Monday, February 27, 2017




          If there’s one quality shared by several of the leading candidates to succeed Jerry Brown as governor, it’s flamboyance. No one ever accused Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, or ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of being boring.

          The same for financier Tom Steyer, who has spent many millions pushing green, environmental causes, often centering  cause-oriented commercials around himself.

          So it’s no wonder these three and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the most prominent Republican prospect for governor next year, are the early leaders in the polls, even though no one yet approaches even 30 per cent support in any respectable poll.

          But the other major office-holding Democrat in this race, state Treasurer John Chiang, brings a different approach. He’s not about bling, but concentrates on policy. He’s also shown he can be tough on his fellow politicos, regardless of party.

          He proved this in 2011, after voters passed Proposition 25, which requires legislators to pass a balanced state budget by each June 15, or see their salaries and expense account checks abruptly halted. No legislator thought this would ever actually happen, because the state controller is one of them, an elected politician.

          But Chiang, then the controller, announced on that June 22, with lawmakers a week past the deadline, that he would dock their pay. He did, the average legislator impacted to the tune of about $400 per day. A balanced budget quickly followed and the lawmakers have been on time ever since, after almost a decade of consistently late budgets.

          So it’s not very surprising that Chiang, who trailed badly in the early polls, is not approaching California’s many conflicts with President Trump in the same way as his fellow candidates, who have loudly decried many of the new federal administration’s moves but so far done little about them.

          Knowing that Trump and his Secretary of Energy, former Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, deny the science behind global warming and the many measures California has adopted to combat it, Chiang realizes the federal loan guarantees that have enabled most solar and wind energy projects are bound to dry up soon.

          So he’s pushing “green bonds” as a substitute. By that, he means bonds issued by corporations, cities or states to finance climate-friendly projects. Rather than lending money easily because of a federal loan guarantee in case a planned project goes belly up, lenders, borrowing companies and local agencies will have to vet proposals very carefully.

          “Because of California’s record in making these projects succeed, and the state’s mandate for producing more and more renewable energy, the market for this kind of bond will accelerate,” says Chiang, whose current job sees him promote California state bonds to the world’s leading financiers. “We will have big investments from Europe and China in this; we’re not looking just at the pool of investors in the U.S., but the world.”

          Chiang maintains bond money going to green projects with solid profit prospects “will eventually grow to more money than has been enabled by federal loan guarantees. There is a huge interest around the world in American projects, and people are looking to California for leadership. There are many billions of dollars out there.” For sure, this kind of leadership will not emanate from Washington, D.C. for at least the next few years.

          Chiang has quietly done this kind of thing for the last decade, as controller and then treasurer. He’s aware that if voters think of him at all, it is as a technocrat.

          “We have to communicate more,” he said. And he had more than $7 million on hand in February to help him start doing that. “I will offer solutions to the state’s other problems just like I am now with the green bonds, as ways to move forward with or without support from President Trump.”

          Chiang also thinks California should pick its fights carefully, and should shun the idea of California independence. “California needs to be doing things to produce prosperity for us all. Pursue independence and things like water, pension debt and other problems would not get solved.”

          This kind of practicality could make Chiang effective as governor. But first, he’ll have to get past the technocrat image which his solid ideas ironically tend to reinforce. 

    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




          From the day Republican President Donald Trump won last fall’s election, Gov. Jerry Brown has worked to position himself as the leader of the loyal opposition, saying time and again that he will fight for the liberal agenda so popular in California, from same sex marriage to climate change activism.

          He’s especially vocal about preserving the state’s ability to move on its own to improve air quality and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases most scientists have found are a prime cause of climate change and global warming.

          So it was quite contrarian when 12 environmental and public interest groups published a report the other day questioning Brown’s green credentials, rating him as living down to his name: “Brown” on everything from oil drilling to preventing toxic emissions and promoting an overcapacity of fossil-fueled, greenhouse gas-spewing electric plants.

          That last may have been the biggest surprise, considering Brown’s frequent posturing as a champion of renewable energy, especially power from wind and solar sources. Despite his frequent words, the 12 groups say California now derives 60 percent of its power from fossil fuels, mostly natural gas, while in 2012, just after Brown took office for the second time, the state was getting just 53 percent of its electricity from such “dirty” sources.

          What’s more, the groups charged in their 56-page report, Brown systematically encourages a glut of power plants that sees consumers paying for about 20 percent more generating capacity than the state will ever need in the foreseeable future.

          The accusing groups include Consumer Watchdog, Food & Water Watch, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Restore the Delta, among others. Restore the Delta has long opposed Brown’s “twin tunnels” plan to bring Northern California river water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta, while Consumer Watchdog previously issued a report accusing Brown of political corruption.

          As with past reports like that, Brown has said nothing about the claims against him, thus assuring they have gotten little publicity. “Same drivel, different day,” press secretary Evan Westrup opined.

          But the claims in the environmental report appear every bit as solid as those in the previous corruption allegations, the subject of an ongoing investigation by a state watchdog agency.

          Food and Water Watch is particularly incensed about the apparent acquiescence of Brown appointees in plans of Southern California Gas Co. to reopen its flawed Aliso Canyon gas storage field in northern Los Angeles, even if it’s at somewhat lower levels of gas quantity than SoCal Gas finds optimal.

          The group noted that Brown’s sister, Kathleen, the former state treasurer, draws a six-figure fee as a board member of SoCal’s parent company, Sempra Energy, saying that makes his actions on Aliso a conflict of interest.

          The report also castigates Brown for “nurturing (oil and gas) drilling and fracking,” repeating a contention that early in his term he fired regulators who tried to delay hydraulic fracking for gas and oil in Kern County until there were assurances that waste water from those operations would not harm ground water supplies often used for crop irrigation.

          The report claimed Brown is living out his 2012 statement that “The oil rigs are moving in Kern County…we want to use our resources (including) the sun and all the other sources of power. It’s not easy. There are going to be screwups, there are going to be bankruptcies, there’ll be indictments and there’ll be deaths, but…nothing is going to stop us.” So far, there have been no indictments, but former Brown-appointed members of the state Public Utilities Commission have been under investigation since early 2015 by federal and state authorities.

The green groups noted that Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein endorses a state legislative bill to keep Aliso Canyon closed until the causes of the storage field’s months-long leak in 2015 and 2016 are found and fixed. Brown is silent on that bill.

None of these claims has yet had any effect on either Brown’s approval ratings or his policies. No one yet knows if the contradictions cited between his posturing and his actions will affect his legacy, his standing in state history or his prospects in a potential future run for the Senate.

          Which means all anyone can do is stay tuned.

     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

Friday, February 17, 2017




          As recently as last July, just 22 percent of Californians favored the idea of California risking a new civil war by declaring its independence from the rest of America. But barely six months later, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found support for California exiting the Union peacefully had moved above 40 percent.

          That’s not a majority, by a long shot. But it is almost a doubling of support, and the reason consists of one name: President Trump.

          Several of the record-number executive orders Trump issued during his first weeks in office implied he has it in for the Golden State which voted very strongly against him. So did testimony in several Senate confirmation hearings for his cabinet appointees and other Trump threats.

          That is spurring a reaction. Right now, many Californians are incensed at seeing Trump fulfill campaign promises on immigration, the environment and other issues that were essentially voted down by about 3 million votes nationally; by more than 4 million in California.

          It’s not exactly taxation without representation, but to a lot of Californians, it feels similar.

Trump, for example, said he’ll order an investigation of voting fraud despite an utter lack of evidence it happened. He named two states as the biggest alleged offenders: California and New York, the two states that voted most strongly against him. One possible goal of such an investigation by an administration which invented the notion of “alternative facts” might be to suppress minority votes in California as Republicans have done in states like North Carolina and Florida.

Trump’s immigration orders could have more impact in California than anywhere else. His appointee to head the Environmental Protection Agency said he will “review” all waivers allowing California to have tougher pollution standards than the rest of America. The target-California list is long.

          The latest poll on secession indicates that with each such Trump  action or stated intent, the separation idea grows more palatable to more Californians.

          The sentiment has grown to a point where there’s now competition to lead the “Calexit” movement: The Yes California group that began under a different name in 2014 vs. a newer outfit organized in 2015 calling itself the California National Party (CNP).

          Yes California, whose leader Louis Marinelli currently teaches English in Russia, is circulating a proposed secession initiative, aiming for the November 2018 ballot. This measure would erase from the state constitution a statement that California is an inseparable part of the United States. It asks California voters to decide in a 2019 special election whether the state should secede. Passage would require participation in that election by at least 50 percent of registered voters and a 55 percent yes vote.

          The CNP, acting like a rival rather than an ally of Yes California, takes no position on this. “Our path to independence is through building a movement and CNP voter registration…Our model is based on strategies that have put independence within arm’s reach in both Scotland and Catalonia, (the Spanish state that includes Barcelona),” said Theo Slater, the CNP’s “national chairperson.”

          The CNP also claims Yes California has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who would enjoy splintering America.

          Meanwhile, Yes California’s in-state leader, Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, wrote the only recent book on California independence, and notes that in a primary election run for a San Diego seat in the state Assembly last year, Marinelli became the first modern candidate to back California independence. Yes California, then, is the only outfit that has actually made moves toward secession.

          There is, of course, no legal process for any state to leave the Union and none has tried since the Civil War. In 1776, there was also no such process for leaving the British empire.

          Secession skeptics note that California uses large federal grants for everything from roads to health care. But the state gets back just 78 cents for every dollar its citizens pay in federal taxes. All federal grants could easily be made up for if those taxes were paid instead to Sacramento, should it remain the California capital.

          This all is no more than talk today, but for Trump there’s a serious question to ponder: Does he want to risk a new civil war by driving America’s largest and most inventive state into an attempt to leave the Union? 

     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 




          Just because nature allows a delay of many years while officials dither over a catastrophe in the making doesn’t make that disaster any easier to handle when it finally strikes.

          This is one major lesson of the Oroville Dam spillway crisis that saw the sudden evacuation of almost 200,000 persons from their homes when the dam’s emergency spillway crumbled under the force of millions of gallons of fast-moving water.

          Warnings of precisely this sort of crisis at Lake Oroville were submitted to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission during a 2005 relicensing process, almost 12 years before those predictions came true.

          “A loss of crest control (which has now occurred) could not only cause additional damage to…lands and facilities, but also cause damages and threaten lives…downstream,” environmental groups (Friends of the River, the South Yuba River Citizens League and the Sierra Club) cautioned, recommending relicensing of the dam only if repairs were made.

          Their claim drew scorn from officials of the state Water Project, which runs the vintage-1968 Oroville Dam. “Our facilities, including the spillway, are safe during any conceivable flood event,” said Raphael Torres, then acting deputy director of the Water Project. Plus, some of California’s most powerful water districts, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, didn’t want to fund a fix. They’ll have to pay now, as much as $600 million, by some estimates.

          FERC, loaded with power industry advocates by then-President George W. Bush, disdained the environmental groups, as it usually does.

          So the background of today’s crisis bears warnings, both about preparation for likely future natural disasters and about what can happen when industry advocates control powerful federal agencies, now the case for several cabinet-level departments in the Trump administration.

          For California, alarm should be strongest about earthquakes, and the related issue of levees in the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. After the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake hit on a previously unknown fault and destroyed a veterans hospital, among other buildings, mapping of earthquake faults became a high state priority.

          Over the next 20 years, 534 maps of faults and their possible damage were published. But in the following 20 years, no new maps appeared because of budget cuts, leaving the project about 300 maps shy of where it needs to be for all residents of known potential damage areas to be properly warned.

          Some areas have used the maps drawn between 1971 and 1991 to pinpoint buildings that need retrofitting, with many projects completed.

          But most of the other 300-odd known faults have yet to be mapped.

          At the same time, California still lacks a signficant quake warning system, and probably can’t complete one without the remaining maps even if it suddenly became a priority. It’s tough to warn people at risk in a major quake if you don’t know what buildings they’re in.

          This issue was no priority at all for Gov. Jerry Brown through most of his current go’round in office. Yes, Brown long supported an early warning system that might give a minute’s notice before shaking from a Big One hits urban areas. But through most of his current tenure, he proposed no state funding for this, saying the money should come from private or federal sources. It did not.

          Brown shifted in last year’s state budget, providing $10 million to create such a system, now in the works from the U.S. Geological Survey and academic researchers, who hope to begin putting their system to limited use next year.

          The dithering put California behind other quake-prone places like Japan and Taiwan.

          Why is this important? The original legislative sponsor of the warning system, Democrat Alex Padilla, now California secretary of state, said in 2013 people need a system giving them “critical seconds to take cover, assist loved ones or pull safely to the side of the road.”

          Even when that system comes online, much more mapping will be needed. For the biggest quakes of the last 40 years came in unexpected places.

          The upshot: California’s water system is not the only area needing better preparation for coming disasters. The problem, though, is the same as it was at Oroville before this year’s massive storms created a crisis: Until an urgent problem occurs, few believe it ever will. Once it happens, it may be too late to act.

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, February 13, 2017




          From his first day in office, when President Trump kept a campaign promise and dumped the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement painstakingly and secretly negotiated by ex-President Barack Obama, he’s been accused of giving China unprecedented license to move into other Asian and South Pacific markets.

          Not so.

          The first thing to understand here is that the TPP contained some of the worst aspects of the long-controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA, with very few improvements. The second is that for China to usurp U.S. – and especially California’s – trade in the 12 countries involved, those countries would have to be willing partners.

          The pact was to include Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Canada and the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei. None of these countries and states wants to be dominated by China and since Trump pulled the U.S. out of TPP, China has made no aggressive trade moves on any of them.

          Which means all or almost all will likely be back at the bargaining table within a year or so aiming to work out a new free trade deal with Trump.

          That’s political reality, even if some Trump critics don’t like to admit it, choosing instead to blast every move he makes just because it’s he making the move.

          Rather than bemoan the trade agreement that isn’t, how about using that failed, putative deal as a starting point for drafting a new one?

          The rejected agreement had some huge flaws, just as NAFTA does. Labor leaders who applauded Trump as he signed the order killing the proposed TPP said some of its provisions figured to send many thousands of jobs out of America – particularly from California. Environmental groups said it bore the potential to contribute to global climate change by placing factories in countries with flimsy air and water quality regulation.

          But its worst feature was an international tribunal of lawyers from various countries with the power to override some laws of member countries and even to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.

          This was an outright assault not just on tough state environmental restrictions like California’s, but also on national sovereignty. Supporters of the TPP denied this, claiming such usurpation of powers would never happen.

          But just that threat was realized early in NAFTA’s history with the overturning of some U.S. dolphin-safe regulations for canned tuna because they impeded free trade. In short, because some Mexican fishermen were not careful to avoid catching dolphins in their nets in waters off Southern California, federal rules designed to spare an intelligent species died at the hands of foreign lawyers more interested in money than mercy.

Something similar almost happened to California quite directly, also under NAFTA. This case involved a Canadian company called Methanex, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, which made and marketed a gasoline additive called MTBE that could cut smog while boosting octane ratings. But MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) turned out to have noxious odors and taste when it inevitably leached from gasoline station storage tanks into ground water. The additive also sparked cancer fears, although that alleged threat was never proven.

          California, under former Gov. Gray Davis, banned MTBE in the late 1990s. Methanex sued in NAFTA’s tribunal and the case was heard in Washington, D.C., far from affected Californians. The case took several years, and eventually Methanex lost because of MTBE’s health effects. Validating the California ban, the additive has not been used widely in this country since 2005.

          The entire Methanex effort at using NAFTA to override California’s health concerns was a travesty. Yet, the TPP was written to allow similar cases.

          So the TPP was a bad deal on several scores. Which doesn’t mean a better deal can’t be negotiated. Trump touted his supposed deal-making skills incessantly during his campaign last year. Now he has a chance to negotiate a better, safer, cleaner, fairer trade deal with Pacific nations than Obama ever could.      


    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




Time and again, President Trump threatens to withhold federal grants from California cities, universities and the state itself unless they accept policies he wants to pursue, from large-scale deportation of undocumented immigrants to bashing the heads of campus protestors.

“California is in many ways out of control,” he said in one recent interview. Out of his control, he seemed to mean. Then, asked if “defunding is your weapon of choice” to force the state into line, he allowed that “It’s a weapon. We give them a hell of a lot of money. I don’t want to defund a state or a city. I don’t want to defund anybody…If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly, that would be a weapon.”

          Two questions he wasn’t asked: Whose money is he talking about? And, who gets most of that money?

          The answer to the second question is easy: Most federal money arriving here goes to ordinary people, via Social Security payments, Medicare and Medi-Cal payments. That accounts for the vast majority of the $367.8 billion the federal government spends in California every year. (The figure comes from a Tax Foundation study.)

          Meanwhile, Californians pay in much more than that in income, Social Security and Medicare taxes. So we’re really talking about our own money here, with the federal government mostly acting as a conduit.

          Should California adopt a wide “sanctuary state” policy requiring all cities and counties to follow the practice of police in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Ana and other California cities that – among other things – don’t inquire about the immigration status of most people they arrest, Trump says, “If we have to, we’ll defund.”

He plainly thinks he can take any federal funds he likes from California and its cities. Does he also propose to cut off Social Security benefits to Californians if legislators adopt the plan they’re now considering?

No one knows precisely what Trump intends. But he plainly believes he can withhold funds at his will.

But that’s not how most federal grants work. Repeated court decisions, like the 1987 case of South Dakota v. Dole, say there has to be some link between the purpose for withholding federal grants and whatever program they’re being taken from.

This means that Trump cannot withhold Pell Grant money from California students just because he didn’t like it when police failed to beat black-clad marauders who violently took over a demonstration at UC Berkeley that began as a peaceful protest over a scheduled speech by an editor of the alternative right website Breitbart News. Nor can he out of pique withhold cancer research funding.

He also can’t take money from sewer or mass transit projects if he’s unhappy with policing in sanctuary cities getting those grants.

          But the decisions probably do mean that if Berkeley again cancels a similar sort of speech, Trump could halt grants used in part to pay campus speakers – although there is no record of federal funds paying for this.

          A significant question is why Trump singles out California, which contains a relatively small minority of the nation’s 106 sanctuary cities. Why, for example, did he not threaten Tucson, Ariz., whose sanctuary policy is one of the oldest, dating from the 1980s?

          Might it be relate to the fact he carried Arizona last fall while losing California by more than 4.5 million votes? Is this more a matter of revenge than policy?

          Only Trump knows what he intends and why, just as only he knows why he left Saudi Arabia off the list of nations whose citizens he’s trying to deny admission to the United States, when most perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, the most significant terror ever on American soil, came from there.

          Like much of Trump’s agenda, widely defunding California would require action from Congress. It’s doubtful many California Republican House members would meekly acquiesce in withholding funds from the state in a general, non-targeted way that could severely affect their constituents.

          All of which makes it highly unlikely that Trump alone can deny much money to California, even if he tries. That’s only fair, since the money he’s talking about actually comes from Californians, even if it is later mingled with other funds while in the Treasury.

     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, February 6, 2017




          For decades, a struggle has raged across California and America to protect young people from negative aspects of drinking beer and hard liquor. Now that fight has begun to spread to newly legalized recreational marijuana, with several state legislators trying to ban pot advertising along state highways.

          This is happening at a time when no one is quite certain whether new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime foe of marijuana use and a former four-term U.S. senator from Alabama, will begin pursuing criminal prosecutions for selling and using pot in this state, despite last fall’s Proposition 64, which supposedly legalized almost all use of the weed.

          Sessions’ decision matters because federal laws always trump state ones where they conflict, and federal law continues to consider marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin and ecstasy, to name just two others.

          Even before Sessions can do much of anything – and no one knows how much he will prioritize pot prosecutions – California lawmakers are trying to minimize the exposure of children and teenagers to advertising for cannabis products of all types, from medicinal marijuana to pot-laced brownies.

          The effort just now takes the form of a bill to outlaw marijuana advertising from state highways, about 15,100 total miles of roadway. That would strengthen a portion of last fall’s pot-legalization Proposition 64, which bans billboards hawking pot from major state roads that cross state lines, a total of 4,315 highway miles.

          There is some precedent for this from the liquor front. While California has no state laws against booze billboards, cities like Oakland and San Diego do. In Oakland, beer and liquor ads are not allowed in residential neighborhoods or near schools, playgrounds and libraries, among other locales. In San Diego, billboards for alcohol are not allowed within 1,000 feet – about three blocks – of schools, recreation centers, child care centers and other places where children often congregate.

          The proposed statewide restriction on pot ads goes farther than anyone ever has against alcohol. Beer ads are seen in stadiums and arenas, some of them even named to promote breweries, as with Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Milwaukee’s Miller Park.

          While academic studies establish a definite connection between boozy billboards and use of alcohol by minors, nothing has stopped the liquor and beer industries from spending a combined $4 billion yearly to promote and advertise their products, including plenty of signage in ballparks frequented by children.

          All this suggests there is plenty of merit in the proposed highway ban on marijuana product advertising. If, as plenty of studies show (including some published in 2014 editions of the medical journal Current Addiction), using pot as rarely as once a week can lead to cognitive decline, lower IQ and memory problems, why not try to keep it away from children whose brains are still developing?

          Not to worry, said legalization advocates during last fall’s campaign for Prop. 64, the law’s age limit of 21 will keep pot away from teenagers. Of course, when recreational weed was illegal, plenty of teenagers found ways to get it. In a state where young adults of legal age commonly lend IDs to teenagers seeking alcohol, what’s to stop the same practice with pot?

          Many who believe America’s war on drugs has failed are fine with marijuana being readily available to all. Some even hearken back to a 1985 U.S. Senate hearing where Florida Republican Paula Hawkins, concluded that “Our record contains no facts which would justify legislation to ban or censor advertising beer or wine products…”

          Applying a similar conclusion that there’s no evidence of harm from marijuana sufficient to ban billboards would essentially make California’s children guinea pigs in the rush to legalization. Many cannabis advocates reason that pot is now legal, so why not allow advertising it, just like any other legal product?

          But the legislators behind the proposed billboard restrictions, from locales as disparate as South Los Angeles, Oakland, Healdsburg and Palmdale, see it differently, warning that billboards can make pot smoking seem like fun, even to small children riding in the back seats of their parents’ cars.

          The bottom line: Experimenting with the brains of California’s children is a bad idea, and it’s a good thing some legislators realize this.

    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




          They simply are not content to leave Californians alone, these once-murderous followers of racist guru Charles Manson, who has himself tried and failed 12 times to get parole.

          Like a plague that’s all but impossible to eradicate, the multiple members of this killing crew keep trying to win their freedom. Some have become prison preachers and academic stars while behind bars. Others have more or less vegetated. But their consistent theme as they try for freedom is “We’re old now, and harmless; let us go.”

          It should never happen to even one more of this bunch.

          Bad enough that back in the early 1970s, prosecutors bargained with Manson acolyte Linda Kasabian, who allegedly never personally wielded a knife or gun during the evil troupe’s deadly raids, but admittedly was along on jaunts where the convicted killers broke in on their targets. Kasabian never did jail time.

          Equally wrong that Steve (Clem) Grogan, a sometimes musician who helped as Manson, Charles (Tex) Watson and Bruce Davis murdered stuntman Short Shea, won parole in 1985 after drawing a map that allowed police to find Shea’s body.

 Shea had earlier befriended Grogan and often bought him clothes while Grogan lived on the now-defunct Spahn Movie Ranch above Chatsworth between Los Angeles and Simi Valley before the Manson gang began squatting on the ranch. (The late owner George Spahn once told this reporter he never wanted Manson or his followers on his picturesque acreage, where Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and many others made Western movies.)

          Now come Davis and Patricia Krenwinkle, the most recent of these slayers of innocents to seek freedom. While Watson, Davis, Leslie Van Houten and Beausoleil have all been denied parole during the last three years (and fellow Manson acolyte Susan Denise Atkins died in prison), Krenwinkle’s lawyer Keith Wattley imaginatively argues that she suffered from battered woman’s syndrome at the time of the cult’s crimes. (A parole panel has just approved Davis for release for the fourth time; it’s again up to Gov. Jerry Brown to veto that.)

          Krenwinkle was one of the crew that cut power and phone lines at the Beverly Hills-area estate of actress Sharon Tate in 1969, and then murdered her and four others there. Krenwinkle’s roles: Chasing coffee heiress Abigail Folger and stabbing her 28 times, then writing “Death to Pigs” in Folger’s blood on a wall.

          The next night, she participated in the murders of grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in the Hollywood Hills, helping carve the word “WAR” into LaBianca’s stomach and scrawling a bloody “Helter Skelter” onto a wall.

          Wattley’s battered-woman argument has never before been raised in a Manson Family parole proceeding, and the state Parole Board indicated it might take months to think about it.

          Tate’s sister, Debra, said she doesn’t agree that Krenwinkle was a victim of any kind, noting she was free to leave the murder scenes at any time and helped in killings on consecutive nights. “She’s totally minimized her actions and blamed everything on other people,” Tate told a reporter.

          Like Watson and Davis, Krenwinkle has led an exemplary life since her death sentence, which was commuted to life in prison when California’s Supreme Court in 1972 briefly ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. She’s earned a college degree in prison, trained service dogs and counseled other inmates at the women’s prison in Corona.

          Is that enough to justify freeing her when jurors in 1971 made it clear they thought she didn’t deserve another moment of life, let alone years of freedom?

          Other parole boards have said they thought other Manson killers had paid sufficiently for their crimes and posed no further danger. But no governor in more than 30 years has allowed any of this gang to go free.

          For sure, if the Parole Board rules in Krenwinkle’s favor, Brown will again confront memories of the terror that afflicted the Laurel Canyon neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills where he lived at the time, just two canyons east of the Tate home in Benedict Canyon.

          He surely knows any such parole would taint his legacy, perhaps even more than the several forms of corruption that he has steadfastly glossed over during his current, second administration.

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. For more Elias columns, go to His email address is