Monday, April 30, 2018




          Few California primary elections in non-presidential election years have been so anticipated as the one that starts soon, with millions of mail-in ballots arriving in mailboxes long before the official June 5 Election Day.

          This vote will yield clues about who will replace Gov. Jerry Brown and begin a new era in state politics. It could also give strong inklings about whether Dianne Feinstein’s long tenure in the U.S. Senate will continue.

          But another June event may prove even more important to the future of California’s public affairs. This will come about mid-month, when the U.S. Supreme Court is due to deliver a decision in the landmark Illinois case of Janus vs. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The case gets its name from Mark Janus, a child-support specialist with his state’s child welfare agency who is challenging the right of AFSCME, a huge public employee union, to collect money from workers who don’t share its political views and are not union members.

          This case echoes the 2016 California case of Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., where Anaheim elementary school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs challenged the CTA’s right to collect money from her.

          If Janus wins, politics and civic life in California could change dramatically. For decades, public employee unions have been a driving force in this state’s politics, financially and in providing campaign manpower. They are one big reason for the Democratic dominance in virtually all aspects of state government.

          Unions also have driven very tough contract bargains, empowered in part by their huge political influence, which sees officials from Brown down through legislative leaders and key members of many county boards of supervisors back them strongly.

          Back in early 2016, when the Friedrichs case was argued in Washington, D.C., it was fairly obvious after oral arguments and public discussion by the U.S. Supreme Court that unions would lose on a 5-4 court vote. But Justice Antonin Scalia then died suddenly in a hunting lodge and the court deadlocked, letting unions continue to collect “agency fees” from non-members who are nevertheless covered by contracts they negotiate.

          Like Friedrichs, Janus argued this spring that this infringes on his First Amendment rights. And it was again obvious after oral arguments and comments by court members that unions would likely lose on a 5-4 vote, with new Justice Neil Gorsuch replacing Scalia.

          One typical comment indicating how this will likely go came from the court’s frequent swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy. He blasted unions for advocating “massive government, increasing bonded indebtedness, increasing taxes.”

          Recognizing that a Janus/Friedrichs win is virtually certain, Brown and union-allied legislators created a state law giving public employee unions the right to meet and sign up new workers at least every 120 days. Union leaders said this is crucial for them, as they expect soon to need to shore up worker solidarity.

          But things may not go quite as desired by the big business interests (including major Republican donors like Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries) who have bankrolled both Janus and Friedrichs.

          Forced union dues from non-members may stop, but as they do whenever their backs are to the wall, unions can be expected to become more militant. This could mean many more public employee strikes, including bus and light rail drivers, sanitation workers, Department of Motor Vehicles clerks, court workers, Caltrans road repair workers and many more.

          That would be the end of a long era of labor peace essentially brought about by unions’ political domination. For unions may believe they need to drive ever tougher bargains in order to increase worker loyalty and drive membership up.

          Plus, the movement away from compelling payment from those who don’t like what’s being done with their money could spread. There could be new objections to bar association dues, student fees, continuing education for doctors and other professionals and other currently required expenses that have essentially been justified by the same arguments as agency fees.

          There could even be more tax resistance on free-speech grounds from persons opposed to government policies.

          So Janus, like Friedrichs, is a potential can of worms, a Pandora’s Box whose backers and the Supreme Court may come to regret having opened.

    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




          It is, quite simply, not within California’s power to rid its own food and fields – let alone all of America’s fields – of a pesticide derived from chemicals developed as a nerve gas by Nazi Germans who used them to fatally gas Jews, gypsies and others they crammed into airtight mobile vans before and during World War II.

          That’s why it was important for California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to intervene in a federal lawsuit aiming to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency to make a required safety finding (more likely, a finding that the chemical is unsafe) in a case that has dragged on more than half a decade.

          As Barack Obama left office, the EPA appeared about to issue such a ruling on chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate used on crops as diverse as nuts, apples, broccoli, melons, citrus, corn and soybeans.

          After almost 10 years of delay, the EPA in late 2015 proposed a rule banning even slight residues of chlorpyrifos on food because of safety concerns. Less than 18 months later, after President Trump had been in office only about two months, his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, abruptly reversed course, ended the rulemaking process and issued an order in effect leaving alone the existing standard for acceptable levels of the pesticide in food. Neither he nor anyone else has gone so far as to find the substance safe.

          It may be politically smart and opportune for Becerra to involve California in the ongoing case to force action by Pruitt, whose decisions so far have universally favored big business over consumers, and never mind safety. Even for essentials like drinking water.

          Sure, Becerra prides himself on filing lawsuits seemingly every week to challenge Trump administration actions, billing himself as a leader of the “resistance.” Staying in the news that way gives him an advantage over primary election competitors like current state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a fellow Democrat, and retired Judge Steven Bailey, a Republican.

          But there is little doubt about chlorpyrifos. It’s unsafe. A detailed 2016 study by an independent group of academic scientists found that “Children…are at an unacceptably high risk of neurodevelopmental disorders that affect the brain and nervous system, including autism, intellectual disabilities and…behavioral disabilities.” The nerve gas derivative can lead to lower IQ, attention deficit disorders and childhood tremors, just to name a few deleterious effects.

          The Obama EPA’s proposed rule recognized this, finding chlorpyrifos adversely affects brain development. Might the chemical be one reason for the current seeming epidemic of ADHD? In any case, if this pesticide is used on orchards, it’s a safe bet that an apple a day will no longer keep the doctor away.

          It’s not that farmers have to use chlorpyrifos, either. Some have voluntarily shifted to another family of insecticides known as neonicitinoids. One problem with those products, though, is that they are harder on bees than chlorpyrifos, even while they are easier on humans.

          Becerra’s action, taken in a 30-page brief, saw California join New York, Washington, Vermont, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii in backing a lawsuit against Pruitt by the League of Latin American Citizens.

          “Pruitt is not above the law,” said Becerra. “He has a legal responsibility to make a safety (or unsafety) finding… He must be held accountable. The stakes are high for our state and states across the country.”

          That seemed clear from a 2016 finding by the Obama-era EPA, which held there is no safe use of chlorpyrifos. A scientific panel of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last winter voted unanimously to place the chemical on the list of dangerous substances under the 1986 Proposition 65.

          Prop. 65 warnings are common on gasoline pumps and tanker trucks, but might someday have to be placed on the produce bins of supermarkets if use of this substance is not outlawed. That’s because California farms now use about 1 million tons of it yearly on crops, about one-fourth of the national total.

          The bottom line: It’s high time California rids itself of this highly hazardous pesticide, tainted origins and all. But that won’t happen without EPA action. Which justifies the Becerra move to help force an EPA ruling, even if there’s unquestionably some political motivation behind it.

    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

Thursday, April 19, 2018




          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.

     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




          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.

    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, April 16, 2018




          “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.

    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




(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.

    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, April 9, 2018




          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.

    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





          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.

    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