesoro, meanwhile, reported a record profit of $668 million in the same time period, far outstripping its previous record of $415 million, set in 2007. Tesoro gasoline is sold under brand names like Arco, Shell and USA.

          Valero and Tesoro are the only oil companies specifically breaking out California refining profits in their corporate reports. Chevron, with large refineries in Richmond and El Segundo, does not distinguish California profits from other operations. But 54 percent of that firm’s refining is done here, and its company-wide refining profits rose $214 million in this year’s second quarter, the lion’s share no doubt coming from the pockets of California drivers.

          And yet, the oil industry’s regional umbrella organization, the Western States Petroleum Assn., continues to insist that oil companies did nothing out of the ordinary to create those record profits.

          It was all because of supply and demand issues beyond the control of the oil companies, insisted WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, in a response to a previous column alleging gas price gouging. She did not dispute that refiners exported gasoline to Mexico and Central and South America sufficient to supply California for three full days, or 10 percent of a month’s supply for the entire state, just before prices rose by more than $1 per gallon in many places on and immediately after July 1.

          In a blog post, Reheis-Boyd called those exports a “tiny volume” of fuel.

          And Valero Vice President Bill Day claimed in a telephone interview his company made more money because it made more gasoline – 88 percent more this spring than last. This left unexplained the higher prices and an 1,150 percent profit increase. Said Day, “Ask the dealers why prices were higher.” Three station owners told this column they charged more because Valero raised wholesale prices.

          Profits from the July price spike won’t appear in company reports until after Oct. 1; the second-quarter results reflecting earlier hikes imposed on motorists.

          Oil company executives admit the supply shortages to which they frequently expose California are highly profitable. In a conference call with stockholders, Chevron investor relations general manager Frank Mount said “Tight product supply, primarily on the West Coast, boosted refining and marketing margins and increased earnings by $165 million between quarters.”

          Chevron helped create that tight supply by shipping more than 400,000 barrels of California-refined gasoline to other countries just before the latest price spike. If tight supply means huge new profits, why would companies increase their stockpiles?

          All this angers the Silicon Valley-based billionaire Tom Steyer, who has funded several state ballot measures. In a press conference, Steyer asked that state legislators pass new laws forcing disclosure of oil refiners’ California profits. He would also require advance notice of planned outages and increased penalties for illegally conspiring to raise prices. “Oil refiners are getting rich at our expense,” Steyer said.

          If lawmakers don’t act by mid-September, he said, he might next year fund and run a ballot initiative imposing those rules, working with the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group. “Lack of transparency keeps prices artificially high,” Steyer added. “Normally, when profits and margins increase this much, a competitor steps in with lower prices. Why doesn’t the California gasoline market operate that way?”

          Whether by coincidence or not, gasoline prices dropped a bit the day of Steyer’s remarks. WSPA executives offered no explanation.

          Steyer’s comments suggest the California gas price gouging story is far from over, especially since he doesn’t deny he might run for governor in 2018. A highly visible record of fighting the oil companies could give him a strong campaign calling card.


    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. 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 www.californiafocus.net

Tuesday, August 11, 2015




          Four potential ballot initiatives completely legalizing marijuana are in the works for California’s next general election, with pot advocates yet to choose the variation that will get their concerted push.

          But one thing for sure: Whichever one they send out for signature gathering will say nothing about the detrimental effects of the mind-altering weed, well known as a proven demotivating factor for heavy users.

          The eventual pot legalization initiative (its official name is yet to be determined) will likely tax pot producers and dealers just like other businesses. And it will contain rules against anyone under 21 obtaining it, like measures adopted in Colorado and Washington.

          There will also be no nonsense about doctors’ recommendations, now required for medical marijuana use under Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Those recommendations, often faked, now facilitate cannabis use for plenty of folks with no discernible medical problem. This, of course, does not change the fact marijuana has helped plenty of cancer patients and others who need their pain alleviated, as well as helping vision problems and other ailments marijuana often eases.

          Essentially, all this means there is no longer much, if any, stigma attached to using marijuana. Entrepreneurs all over California are already gearing up to market everything from bongs to cannabis-laced fudge the moment legalization arrives.

          But as acceptance of marijuana has increased, both nationally and in California, the dangers also have risen. A 2014 study in the medical journal Current Addiction Reports (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40429-014-0019-6) found that using pot only once a week can lead to cognitive decline, lower IQ and memory problems. Other studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and other peer-reviewed medical magazines report a link between recreational pot use and brain abnormalities in young adults. Some law enforcement officials report more serious problems, too.

          Not to worry, say legalization advocates, because the age limit will keep marijuana away from teenagers. The identical rule, of course, applies to alcohol, and how successful is that in preventing teenage and college drinking?

          Acceptance of pot is so widespread that two of California’s most conservative Republican congressmen, Tom McClintock of Roseville and Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, along with liberal Democrat Sam Farr of Monterey County, are now pushing to prevent any federal interference with legalizing the weed.

          The GOP dominated House of Representatives passed the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment earlier this year on a non-partisan vote, seeking to prevent the federal Justice Department from stopping legalization anywhere. And a McClintock-sponsored amendment that barely failed in the House would have forbidden federal prosecution of pot dealers and users anyplace where state laws allow recreational marijuana.

          All this ignores the sometimes fatal effects of pot use reported in a new study from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Examining all deaths of Arizona children under age 18, the department concluded 128 fatalities in 2014 resulted from substance abuse. Marijuana was the most prevalent substance associated with child deaths, linked to 62, far more than alcohol or methamphetamine. This, when just 7.5 percent of Arizonans use marijuana regularly, compared with 52 percent who use alcohol. So there’s little doubt pot is a more serious problem for youngsters who use it than beer or liquor.

          Translate the Arizona numbers to California, six times as large but with no similar tracking of teenage deaths, and the likelihood is that more than 300 youthful fatalities here were tied to pot use last year.

          Says Sheila Polk, county attorney for Yavapai County, Ariz., northwest of Phoenix, “Legalizing an addictive drug that is linked to…increased psychosis and suicidal ideas, lowered IQ, memory loss, impaired learning and academic failure means more damaged lives and lost opportunities for our youth. It’s unconscionable to experiment this way.”

          Wrote Republican William Bennett, the nation’s first drug czar and a former secretary of education, “Overseeing or encouraging more marijuana use is just about the last thing a government trying to elevate (living conditions) would do. At stake is the safety of our youth.”

    Sadly, it’s unlikely voters will hear anything much like this when the drumbeat for legalization begins in earnest late next year.


    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. 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 www.californiafocus.net




          Almost no one seemed to notice last month, when California’s new budget took effect, that yet another distinction between citizens and non-citizens was breached. Voting now is about the only area left with a clear line between legal immigrants and citizens. Even for the undocumented, there are few privileges or rights they can't now enjoy.

          The state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in the last days of June contributed its share to this blurring by making immigrant children, regardless of their legal status, eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s public healthcare program. The expansion of care to under-18 immigrants will take effect next May, costing taxpayers approximately $132 million a year.

          The budget also creates $380 million worth of earned income tax credits for poor families who file tax returns, in effect boosting the incomes of about 825,000 families by an average of about $460 a year. Citizenship is not a requirement.

          As of Jan. 1, legal immigration status also ceased to be needed for getting a drivers license, although licenses for the undocumented look different from those obtained by U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.

          Just one year earlier, undocumented immigrants acquired the right to practice law under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. They also can now serve as election workers at the polls, even if they can’t vote. And this month in Huntington Park, undocumented immigrants were appointed to seats on two city commissions, a first in California.

          But Brown has stopped short of allowing non-citizens either to vote or serve on juries, vetoing two bills that handily passed the Legislature.

          So there remain two key differences between non-citizens and citizens, the ability to decide the fate of accused criminals or to rule in civil cases and the right to vote on serious matters of public policy and choose civic leaders to serve in offices from City Hall to the White House.

          But keeping those remaining rights and duties reserved exclusively for citizens is not a certainty.

          In New York City, for example, left-leaning Mayor Bill de Blasio and the equally liberal city council are considering a law allowing all legal residents, regardless of citizenship, to vote in city elections. There are already a few places that allow something like this, most notably Chicago, where non-citizens with children enrolled in public schools can vote in school board elections.

          Pushing a right to vote for New York’s non-citizens, one Queens College political scientist argues that “People are New Yorkers in profound ways without being citizens of the United States.” Non-citizens make up more than one-third of the populace of some city council and school board districts there, notes that city’s Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

          It’s no different today in plenty of legislative and congressional districts around California. That's a key reason a mere 46,000 votes were cast last fall in the East Los Angeles district represented by Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra, less than one-third the number that voted in the Orange County district of Republican Dana Rohrabacher. Becerra’s district is largely peopled by immigrant non-citizens, contrasting hugely with coastal Orange County.

          Some immigrant advocates, like activists pushing voting rights for non-citizens in New York City, maintain accurately that non-citizens are equally affected by public policy from tax levies to road building. So, they say, these folks should have a voice in those matters.

          The argument on the other side is that if duties and privileges long accorded only to citizens were to be assigned or given to non-citizens, what’s point of citizenship? What’s the incentive to learn American history and values, both integral to the exam immigrants must pass before they can be naturalized?

          Blur the distinctions between citizens and those who are not, and what’s left to move people toward citizenship? Perhaps just the reality that only citizenship would guarantee anyone the right to stay in this country if political winds ever shift radically and result in a mass expulsion of non-citizens, as some presidential candidates now advocate.

          The bottom line: it’s probably time to stop further blurring of lines between citizens and people who don't make that commitment and pledge of loyalty. That’s the only way to make sure people who have sworn allegiance to the United States are the ones making policy here, at all levels.

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 tdelias@aol.com 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015




          Fear and anxiety have been in the air around California’s Latino political leaders in the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear arguments next fall in a Texas case challenging the 51-year-old legal and political doctrine of one-person, one-vote.

          These fears may turn out to be far more valid than other recent scares for one party or the other.

          The Texas case challenges the notion that congressional and legislative districts should be drawn with equal populations, regardless of the composition of the populace in each. That was the precept dictated by the Supreme Court in the 1964 case of Reynolds v. Sims, which based its reasoning on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing equal protection of the rights of all persons under United States jurisdiction.

          The challenge maintains only U.S. citizens eligible to vote should  count when drawing districts, thus leaving out children of all ethnicities, legal immigrants waiting to become citizens and many others, including undocumented immigrants. The undocumented, of course, are the main targets of this effort.

          It’s facile to say that because Democratic fears over creating the Citizens Redistricting Commission that designed California’s current districts never panned out, the current Latino fears will also come to nothing. In fact, Democrats control the California congressional delegation and both houses of the state Legislature by the same or larger margins under the new redistricting system as they did when state legislators drew the previous districts.

          But some basic numbers suggest the change sought in the Texas case seems likely to create enormous change. And the current Supreme Court has shown it’s willing, almost eager, to retreat from previous signal laws like the Voting Rights Act.

     In California, the consequences of a ruling supporting eligible-voters-only population counts could be enormous. They could propel Republicans into a much more equal status in California than the party now enjoys, despite the GOP’s dismal performance in registering new voters.

          For instance, it now takes many more votes to win election to Congress in a reliably Republican district than in almost any Democratic district currently represented by a Latino politician. In 2014, for example, Lucille Roybal-Allard won election with just 24,227 votes in an East Los Angeles district with about 250,000 residents. At the very same time, less than 50 miles away on the Orange County coast, Republican Dana Rohrabacher won election with about 85,000 votes. Democrat Xavier Becerra, also from East Los Angeles, was reelected with 34,000 votes in that election, while Republican Carl DeMaio polled more than 75,000 in San Diego, but lost his race to Democrat Scott Peters.

          The pattern was the same in races for both houses of the state Legislature.

          If the Supreme Court OKs the Texas measure, things would change radically for Latino politicians who now benefit from the fact that their districts have low populations of potential voters compared to more conservative Anglo and African-American ones with many more who are eligible.

          The main consequence would be that districts would shift in a major way, parts of the currently Latino-dominated ones being incorporated into more conservative nearby districts. That could lead to increased competition for seats long held by the many-termed likes of Becerra and Roybal-Allard.

          There’s also the strong possibility states like California, Texas and Florida would lose substantial numbers of congressional seats to other states far from the Mexican border which draw many fewer undocumented immigrants. Because the undocumented are counted in every state’s population for determining how many seats in Congress a state will get, places with large numbers of illegal immigrants would likely lose seats and northern states like Wisconsin and Minnesota and Ohio and Massachusetts, with relatively small numbers of immigrants of all types, would gain.

          The change would also see a massive redistribution of federal grant money for everything from highways and sewers to parks and airports, all now determined in large part by state populations. Those services are used by everyone who lives in a given area, not just those eligible to vote.

          Which arouses many kinds of fears over this potential change, especially because some Supreme Court justices began musing along similar lines as far back as the mid-1990s.

    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. 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 www.californiafocus.net




          The ballot initiative carnival predicted when it became clear how few valid voter signatures would be needed to qualify measures for next year’s November ballot is now officially underway.

          Backers of parental notification before teenage abortions now appear set to qualify their measure for the third time since 2000. A referendum to overturn the recently-approved statewide ban on plastic grocery bags has already made the ballot. Others collecting signatures include a measure providing $9 billion in school bonds, a referendum to reverse the new law requiring virtually all school children to get vaccinations, and another substituting one big state-owned utility for the likes of Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

          At the attorney general’s office awaiting official titles are measures converting future California governors into presidents of the semi-independent republic of California and declaring the state’s Bear Flag equal to the Stars and Stripes.

    Four tentative measures would legalize marijuana and one would vastly increase tobacco taxes while trying to cut down on smoking.

          Some of these ideas are mere gleams in the eyes of sponsors willing to invest $200 to getting their propositions named and then hoping someone will invest enough money in them to gather 365,880 signatures, almost 140,000 less than were required to reach the ballot two years ago. The huge reduction in what’s needed to qualify a proposition stems from last year’s extremely low voter turnouts.

          In this morass of measures, one idea that’s already been tested both at the ballot box and in real life stands out: requiring condom use in all adult films shot anywhere in California. As of early spring, this measure already had one-fourth of the signatures needed, with four months left to get more.

          The idea is to stop the spread of AIDS among adult film workers who then might transmit it to others.

          This tactic was first approved by Los Angeles County voters three years ago, passing by a 57-43 percent margin as the local Measure B. The pornography industry responded by moving most production out of its longtime center in the San Fernando Valley portion of Los Angeles. Some filming went to neighboring Ventura and Riverside counties, but the biggest emigration was to Las Vegas, where the industry was embraced by much of the community, including the mayor, who issued a formal welcome statement.

          This led pornography producers yearning to move back to their old Los Angeles digs to claim the local condoms-in-porn law had not accomplished much of anything, other than to shuffle risks around, and that the same would happen if California passed a similar statewide law. Many state legislators bought into this claim, so moves for a state condom requirement went nowhere.

          But then, only months after large-scale porn video production began in Las Vegas, a single AIDS case changed things considerably, mostly because of the careful regulation Nevada gives prostitution in counties where it’s legal.

    Legal prostitutes get regular blood tests and health exams, with male customers required to use condoms for any interpersonal contact. Nothing like that has ever applied to most adult film actors.

    When the infection last fall quickly caused Nevada officials to begin drafting similar regulations for porn movie shoots, questions quickly arose about where else adult movie producers might move. It became apparent they can’t go far, with adult filming illegal in the blue-nosed likes of Louisiana, Georgia, New York and 45 other states.

    All this means the likelihood is that a statewide California law requiring condoms in porn has a better chance of succeeding than it did a few years ago. Sure, some producers would go underground and film "bareback" without permits or compliance with the condom mandate, as they still do in Los Angeles.

          But the arguments that such a law would mean big financial losses for California have largely been removed by the reaction to the first movie-related AIDS case in Las Vegas, which means this initiative – unlike many now proposed – is not only likely to make the ballot, but stands a good chance of passage and eventual enforcement success.


    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 tdelias@aol.com