Thursday, April 19, 2018

A CHANCE TO FIX BIGGEST BULLET TRAIN MISTAKE


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2018, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
      “A CHANCE TO FIX BIGGEST BULLET TRAIN MISTAKE”


          By the beginning of next year, California will have a new governor and perhaps a new perspective on its largest building project of this and the next decade – the fractionally-built and ultra-controversial bullet train now under construction in Madera and Fresno counties.


          A new governor can mean a new board of directors for the High Speed Rail Authority and a new outlook on the current management’s biggest error – its insistence on routing the new train through the most populated parts of the Central Valley rather than along the much more open route of Interstate 5 on that valley’s western edge.


          It’s not often that a state agency can reverse course, give up on a mistake and still give Californians something they would need and use. But this is such an opportunity.


          There are many reasons the bullet train project, whose almost $10 billion in state bonding authority was OK’d at the polls 10 years ago, has lost much of its support, with fewer than half the voters polled early this year supporting its continuance.


          But a need for fast ground transportation between Northern and Southern California remains. Anyone who has fought traffic at the main airports of the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas knows congestion there grows steadily, making flying far more difficult than it was a few years ago.


          The obvious solution from the beginning was to route high speed trains along the state’s most traveled and shortest north-south route, Interstate 5. That route has very wide medians for much of the distance between Grapevine at the northern foot of the Tehachapi Mountains and either the California 152 highway west over Pacheco Pass to Gilroy and the Silicon Valley or the Altamont Pass east of Livermore and the East Bay suburbs of San Francisco.


          But High Speed Rail Authority members appointed first by ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and later by current, but outgoing, Gov. Jerry Brown wouldn’t hear of this. Instead, they opted to send the bullet train through Bakersfield, Fresno, Madera and Merced before heading it west along the 152.


          That choice spurred myriad lawsuits from farmers and other landowners whose livelihoods could be disrupted by the train’s tracks and viaducts. It led to fierce opposition from San Joaquin Valley Republicans in Congress backing their supporters in agriculture.


It has caused delays of half a decade or so in the project’s predicted completion date and contributes heavily to cost overruns forecast to double the original $35 billion cost estimate. This forecast comes from the rail authority’s own latest business plan, which also has cut expected speeds far below the originally promised 220 mph for much of the current route.


Imagine how many more lawsuits, delays and cost overruns the bullet train will encounter when and if construction reaches the San Francisco Peninsula, where Silicon Valley’s massive wealth could be arrayed against it.


          There’s also the issue of whether intermediate stops in cities like Fresno and Merced are worth having. The experience of Europe’s Paris-to-Amsterdam Thalys bullet train is instructive here. That line stops at major cities like Brussels and Rotterdam, but almost no one enters or exits there.  Almost all riders stay aboard for the full run.


          If stops in much larger cities are barely used during a European run of almost the same distance as Los Angeles to San Francisco, why believe many will use stations in the smaller California cities?


          The latest official cost and speed estimates for the California train have plainly put this project in peril. There’s a strong risk the bridges and viaducts already built will someday be monuments to a huge failure.


          Better to abandon them now, before investing billions of dollars in even more prospective white elephants, and switch to a far saner, cheaper and less disruptive route up I-5 and over the Altamont Pass to Livermore, where passengers could easily switch to new high-speed Bay Area Rapid Transit trains for the rest of the ride into San Francisco.

  
          The time and money saved would be phenomenal, even if some politicians and their appointees would lose face in the process.


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

HOUSING ANSWER MUST HELP MANY, LEAVE OTHERS UNHARMED


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE:  TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2018, OR THEREAFTER



BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “HOUSING ANSWER MUST HELP MANY, LEAVE OTHERS UNHARMED”


          Scott Wiener, the ultra-liberal Democratic state senator from San Francisco appeared surprised the other day to learn the truth of the old saying that no matter how much lipstick you paint on the face of a pig, it remains a swine.


          Wiener was stunned when a sweeping proposed law he touted as the solution to California’s serious problems of housing affordability and homelessness was killed – for this year – by the Senate’s Transportation and Housing Committee on a lopsided vote.


          “I absolutely did not see that coming,” he told the New York Times.


          Wiener planned to nullify much of the zoning that keeps California cities pleasant places where folks who own, rent or buy single-family homes can pretty much figure no one will soon build skyscrapers or big box stores near them.


          A host of building trades unions and high tech executives seeking cheaper housing for prospective employees backed his bills taking that assurance away from homeowners living near rapid transit stations or frequently used bus stops, no matter what the carefully crafted plans of their cities might say.


          Without doubt the problems Wiener targeted are serious. More than 50,000 persons now live on the streets of Los Angeles County alone, at least 115,000 statewide.


          These numbers demonstrate an urgent need for low-cost housing across California. So does the median price of homes in the state, now topping $460,000, more than 30 percent above the levels of just three years ago.


          But that doesn’t dictate the kind of wholesale changes Wiener proposed, changes that could have altered the way of life of many millions of Californians. His bill failed because a solution to the problems of hundreds of thousands should not create new problems for many millions of other people. That’s why the plan was opposed by environmental groups and every city that took a position.


          As originally proposed, Wiener’s SB 827 called for cancellation of existing single-family zoning within half a mile of light rail stations and within a quarter mile of frequently traveled bus routes. Approval for new buildings of five to eight stories would have been mandated in those areas, covering up to 95 percent of some cities. Existing requirements for parking space would also have been greatly reduced.


          The reasoning for this was that planners believe virtually all residents of new transit-adjacent projects will ride the nearby buses and trains, while very few will drive cars. That presumption is flatly wrong. Reports over the last year show public transit ridership has not risen significantly since 2014, even though several new rail lines and extensions opened in that time. Yes, rail ridership is up, but there are fewer bus riders, suggesting some folks likely switched from buses to the much faster trains.


          Plus, many homes and low-rise apartment buildings would have had to be razed to make way for the denser housing Wiener wanted to prescribe, displacing many thousands of Californians to make room for more thousands of others.


          Before the first legislative hearing on his bills, Wiener softened them a bit, lowering the height limit on new buildings from eight to five floors and applying his new zoning only to areas around bus stops that are busy all day, rather than just during rush hours. He also added some protections against evicting existing tenants.


          This still would have betrayed homeowners who invested their life savings in the belief that existing zoning assured they would have no high-rise residents peering into their back yards.


          Wiener’s revisions, then, were mere lipstick on a pig, not changing the essence of his plan, and opponents easily saw that.


          Far better would be to promote local solutions to homeless dilemmas, like a new program letting homeless veterans park overnight on the grounds of some Veterans Administration centers. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti proposes rewards for neighborhoods that support building local homeless shelters, to include more city services like road repairs and cleanups.


          And Republican Travis Allen, running for governor, suggests more homes in outlying areas around big cities.


          Overall, it’s a positive that homelessness and affordability at last are getting major attention. But solutions must be designed not to harm other Californians.


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

Monday, April 16, 2018

MANSON MEMORY MUST LIVE IN MINDS OF GOVERNORS


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2018 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “MANSON MEMORY MUST LIVE IN MINDS OF GOVERNORS”


          “Never again” is a common slogan popping up appropriately during Holocaust remembrance observances and after repeated fatal shootings in schools or whenever survivors want to comfort each other with the thought their efforts can deter future tragedies.


          But “never forget” might be a more effective motto, where one generation succeeds another in places of high authority and responsibility.


          In fact, “never forget” would be a very appropriate mantra for whoever becomes the next governor of California when it comes to surviving members of the Charles Manson gang and other especially cruel and deliberate mass murderers.


          Forgetting is definitely possible with the Manson “Family,” as his motley and deadly gaggle of followers was known during its heyday in the late 1960s.


          Very few grieved when the sometimes mesmerizing gang leader Manson died in prison last November and not much of a crowd turned out for his funeral this spring in Porterville.


          Manson, understated the pastor presiding over that ceremony, “made choices that brought great consequence and negatively impacted other people for many, many years.”


          The first to be “impacted” were some of the men who hung out with the “Family” during the months the group squatted on the now-defunct Spahn Movie Ranch in the northwest Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth. One was musician Gary Hinman, whose ear Manson slashed off with a sword before his henchmen killed Hinman. Another was movie stuntman Donald (Shorty) Shea, whose body was found in pieces on the ranch.


          Then, in their more notorious murder spree, Manson’s followers on his orders invaded the Beverly Hills-area home of actress Sharon Tate, brutally killing her along with coffee heiress Abilgail Folger, movie director Voytek Frykowski, hairdresser Jay Sebring and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker. A day later, in the Los Feliz neighborhood a few miles east, they stabbed to death grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, leaving behind messages scrawled in the blood of the victims.


          Yes, as the preacher said, Manson’s choices surely impacted the lives of all those people. He took however many years they all might have had left, costing at least a century’s worth of human experience, not to mention potential offspring and the friends and families affected by their deaths.


          The roster of infamous Manson Family killers still in prison includes Leslie Van Houten, Bruce Davis and Charles (Tex) Watson, all of whom come up for parole periodically. State parole officials occasionally recommend freedom for them on grounds of good behavior and achievements while imprisoned. But can anything they do ever outweigh the harm they did almost 50 years ago?


          Brown, who lived in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles at the time and experienced some of the horror that infused the area while the gang was on the loose, has vetoed their paroles repeatedly.


          Similarly, he would not be likely to succumb to any temptation to release other killers like Juan Corona, who killed 25 farm workers before his skein ended; or Edmund Kemper, the Santa Cruz area’s “Coed Killer” during the 1970s, or Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, who raped, kidnapped, tortured and murdered five young women in 1979 in Southern California. But Brown leaves office at year’s end.


          What about his potential successors, folks like Democrat Gavin Newsom, a child at the time of the Manson slaughters, or Republican John Cox, who moved to California in 2011, long after these crimes?


          For them, the “never forget” mantra is crucial.


          That’s because, while most elderly convicts pose little risk on parole, putting this kind of criminal on the streets would justifiably cause many to look over their shoulders while walking down streets or even sitting at home.


          If Manson’s death and funeral do nothing else, they should renew the sense of horror at the crimes he instigated and committed and add pressure to keep his remaining followers and others like them where they can do no more harm.


          Any future governor who does forget that these folks long ago forfeited their right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness will deserve whatever political consequences might follow.

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

TRAVIS ALLEN: GREEN LAWNS, LONG SHOWERS FOR ALL


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2018, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
“TRAVIS ALLEN: GREEN LAWNS, LONG SHOWERS FOR ALL”


(One in an ongoing series of interviews with significant candidates for governor of California)


          Travis Allen chortles as he boasts that “We took back America in 2016,” then adds the bold and seemingly unlikely prediction that “We’ll take back California this year.”


          Allen believes President Trump is making America great again, just as his campaign slogan promised, and he pledges to “make California the nation’s greatest state again, too.”


          His plan for doing it this starts with a planned social and traditional media campaign “including 13 million pieces of mail” during May, a month when many voters will already have primary election ballots in their hands. Even though fellow Republican John Cox, a businessman who moved from Illinois to San Diego County in 2011, has run ahead of him in several polls this spring, Allen happily notes that “It’s within the margin of error and he’s spent millions of dollars more.”


          He firmly believes “there is a silent majority” that will back any Republican who makes it into the November runoff election, where he expects Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom as the other contestant.


          “This is a race I will win,” Allen declared in an interview. “We Californians have been pushed too far by California Democrats. They’ve gone too far with the gasoline tax increase, their sanctuary state law and all their other crazy laws.”


          Allen, a three-term assemblyman and dedicated surfer from Huntington Beach seeking to become the person to move directly from the Assembly to the governor’s office, has a five-point plan for actions he begun the moment he takes office.


          His first priority, he says, will be to cut taxes, starting with the gasoline tax increase. Central to his campaign is a repeal initiative likely to reach voters in November. Next, he says, he will “make California safe again by getting tough on crime.” He wants to reverse three recent measures some call soft on crime, including the prison realignment plan begun in 2011 that has seen thousands of state prisoners sent back to their home counties for either parole or time in local jails. Allen would also try to reverse the Proposition 47 and Proposition 57 changes in crime classifications which made misdemeanors out of many former felonies.


          He pledges to fix the state’s roads and expand freeways without raising taxes or cutting important programs, though he has some trouble specifying how he’d do that. Again, he says the first step is rolling back the 12-cent gasoline tax increase in effect since last year.


          Allen also promises to “fix our broken education system. We used to have the best public schools in America, and (current Gov.) Jerry Brown’s funding increases for them are not working. Parents must be given the right to send their kids to the very best public schools and charter schools. And we need to test kids early and often to see how we’re doing. No longer will every child get a trophy just for participating.”


          Allen’s other top priority, he says, would be to “complete the state Water Project by building more water storage up and down the state.” He complains that “Brown’s water board is holding up bond money that’s already approved. When I’m governor, every Californian will have a green lawn and take long showers.”


          A lower priority, but still vital, he says, will be solving homelessness, an extremely touchy subject in his Orange County district. “The policies of California Democrats have led to the explosion of homelessness where we have people sleeping under bridges and on sidewalks at an alarming rate.”


          But he says the problem won’t be solved by anything like SB 827, a current proposal from Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco to mandate dense housing near transit stations. “Californians want the ability to own a single-family home and there’s plenty of open space in the state to provide that,” Allen insists.


          To win, he says, all he must do is get on the November ballot and then draw the same 4.4 million state voters who backed President Trump in 2016. Trouble is, this doesn’t account for the 8.7 million who went for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.


          Allen has a very steep task, but he’s undaunted so far. “I’ll win,” he insists.


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

Monday, April 9, 2018

BIGGEST CALIFORNIA INVESTOR PUTS MONEY OVER LIVES



CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2018, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
    “BIGGEST CALIFORNIA INVESTOR PUTS MONEY OVER LIVES”


          No one at last month’s meeting of the Board of Administrators of the California Public Employees Retirement System ever said money counts for more than lives, but there were serious questions about priorities after that board voted 9-3 to hang onto its stash of stocks in gun retailers.


          Voting about the same time when millions of teenagers and their adult supporters staged massive pro-gun control marches in cities across the state and nation, California’s largest stock investor chose to hang onto those holdings despite pleas from Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang that it divest from companies selling assault rifles.


          The state’s leading retirement board rejected Chiang’s appeal on grounds stated by board member Bill Slaton, an appointee of Gov. Jerry Brown who is also president of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, second-largest municipal utility in the state.


          “We obviously have a significant (assault weapon) problem in this country,” said Slaton. “We have found engagement is a better alternative in order for us to accomplish something in this area.”


          Translation: the pension board believes its prime job is to maximize investment returns rather than attempting tactics that might save lives.


          This is clear from CalPERS’ persistence in owning stock in companies like Walmart, one of its 10 largest holdings. Until three years ago, Walmart sold guns like the AR-15 assault weapon used in the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre which spurred the so-called “March for Our Lives.” That nationwide protest brought a larger turnout than President Trump’s inauguration to the federal Mall in Washington, D.C. The protests also called for raising the age of eligibility for gun purchases of all types. Only after Parkland did Walmart comply and raise that age to 21.


          Slaton appeared to credit supposed pressure from CalPERS for that Walmart decision, when there’s no evidence of any pressure at all from the retirement system. Walmart did not make any changes until years after earlier school shootings in places like Aurora, Colo., and Sandy Hook, Conn., and CalPERS never moved to divest. Neither Walmart nor CalPERS made changes after the San Bernardino County massacre of 2015, which left 14 dead and 22 other persons seriously wounded.


          In fact, there’s no evidence CalPERS or any other investors ever influenced gun retailers to stop or restrict assault rifle sales.


          So Slaton’s claim looks empty.


          Chiang, running third among Democrats in the current campaign to be California’s next governor, used his anti-gun pitch to the CalPERS board in a campaign mailer, saying he would push the retirement fund and other institutional investors to dump holdings in companies that sell military-style guns.


          In an official statement, he again urged CalPERS and America’s other big institutional investors – outfits like BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, Vanguard mutual funds, PIMCO and the Allstate and State Farm insurance companies – to divest from gun dealers.


          There have been no results yet.

          The CalPERS board specifically ignored divestment appeals from relatives of San Bernardino victims. One such plea came from Arlen Vandehyou, whose wife was killed in that onslaught. “Do everything possible to put a dent in gun violence,” he begged. But CalPERS did nothing.


          Chiang heard that appeal, but made no promises to change things at the retirement system if he becomes governor. By contrast, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, running first in the campaign, implied at a March for Our Lives rally in Orange County that he would.


          “We will be the example (for the rest of America),” he said. “Gun control saves lives.”


          Chiang, a CalPERS board member because of his position, was more specific. “If we don’t take action, nobody is going to take us seriously on this,” he said. “Today, California public employees are inextricably tied to the gun trade through their pension accounts. But…we can build the pressure needed for the nation’s largest pension funds and investors to cut ties to companies that sell assault-style weapons.”


          Only after the San Bernardino shootings did Californians pass Proposition 63, which puts mild restrictions on ammunition sales. Maybe Parkland, combined with the killings of three therapists at the Yountville Veterans Home by a former patient using a semi-automatic rifle, can spur tougher action, including stock dumps by both CalPERS and the state’s teachers’ pension system.


          But it won’t happen soon. That was the signal sent by CalPERS in its late March anti-divestment vote.

         
          -30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

‘RESISTANCE’ DOOMED? SECESSION MOVE COULD RESULT


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018 OR THEREAFTER
 =

BY THOMAS D. ELIAS


     “‘RESISTANCE’ DOOMED? SECESSION MOVE COULD RESULT”


          Since the Civil War, no state has resisted the policies of a single President more than California today as it fights to fend off many measures President Trump and his cabinet have ordered.


          From smog control to sales of federal lands, immigration policy to oil drilling, health care, census questions and much more, California is doing all it can to avoid going along with Trump, the second President of the last three to have been elected with a minority popular vote and only the fourth ever to reach office in that dicey manner.


          As of mid-April, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra had filed 32 lawsuits trying to stave off major policy changes by Trump. Then came the announcements of a coming federal attempt to take away California’s unique authority for setting air pollution standards and a move toward selling government-owned land in the state’s deserts and mountains.


          Becerra announced immediately he’s ready to file still more lawsuits over those issues.


          But it’s far from certain the Trump agenda can be drowned by a flood of legal briefs. That’s because the Constitution’s supremacy clause gives priority to national laws and regulations over state ones when they conflict.


          Legally, resistance to a Trump attempt at removing California’s anti-smog powers appears the one case with the best chance of ultimate success, because federal Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt would have to prove California applied for its authority on flawed grounds. This requirement is part of the 1970s-era Clean Air Act signed by then-President Richard Nixon. California has no other powers different from other states.


          This makes it seem that the real hope behind many Becerra lawsuits is to delay matters until voters can oust Trump in 2020 – if they do. Should these cases reach the Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court earlier than that (or if Trump is reelected), the resistance movement might hit a wall.


          That’s when the almost-forgotten secession movement known as Calexit might suddenly revive. Sentiment to split from the Union ran as high as 32 percent in polls taken soon after Trump assumed office last year. If the high court should trash cherished state policies that embody what U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de Leon calls “California values,” sentiment could grow stronger than that.


          If this feeling develops, voters might be able to express it at the polls this fall. For the pro-secession “Yes California” group, which claims 44,000 members, will start circulating initiative petitions late this month for a measure called “The California Self Determination Act.” It demands a popular referendum on May 4, 2021 asking voters if they want the state to become independent. If a majority then say yes, the Legislature would have to issue a declaration of independence within one week.


          “After Trump was selected,” says Yes California president Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, “there were two reactions. One was Calexit and the other was resistance. The resistance…has more attention than Calexit now. But the movement feels that’s going to shift dramatically within the next three months.”


          Ruiz claims the resistance movement is “based on the idea that protest can compel politicians to stop…Trump through lawsuits.” None of those suits has yet reached the Supreme Court, he notes, predicting that when they do, things will change. “What happens when the court…shoots down all the California lawsuits? It will be laid bare to the public that California politicians…can’t protect their people as long as they’re part of America and have to abide by federal law.”


          Ruiz thinks that could happen this spring, even as secession initiative petitions are circulating. But odds are it will take longer than that for most of Becerra’s lawsuits to reach the nation’s top court.


          Meanwhile, Calexit backers are unlikely to be dissuaded if they fall short of the signatures needed to put their preliminary measure to a November vote. They’d be sure to come back with another effort, perhaps moving the date of their desired secession referendum back a year or two.


          But Ruiz may be correct in seeing potential here for a significant secession movement so long as Californians feel strong antipathy for Trump and the supremacy clause he’s trying to use to roll back many years of California environmental and social policy.

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

Monday, April 2, 2018

ONE CENSUS QUESTION COULD DO LONG-LASTING DAMAGE


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2018, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “ONE CENSUS QUESTION COULD DO LONG-LASTING DAMAGE”


          President Trump may just have struck his most effective and longest-lasting blow of a seemingly constant conflict with California, the state that cost him a popular vote victory in 2016 and continues to resist his policies most.


          As with many of Trump’s anti-California moves, like his abortive attempt to defund the ongoing construction of an earthquake early warning system, he allowed one of his cabinet members to announce the latest tactic: adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census questionnaire.


          California politicians and immigrant rights groups instantly recognized the move for what it is, “an attempt to suppress the political influence of people of color,” in the words of the Los Angeles-based Latino Victory Project.


          State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, instantly filed a lawsuit to strike the question from the Census, denouncing it as unconstitutional. Twelve other states quickly followed.


          But the states will likely lose that legal battle. For the Constitution says nothing about what questions the Census Bureau can ask, nor even about whether the answers are confidential.


          All it says, in Section 2 of Article 1, is that every 10 years the government must count “the whole number of free persons…excluding Indians not taxed.” The information, it says, is then to be used for setting the number of representatives for each state in the lower house of Congress.Co


          But census information now goes far beyond that. It also determines for the next decade how much money each state gets for education, highways, homeland security, health care, welfare, natural disaster preparation, sewers and much more.

         
The more people live in your state, the more money it gets for services Congress has decided everyone in America should have. Citizenship doesn’t matter in those distributions.


          That’s why, every 10 years for the last half-century, California has mounted a loud campaign to convince illegal immigrants to let themselves be counted. For neither federal funding nor apportionment of congressional seats is set by the number of citizens in any state, only by the number of people living there.


          In short, the more fear the Trump administration can strike in California’s large undocumented immigrant populace, the less money the state will get for a host of vital functions.


          That’s because illegal immigrants have never completely trusted Census Bureau promises that their information will be confidential and not passed along to immigration authorities. Many fear being counted might lead to deportation, so they avoid census takers.


          They have even less cause for trust today, when Trump’s Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross controls the Census Bureau and didn’t promise confidentiality when he announced the citizenship question for 2020. (A similar query was used in six censuses before 1960, but obvious undercounts became common, so the question was abandoned for the last five counts.)


          But Ross claimed the federal Voting Rights Act requires the government to tally “citizens of voting age to protect minorities against discrimination.”


          He can likely revive the citizenship question because, as the Census Bureau says on its website, “It is constitutional to include questions…beyond those concerning a simple count…” The bureau then lists several major legal decisions, including a 1999 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Census is “the linchpin of the federal statistical system…collecting data on the characteristics of individuals, households and housing units...”


          It’s hard to see how a citizenship question violates that decision, but Becerra says it does. He adds, probably accurately, that the question is an “attempt by the Trump administration to hijack the 2020 Census for political purposes,” including diminishing both the federal money coming to California and its representation in Congress. This state already gets back far less in federal spending than it puts in the Treasury via taxes, and Republican politicians in some other states are crowing that the citizenship question could cost California as many as three congressional seats, plus three electoral votes.


          This all adds up to a savvy move by Trump to strike lasting harm against his political nemesis California, harm that could far outlast his own time in office.


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

TRUMP ACTED IN HASTE ON TARIFFS, MAY REGRET AT LENGTH

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2018, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “TRUMP ACTED IN HASTE ON TARIFFS, MAY REGRET AT LENGTH”


          By the time most folks reach 70, even very impetuous males, they’ve realized the truth of the hallowed cliché, “act in haste, repent at leisure.”


          But apparently not President Trump. By many reports, he announced a massive round of tariffs on foreign materials and goods like steel and aluminum in a fit of pique, angered because his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner could not get a full security clearance.


          Within less than a week, there were already signs of regret. This was prompted not only by loud criticism from some of his fellow Republicans in Congress, but also because some other countries and federations, most notably the European Union, began openly contemplating their own tariffs on American goods, especially those made in “red” states that backed Trump in the 2016 election, goods like blue jeans and bourbon.


          For a businessman widely experienced in the give-and-take of negotiating, Trump surely knew that for every action there’s a reaction. He likely was not surprised when, for example, Canada began openly thinking about tariffs on cars built in states Trump carried, from Nissans (Tennessee) and Mercedes-Benzes (Alabama) to Chryslers (Michigan).


          So Trump began backtracking. He started by suggesting he might relent on tariffs affecting Canada and Mexico if a “better deal” emerges from current talks on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).


          But so far, there’s been no backing off prospective tariffs against goods from China, Japan and South America, among the largest buyers of exported California products from high tech silicon chips to movies and food products.


          Even if Europe were to target red-state industries, China and Japan probably cannot. That’s because so much of their trade with America is actually trade with California.


          California rice, grown in the Sacramento River Valley north of the state capital, is a staple of the Japanese diet because population growth long ago outstripped Japan’s ability to grow enough on its own. China is the largest foreign market for American films, mostly produced by California-headquartered firms, even if some of those companies are foreign owned. And much of Asia depends on computer chips developed in the Silicon Valley. Wine and nut exports to China are also substantial.


          If Trump thought retaliation against his proposed tariffs would hurt California, he didn’t say so. But given the context of his seeming vendetta against the Golden State because it has defied him on several fronts, chances are he would not mind that. Of course, if Central Valley farms begin to suffer and fallow fields and orchards because tariffs are cutting down the exports that consume almost half their output, it just might harm the electoral prospects of GOP congressmen like Jeff Denham, Devin Nunes and David Valadao, who have toed almost the full Trump line for the last 16 months.


          And California farmers are expecting big trouble if Trump insists on the tariffs. They now take in more than $21 billion from foreign markets, with California almonds, for example, dominating nut sales almost everywhere. California vintners also would suffer. Wheat growers immediately protested the tariffs, and some large grain farmers were major Trump financial backers in 2016.


          California farms account for much of the world’s crop of table grapes, olive oil, raisins, figs, artichokes, dates, kiwis and canned, pitted fruits like peaches, plums and apricots. China imposed 25 and 15 percent tariffs on some of those items, including grapes, almonds and walnuts.


          Put a serious crimp in the China trade, as the nascent tariff war could do, and rather than helping decrease America’s trade deficit, the new levies could worsen it.


          So if he ever reflects on his insistence on tariffs – by all reports, against the advice of his top economists – Trump may come to regret it.


          But even though he frequently denies saying things days after they were videoed and recorded, he won’t be able to label the consequences of tariffs as fake news. Rather those consequences could include a new recession, loss of millions of American jobs and assured electoral defeat in 2020.


          The bottom line: Trump acted in haste on the tariffs and unless he relents soon, he could regret it the rest of his life. So might a lot of other people.


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