Friday, December 30, 2016




Very soon, California’s government will begin to learn what it means to deal with a president who very frequently is less than truthful.

          The reality of Donald John Trump’s relationship with facts and truth apparently didn’t matter much to voters in the many small-population states which together provided the Electoral College majority that’s about to put him into the White House – if he chooses to headquarter outside his eponymous gilded tower.

          The phenomenon became obvious early in last year’s presidential campaign, beginning with a whopper told during an early Republican primary debate.

          Trump bragged about being great friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying they met in the “green room” (essentially a waiting room) of a CBS News 60 Minutes broadcast a year earlier. Trouble was, Putin was interviewed for that show in his Kremlin office not far from Red Square, while Trump appeared from an office in his eponymous tower in New York. The pair may have met elsewhere earlier, but unless the green room was somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean, Trump’s story was simply impossible.

          Trump told so many whoppers during the campaign that the nonpartisan PolitiFact website rated him as less than 25 percent truthful just before Election Day. The site reported 76 percent of Trump statements of “fact” were more than half false. (Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton got a 26 percent falsehood rating.)

          The pace of Trump falsehoods slowed after the election, perhaps because he’s had fewer public appearances. But the president-elect is no more shy about turning to Twitter than he was during the campaign.

          Like most of his not-quite-so statements, his most egregious post-election one was completely self-serving. Smarting because he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million, giving him less of a mandate for policy or anything else than any previous president, Trump tweeted “Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California – so why isn’t the media reporting on this?”

          Of course, major media immediately seized on that tweet, noting accurately that Trump offered no evidence of fraud. Television interviewers gave Trump aides several opportunities to back up his charges, but they could cite only two claims of voter fraud from 2013 and 2014, both long ago proven bogus.

          But Trump still persists in his claim, perhaps unwilling to accept the fact he didn’t come close to winning the contest for votes of American citizens.

          That’s where California comes in. Officials here, starting with Secretary of State Alex Padilla, an MIT engineering graduate, called the Trump charge of massive vote fraud by illegal immigrants “absurd.”

          The claim was reminiscent of what followed when Democrat Loretta Sanchez (defeated last fall in a bid for the U.S. Senate) unseated longtime conservative Republican Rep. Robert Dornan in 1996 in his Orange County district. The GOP-led Congress ordered a full investigation of possible illegal immigrant votes for Sanchez. When that GOP-led effort concluded 14 months later, it had found only a few hundred possibly flawed ballots, but could not tell for whom they were cast. The total of all such ballots was well below Sanchez’ winning margin.

          There is no reason to believe a fraud investigation today would be different.

          But Trump’s self-serving statement, like his claim of being a Putin green-room buddy, was nevertheless widely disseminated on social media like Facebook – home to many fake news stories – and is widely believed in many parts of America today, just as most Trump voters think he won the popular vote. Because his slander against election integrity in California harmed no individual, he won’t be sued for it.

          The question now is whether and when Trump will part from the facts again in ways that denigrate or harm California. If he or his administration denies federal grants to this state – which pays more than any other into the federal treasury – on false grounds, will there be legal action to rectify matters?

          What happens if Trump agrees to “deals” with California officials, then denies making them? So far, he has never so much as apologized when his remarks were exposed and proven untrue.

          This is completely new territory for America and for California, neither of which has ever had to deal with such an unaccountable chief executive.

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




          The election results were in more than month ago. Except in California and a couple of other states, Republican Donald Trump drew a robust number of presidential votes, enough to put him in the White House even if it fell well short of a plurality.

          But there was nothing robust about the performance of his party mates here in America’s largest state.

          They lost seats in the state Legislature and barely held onto piddline 14 out of 53 seats in California’s congressional delegation. Unless things change soon, they only promise to get worse and worse over the next few years for the state GOP.

          If past is prologue, the state’s Republican Party will soon become the third choice of Californians registered to vote – and 78 percent of those eligible to register are in fact registered – fully 19.4 million of us, according to the count delivered by Secretary of State Alex Padilla four days before November’s Election Day.

          That overall number is up about 1.2 million over the last four years, despite forecasts that far fewer people would sign up to vote this time because outgoing President Obama was not on the fall ballot.

          And yet the Republican number is way down. Over those same four years, the state’s GOP lost 312,000 voters even as population climbed and Trump spent much of May campaigning here, at many stops encouraging his supporters to register Republican.

          This was obviously not enough. For as Republican registration nosedived to just 26 percent of registered voters, Democratic registration was up about 775,000, for a net gain of more than 1.1 million voters over their Republican rivals in just four years.

          How did this happen in a time when there was no dramatic demographic change and no one group had reason to be more motivated to register as voters than any other?

          One factor is the Republican brand. Starting in 1994, when the GOP and then-Gov. Pete Wilson got staunchly behind the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187, the party label has been anathema to the vast majority of Latinos and other groups with a significant immigrant populace.

          This means fewer and fewer new voters want to call themselves Republicans, even if they share some ideas and preferences with the GOP.

          In registration numbers, that created a huge shift into the “no party preference” (NPP) category, now the No. 3 choice for registered voters at 24.2 percent of registrants, barely 300,000 voters behind the Republican tally.

          Over four years, the NPP total is now about 25 percent above its level of four years ago, gaining more than 900,000 voters, the largest increase of any political group, or in this case, a non-group.

          There’s some comfort here for Democrats, who have seen many thousands of Republican voters convert to their column or drift into NPP-land. California voters, said party spokesman Michael Soller just before Election Day, “reject Republicans’ election lies and suppression tactics…”

          But more of them are choosing to switch to the NPP column than into the Democratic fold, which translates as a warning to the Dems: Don’t get smug.

          For the GOP isn’t losing voters just because of its brand. It’s hurting because it’s out of step with the majority of Californians, whose fall votes favored gun controls, legalized marijuana and higher tobacco taxes, just a few causes Republican Party officials refused to back.

          If a party gets too out of step with the voters its candidates seek to represent, it is doomed.

          But many Republicans, voters and officials alike, prefer to stick to their very conservative guns, refusing to bend even a little on hard-line stances they’ve long held. “We wouldn’t be offering a choice if we changed,” said one party official.

          In effect, they’re borrowing a line from the 19th Century Kentucky Sen. Henry Clay, who said “I’d rather be right than president” – and never became president despite three national runs.

          Like Clay, the GOP will keep losing elections unless and until it bends at least a little. And if it won’t bend to fit the preferences of the clear majority of California voters, it soon may have runoff spots in even fewer races than it did this fall.

          That’s the real meaning of all those complicated voter registration numbers.

     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

Friday, December 23, 2016




          No industry is more vital to the finances of vast numbers of Californians than real estate. With homes and buildings the largest assets of millions of families in this state, it’s vital the agents and brokers who buy and sell property do so with integrity.

          That means telling buyers all known flaws in any home or building they’re considering. It means giving them honest information about square footage of buildings and land. It means refusing to drive client buyers into panicked situations where they become so desperate they bid far above appraised values and asking prices.

          That’s common practice for most brokers, but sometimes has gone by the wayside in deals where the same agent or brokerage company represents both buyer and seller.

          Such breaches of what should be common sense ethics have now drawn the ire of the state Supreme Court in a decision based on California’s state constitution, not the federal one that’s usually interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in ways that favor businesses over consumers. So any appeal from it by large brokerages would likely prove fruitless.

The decision in a case known as Horiike v. Coldwell Banker, handed down late last fall and overshadowed in news coverage by post-election turmoil and President-elect Donald Trump’s transition process, may be the most important from the state high court in decades.

That ruling stemmed from millions of dollars worth of omissions held back from a Hong Kong businessman who in 2007 purchased a beachfront Malibu mansion with sweeping ocean views for $12.25 million. Two years later, he learned the four-bedroom, 5.5-bath house he thought contained 15,000 square feet actually held less than 10,000 – more than one-third under what he’d been told.

Hiroshi Horiike spoke only Chinese and Japanese and felt fortunate when he found an agent who could communicate with him in Japanese. He didn’t know it was important that the seller was also represented by another agent of the same brokerage.

The agent for the seller, court papers said, used public records to learn that the manse actually had a living area of 9,434 square feet, plus a guesthouse, a garage and a basement that brought the total area to “approximately 15,000 square feet of living space,” as one listing for the property put it. At a showing, the agent gave Horiike a flyer advising in small print that “Broker/Agent does not guarantee the accuracy of the square footage.”

When he got a building permit for some remodeling two years later, Horiiki noticed a lower square footage number and sued the brokerage, which had a legal duty to pursue the best interests of the buyer as well as the seller, because both agents worked for the same company.

          It took more than seven years for the case to be decided in Horiike’s favor by the state’s highest court, which set a precedent for all other cases where agents from the same brokerage represent both buyer and seller.

          The ruling means Horiike, whose damage claim against both the seller’s agent and the brokerage, can return to trial court, where his case was rejected years ago. Now he’ll be able to seek millions of dollars in both actual and punitive damages because the house he bought was not even two-thirds as large as advertised.

          Others who feel similarly wronged or deceived will also be able to sue. But the decision still leaves agents and brokerage firms able to legally represent both buyer and seller in any given transaction. They merely have to disclose all the information they possess to the buyer, amazingly not previously of their obligations.

          This obvious-seeming duty may create new paperwork for agents, who will probably have to give more details than before to prospective buyers. But it also offers large new protections to home buyers across California, who often use proceeds from selling one house to buy another.

          It will assure more honesty not just when billionaires buy mansions in Malibu or Marin County, but also for buyers of far smaller homes in Fontana, Redwood City, Madera, Auburn and every other California locale.

          It’s a bit of relief in an era when almost every appeals court and regulatory agency favors business interests over the customers they’re supposed to serve.


    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




          As a United States attorney in Alabama serving under President Ronald Reagan in 1986, the 39-year-old Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was charged with enforcing civil rights laws. But he said then that he didn’t have much of a problem with what the Ku Klux Klan stood for, musing that he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out they smoked pot.”

          Sessions takes office as U.S. attorney general in a matter of days, at the same time President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into the office he won with far less than a plurality of popular votes last fall.

          Because he has not changed his opinion of pot over 30 years, Trump’s new attorney general, recently a solidly anti-civil rights Republican senator, could be headed for major confrontations with new California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the chief legal officers of seven other states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana.

          How much antipathy for the weed does Sessions harbor? Now 70, he observed in April that “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that it is “a very real danger” that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” He has called pro-pot laws like last fall’s California Proposition 64 a “tragic mistake” and blasted outgoing President Obama’s attorneys general, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, for announcing they would not prosecute most marijuana offenses, and then making that their policy.

          It’s a policy that can and very likely will be overturned quite soon.

          This makes it entirely possible that federal agents will go after pot growers and dealers, even the fully permitted retail outlets that sport big neon green cross signs in many parts of California.

          That’s because California is the fattest, most prominent target among the eight states with fully legalized marijuana, which include Colorado, Alaska and Washington, among others. California also provided Democrat Hillary Clinton her entire 2.8 million popular vote margin in the fall vote, and more.

          Sessions’ authority on pot is based on the constitutional principle that federal laws always preempt those of individual states. So long as pot – both for medical and recreational use – remains verboten under federal rules, arrests can happen here anytime the Trump administration likes.

          One thing that might make legalized pot easier for Sessions to go after is the fact that of the eight fully-legal-cannabis states, only one – Alaska – voted for Trump. So Trump loses no critical support if he goes after California’s law and the new crop of businesses taking advantage of it.

          Sessions could act by suing in federal court to have Proposition 64 invalidated. There is certainly plenty of precedent for this tactic. Most recently, after the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 passed by an even wider margin in 1994 than Proposition 64 did, federal judges dispatched almost all its provisions as unconstitutional, including sections banning the children of undocumented immigrants from public schools, denying emergency medical care to them and more.

          What worked for liberal lawyers in the late 1990s would most likely work as well for conservative ones now, while marijuana remains a federal Schedule 1 drug, right alongside heroin, ecstasy and LSD. By contrast, the likes of morphine and methamphetamines are mere Schedule 2 villains, judged by federal authorities to be one step less pernicious than pot.

          A concerted federal campaign against cannabis would certainly get little or no aid from most state or local police in California. It would make terrible investments of the many millions of dollars spent over the last year or so on land and infrastructure to grow and distribute legal pot. And if he’s resolute in defending Proposition 64 and any Californians targeted by Sessions and his corps of U.S. attorneys for acting on it, Becerra could become a hero to the 60 percent of Californians who backed Prop. 64.

          All this is safe to contemplate because there’s absolutely no evidence Trump would order Sessions to desist from prosecuting the pot establishment here and in other legalized states.


    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, December 19, 2016




          With the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump now only weeks away, and the fall election receding into the rear view mirror, one thing becomes ever more clear:

          The scope of the Latino vote majority Democrats needed and expected to get was significantly less in 2016 than in many earlier elections. And while outgoing President Barack Obama has spent some of the last few weeks skirting this fact by whining about how Democrats didn’t turn out, the diluted Latino vote very possibly means he cost his party the White House.

          That’s because Latinos, often taken for granted by national Democrats, have long memories.

          By a large majority, they still are very reluctant to vote Republican because of the tarnish left on the GOP brand by former California Gov. Pete Wilson and the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 he pushed so hard during his 1994 reelection campaign.

          So it’s no wonder Latinos were well aware of Obama’s record on deportations: Over his first six years in office, Obama presided over the deportations of more than 2.1 million persons who lived in this country illegally. That’s equal to about one-fifth of the total estimated national population of the undocumented. It was a massive increase from the 1.1 million deported during the last five years of the Republican George W. Bush administration.

          How did this manifest in November? Exit polls of persons who had just voted showed that Democrat Hillary Clinton got only 65 percent of Latino votes to 29 percent for Trump.

          Democrats generally need better than a 70 percent majority of Latino votes in order to win a national election. Republicans historically only need backing from about 30 percent of those voters, and that’s right about where Trump came in.

          By contrast, Obama got 71 percent of Latino votes in 2012 to 27 percent for Republican Mitt Romney, and handily won reelection in both the popular and electoral college votes.

          It wasn’t the 2 percent increase in Latino votes for Trump over Romney that was key here; rather, it was the 6 percent decrease that Clinton drew. Placed together with her drawing 5 percent less of the African-American vote than Obama did (88 percent for Clinton, 93 percent for Obama), the dropoff was enough to defeat her in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where margins were razor thin.

          About the only explanation for the drop in Democratic support by Latinos this year was the Obama-era deportations. Not even Trump’s repeated, vituperative anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rants dimmed memories of those expulsions.

          But every sign is that Trump won’t be able to repeat or increase the gains he made among Latinos, the way the late Ronald Reagan did between 1980 and 1984, when he posted a 7 percent gain in Latino votes. That will be especially true if Trump follows up on his pledge of mass deportations, especially for undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions, no matter how minor their offense. Trump has made no efforts to differentiate between, for example, shoplifters and rapists.

          His initial goal, he says, is to round up between 2 million and 3 million criminal immigrants in the country illegally.

          That could not only put the incoming administration in direct conflict with the sanctuary city laws of California places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where police have already said they will not aid in any immigration raids, but could increase the proportion of Latinos personally acquainted with deportees or those about to be deported.

          That figure now stands at 40 percent, according to the Latino Decisions polling firm. It was a key reason for the limpid Democratic vote among Hispanics. “Latino voters who know someone that is undocumented are 43 percent less likely to have a favorable impression of (Obama),” reported University of New Mexico Prof. Gabriel Sanchez just before the election.

          Enough of them, plainly, couldn’t bring themselves to hold their noses and vote for Clinton, a close Obama associate, and that unwillingness was a big reason Democrats lost the White House.

          Those same people do not, however, have a favorable impression today of Trump and their feelings will only get stronger if he pursues his current plans. Trump didn’t care in 2016, and only time will tell if this will matter when he presumably runs for reelection in 2020.

     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 




          The scene was a festive holiday-season dinner with guests from both Northern and Southern California. But the discussion grew serious as the question arose of whether President-elect Donald Trump would really try to set up a national registry of citizen and resident Muslims in America as an anti-terror tactic – which he advocated while running for office –  with no one knowing what might come next.

          “If that happens, I would immediately go and register as one,” declared one youthful woman, a non-Islamic mother of two small children.

          Days later, more than 600 computer engineers and programmers for California-based high-tech giants like Google and Twitter said they would refuse to take part in setting up or operating such a database, even if it cost them their high-paying jobs. This defiant list has now surpassed 2,000.

          Trump’s staff, however, says he never advocated a registry based on religion, but when asked about it in an NBC-TV interview in November 2015, he said “"Oh I would certainly implement that. Absolutely."

          All this evoked the actions of Danish citizens when German leader Adolf Hitler ordered a roundup of occupied Denmark’s 7,800 Jews on Oct. 1, 1943, in the midst of his World War II campaign to exterminate Europe’s 6 million Jews.

          Christian Danes first alerted all Danish Jews to hide, then staged a two-night boatlift taking more than 7,200 Jews across a narrow strait from Helsingor (Shakespeare’s Elsinore), north of Copenhagen, to neutral Sweden.

The Danes’ King Christian X became a historic hero by actively encouraging this.

          It’s uncertain that Trump will order a Muslim registry, although his transition team’s chief advisor on immigration, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has said he advised Trump to establish a list of immigrants and visitors from countries where terrorist organizations are active. Read: refugees and others from predominantly Islamic places like Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Somalia and Algeria.

          Some Trump allies cited as a legal precedent for such a registry the roundup and internment of Japanese-American Nisei in remote, primitive camps just after the Pearl Harbor attack that brought America into World War II. Never mind that the U.S. government under President Ronald Reagan long ago apologized and paid reparations for those actions.

          Kobach, a longtime anti-illegal immigrant activist, wrote Arizona’s 2010 SB 1070, which required police to stop anyone who looked like an immigrant (read: Latino) and demand documents showing they were authorized to be in this country. Courts later declared the law unconstitutionally discriminatory.

          Any registry or database of the type Trump proposed during his campaign would probably need cooperation from America’s large high-tech companies, most headquartered in this state, just as President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 effort to track phone traffic by potential terrorists needed cooperation by the likes of AT&T and Verizon. But the subject did not arise when more than a dozen mostly-Californian high-tech moguls met with Trump in mid-December.

          At first, only California-based Twitter and Facebook took refusal stances on any such Muslim registry. Later, Apple, Google, IBM, Uber and Microsoft jointed them, possibly prodded by the stances of thousands of their employees.

          When, a self-described “adversarial journalism” website, asked major tech firms what they would do about a registry, Microsoft initially said “We’re not going to talk about hypotheticals at this point,” and provided a link to a company blog advocating “not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but inclusive culture.”

          What several companies at first did not see, but Twitter and Facebook apparently understood right away, was that if they said nothing they would be tacitly approving the idea of a religion-based list.

          The moral question here is similar to what confronted Danes in 1943, even if the potential consequences for people resisting a Muslim list or database are far less threatening than the shoot-on-sight tactics carried out by Nazi SS troopers when they encountered or caught someone defying an occupation regime order.

The bottom line: Tarring all Muslims as potential terrorists would be a form of discrimination somewhat comparable to rounding up America’s Nisei, especially since the vast majority of Islamic-Americans have absolutely no interest in or record of promoting anything anti-American.

     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

Monday, December 12, 2016




          At long last, one wing of the state’s Public Utilities Commission is making sense on a major dispute commissioners will decide between a big utility and its millions of customers.

          At issue is who will pay the enormous costs of the 2007 Witch, Guejito and Rice fires that killed at least 10 persons and destroyed more than 1,125 homes in a wide swath of the San Diego area. The fires began with power lines owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Co. that arced dramatically when dry winds reached 100 mph and more in October of that year. But the company’s latest rate increase application asks the PUC to dun customers – including residents who have since rebuilt their charred homes – for 90 percent of its approximately $380 million in fire-related expenses.

          In some ways, this rate increase request from a company whose board of directors includes the sister of Gov. Jerry Brown is even more egregious than the PUC’s ruling in 2014 to force customers of both SDG&E and Southern California Edison Co. to absorb about 70 percent of the $4.7 billion cost of decommissioning the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County. The plant closure was largely the result of an Edison blunder, part of the reason that ruling is now being reconsidered.

          The Witch Fire began as a small blaze caused by power lines near Ramona, then grew exponentially within 24 hours to reach the San Diego city limits. It soon combined with smaller fires to eventually incinerate whole neighborhoods and cul de sacs.

          This was not open rural country, but high-priced suburban real estate. Evacuations were ordered during a three-week period in cities like Oceanside and Encinitas, Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe and Rancho Bernardo and more. More than 197,000 acres burned and more than 500,000 persons had to leave their homes at least for awhile.

          In the rate increase application, there is no talk about the company compensating affected customers for their own fire-related costs, as most might think fair. Damage claims afterward came to more than $4 billion, much of it not covered by insurance.

          Now the PUC’s own Office of Ratepayer Advocates, largely passive during the San Onofre dispute and the controversy over token punishment of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for its negligence (the term used by federal prosecutors) in the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight persons, has for once taken a forceful stand on a significant issue.

          Testimony filed in late fall saw the OPA roundly condemn SDG&E, whose actions it called “not those of a prudent manager.” The office argued that the utility did not comply with state rules on vegetation management, which is as crucial around power lines as it is for homes in fire-prone areas. The company should not be rewarded for ignoring regulations, the OPR argued.

          SDG&E, of course, claims it is entitled to reimbursement for its fire-related expenses, which would cost the average customer $1.67 per month for several years.

          “The alleged involvement of SDG&E facilities in the ignitions of the three fires does not show (the firm) acted unreasonably or imprudently,” company lawyers said.

          The case creates a major test for the scandal-plagued PUC, whose current president, Michael Picker, keeps promising more transparency and adherence to rules prohibiting private contacts between commissioners, their staff and utility regulators during rate cases. Despite the rules, such contacts have long been common.

          If SDG&E ends up paying only about 10 percent of its expenses from a hugely traumatic fire caused in large part by its equipment and its inaction, the PUC will be saying there’s been no change despite many scandals.

          Only if the company’s proposal is cut by much more than half will there be any reason to believe this commission has turned a page and become more friendly to the consumers it is supposed to serve.        

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




          President-elect Donald Trump probably does not lose much sleep over it, but millions of Californians have spent wakeful nights since his election wondering what will happen to their health care if he follows through on his promise to “eliminate Obamacare on Day 1.”

          That day is just weeks away now. If the promise is kept (and Trump so far shows signs of ignoring some promises he made during the election season while carrying out others), it could affect about 4.6 million Californians whose health insurance is at least partly funded by outgoing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).

          They either buy insurance plans under the Covered California exchange or they’ve joined the federally-subsidized Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health care plan, since Obamacare began subsidizing expansion of the program in 2014.

          Of course, unless Congress has acted prior to Trump’s inauguration, he won’t be able to do away with all this on Day 1. Most analysts say it would take an act of Congress to undo state exchanges and the Medicaid expansion of which Medi-Cal’s growth was a part.

          But even if it doesn’t happen on Trump’s first day, when he’s also promised to reverse many Obama executive orders in areas like immigration, oil drilling and environmental regulation, changes will come.

          House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has in the last couple of weeks unveiled the general outlines of a Republican plan to “replace” the ACA, which now provides health care to about 20 million Americans who couldn’t get it before.

          Ryan’s plan, almost certain to be adopted by Trump with only small changes, would offer tax credits rather than direct subsidies to help people pay for insurance. It would keep Obamacare’s protections for persons with pre-existing conditions. Trump has also said he wants to keep Obama’s rule allowing young people to retain coverage under their parents’ policies up to age 26.

          But Ryan’s blueprint would not force anyone to buy insurance, nor would it impose fines on individuals who don’t buy into the system, as the ACA does. That means less money will be coming into the insurance system, which in the Ryan plan translates to much higher deductibles and higher premiums as policy-holders age.

          Ryan would also add a high-risk pool to the insurance picture, much as high-priced auto insurance is available to high-risk drivers. This would mean high-premiums for persons with cancer and chronic conditions that are expensive to treat. So much for that pre-existing condition protection.

          These provisions, of course, will be subject to tweaking and to input from Trump’s new secretary of Health and Human Services, current Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who has long sought to dump all of Obamacare.

          The bottom line on all this that most individuals now covered under Obamacare will likely see premiums rise and coverage drop, in spite of Trump’s oft-repeated promise to replace Obamacare with better insurance at lower prices.

          In California, that will likely affect about 3 million persons now on Medi-Cal that’s subsidized by the ACA, and many of the almost 1.4 million who buy policies from companies selling plans in the Covered California exchange.

          Most affected of all will be young people: The share of children covered by Medi-Cal or the state’s Healthy Families program grew from 32.8 percent in 2009 to 40.3 percent in the most recent figures reported by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.

          That helps explain the several protest rallies involving nurses, doctors, patients and healthy senior citizens  that have been held around the state in the last month.

          “The actions threatened by Trump and the Republican Congress are a direct attack on health care for the most vulnerable,” said one doctor at a Los Angeles rally. “California has done more to expand health care access than any other state. We need a massive effort to protect California’s…progress toward health care for all.”

          Unless similar rallies spread far beyond California and draw huge crowds, don’t expect much sympathy for those views from Republicans in Congress. Most have wanted to axe Obamacare since before it took effect, and with the backing of the President-elect, there’s nothing to stop them from moving now against those who benefit most from Obama’s law: the poor, the very young and the legal immigrants.

     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

Monday, December 5, 2016




          There was big, very big, ground water news for California in 2016, but almost no one paid attention because it came in the midst of the most heated presidential campaign in modern memory. For those who did notice, it seemed almost like Christmas came early, at midyear.

          The news was this: A Stanford University study found huge and previously unknown supplies of ground water far beneath the surface of the ever-thirsty Central Valley. At a minimum, the newfound water supply amounts to twice the amount pumped from Central Valley aquifers since California was settled, or about 270 million acre feet (one acre foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre of land, weighing about 10 tons).

          The total weight of the water on hand amounts to about 2,700 billion tons, the Stanford researchers estimated.

          This good news seemed to bring a sense of relaxation to big farms that have used more than 125 million acre feet of ground water over the last century or so (figures for ground water use are notoriously imprecise). But the efforts of water districts to draft new ground water rules under a 2014 state law nevertheless continued, and that turns out to be a good thing.

          For getting the “new” supplies the researchers found by examining data from 35,000 water wells and 938 oil and gas wells turns out to be pretty complicated and uncertain.

          For one thing, the suddenly discovered many, many millions of acre feet are not exactly staring anyone in the face. Most of them are pooled at depths between 1,000 and 10,000 feet below the face of the earth, the bulk at levels a mile or more down. A 400-foot water well now typically costs between $6,000 and $12,000 to drill, depending on the geology involved. Adding a well cap to keep the water supply free of vermin can cost thousands more. No one is quite clear how much a 9,000-foot well might run.

          There’s also the likelihood that the water might be salty, as a rule of thumb says that the deeper it sits, the saltier the water. For sure, the deeper you go, the older the water you’ll find. Researchers have estimated much of the newly-found California supply might have been in place more than 20,000 years, so there’s a good chance it would have to be desalinated. It might also need to be purified in other ways, if residue from oil and gas drilling or fracking has trickled into it.

          There could be a few other problems with pumping water up from thousands of feet underground. One is subsidence. The floor in many parts of the Central Valley today is about 30 feet lower than it was 1925, the result of ground water pumping. Emptying deep-down basins of the water that has filled them for eons could see far more land sinking much farther. Even without using this water, the agricultural region has seen steady sinkage every year for decades. Government pays billions of dollars every year to fix sinking bridges, cracking irrigation canals and buckling highways caused by subsidence.

          Pumping that water also is a one-and-done deal. Since it would take much more than 50 years to refill basins that don’t collapse, this is water that can essentially be used once, and never again. Even if it’s a little cheaper to desalinate and clean than sea water, at least the oceans are rising these days – despite President-elect Donald Trump’s claim that climate change is a scam – unlike California’s ground water levels.

          The upshot is that even though Californians now know there’s far more water underground than anyone thought possible a year ago, this is no easy-to-unwrap Christmas gift. Rather, it’s a supply that should only be exploited in a time of maximum desperation, a condition California has not come close to reaching.

          And that means the pokey timetable of that 2014 ground water law should be speeded up, its 2030 deadline for meaningful regulations moved up by a period of at least five to seven years if the state is serious about conserving and replenishing accessible ground water found fairly close to the earth’s surface.


     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




          All through his career, unpredictability has been the hallmark of Gov. Jerry Brown, and he did it again by choosing 12-term Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles as California’s next attorney general.

          With his confirmation by a Democratic-controlled Legislature completely certain, Becerra will force other major politicians to look over their shoulders; some are likely to change their longstanding plans. He also moves the state beyond an era of substantial domination by a clique of San Francisco-area Democrats that has included U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, outgoing Attorney General and new U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Brown himself, a former Oakland mayor.

          Becerra, 58, instantly becomes California’s top-ranking Latino politico. He’s not saying, but he could run for election to his new office on his own in 2018, or he could run for governor against the declared likes of Democrats Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and possibly so-far undeclared Republicans like San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer or outgoing Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

          Former San Francisco Mayor Newsom led the only major public poll conducted so far on that race, with the two Republicans placing second and third. Becerra, until now the Democrats’ No. 3 figure in the House, would shake up that race enormously because of his longtime popularity among Latino voters.

          But he insists he’s not looking ahead. “I’ll be gratified if I can make sure I can get confirmed to be the next attorney general,” he said in a television appearance just after Brown announced his choice to succeed Harris when she moves to the Senate. “Right now, I’m thrilled the governor would put this confidence in me to be the next AG.”

          The choice of Becerra was a slap at two-term state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a firm consumer-rights advocate who has clashed occasionally with Brown over regulation of health insurance companies.

          Jones, so far the only declared 2018 candidate for attorney general, could react in several ways. Although he’s held his current job six years, he could run for reelection, insurance commissioner being the only statewide office without a two-term limit. Or the former assemblyman from Sacramento could do what Newsom did in 2010 after it became clear he had no chance against Brown in that year’s Democratic primary race for governor – settle for becoming lieutenant governor.

          Both the attorney general’s and the lieutenant governor’s offices can be stepping stones to higher office; Harris is the latest to use her post that way. Ex-attorney generals who became governors include Earl Warren, Brown, his father Edmund G. (Pat) Brown and George Deukmejian. Gray Davis was the latest former lieutenant governor to take the state’s top office.

          For sure, Jones won’t switch from his run for attorney general until he knows Becerra’s plans. For Becerra has long coveted a seat in the Senate, and might have run for the one Harris will soon take, except that Harris entered that run the moment Boxer announced her retirement early last year. She quickly corralled support from every major Democratic officeholder in the state. So Becerra stayed in Congress until Brown tapped him early this month.

          Should Feinstein decide sometime in the next two years to retire from the Senate after four-plus terms, Becerra might seek her job.

          But if Becerra and Jones both run for attorney general, the two popular and accomplished figures are likely to split the Democratic vote in the 2018 rendition of California’s top two primary, possibly producing a November runoff between two Democrats, as happened this year when Harris easily beat Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

          It’s also possible that if Becerra enters the gubernatorial field after serving a year or so, he could force one or two of the other prominent Democrats running to drop out – or risk splintering the Democratic vote so badly that Faulconer and Swearengin end up in an all-Republican runoff. That sort of things has happened twice in lesser contests. The top-two system makes this possible even though where Democrats now hold every state major office, plus two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

          All of which means one choice by Jerry Brown has quickly shaken up California politics more than any event since Gray Davis was recalled in 2003.

     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 

Monday, November 28, 2016




          No high school exit exams have been administered in California over the last two years, but the test is due to return in 2018, by which time it is to be reconfigured to conform with the math and language arts skills now being taught in public schools under the federally-inspired Common Core curriculum system.

          This means that for at least the last two years, employers hiring new high school graduates haven’t known for sure what they were getting. What’s more, employers now considering adding to their payrolls folks who have graduated since the exam began in 2006 are in the same quandary, forced to hire blindly when it comes to knowing what applicants have learned.

          That’s because the same law that suspended the test while it’s being redone also allowed diplomas to everyone who ever failed it but met all other graduation requirements. At the time, one large newspaper featured a happy-talk story about a young woman who repeatedly failed the math portion of the exam. She was suddenly free to pursue a registered nurse degree. Would you want to take drug doses calculated by this young woman?

          Now the state’s two-term schools superintendent Tom Torlakson wants to make this sort of situation permanent.

          Torlakson told the state Board of Education in a memo that the exit exam long since outlived its usefulness as a performance screen. “California has embarked on a path toward preparing all students for college careers and life in the 21st Century through a focus on performance, equity and continuous improvement,” he said. “This is a path where (local school boards) take on an increased role in designing the kindergarten through 12th grade educational structures and supports for students to reach their full potential. Because of the comprehensive resources now available to identify students in academic need at lower grades, (the exam) is no longer necessary.”

          Come on, Tom. You know just because a third-grader might be identified as needing help in science or math or English doesn’t mean that kid will eventually learn anything in those subject areas. You know it doesn’t hurt to take the exam, which was passed in its heyday by 95 percent of high schoolers.

          Fortunately, Torlakson will not have the final say. It would take a vote of the Legislature and a signature from the governor to dump the exit exam for good. But in this politically correct era (at least in California), it’s just possible that the fact remediation is available to students will trump the fact that not all students identified with needs ever avail themselves of the help they are now offered.

          Testing remains the only way to weed out those who don’t and thus prevent them from essentially duping potential future employers into assuming they know things they don’t.

          Even the story of the putative nurse illustrates how well the exit exam filled its main purpose while it was in use. That purpose was as a kind of certification that any high school graduate in the state could safely be assumed to know things that could not be presumed during the era of social promotion preceding its adoption in 2005.

          Suspending the exam, as lawmakers did when they passed a bill by Democratic state Sen. Carol Liu of La Canada-Flintridge, unnecessarily ended that certainty. Even if the exam needed rewriting, there was no reason any rewrite required several years to perform. It easily could have been rewritten in less than a year, especially since the new Common Core curriculum was well-known and discussed for several years before California abandoned the exit exam.

          The bottom line: Torlakson is flat wrong on this one. The exam should not be abandoned just because a relative few kids couldn’t pass it. Rather, because students always had multiple chances at the test, those who fail on their first, second or even third try still can have plenty of time to study the subjects they failed and reverse their results.

          There’s no reason for other students not to get the benefits of passing the exam just because some are insufficiently motivated to improve.

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




“The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states,” Barak Obama famously observed in 2004, several years before he ran for President. “But I’ve got news for them: There’s the United States of America.”

Twelve years later, Obama is about to depart the White House, and by now he has probably learned there are significant differences between so-called “red” states that tend to vote Republican in presidential elections and “blue” ones that usually support Democrats. The colors, of course, come from maps often used as television graphics during election coverage.

What are some of those differences? While campaigning – at least before Donald Trump – Republicans have tended to focus on values, claiming families and traditional marriages are stronger in red states than blue ones, while Democrats contend poor people, minorities and women are better off in blue ones.

California, of course, has been a consistently blue state since 1992, when Bill Clinton carried it with a plurality of the vote against the elder George Bush, not winning an actual majority here until 1996.

Republicans often say California Democrats have wrecked the Golden State over the last 25 years, citing what they insist is a declining quality of life and an expanded role for government.

It’s true Democrats have dominated the Legislature almost all that time, passing laws that regulate everything from cell phone use in cars to teaching about gay history in high schools. A “nanny state,” many Republicans call it, ignoring the fact Republican governors like Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger signed off on most of the new regulations Democrats passed in the last quarter century.

Ethnically speaking, California became blue when its Latinos began to get politically active. But in many other ways, this is statistically a pretty standard blue state, and there are major differences between those states and their red rivals. Here are some (based on U.S. Census data):

-- Blue states tend to have a more educated populace; California is fairly typical with 37.4 percent of adults holding college degrees. Deeply blue Massachusetts (despite its Republican governor) ranks first in this category with 53.4 percent of adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree. At the bottom in this category is a corps of red states including Alaska at 26.6 percent, Texas at 32.2 percent and Arizona with 33 percent.

     -- Red states tend to have a far higher percentage of people abusing drugs, led by West Virginia with 25.8 persons out of every 100,000 dying of drug overdoses each year, Utah with 18.4 and Alaska 18.1 in 2008, the last year for which statistics are available.

          Red states like Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee all topped 14 per 100,000 in this sad category. California, again in drug abuse a fairly normal blue state, saw only 10.4 persons out of every 100,000 take fatal overdoses, both from illegal drugs and prescription ones. (Statistics from the Policy Impact Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

     -- A little counterintuitive, the map of state with the highest
Census-reported divorce rates is also almost all red, including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alaska, Alabama, Kentucky, Nevada (the only blue state here, but also the only state with an active quickie divorce industry), Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Arizona.

     --Unemployment, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. In the latest Department of Labor statistics, three red states (Alaska, Louisiana and West Virginia) are among the top six, with Alaska leading the unfortunate way at 6.7 percent, but they are joined by three usually blue states (Illinois, New Mexico and the District of Columbia).

     --  Red state citizens tend to be more charitable, with the eight states donating the highest share of their personal income to charity – Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia – all pretty reliably Republican (data from the Chronicle of Philanthrophy).

          All of which raises some questions: Do Republican “family values” equate to higher divorce rates and lower college education. Does going Democratic make people less charitable? Or are none of these things linked to politics at all?


    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