Monday, October 16, 2017




          President Trump might want to play ostrich about climate change and place his head in the sand near his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida whenever the subject comes up, much the same pose he adopted toward white supremacists after their notorious rally in Charlottesville, VA.

          Regardless of his pose, there can no longer be any doubt that man-made, worldwide climate change is greatly affecting California and will affect it much more in the next half century unless there’s major action.

          It’s not merely the five-year drought this state endured before record rains replenished water supplies last winter. It’s not merely the run of record-level temperatures much of the state experienced last summer or the blast furnace of this month’s deadly, devastating fires in the Wine Country and elsewhere. And it’s not just the threat of low-lying coastal areas suffering repeated and perhaps permanent flooding if climate change persists.

          Even more pernicious are future prospects if the warming trend continues to be worst in equatorial areas. That could drive new waves of illegal immigration as residents of Central America, Mexico and the north coast of South America look northward, where the hotter temperatures California is already experiencing would look positively balmy.

          That’s when the “invasion of illegals” so often invoked by many of the far-right politicians and pundits who also deny climate change could become very real. In fact, the Pentagon reportedly long ago began war-gaming a variety of scenarios for beating back waves of immigrants attempting to storm U.S. borders when extreme heat drives them from their homelands of thousands of years.

          But this kind of extreme human event isn’t likely for decades to come.

          The far more immediate prospect is outlined in a new National Climate Assessment leaked to the New York Times by federal scientists who feared Trump administration climate change deniers would suppress it.

          The assessment, required by law every four years, was written in part by independent academics and scientists who have since left U.S. agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department as the Trump appointees now heading them accelerate efforts to subvert the intended purposes of those organizations.

          Here’s what the report sees for California, which may not be as seriously affected as some other parts of the world:

          Average annual temperature will rise across California by more than four degrees over 50 years if the current acceleration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues. If there is no action to stabilize temperatures, they will likely increase by as much as 10 degrees here by this century’s end.

          That would have major impacts on almost all areas of California life. It could reverse current trends toward increased population in inland areas where temperatures are highest and real estate prices lowest.

          It would likely spur major flooding in coastal areas currently at sea level, including places like Venice Beach, Malibu and much of the Orange and San Diego county coast. That would raise the price of already high-priced housing on nearby bluffs and hilltops.

          The federal report, produced by 13 agencies and approved by the National Academy of Sciences, says these trends may already be underway.

          “One of the clearest signals…is that California is already a warmer place than it used to be,” Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist whose work is mentioned in the study, told a reporter. “That’s not a future prediction anymore.”

          But President Trump’s appointees appear determined to prevent any action. Yes, California is fighting to stick with its climate change initiatives, like a strong mandate for renewable energy sources and tough auto and industrial emissions standards. But any good that does will be overwhelmed by gases the rest of the nation might produce if Trump appointees persist in delaying or canceling limits on coal-fueled power plants and other polluters.

          And there will be more drought. “It’s very clear that temperatures (here) are increasing the risk of severe drought,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford University scientist. “During the recent drought,” he noted, the state had its warmest years ever, with its warmest winters and its lowest recorded snowpack. “These are all linked with high temperatures.”

          So it’s not merely at his own peril that Trump ignores the danger – yes, Mar-a-lago could become a flooding victim. But the consequences also figure to damage many other parts of the nation Trump now leads. As he might say, “sad.”


     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





          They see her as road-kill, the younger California Democrats hovering over longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein this month just before and just after she announced her bid for election to a sixth term.

          “She no longer reflects the experiences or core values of Californians…and she isn’t willing to step up and lead on resisting (President) Trump…” went one endorsing statement approved by state Senate President Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who will be termed out of his current job next year. Would he OK anything similar if Feinstein were 64, not 84?

The relative youngsters (aged 60 and under) might be surprised when  Feinstein turns out to be as fierce as a mother bear whose young have been threatened once her reelection campaign gets going. Her cubs: the things she says still need doing – ending gun violence, combating climate change and ensuring access to healthcare.

Feinstein is anything but new to challenge. Once a little-known San Francisco supervisor, she witnessed the 1978 City Hall assassinations of then-Mayor George Moscone and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights icon, by another supervisor, Dan White.

Under horrendous circumstances, Feinstein assumed the mayor’s office by virtue of being the county board president. Her career in major office has lasted almost 40 years. She’s done it with achievement, from stabilizing the traumatized San Francisco to sponsoring new women’s rights, championing environmental and gun controls and crusading against government-sponsored torture.

Past achievement apparently means little to de Leon and others in her party; earlier this year, they almost handed its state chairmanship to a community organizer from Richmond who’s done little to make the party the dominant force it is today in California.

Feinstein, those folks claim, is a “DINO,” Democrat in name only, the abbreviation itself imitating Republicans who deride the few moderates in their own party as RINOs, Republicans in name only.

“On the big issues of our time, she’s been on the wrong side…,” griped Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna before Feinstein formally declared, failing to name a single objectionable vote in her last two terms. Neither did de Leon. Translation: Feinstein is too old for them. Khanna, of course, won his seat two years ago largely by making and issue of the age (75) of veteran Rep. Mike Honda.

The younger Democrats forget Feinstein pioneered women’s rights, that she stood almost alone against torture during the George W. Bush administration, protected abortion rights and large swaths of the California desert with equal fervor, while helping create several national monuments in the state. They pooh-pooh her decades of steadfast fighting for gun control, saying she hasn’t been tough enough. Plus they forget how strongly she’s fought climate change.

On all those issues, Feinstein has been tough enough to get things done by working with Republicans in the Senate, rather than so adamant that all GOP senators would reject anything she says – as they now do with the far younger California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris. Harris, as it happens, quickly endorsed Feinstein for reelection, just as Feinstein was one of her early 2016 endorsers. Harris also contradicted de Leon.

“Since joining the Senate, I have found few better allies in our fight to stop the radical agenda of Donald Trump than Dianne,” said Harris.

De Leon began his campaign by blasting Feinstein for suggesting that given some time, Trump might become reasonable. And after this month’s Las Vegas massacre, he tore into her for being soft on gun control – at virtually the same moment she introduced the first bill banning bump stocks like those used in that attack.

Nor does Feinstein’s record mollify potential candidate Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund mogul who is the national Democratic Party’s biggest donor and founded the NextGen organization to combat climate change.

“It is clear for all to see,” Steyer wrote a month after Feinstein’s August remarks on Trump, “there is zero reason to believe he can be a good president.”

Chances are Feinstein will match up next fall against one of those two, in the second consecutive all-Democrat Senate runoff election, no major Republican having yet stepped forward.

Then California voters can decide if they want bombast or achievement, a loud voice unlikely to get much done or someone who gets results even if she has some gray hairs.

    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, October 2, 2017




          Back in 2002, when California set its first statewide renewable energy goals, the petroleum industry and others said it would be impossible for 20 percent of all electricity to come from solar, wind, hydro power and other forms of green energy by 2017 – now.  But that goal was achieved long ago, with the state now getting well over 25 percent of its energy from renewables, and far more on many days.

          Then the goal was upped under former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to 33 percent by 2020, a mark that will easily be surpassed well in advance of the deadline. Again, that’s after industry said it would be impossible.

          Now those same natural gas and oil interests claim a legislative bill setting a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045 is unattainable. The bill was held up in committee last summer, but seems certain to be back in January’s new session.

          This whole scenario is reminiscent of resistance steadily provided by carmakers as California gradually cut its automotive emission standards over the decades starting in the 1970s. Each time a new standard was proposed, General Motors, Ford, Toyota and others resisted, claiming they just couldn’t do it.

          But they did it somehow, and in the process California and the world acquired a huge fleet of hybrid, electric and plug-in hybrid cars, cutting gasoline consumption and cleaning many thousands of tons of smog from the air.

          There’s absolutely no reason to believe things will be any different in electricity generating than they have been with cars. Rather, there’s room for a lot of optimism.

          For example, long before the deadline for 50 percent of power to come from green sources, California in May experienced several days when more than 60 percent of its electricity came from such places. This figure did not even include energy from hydroelectric dams, one of the greenest of power sources.

          That period of sunny days enabling full use of both solar thermal arrays and photovoltaic panels demonstrated that the 2020 goal is well within reach and will be achieved despite all the industry whining when the goal was set.

          Another milestone came on March 11, when for a span of three hours, solar power alone met about half of all electricity demand across the state.

          All this makes it wholly sensible for the Legislature to adopt the 100 percent-renewables-by-2045 standard. The bill, sponsored by Democratic state Senate President Pro-Tem Kevin de Leon passed the Senate before getting delayed in the Assembly, where industry pressure can be stronger and more effective.

          One objection is that green energy often costs more than conventional power produced in California mainly from gas-fired generating plants. This is correct, but costs figure to drop as the scale of renewable energy production increases. The state will also need to develop better battery technology to store power produced by solar and wind facilities and not let it dissipate before it can be added to the overall power grid.

          And when the clean-power goals become reality, excess solar capacity could be re-purposed and used the way “peaker” power plants are now – fired up during times of the heaviest electricity use on the hottest summer days when the grid is taxed nearly to its capacity.

          The benefits, besides fighting climate change at a time when President Trump’s administration seems to want to encourage it, include things like tens of thousands of new jobs, less smog, less carbon pollution and more diversity in overall energy supplies, making California less and less dependent on foreign sources.

          This will come about through massive building projects, a process now well under way as the state has more than doubled renewable energy installations over the last four years, according to the California Energy Commission.

          Like zero emission electric and hydrogen cars, 100 percent renewable energy is an idea whose time has plainly come, no matter what the owners and fuelers of increasingly outmoded traditional energy sources may claim.


    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 well-documented corruption in various wings of California state government shows few signs of abating soon:

          Even though Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest questionable appointees to the state’s powerful Public Utilities Commission have been held up, no one has yet been penalized for several fix-is-in decisions there that are costing consumers billions of dollars.

          Energy Commission members who handed out many millions of dollars in hydrogen highway grants to cronies with conflicts of interest weren’t punished; they were reappointed.

          Nothing happened to University of California President Janet Napolitano and her aides who accumulated a $175 million slush fund while students were assessed about that same amount in tuition increases.

          And so on.

          Ask any of the three candidates now leading the polls in the run for governor about all this and you get encomiums to Brown and blanket vows to end corruption, but nothing specific and no sign that any of them understands the extent of sleaziness in state agencies.

          Said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor who has led the polls since the run to replace Brown began, “I will not be known for being timid about this or anything else. Gov. Brown says reform is overrated; I say it’s underrated.”

          Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, running second, noted that “As mayor, my very first executive direction was that city commissioners could not raise money for me or for city council members. Historically, it’s been the opposite.

          “I believe transparency in government is critical, especially in a time when people don’t trust the government, any government.”

          Noting that members of the state PUC cannot be fired during their six-year terms, even by the governor who appointed them, Villaraigosa added that “We should look at the ability of the governor to fire PUC members. I had zero tolerance for corruption on any city commission and that’s how I would be in state government, too.”

          And state Treasurer John Chiang, a former state controller best known for withholding pay from state legislators when they were late approving a budget, said, “The governor needs to set the high ground on matters of government integrity. We need to hold people accountable. When I’m governor and we find instances of corruption, people will get due process, but they will be responsible for what they and their agencies do.”

          Chiang, however, noted that a mere accusation of corruption doesn’t mean it occurred. He had some recent experience in this area, when the Sacramento Bee in August reported that a panel he chairs called the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee gave credits and funding to affordable housing builders who contributed to his campaign fund. That committee also includes state Controller Betty Yee and the state finance director, appointed by Brown.

          “That was untrue and utterly irresponsible (by the Bee),” Chiang declared. “It was sloppy journalism. Every credit approved during my two-and-a-half years on the committee has been based on a mathematical formula, with professional staff scoring this based on amenities and other features (of the planned housing). The three-members followed staff recommendations in every single case. No one deviated from the formula. I’ve worked hard to keep things completely fair.”

          But none of these candidates spoke specifically about any of the known cases of corruption in state government, nor did any of them commit to trying to ferret out more.

          If they can’t or won’t be specific about making fixes while they’re mere candidates, it’s anyone’s guess how they might behave if and when they take office.

          What’s clear is that the current corruption takes many forms, but does not often see state employees directly line their pockets. Yet, there are plenty of revolving-door examples, where regulators later go to work for the companies they’ve helped. There are also instances of cronies influencing state officials, as when former Gov. Gray Davis, a onetime Brown chief of staff, lobbied Brown to grant hydraulic fracking permits to his client, the Occidental Petroleum Corp., and those permits were granted after officials who originally sought to deny them were fired.

          So here’s one question each candidate for governor should be asked when debates begin before next June’s primary election: Exactly what will you do to change the climate of corruption that’s persisted for many years under several governors?

    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 California ballot has seen plenty of dangerous propositions over the years, and yet another one may face voters wherever they cast votes next November.

          Fortunately, virtually all such questionable proposals have been beaten at the polls or struck down by courts if voters acted irresponsibly. There was the AIDS quarantine measure put forward by crackpot presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche in 1986, which aimed to place everyone with the disease in remote detention camps. Would Ervin “Magic” Johnson be part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and president of the Lakers today if that one had passed?

          There was the 1994 Proposition 187, which sought to deprive undocumented immigrants of health care, schooling and anything else its sponsors could think of. That one passed handily, endorsed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, but was swiftly struck down by a federal judge. And so on.

          Now comes a danger of a different sort, embodied in a seemingly innocuous measure that’s about to begin circulating with hopes of getting a yes-or-no vote just over a year from now.

          It’s titled “The California Call for a Constitutional Convention,” and it contains some fine ideas, including calls for Constitutional amendments to ensure equal pay for equal work and limit corporate “personhood” to invalidate the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The initiative also calls for California to participate in a constitutional convention to push for creating a peaceful way for states to secede from the Union and/or negotiate treaties with foreign countries, and has a provision demanding that federal funding be distributed to states in proportion to what their taxpayers put into the federal kitty.

          Most of those aims are laudable, but there’s absolutely nothing to guarantee that any of these ideas would attain reality if this measure passes. Rather, there’s the definite possibility for major alteration to the Bill of Rights, which now protects things like free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and guarantees there will be no official state religion.

          How could this happen when the convention call includes very specific subjects to be taken up and none involves the Bill of Rights? Easy. Once you begin a constitutional convention, the delegates can take it where they like.

          That’s one reason why even though many states have officially called for a convention to enshrine a balanced-budget amendment, that call has never gotten support from three-quarters of the states, as required to get a convention started.

          There’s also little chance that even if California calls for a convention to take up its plentiful legitimate grievances, it will get the needed support from other states.

          The sponsors of the new initiative, which goes by the abbreviated term CalConCon, in effect concede this. They maintain on their website ( that any convention call ever issued by a state – even 100 years ago or more – can be included in the total needed now.

          That’s because just as the Constitution sets no limit on where delegates can take a convention, it also has no expiration date for convention calls, which now number 27. It’s an unfortunate omission by the Founding Fathers, who turn out to be fallible after all.

          Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, whose 2012 book California’s Next Century called for semi-sovereign status for the state and essentially began the Calexit secession movement that spawned this convention initiative, maintains there would be no “runaway convention.”

          But the campaign website notes that “the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of rescinding an application (for a convention) or limiting (it) to a single subject…”

          Still, says Ruiz, many academics have forecast a runaway convention would not happen. But how does anyone know where activists from Texas or Montana might take the meeting? Or whether there would be neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen among the voting delegates?

          It’s true California several years ago called for a constitutional convention to get rid of the Citizens United decision. Fortunately, in part because of the dangers involved, no such meeting occurred.

          Is it really worth risking free speech and freedom of religion or the right to bear arms for the unlikely possibility of winning the right to secede peacefully?

          The only rational conclusion is that sponsors of this measure are being shortsighted, concerned more for their immediate goals than about making sure Americans’ fundamental rights remain untouched.

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





If any of this year’s legislative bills was a no-brainer for easy passage and then approval by Gov. Jerry Brown, it was Senate Bill 568, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara of East Los Angeles.

          No one at all, in Sacramento or anywhere else, argues with the premise behind this new law: California has long had far less influence in choosing America’s presidents than it should, principally because it has had virtually no role in vetting nominees of the two major parties.

          More than 12 percent of the American people have been essentially disenfranchised for almost half a century, while small states like South Carolina and Wyoming gained influence. The tail has wagged the dog for decades, most recently giving the nation and world President Donald Trump.

          Because the last couple of presidential primary elections here were held in June, the outcome in both parties was determined long before either party’s campaign reached this Golden State. Candidates came here only to tap wealthy donors for campaign funds. Billionaire Californians might have had some influence, but not ordinary voters.

          This has mostly been the California situation since 1972, when South Dakota Sen. George McGovern beat Minnesota’s Sen. Hubert Humphrey in their Democratic contest to run against then-President Richard Nixon, a former Republican senator from Whittier.

          No subsequent California primary in either party provided anyone with a decisive, or even significant edge. The closest to it came in 2008, when Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama in the Democratic primary here in mid-March, the victory keeping her hopes alive two more months when they’d have died much sooner had she lost here.

          That wasn’t enough to satisfy anyone, so legislators and Brown threw up their hands and opted to return to the state’s traditional early June date.

          But plenty of Californians remained unsatisfied, and the notion of an early primary was revived this year, in the form of Lara’s bill.

          As first written, this measure held great promise. It moved the entire California primary up into March, contests for state offices coinciding with the presidential vote. And it gave future governors the ability to move the vote up even farther if other states tried to steal California’s thunder by moving their own votes ahead of California.

          Earlier efforts to gain influence with mid-March votes in the 1990s and early 2000s were stymied when other states either moved their primaries ahead of California or shifted to the same date, which became a widespread Super Tuesday.

          To prevent that, Lara wrote that new provision into his bill: If other states moved up, the California vote could be switched to a date as early as two weeks after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, whose status is written into the rules of both major parties.

          That, he thought, could discourage other states from once again stealing California’s influence.

          But lawmakers amended this provision out when county voting registrars said they need certainty years in advance, that a shift even six months prior would make things too difficult for them. So California remains open to the same kind of frustrating one-upsmanship as in previous efforts to move the primary up.

          The provision never should have been removed. The good news is that it can come back in next year’s legislative session, when voters will be more politically conscious than this year because of the upcoming mid-term elections.

          Yes, the new March 3 date for the 2020 primary is unquestionably an improvement over early June. Even if lots of states also move their votes up, candidates won’t be able to ignore California as they’ve done so many other times.

          But March 3 may not be good enough; an even earlier date might be advisable if the next governor wants Californians – and especially himself or herself – to have a major voice.

          So here’s to Gov. Brown for signing Lara’s measure, which virtually guarantees this state will at least have some voice next time around. But let’s increase the volume of that voice by giving the next governor and the one after that, and so on, a chance to amplify California’s well-deserved voice.

          Considering the many areas in which California leads America, why not politics, too?


     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