Monday, August 10, 2020

ETHNIC STUDIES PLAN: CLOSER, BUT STILL NO CIGAR


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
   “ETHNIC STUDIES PLAN: CLOSER, BUT STILL NO CIGAR”


          The ethnic studies curriculum now entering a public comment period before its scheduled adoption by the state Board of Education next spring is improved from last year’s rejected abomination, but remains a far cry from what it should be.


          In short, closer but still no cigar.


          The major improvement is that the new proposed curriculum this time recommends teaching about more forms of historic prejudice than the prior version, sent back to the drawing board almost exactly a year ago because it omitted so much.


          For example, the world’s oldest form of bigotry, anti-Semitism, didn’t get a mention in the previous version. Now it’s on the list of just over a dozen forms of historic discrimination and persecution.


          Wow! What good news for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust before and during World War II. They are at least recognized, but how many classrooms will see anything about this actually taught? Yes, a few classes are visited each year by Holocaust survivors telling their stories, but since most are in their late 80s and 90s, it’s questionable how long that can go on.


          Here are just a couple of the major weaknesses of the curriculum plan, which would form the background for making ethnic studies a graduation requirement for California public schools, as it recently became a requirement for any California State University diploma:


          The plan instructs teachers to deal mostly with the history of whatever ethnic group makes up the majority of their class. Since most public school students for the foreseeable future will be Latino, that mandates a lot of teaching about Hispanic history.


          Perhaps students will learn how smallpox brought to the New World by Spanish adventurers allowed Hernan Cortez to conquer the powerful Aztec and Maya civilizations in Mexico with a force that began with barely 200 men.  Perhaps they will be taught how some indigenous Mexicans turned against the Aztecs because of their brutality to those they had previously conquered.


          Maybe they’ll be taught about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which Mexico ceded 55 percent of its prior territory to the United States after the Mexican-American War, including most of present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada and Utah. Maybe they’ll learn that some Mexican-American activists since the 1970s have pushed the concept of Aztlan, a mythical nation that would take former Mexican territory from America, and never mind who has lived there since the mid-1800s.


          It’s OK to teach about this, if done deftly and not as propaganda making students feel victimized. But it would not educate students about the other ethnic groups they will surely encounter while living in the world’s most diverse society. This state, after all, features native speakers of more than 80 languages.


          Another weakness: the curriculum still divides Californians into four basic groups, as demanded by the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, an academic group focusing on “colonialism and conquest, racial chattel slavery and white supremacist (doctrines).”


          These folks also dominated the design of last year’s rejected ethnic studies plan. It failed because rather than work toward racial harmony, it focused falsehoods, divisive issues and longstanding grudges.


          There was little concentration on achievements of any ethnic group, especially leaving out all positives about European colonists and other white immigrants who designed the country that became the most successful on Earth, both economically and, often, in living up to its democratic ideals.


          Ignore that history and students will get a warped education on what it means to be American, how the nation was shaped and how to get along with others who look different from them. Or as Williamson Evers, a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said, “They’re leaving out all kinds of ethnic groups…who had to work their way into success, and how they did it. There may be important lessons there.”


          It’s possible the new plan will get more revisions to make it fairer and more accurate, while accomplishing state Schools Supt. Tony Thurmond’s stated goal of promoting a “fairer, more just society.”


          But the plan doesn’t get near that yet, so it should be sent back for a second rewrite unless it’s improved considerably before next spring.       

         
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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

NEWSOM STICKS TO HIS GUNS DESPITE RECALL EFFORT


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE:  TUESDAY, AUGUST 25, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “NEWSOM STICKS TO HIS GUNS DESPITE RECALL EFFORT


          Give Gov. Gavin Newsom credit for being gutsy about trying to shepherd almost 40 million Californians through the coronavirus crisis of disease and economic disaster.


          He knows there’s an active drive to recall him; he sees rallies resisting his orders; he’s seen demonstrators chain themselves to his fence, and he knows that out of so many Californians, at least one-eighth, or 5 million, are likely infuriated with his beach closings, school closures and other attempts to spur behavior that might crimp viral contagion.


          This means there are more than enough angry voters to provide the 1.495 million valid voter signatures needed to set up a special recall election sometime next year. The deadline for gathering those signatures is Nov. 17, but it’s not likely to happen because the drive is too poorly funded to put enough petition carriers in the field – even if contact-shy Californians were willing to get close and sign a petition on someone’s clipboard.


          Still, Newsom was a close observer 17 years ago when former Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by movie muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger. He knows it’s possible.


          Now Newsom confronts data glitches and case undercounts, plus resistance and lawsuits. His most vocal opposition comes from folks who don’t like wearing face masks because they’re inconvenient and from religious congregations feeling they have the right to meet without restrictions or social distancing, indoors or out. Some churches also resent rules curbing public singing, said to be a prime spreader of the virus.


          Several churches have sued, some claiming it’s discriminatory to allow protest rallies and marches but not indoor religious services. Not that protest marches are “allowed;” most don’t bother with permits and many are unplanned despite claims from some conservatives that all are masterminded by the loosely-organized anarchist Antifa movement – even though organized anarchism is an oxymoron.


          “Singing in church is our right, a Biblical mandate,” said Kevin Green, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Fort Bragg, asserting there are higher laws than Newsom’s emergency orders. He blasts what he and others call Newsom’s “inconsistency” in treatment of churchgoers and protesters.


          Pastor Greg Fairrington (cq) of Rocklin in conservative Placer County told online viewers in early July, as the coronavirus rampaged around California, that it was “time to come back” to church, bashing “fake media” for exaggerating the pandemic. Fairrington also has said he intends to run for governor, meaning that if a recall should reach a statewide ballot, he would likely try to replace Newsom.


          A news release from his Destiny Christian Church said it will continue following federal guidelines on “social distancing, masking, taking temperatures, hand-washing and other sanitation,” all while holding services indoors. The release encouraged “at-risk, sick or uncomfortable” individuals to stay home. Of course, with half the virus cases this summer reportedly among people aged 18 to 45, almost all adults are plainly at risk.


          The Newsom recall is also about more than his emergency decrees limiting personal freedom of movement and contacts. One recall donor emailed that “this man is pressing a socialist agenda. This state will be destroyed under the (Democratic) supermajority. His gun control agenda threatens lives and businesses…”


          The actual recall petition says Newsom has “implemented laws…detrimental to our way of life. Laws he endorsed favor foreign nationals in our country illegally over…our own citizens.” It continues with a litany of complaints including alleged Newsom failures on homelessness and “restricting parental rights.”


          Newsom has not commented on this effort against him. He has not rescinded an iota of his priorities or his latest emergency orders, either, even as he admits making mistakes like reopening much of the state too soon in the spring, before most counties had met standards he set.


          Perhaps this seeming confidence comes because Newsom’s overall job approval ratings remain consistently favorable, despite massive unemployment and other problems inflicted on Californians by the pandemic and his responses to it.


          The bottom line: Whether or not you like all he’s done, there is no doubt Newsom is sticking to the mission and the duty he’s said he must carry out: trying to save as many California lives as possible from a very deadly and contagious disease.

        
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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, August 3, 2020

VIRUS BECOMES A MAJOR FORCE FOR INEQUALITY


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 21, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
          “VIRUS BECOMES A MAJOR FORCE FOR INEQUALITY”


          Across America, protests and rallies crying “Black Lives Matter” have featured thousands of demonstrators wearing no masks, taking no care to social distance and not bothering to sanitize their hands very often.


          They’re ostensibly pushing for social justice and racial and economic equality, calling for fair treatment and less violence from police and other authorities and in effect demanding more equity in hiring and education.


          But their frequent disregard for the contagion of the ongoing coronavirus plague often accomplishes the opposite: They and others who disregard simple but sometimes inconvenient precautions are very ironically and tragically helping push the greatest force for inequality since Jim Crow.


          That’s the virus, which afflicts low-income minority residents of California in far higher numbers than whites, who are often more affluent.


          Latinos, for the strongest example, make up about 39 percent of California’s population, but account for 56 percent of all COVID-19 diagnoses and 45.7 percent of deaths from the virus. African Americans are 6.5 percent of the populace and about the same percentage of COVID-19 cases, but 8.5 percent of deaths from the virus. Geographic data indicates the virus also strikes disproportionately in lower-income locales, especially those heavily populated by farmworkers.


          So the coronavirus plainly hits minorities with low incomes harder than whites, especially those in the most affluent areas. Which means that the more protesters, partiers, beachgoers and others disregard tactics known to stem viral contagion, the more they promote racial inequality.


          But the inequities encouraged by the pandemic go much deeper than  caseload and death statistics, revealing as those can be.


          It turns out COVID-19’s most lasting effect may be on education, where impacts may affect student performance and achievement for more than a decade. It’s a new form of segregation, based more on economic class than on race – but class lines often coincide with racial ones.


          The reasons for this stem from the vitally necessary decision to keep most public schools closed this fall, the bulk of what used to be classroom teaching now done electronically via services like Zoom and Google Classroom.


          On the surface, this seems to treat rich and poor alike, every public school student seemingly subject to the same pluses and minuses from remote learning. Except that the wealthy can do something about it when their children’s wifi fails, while the poor often cannot. The wealthy are often able to stay home with their children during the pandemic, while a far higher proportion of the poor work in menial jobs now considered essential, from farmworkers to street cleaners.


          So the likelihood of children having adult supervision while they learn via screens is far less among low income minorities than among whites. Whether or not distance learning can be effective, there is no doubt that without adult supervision, children are more likely to wander away from screens or not to sign on at all. Even while they’re online, their attention wanders more if they are not supervised.


          The result inevitably will be that the rich get richer educations while the poor get poorer. Depending on how long this goes on, its effects could be lifelong.


          Other educational advantages are also manifesting from affluence during the pandemic. Besides the large percentage of the wealthy who opt out of public school problems with online schooling by sending their kids to private schools, large numbers of public school parents have already begun setting up “pods” of up to 10 children, with several families combining to hire tutors at $40 per hour or more.


          Newspapers around the state report tutors and former schoolteachers who post notices of their availability are getting multiple calls from groups of parents seeking stable education for their children. Parents also are using social media to find like-minded others, the result being that those who can afford to kick in for better education are buying extra opportunities for their kids.


          That situation led former San Francisco Mayor and ex-state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown to observe the other day that the virus is leading to new forms of segregated education.


          He’s right, and so long as the virus endures, there’s little low-income parents can do about it.


          -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

HAS CORONAVIRUS KILLED THE MASS TRANSIT BOOM?


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “HAS CORONAVIRUS KILLED THE MASS TRANSIT BOOM?”


          For most of the last 30 years, California saw a mass transit boom stretching from San Diego to Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay. Both light and heavy rail joined existing bus systems, providing new options for commuters and local residents to get around.


          Mass transit also took off as a planning concept. Cities that approve construction of new apartment and office buildings near rail stops often forego requirements for developers to provide parking. Even when they do demand parking spaces, it’s usually fewer than what was previously ordered.


          The presumption is that new residents and workers using those structures will use mass transit and their feet, that very few will drive cars.


          This has aroused both excitement and fear among many Californians, who envisioned the end of the car culture that has ruled this state for most of the last 100 years.


          But wait. That may not happen after all. The coronavirus pandemic has hit mass transit agencies harder than any government programs besides those directly involving health.


          The reason is clear: fear of contagion. No one who can avoid it wants to ride a crowded bus or train in the day of the virus, even if all aboard are masked.


          Take a look at the latest ridership numbers for the Los Angeles area’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which runs buses and an extensive light rail system. Over the last few years, this system opened several new lines that cost state, local and federal taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. A major new subway project is underway between downtown Los Angeles and the Westwood area near UCLA, now something akin to a ghost town amid its plethora of virus-killed small businesses.


          During June, when COVID-19 cases eased up for about two weeks before their latest onslaught, ridership for the MTA’s buses and trains was 2.01 million, down almost exactly 3 million passengers from the previous June.


          Even with the new lines, rail ridership was off by just over 53 percent, from 281,010 in June 2019 to 132,532 this year.


          In San Diego, the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) started considering service cuts as early as March, as the pandemic began. There was still pressure to keep things running as usual, because, as the MTS chief executive said, “Our buses and trolleys are taking our most vulnerable residents to critical services, and first responders, grocery store employees, nurses and other healthcare workers to their jobs when we need them the most.”


          Meanwhile, ridership is down so much on the San Francisco area’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) that it expects to lose $975 million on operations over the next three years due to ridership drops that at times have reached 92 percent. And CalTrain, the San Francisco Peninsula’s heavy rail commuter line, warned it cannot continue running almost empty unless authorities in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties subsidize it via a new sales tax or some other device.


          Together, all California’s transit systems are asking $36 billion in aid from the next federal coronavirus aid package. That’s almost half the estimated cost of the entire partially-built bullet train system – and it would not buy one inch more rail. This is for operating expenses only.


          It’s all fueled by workers operating from home and a return to commuting in private cars for those who have them, with trust for the sanitation of ride-share services like Uber and Lyft also low. Californians realize that using their own cars, especially if they ride only with others sheltering with them, is about as safe as staying home. Which leaves public transit to the poor, already most likely to be victimized by the virus.


          The question is whether this new attitude toward mass transit and other forms of sharing rides will be permanent. For sure, it will be years before full trust is restored and folks again board trains and buses without worry.


          Which means no one should spend new money on transit until it all shakes out and we learn whether riders will eventually return or continue to shun buses and trains.


     -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

Monday, July 27, 2020

TRUMP’S ‘WAR’ ON CALIFORNIA SPREADS; LEGALITY IN DOUBT


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 14, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “TRUMP’S ‘WAR’ ON CALIFORNIA SPREADS; LEGALITY IN DOUBT”


          President Trump’s more than three-year administrative war on California has now morphed beyond his many attempts to exact revenge upon this state, which provided the margin by which he lost the popular vote in 2016, when the Electoral College made him America’s second minority president out of the last three.


          Not that Trump’s moves against California are trivial: He’s attempted to stop the Golden State’s long-running battle against smog, he’s tried end runs around clean water laws, he’s attempted to end sanctuary city laws passed by many cities, and much more.


          While most of what he’s done against California has been by unilateral decree in the form of executive orders that a new president could countermand, it has usually looked legal. When courts ordered him to stand down, he did.


          That was before he began feeling desperate in the face of polls showing him far behind as the November election approaches.


 Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court said Trump cannot simply end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program begun under ex-President Barack Obama. The program allows undocumented immigrants brought here as small children to remain in America, where they grew up.


          But Trump wants them deported quickly to countries they have never known. Never mind that more than 10,000 such folks now work on health care front lines fighting the coronavirus pandemic.


          Upon learning of the court ruling, Trump promised to find another way. He soon did. Ignoring the court, he ordered federal officials to stop issuing DACA documents. So much for court orders, which all American presidents have respected, regardless how they felt about those orders.


          That was only a start. Seeing continued demonstrations against police brutality in cities around the nation, Trump next sent a variety of federal agents working for agencies like the Border Patrol and Customs Enforcement into Portland, Ore., to tear gas some of them and arrest some without specifying why, saying they are “violent anarchists.” His surrogates suggest many belong to the loose, almost mythical Antifa, billed as an anarchist organization – an oxymoron when anarchists by definition resist organization.


          Trump next sent hundreds of agents to Seattle, Chicago and Albuquerque, saying they would act against crime and gang shootings. Every state and local official in those places objected, until Chicago’s mayor relented before the inevitable. Trump also threatened to send forces to Oakland, Philadelphia and New York.


          Of course, the Constitution gives him no such authority short of declaring a national emergency, for which he has no grounds. The 10th Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, says the federal government can only deal in specifically authorized fields. Presidents have never had authority to get involved in local law enforcement without local requests. Trump completely disregarded this legality. Maybe that’s why he sent Homeland Security forces rather than the military, which is trained to disobey illegal orders.


          Next, he told the Census Bureau to act illegally in its every-ten-year head count, which determines how many congressional representatives each state will have and often controls federal domestic spending, where states frequently get money in proportion to their population.


          The Constitution charters the Census to count “the whole number of free (meaning non-enslaved) persons” in the land, never mentioning anyone’s legal standing. No other president ever challenged this basic law. But Trump, posing as a “law and order” candidate, has now apparently broken a law he swore to defend.


He did this by ordering the Census, run by the Commerce Department he controls, not to count undocumented immigrants.


          Because an earlier Supreme Court decision forbade placing a citizenship question on the Census questionnaire, no one knows how to identify illegals en masse. That’s unlikely to keep Trump appointees from making a guess, then trying to report it as a fact. This, after all, is the administration that invented the concept of “alternative facts.”


          The timing of the Census means a new president could rescind that order, but first Trump would have to leave office.


          All of which means this president has lately gone far beyond his long-running campaign against California, now warring on fundamental American precepts under the guise of law and order.

         
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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

NINE-BILL HOUSING PACKAGE DERAILS LOCAL CHOICES


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
“NINE-BILL HOUSING PACKAGE DERAILS LOCAL CHOICES”


The silver lining provided by some past pandemics has been that they opened minds, awakening entire nations and continents to what was wrong with the way things previously were.


So it was, for example, with the bubonic plague of the 1300s, also known as the “black death,” which produced labor shortages that started the demise of the feudal system, turning serfs into free people if they could reach the walled cities of the time.


But there is little evidence that California’s leading lawmakers have seen the many changes the coronavirus pandemic has wrought in California. No, even though COVID-19 has killed well over 8,400 Californians, current legislative leaders still pursue their old, pre-pandemic goals as if nothing were different.


          That’s especially true in housing, where seismic change is about to occur as businesses increasingly abandon office towers, creating vast new vacant spaces that will inevitably become housing units. This will create the dense housing sought for years by the likes of Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener and fellow Democratic Sen. Toni Atkins of San Diego, the state Senate’s powerful president pro tem.


          New and current reality, which sees office leasing around California at its lowest levels since the Great Recession, with more and more companies telling workers to operate from home, has not dented these folks’ thinking. They persist in fighting the last war, always a losing proposition for military leaders and often equally disastrous for politicians.


          The best example of their thinking is a nine-bill package mostly sponsored by Wiener and Atkins, joined by other knee-jerk liberals like Berkeley’s Sen. Nancy Skinner and Assembly members Buffy Wicks of Oakland, Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego and David Chiu of San Francisco.


          As the Legislature sort-of returns from its second virus-induced recess of the year – a period when lawmakers ceded virtually all state authority to Gov. Gavin Newsom – the nine-bill housing package will start moving quickly through committees. It has backing from developers and labor unions, both major financial backers of many Democratic lawmakers.


          Among other things, this package would effectively end single-family zoning in California, a longtime Wiener goal. It does this by allowing four market-priced homes on all lots that now have just one, with neither affordable units nor new parking spaces required. This alone could lead to wide disruption of residential neighborhoods if many homeowners take the wads of cash developers would soon proffer.


          Another bill allows city councils to overturn laws passed by local voters which protect open-space on shorelines or other green areas. The package also allows cities to rezone any parcel they like to allow 10-unit apartment buildings, in spite of any prior restrictions. It decreases the amount of affordable housing developers must include in a project to get it expanded beyond current local limits, giving developers a 50 percent “density bonus” if they build more affordable units than now required.


          And it allows tall apartment and condominium buildings wherever neighborhood businesses now exist. So much for city- or county-imposed height limits.


          This package aims to encourage more and more Californians to move into high-rise buildings and abandon their cars for public transit. It comes just when, rather than flocking to mass transit and ride-sharing services, most urban Californians are opting to drive private cars. Fears of contagion on public transit of all kinds stoke this trend, which sees ridership on trains and buses greatly reduced from last year.


          None of this is needed. As more and more office space becomes vacant, there’s ever less call for new construction. What’s more, when conversion of office towers to residential use heats up, there will be more new housing than required to fill the state’s needs, estimated at about 3 million new units by 2025.


          That timetable, of course, can be met easily by conversions, but not by new construction, which will inevitably be held up by lawsuits and environmental issues.


          It adds up to a picture of blinkered, single-minded legislators pursuing old goals with little relevance in the post-pandemic world to come. That’s why the current housing package deserves to disappear, just like Wiener’s past failed efforts to rid California of single-family homes.

                  
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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

Monday, July 20, 2020

ZOOM BOOM IN THE CLASSROOM -- THE LOWDOWN ON 'DISTANCE LEARNING


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, AUGUST 7, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


(Editors: Following is a guest column written by Simone Elias, 10-year-old granddaughter of columnist Thomas Elias. A rising fifth-grader, she is a veteran of California’s first attempt at mass distance learning, which will involve millions of kids this fall.)


By SIMONE O. ELIAS

          “ZOOM BOOM IN THE CLASSROOM -- THE LOWDOWN ON 'DISTANCE LEARNING'"


When the virus started, I was in fourth grade in a Berkeley public school. I have one sister, who is three years younger, and we both got free laptops from the school district once everyone had to stay home.


They call it distance learning, but they might as well call it laptop laziness. It’s so easy to just go to another website or watch a video.


Since this started, it’s been more fun and better learning to do my own projects without any teacher. For example, I set up Zoom calls with friends or relatives on my own, and I wrote a bunch of short essays about amazing places in the world. Lately I’ve been working on a podcast with my sister and a friend called “Street Spies,” which anyone can listen to on the internet (www.anchor.fm/simone-elias).


School was not so good, though. My teacher even told us she was not comfortable teaching on the screen. When I thought about it, that made sense because teachers are used to being there with the kids in person. There also always seemed to be problems getting the Zoom code or the sound to work. A lot of kids were constantly leaving and joining the meetings at different times, for various reasons like bad wifi. Things were even harder for my sister, who was in first grade—she says she couldn’t even see or hear the teacher some of the time.


I’ve also heard parents say kids from less privileged homes didn’t show up for the virtual classes as much.


Kids can leave the room or turn off their video—and the teacher can’t do anything about it. Students can mute themselves, and they can also mute the teacher by turning off the sound. Then they can do whatever they want—get a cookie or anything else their parents let them do (if a parent is even there). That’s not true in school where kids get sent to the principal’s office if they won’t do what the teacher says.


My teacher used a set-up for doing homework called Google Classroom. It had problems, too. The teacher puts “tasks” up and then students can just ignore them, and the teacher can’t do anything about it. This set-up also made me feel stressed because there were all these tasks with due dates lined up on the screen that I hadn’t done.


Whatever the project, you can’t really do anything social. Only one person can talk at a time on Zoom. You can’t have a separate discussion with a student, teacher or small group. Even to get to a “breakout” room—where you can do a video chat with less than all the people—you have to ask the “host” to do it for you.


          A lot of school is normally about hanging out with friends and being social, and you miss out on that, too. In person, school is longer, and it’s easier to share ideas and finish projects.


One specific area where online learning seemed harder than in-person learning involved paper workbooks. My teacher told students to scan their work and email the scanned pages to turn them in, but that was an extra step and not a lot of the students even had a scanner.


There are also some good parts of online learning, though. For one thing, there’s not as much distraction from the other kids, so you can focus on the subject and learn about it. For example, I wrote some essays about the California Gold Rush for online school last spring. Did you know that Margaret Frank made the equivalent of $400,000 in today’s money by making pies and selling them to miners?


Overall, school online is not as much fun as it would be if everyone were there in person. I guess it’s true that something is better than nothing. But distance learning definitely takes some getting used to. Everyone is still figuring it out.


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(To respond, email Simone’s granddad, longtime California columnist Thomas Elias, at tdelias@aol.com.)

WHAT WOULD CALIFORNIA DO IF TRUMP CHEATS?


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 4, 2020, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “WHAT WOULD CALIFORNIA DO IF TRUMP CHEATS?”


          A major worry expressed by some Democrats and encouraged by President Trump’s repeated refusal to promise he will abide by the fall election results goes this way:


Trump loses the popular vote, as he did in 2016. This time, he’s about to lose the Electoral College vote, too. He convinces Republican-led legislatures in several states not to certify election results favoring Democrat Joe Biden.


          The Electoral College therefore produces no majority, throwing presidential selection into the House of Representatives. Democrats hold a majority there, but it doesn’t matter. That’s because in a House vote on the presidency, each state would get one vote, and Republicans now control 26 of the 50 delegations. Wyoming and Alaska, with one representative each, would have twice the clout of California, with 53.


          So Trump gets another four years as president. This scenario has been outlined in a Newsweek story co-authored by former Democratic Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado. (https://www.newsweek.com/how-trump-could-lose-election-still-remain-president-opinion-1513975)


          It’s a fantasy of the unprecedented, similar to a 2016 Republican fear that Democrat Barack Obama would somehow engineer a way to remain president. But no one ever accused Obama of consistent cheating. By contrast, Trump’s niece, Ph.D. psychologist Mary Trump, lately authored a best-seller claiming he is a lifelong cheater. Which encourages speculation about his attempting the ultimate in cheating.


          If it happened, might a lot of Californians be tempted to secede from the Union, not wanting to be part of a country where this could happen? If Trump pulled off this sort of semi-coup de etat, it would also mean three of the last six presidential elections were won by men defeated at the polls. So much for democracy.


          Surveys in this state, where Trump lost by about 3 million votes last time, indicate he’s less popular now. The same polls show Californians by large margins disapprove almost everything he’s done as president. If the belief is widespread that he will illegitimately stay in office, a lot of Californians might want out.


          This would not be a new impulse in America. A fascinating new book Break It Up, by historian Richard Kreitner (Little Brown, $15.99 soft cover) details many moments in U.S. history when various states seriously considered secession. It became reality only once, sparking the Civil War.

                                                                                                                     Kreitner quotes Patrick Henry, revered for his “Give me liberty or give me death!” cry in the pre-Revolution Virginia legislature, saying “It would be a great injustice if a little colony should have the same weight in the councils of America as a great one.” Henry was governor of Virginia – then the largest American colony – when he said this before adoption of the Constitution, which actually gives small states disproportionate clout both in the Senate and in choosing presidents.


In California, the Yes, California group on July 3 filed a proposed initiative that would demand a popular vote on whether to leave the Union. The measure, if it qualifies, would reach the state ballot in November 2022.


Says Marcus Ruiz Evans of Fresno, leader of the separatist group, “People are saying “Hey, I used to think Calexit (the nickname for secession) is a fanciful idea and I still do, but I’m coming around; we need a government that works and I don’t believe America can anymore.”


Evans notes that after Trump’s 2016 election, polls indicated one-third of Californians would at least consider secession. Sure, many issues would need to be worked out if this state departed peacefully, like which federal properties in California would belong to the new entity and how much California should be compensated for its huge financial contributions to infrastructure in the rest of America, from highways to military bases.


The devil, of course, would be in those kinds of details. A larger question might be whether nearby states like Oregon and Washington, which disapprove Trump almost as strongly as California, would join and help form a new, large country. Perhaps British Columbia, always uncomfortably married to French Canada, might also join.


          That’s all fantasy for now, pending the November vote. But it doesn’t hurt for Trump, who refuses to repudiate the Wirth scenario, to remember that for every action there can be a reaction.


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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