Monday, November 30, 2020






          It has been more than 30 years since any federal administration featured a Californian in a starring role. That’s 30 years through which no president really had a gut feeling for how Californians think and what America’s largest state needs.


          This was never more obvious than during the four years of the Donald Trump administration, when California became a prime object of the president’s resentments, a magnet for his revenge.


          After all, this state provided all of the popular vote margin by which Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in 2016, even as razor-thin Trump victories in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania beat her in the Electoral College.


          But with California’s Kamala Harris as vice president – in a role at least as central as President-elect Joe Biden’s was under ex-President Barack Obama – it’s a solid bet California’s needs will get the attention deserved by any state with almost 10 percent of the national population.


          Instead of being a whipping boy blamed for almost every problem inflicted on it by nature and myriad incompetent officials in Washington, D.C., California could find itself a favorite son for the next four years.


          This will be true even if Republicans continue in control of the Senate, where they likely will have a 52-48 seat edge after two runoff elections in Georgia next month that the GOP looks positioned to win.


          For even without congressional cooperation, Biden will be able to do a lot on his own, via the executive orders so often employed by Trump. Despite biting and scratching resistance led by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Trump tried to eviscerate California’s power to regulate its air quality – supposedly assured under the 1970 Clean Air Act signed by Republican President Richard Nixon. Trump castigated California for failing to control its growing problem with homelessness, partially created by an influx of poor and mentally ill migrants from other states.


          Trump sought to prevent California from expanding its clean power requirements, now set to make the state exclusively reliant on renewable energy by 2050. He blamed state officials for setting the stage for wildfires by failing to clean forest floors – in national forests for which he was responsible. He encouraged oil companies to plan more offshore drilling, even near Santa Barbara, the birthplace of the environmental movement.


          The list could go on. Many Trump efforts were delayed by Becerra’s court actions long enough so that Biden can now reverse them. Word is he plans to do just that during his first week in office next month.


          Some of these areas, like smog control, clean power and wildfire suppression, tie directly to international efforts at climate control, where Biden also plans quickly to rejoin the Paris Accords from which Trump extricated the United States.


          One of the new California advantages is the life experience of Vice President-elect Harris, who grew up in Berkeley, began her legal and political life in San Francisco and moved to the Brentwood district of Los Angeles after marrying entertainment lawyer Douglas Emhoff.


          There is, for example, no way she could easily reach her home in that leafy district over the last few years without passing by a homeless encampment or two. A large one still exists adjacent to the expansive West Los Angeles Veterans Administration hospital and home, less than three miles from her recent residence.


          When California officials say they need more federal support to build transitional housing or to expand the veterans’ home, Harris will therefore have firsthand knowledge of the problem, not just a government document to acquaint her with it.


          California enjoyed a favored status under both Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, in part because its votes were lynchpins of their election victories. When disasters occurred during those presidencies, from the 1994 Northridge earthquake to big fires, aid flowed here quickly.


          Harris will also be more aware than any White House denizen since Ronald Reagan of California’s longtime role as the national bankroll, its citizens paying far more in federal taxes than ever came back in federal spending.


          So she will know – and likely make sure Biden also knows – that it’s not favoritism to meet Californians’ needs, but simple fairness.


    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 well established that wearing face masks confers a high degree of protection from the coronavirus plague on both wearers and those around them. Plenty of documentation shows social distancing also helps, as do frequent hand washing, good ventilation and disinfecting surfaces that are frequently touched.


          Also effective are quarantines of new arrivals from other states and countries, as well as isolating those with positive COVID-19 test results.


But as infections of the virus accelerated across California this fall, some other tactics ordered by authorities like Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state health department and most county health officers looked a lot like guesswork, seemingly flailing at the virus without much science to back the moves.


                                Justifiably desperate to keep hospital beds and front-line personnel available and healthy in the face of advancing infection rates and hospital admissions, these officials mandated sweeping lifestyle changes in at least 41 counties with 94 percent of Californians.


          It’s unknown whether the new measures can do what once was called “flattening the curve.” No one knows if the current almost statewide 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will slow infection. One thing for certain: it won’t achieve much if it’s not enforced, and many county sheriffs from Los Angeles to Sacramento and beyond are not bothering. None has been disciplined yet for such scofflaw practices.


          That’s because of uncertainty over the curfew’s efficacy. Authorities also say much of the recent Covid spread stems from family gatherings large and small, from weddings to Thanksgiving dinners to relatives watching TV together. Curfews won’t touch that.


          Plus, no one has reliably measured how much of the spread can be traced to such gatherings, if attendees were masked. Which raises the question of whether some of what we hear from health authorities stems not from reality, but from theories taught in graduate epidemiology classes.


          It’s a one-size-fits-all approach unjust to areas where folks have not crowded mask-free into bars and nightclubs.


          Things are similar with restaurants and gyms, mostly closed to indoor activity since mid-July. This also is a sweeping approach that ignores vast differences in how safely these businesses operated. Some gyms, for example, installed thorough ventilation systems while they were shuttered between mid-March and late June.


          Many gyms also limited occupancy when they reopened for a while in the summer, sanitizing machines and weights hourly, while requiring all users to wear masks.


          But one-size-fits-all rule makers re-closed conscientious businesses at the next disease surge right along with irresponsible outfits. Regular inspections could have determined which ones might safely stay open and which should not, but this did not happen.


          It’s similar for restaurants, where authorities months ago banned indoor dining in most counties, but later allowed outdoor service. One November report indicated just 3.5 percent of all infections successfully contact-traced in California originated in restaurants. Yet, as infection rates and hospitalizations spiked during the late fall, all outdoor dining was ordered to close in many areas, including Los Angeles County, the state’s biggest population center.


          That county’s health director said inspectors found at least 80 percent of eateries serving in open air did not socially distance their tables properly. So all restaurants were closed. How fair is this to the 20 percent that lost money by separating tables widely for the sake of social distance?


          Plus, the wholesale restaurant closings put several hundred thousand persons out of work, some of that toll probably unnecessarily.


          The well-meaning but autocratic health officials now serving as benevolent dictators under various laws for dealing with emergencies believe what they impose does save lives.


          Could they save those same lives if they enforced their rules mainly on businesses that ignore safety procedures, rather than on everyone?


          Meanwhile, hope is now widespread that an impending mass vaccination campaign can end this crisis and the unfairness it has inflicted as officials flailed at a situation no active medical professional had previously experienced.


          And after it ends, lawmakers at every level from county boards to Congress must reexamine emergency laws and make appropriate changes to create new rules hinging on information, not speculation and untested theory. If they don’t, we will have learned nothing from this year’s very painful experiences.



    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, November 23, 2020








          The most annoying part of living in the myriad potential wildfire areas around California lately has been a series of PSPS’s (public safety power shutdowns) imposed by companies like Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.


          The stoppages, sometimes lasting as long as three days, are plain acknowledgements from the companies that their equipment and their maintenance practices are unsafe, inadequate to protect individuals from harm and possible death. This renders service provided by the companies unreliable.


          Yet, no one seriously threatens the survival or monopolies of these companies, which admit they’ve killed upwards of 100 persons over the last three years, while not one of their executives has served a single minute in jail for their destructive decisions.


          The bulk of the admitted deaths came in the 2018 Camp Fire which incinerated the city of Paradise in Butte County. PG&E pleaded guilty this year to manslaughter charges for 85 deaths. There could have been more such guilty pleas in other places, but no district attorney outside Butte County has brought criminal charges against any of the utilities or their executives.


          Yes, there have been penalties. Most famously, PG&E went through bankruptcy and paid billions of dollars in cash and stock to a trust representing many of its victims. The company’s board of directors was cashiered and replaced. But some top executives escaped with gold parachutes worth millions of dollars to go along with their guilty consciences.


          Now come two further authoritative condemnations of the companies, especially PG&E. In one, the ratepayer advocacy division of the state Public Utilities Commission recommended fining the company $167 million for its poor communication with customers about impending shutdowns aimed at preventing new fires.


          Said one division lawyer, “When a utility fails to provide hospitals, fire departments and people with medical conditions with adequate warning of its decision to execute a shutoff, it is endangering lives.”


          This doesn’t appear to bother PG&E, according to the Chicago-based law firm monitoring the company’s legally required attempts to make power lines and transformers safer. The monitor’s report noted that PG&E’s safety effort has been worse in 2020 than before.


          “The monitor team has not seen a meaningful improvement in the quality of work (on vegetation trimming),” said the report from the Kirkland & Ellis law firm. “On a per-mile basis, (we are) finding more missed trees in 2020 than…in…2019.”


          So PG&E is not only failing to tell key customers far enough in advance when power cutoffs are coming, it also has not notably increased safety, despite all its at-fault fires of the last four years.


          There is no such monitor for Edison or SDG&E, but Edison admitted its power lines likely caused two large October blazes in Orange County.


          All of which leads some to believe it’s high time Gov. Gavin Newsom activates a law known as SB 350, which he signed June 30, authorizing the state to take over and/or force the selloff of parts of utility companies failing to discharge their duties.


          These companies have done precisely that. They cut off power when it suits them. They do not compensate victims of those shutoffs, customers sometimes paying for electricity they never get.


          So far, Newsom does not take seriously the notion of breaking up any utility, even PG&E. When this question arose during an October news conference, Newsom claimed PSPS notifications are improved. “It’s a different day,” he said. “But we do have the ability to take (PG&E) over. We now have oversight and safety committees.”


          He did not respond to the questions of why utilities should be allowed to keep deciding how and when to warn customers and when to do shutoffs. Nor did he respond to one customer who complained that “Every time I pay my electric bill, I feel like I’m helping a murderer.”


          Others are ready and waiting to take over parts of PG&E. The many relatively new publicly-owned community choice aggregation outfits around the state, for example, would love to take over power lines they now must rent.


          It’s time Newsom took this seriously. If he does not, he can expect his inaction to be used against him when he seeks reelection in 2022.



    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







“Proposition 13 is still the third rail of California politics,” crowed Jon Coupal in the headline of an Internet posting days after the narrow defeat of November’s Proposition 15, which aimed to take the property tax benefits of the 1978 Prop. 13 away from commercial and industrial property.


“Prop. 13 has almost mythical powers against those who would assail it,” Coupal also told a reporter.


Not exactly. For after its loss, the sponsors of Proposition 15 immediately announced plans to bring it back again two years from now.


          That’s apparently OK with Coupal, the head of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., named for the co-author of Prop. 13’s property tax limits. He argued that this fall’s timing could not have been better for Prop. 15, which embodied a concept called the “split roll.”


          Had the split roll passed, residential properties all over California would still have kept all current features of Prop. 13, which sets taxes at 1 percent of the most recent sales price, levies rising no more than 2 percent per year after that. Properties that have not changed hands since 1978 are taxed at 1 percent of their 1975 appraised value, plus that maximum 2 percent yearly increment.


This system sees owners of identical, side-by-side homes that sold at different times paying vastly different tax bills. Homes that stayed in the same hands for the last 45 years pay significantly less than neighbors who moved in more recently. The difference can come to tens of thousands of dollars each year.


Split roll leaves all this alone. Instead, the failed fall initiative went after commercial property, never the main focus when Prop. 13 originally passed. The emphasis then was on preventing seniors and other longtime homeowners from being priced out of their homes by the rapidly accelerating property taxes of that time.


          Coupal claimed this fall was the ideal time for labor unions and leftists to go after part of Prop. 13. He also steadily contends that an attack on any part of Prop. 13 amounts to a threat to all of it. He noted that the fall election promised to draw record numbers of voters because of President Trump’s presence on the ballot. It did. He claimed the ballot description by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra was misleadingly favorable to Prop. 15. It was. And he said labor unions were flush with money from dues with which to back the split roll.


          And they did. The California Teachers Assn. alone put up more than $20 million.


          But Coupal ignored the coronavirus pandemic. Some consequences of that plague, like its emptying out of many office towers, made very uncertain the $12 billion in new revenues split roll backers promised to local governments and schools. The pandemic also has shut down myriad businesses everywhere in California, many permanently. Increased commercial real estate taxes would have been passed through to surviving businesses and their customers, even as they tried to recover.


          Those conditions mitigated against passage, and the measure lost by a slim 52-48 percent margin, or 670,000 votes out of almost 16 million cast.


          If Prop. 13 were really a third rail, a type of railroad track that deals electric shocks to anyone who touches it, no one would want to bring it back. The losers would be nursing their wounds.


          Instead, they can’t wait to bring the split roll back in 2022. Said the Public Advocates non-profit law firm, “Rest assured the fight for adequate funding for our schools and communities is far from over…the total vote, with 7.5 million in favor, is cause for optimism. Californians know there is an unacceptable gap between the haves and have-nots in our state.”


          So it’s virtually a sure thing the split roll will return in the next general election, with a different number and a different ballot description, but the same mission of revising current property tax law to make business property owners pay more of the freight.


          Which demonstrates Prop. 13 likely has lost whatever mythical power kept it from being seriously challenged over its first 42 years.


    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, November 16, 2020








          It was easy to suspect “blackout blackmail” last summer when rolling blackouts not linked to wildfires left about 3 million California homes without power for air conditioning or anything else for short stretches during a day of record and near-record heat across the state.


          Now, with results recently in from an “investigation” ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom, it’s even easier to believe there was a commercial motive behind those shutdowns. Not that the agencies which “investigated” themselves among others at the governor’s behest ever mentioned the concept of utility company blackmail. To see that, you had to read between the lines.


          Suspicions first arose around the August outages because they featured several oddities, events not seen in California blackouts during this era of occasional random power failures, also a time of planned shutdowns and brownouts by electric companies aiming to avoid liability for starting wildfires.


          First, Newsom said he didn’t learn about them until just beforehand, when governors generally get plenty of notice so they can marshal resources to help those affected. There was also the duration – 20 to 30 minutes per blackout, not enough time for any utility to rack up liability even for rotted food in shut-down refrigerators. Plus, while temperatures in a few areas set records, it wasn’t by much of a margin over recent late-summer heat waves which saw no outages.


          Thousands of schools and businesses were already shut down, using little power at the time because of the coronavirus pandemic, while solar panels on many homes and buildings continued to relieve demand on the electric grid.


          But heads of the three public agencies most involved in keeping California’s power on all signed a damning self-evaluation, accusing themselves of poor planning. Those outfits included the state Public Utilities Commission, the state’s Independent System Operator and the state Energy Commission.


          No agency head offered to resign. There’s to be no falling on swords, as used to happen in some countries when authoritative public officials failed in their duties.


          This may be because the report looks like little more than a half-truth, at best. For the blackouts came just two weeks before another state agency, the Water Resources Control Board (WRCB), was to give a final ruling on whether four gas-powered electric generating plants that use ocean water for cooling could remain open.


          The stated shortfall in August was about 1,500 megawatts at its peak. Those four plants, all of which run intermittently, can produce more than twice that much power. Neither the public agencies involved nor the Southern California Edison Co. could or would say in the blackout aftermath whether any of those plants produced power during the outages, or how much.


          That aroused suspicions as this information is not supposed to be secret.


          As it ended, the WRCB approved continued operations at most units of the affected plants, in Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Redondo Beach and at Ormond Beach near Oxnard.


          “It all looks highly suspicious,” said Bill Powers, a San Diego engineer expert on utility operations. Powers was instrumental about 15 years ago in getting the state to avoid becoming dependent on expensive liquefied natural gas, which an Australian firm had hoped to import in massive quantities through an offshore facility also near Oxnard.


          That was a clear-cut case of “blackout blackmail,” both the Southern California Gas Co. and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. saying California would experience extreme energy shortages without importing LNG. That never happened, and a strong movement backed by many state legislators now seeks to ban natural gas appliances from all new construction to minimize greenhouse gas production. San Francisco this fall instituted such a ban.


          There have been several other instances of utilities attempting to influence public policy by threatening blackouts. No such threat ever materialized. But this time, there were rolling blackouts, even if they were short.


          It’s entirely possible there was also poor planning. But the timing and the fact the report to Newsom completely ignores the four gas-fired plants lends even more suspicion here.


          “The preliminary analysis leaves more unanswered questions than answers,” said Loretta Lynch, a former Public Utilities Commission president.


          Which makes future suspicions of further “blackout blackmail” inevitable.  




    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






          Silicon Valley giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google get plenty of justified criticism for condoning posts that promote bigotry of many stripes, plus terrorism and racist violence. Not to mention their inconsistency about removing political advertisements purveying outright lies and their frequent regurgitating of obviously faked news in their many and varied feeds.         


          But there’s one Silicon Valley company that now stands out for refusing to passively accept this stuff. That’s the San Jose-based Zoom Video Communications, perhaps best known as the service without which millions of schoolchildren could have been almost completely cut off from education in this pandemic-infused year.


Yes, other video conferencing apps exist, like Google Meet and Cisco Webex. But Zoom has made itself synonymous with the genre, just as Xerox once was the only word anyone used when talking copiers.


For the most part, Zoom is as passive as its Internet cohorts, interfering with almost no meetings on its space, no matter what they touch on.


But when a well-known anti-Israel and anti-Semitic academic at San Francisco State University scheduled a Zoom event this fall featuring Leila Khaled, infamous as the world’s first female airplane hijacker and one who has gone unpunished for her misdeeds for 50 years, Zoom just said no.


          The company waited until after San Francisco State president Lynn Mahoney had seemingly exhausted her supply of politically correct sophistry in allowing this event to proceed. Mahoney conceded that even though she believed academic freedom demanded the seminar on Zoom be allowed to proceed, she realized it would be “deeply wounding to our Jewish students.” No, she did not mention that the pro-violence rhetoric for which Khaled is known could spur actual wounds – not mere figurative ones – to those Jewish students, who have been threatened before on the San Francisco State campus.


          “Words can wound,” Mahoney said. She ignored how they can also lead to killings, as when instigators from Charles Manson to Adolf Hitler implied their minions should act while they themselves stood by and did little or nothing physical.


          This putative conference was organized by SFSU’s Department of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies, whose chairperson is Rabab Abdulhadi, well known for her own incitements. Abdulhadi is a disciple of the modern form of anti-Semitism which condemns Zionism and Israel while claiming it’s not anti-Semitic.


          These folks, of course, ignore the longstanding Jewish tenet immortalized in Psalm 137 after the Babylonian conquest of the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.  May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you,” and more.


          This passage, enshrined for millennia in the Bible, demonstrates the enduring tie between Jews and their ancestral homeland, making denial of Jewish rights to sovereignty there plainly anti-Semitic.


         Khaled has not merely employed rhetoric. In 1970, she was part of a team from the terrorist-designated Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that hijacked TWA Flight 840, a Boeing 707 diverted to Damascus. Later that year, after being treated like a heroine by Syria, she underwent plastic surgery to disguise herself and then helped hijack El Al Flight 219 to a remote airfield in England. She was quickly released by British authorities and lives today in Jordan.


         There was scant likelihood Khaled could ever be admitted to the U.S. to speak. But a Zoom conference over the Internet would take care of that slight problem.


         Then Zoom spoke up and the event was off. “Zoom is committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations,” a corporate statement said, “subject to certain limitations contained in our terms of service, including those related to user compliance with applicable U.S. export control, sanctions and anti-terrorism laws. In light of the speaker’s affiliation or membership in a U.S. designated terrorist organization and SFSU’s inability to confirm otherwise, we determined SFSU…may not use Zoom for this particular event.”


       This was a seminal statement from a major Internet company, leaving San Francisco State with egg and hypocrisy on its face.


      It also should serve as a precedent for other electronic giants to clean up their acts and their app spaces.


    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, November 9, 2020






          With Kamala Harris now the vice president-elect of the United States, many Californians wonder who Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint as the state’s new junior U.S. senator.


          An early favorite is Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general ironically first named to his current job by ex-Gov. Jerry Brown to replace Harris when she left her state office to join the Senate four years ago. Becerra in 2018 won election on his own and likely could serve another six years as the state’s top law enforcement officer if he likes.


          But he is a congressional veteran, a 62-year-old who served 12 terms as a congressman from East Los Angeles before moving to Sacramento, eventually rising to rank No. 3 in the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives. Becerra knows the ins and outs of Washington as well as anyone and could step seamlessly into the Senate.


          Chances are he also would draw little opposition in running on his own in 2022, a marked contrast to California’s last appointed U.S. senator. When Republican Pete Wilson, elected governor in 1990, named the previously obscure Orange County state Sen. John Seymour to his former seat, Seymour lasted less than two years before Democrat Dianne Feinstein ousted him.


          Becerra as attorney general also has been a huge thorn in President Trump’s side as Trump tried repeatedly over the last four years to turn back the environmental calendar, attempting to reverse dozens of rules set by California, Congress and via previous presidential executive orders. At each step, Becerra resisted with a lawsuit – more than 100 at last count.


At least 38 times, Becerra’s court filings thwarted Trump’s attempted moves. Trump has not completed his calendar of regression on clean air, clean water, automotive emissions, excusing crooked mail-based colleges like the failed Trump University, and much more.


          Becerra also gives Newsom a three-fer: If he makes Becerra California’s first Latino senator, he also shores up Hispanic support and gets to appoint someone else as attorney general, guaranteeing a friendly cohort anytime he wants legal action. That person could then serve 10 years, so long as the individual isn’t sworn in until after 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1.


          That’s an advantage the other very strong Latino possibility for the appointment lacks. Alex Padilla, the highly visible secretary of state, led efforts to discredit Trump’s steady attacks on universal mail ballot elections like the one California held this year. Padilla, a major and vocal Newsom campaign backer as early as 2010, assured that virtually all votes were safe from everything but vandalism this year and teamed with Becerra in resisting Republican efforts to set up a separate set of ballot boxes.


          A former Los Angeles city councilman, Padilla cannot hold the attorney general’s job because he’s not a lawyer. He would be well advised to prepare a war chest to campaign for Feinstein’s Senate seat when it’s next up for grabs in 2024. Feinstein will be 91 by then, and figures to retire, leaving her seat open and a logical landing place for Padilla or current Lt. Gov. Elena Kounalakis, who would also be delighted to accept a Senate nomination.


          Newsom will also get pressure from varied interest groups to appoint other folks, including Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Culver City Congresswoman Karen Bass, Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter, Pasadena Congressman Adam Schiff, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign. But no one else offers Newsom as much as Becerra. Several of the others may end up joining Padilla in a future race to replace Feinstein.


          Whatever Newsom does, it will be what he figures is best for himself and his obvious presidential ambitions. With significant opposition likely from both Democrats and Republicans when he runs for reelection in 2022, Newsom must use any opportunity to shore himself up in the face of harsh criticism for how he’s managed things like the coronavirus shutdown, the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. bankruptcy and the bullet train project.


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






          The longer the vote-counting goes on, the more it seems the big bounceback California Republicans expected this fall from the party’s significant congressional defeats of 2018 may be a halfway thing. Which would still be an achievement in the face of President-elect Joe Biden’s 4.4 million-vote victory in this state.


          In 2018, California’s voting for Congress was essentially a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump, whose wishes virtually all 14 Republican representatives from this state slavishly followed during the first two years of his term.


          Eventually, Republicans lost half their California seats, some by razor-thin margins not finally determined until almost a month after the vote.


          The state party made a major effort this year to recoup those losses. The GOP crowed when it won back the 25th District seat stretching from Palmdale in the High Desert of Los Angeles County through Santa Clarita and into part of Ventura County. That came in a special election last spring after Democrat Katie Hill resigned in a sexting scandal.


Republicans also recruited a roster of solid candidates for other races in the comeback effort. As the year began, Mike Levin was the only one of the 2018 Democratic seat-flippers whose reelection seemed certain. His 49th District covers northern San Diego County and southern Orange County. Levin in fact won solidly Nov. 3. So did Democrat Katie Porter in southern Orange County. But four other districts remain up for grabs, with the outcomes likely not to be known until late this month.


          One seat-flipper facing uncertainty is T.J. Cox, rematched with longtime former Republican Rep. David Valadao, whom he narrowly bested last time in their 21st District stretching from southern Fresno County to the northern edge of Bakersfield. This race will likely remain a nail-biter for weeks, as in 2018.


          Harley Rouda, who narrowly ousted longtime GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from his coastal Orange County seat, drew county Supervisor Michelle Steel this year. The Asian-American wife of former state GOP chairman Shawn Steel out-fundraised Rouda early on and led by 4,700 votes several days after the vote, with the outcome still uncertain.


          The same for the reelection bid of Democrat Gil Cisneros, a onetime Mega Millions lottery winner rematched in the mostly Orange County 39th district with former Republican state Assemblywoman Young Kim. Like Steel, she has a strong following in the county’s large Asian immigrant populace. Cisneros won their 2018 race by about 2.5 percent, but was outdrawn in the primary last March. He counted on a large anti-Trump turnout this fall, but trailed Kim by 2,400 votes a few days after Election Night. Nail biting will continue here for weeks.


          One plus for Democrats was the relative ease of reelection for Josh Harder in the Modesto-centered 10th District, where Republican veterinarian Ted Howze hoped to draw the area’s strong farm vote. Harder and two Democrats drew almost the exact same number of primary votes as three Republicans in the March primary. Harder, who ousted longtime Republican Rep. Jeff Denham two years ago, hoped a large turnout in the presidential election would help him and it did. There is no suspense here: Harder had a 30,000-vote lead on Election Night.


          Then there’s the see-sawing 25th District. Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith led there after Election Night by less than 700 votes over Garcia, the springtime special election winner. Three days later, Garcia led by 420. This one also will take weeks to decide.


          It’s far from certain, but because most remaining votes are late absentee or provisional ballots that in recent years have mostly gone Democratic, the likelihood of Republicans ending up with more than three of the seats they lost two years ago now appears small.


          Extremely tight Election Night tallies like these favored Democrats in the past, but early indications are that this year might be different. What’s clear is that at least three of the 2018 seat-flippers will be back in Congress when a new session begins. But some may not.


          Which means California Republicans’ hopes of a miracle comeback now look somewhat exaggerated, while Democrats also have little to crow about.       



    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

Tuesday, November 3, 2020






          For more than two months, California airwaves were filled with political hype, in large part because of the unprecedented push for early voting caused by the coronavirus pandemic and threats of a deliberate U.S. Postal Service slowdown.


          Not much was spent here on the presidential race, because its outcome in California was never in doubt. Not even Donald Trump thought he had the slightest chance to beat Democrat Joe Biden in this deeply blue state.


          Rather, most radio, television and social media advertising here was about the 12 initiative propositions voters were asked to vote up or down.


          For the most part, as usual, these were voted down, as was predictable under the old adage that if voters don’t understand a ballot measure, they generally say no.


          In the meantime, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on initiatives, perhaps the largest expenditures aiming to defeat Proposition 23, which would have required the state’s 550 outpatient dialysis clinics to keep a physician specialist on duty at all times, adding greatly to expenses but little, if anything to quality of care.


          Voters had already rejected a very similar proposition two years ago, and handily did the same this time. On that one, they went along with most of the ads that were aired, rejecting the few that insisted this change would greatly improve care for the 80,000 Californians on kidney dialysis.


          But voters rejected the hype on most other highly contested propositions.


          There was a common theme in the ads and arguments backing several initiatives this fall: pass this, the arguments went, and there will be billions of dollars more for schools, roads, firefighting and just about anything else a voter might like.


          Nowhere was that claim stronger than in the messages backing Proposition 15, the so-called Split Roll initiative aiming to tax commercial property at higher rates than residential land and buildings. Backers promised $12 billion in new money, mostly for local governments, and never backed off that figure even when thousands of office buildings and store went largely vacant after the coronavirus pandemic struck.


          Trouble was, nothing in the measure spelled out where the new money would be spent. So it could have gone anywhere, including into higher salaries and pensions for public employees. Voters realized that by the end of election season, and with most votes counted, they apparently were rejecting 15 narrowly, probably not by enough to prevent sponsors from trying again.


          Things were a bit different with Proposition 19, a hodge-podge of tax changes allowing senior citizens more opportunities to sell their homes and move without losing the property tax benefits of the 1978 Proposition 13. Opponents argued it also would cause problems for anyone who inherited a home from parents or other relatives. Backers claimed it would deprive the wealthy and “trust fund heirs” of current privileges and voters narrowly passed it, going for current benefits over possible future deficits.


       Most voters apparently did not believe loud and frequent claims that Proposition 16, aiming to end a 24-year ban on affirmative action hiring and college admissions in California, would mean “equal opportunity for all…” They soundly rejected this measure, which essentially would have made merit a secondary factor for both hiring and admissions.


          Voters also passed Proposition 24, giving themselves more privacy rights over their electronic information and geographic locations. They did this despite loud arguments from purists contending the additional rights still are not good enough. They may not be perfect, but they certainly represent improvement, and voters figured that’s better than nothing.


          And voters essentially laughed off frequent claims by advocates for Proposition 21 that its statewide mandate for rent controls would somehow alleviate the state’s very serious and growing problem with homelessness. They saw that nothing in the proposition would have allowed tenants to remain in houses and apartments without paying rent. They apparently saw it did nothing to make housing more affordable, as some ads prominently claimed.


          The bottom line: For the most part, loud messages did not fool the majority of California voters. At least not this time.



    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 didn’t take a genius to know that California would vote big against Donald Trump, and that’s just what every-pre-election poll showed. But the fact those surveys also got Democratic Joseph Biden’s landslide California margin very close to correctly showed that pollsters learned something from their 2016 debacle.


          Just not enough. In fact, the surveys had already made adjustments in time for the 2018 midterm election, successfully pinpointing the seven California congressional districts Democrats would flip away from Republicans in this state.


          Here’s the lesson the polls learned: They could no longer settle for surveying stratified random samples of registered voters, but from now on would have to do the extra work of figuring out who was really certain to vote and who was not, and then pretty much exclude others from their surveys.


          There was also the matter of “secret” or “shy” Republican voters who would go for Republican Donald Trump in the privacy of the voting booth or their kitchen table, while telling pollsters they were either undecided or planning to cast ballots for Trump’s opponent.


          It turns out the Republican websites and other Trump supporters were dead right when they loudly contended the number of those hidden Trump supporters was far greater than even new polling techniques used in many major surveys detected. Some surveys mixed computerized responses and answers to robocall questions with results from live telephone interviewers, trying to find out who was who. The results indicate those tactics were nowhere near good enough.


          Yes, the polls were correct in a few tightly contested states like Iowa and Arizona, but in the Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – the three states that figured – correctly, as it again turns out – to decide the election, they were off significantly, almost all picking Democrat Joe Biden to win all three by anywhere from two percent to five percent.


 Most major polls, including those touted by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, counted on a supposed factor cited by Sean Trende, the wonderfully named senior elections analyst at the RealClearPolitics poll-aggregating website. Said Trende in a pre-election interview: “In Internet polling, you click on your keyboard and no one really knows how you answered. When you get a robo poll, it’s just an automated voice and you’re pressing buttons.” So what’s to be shy about? Apparently something.


          With Election Night returns largely in and large numbers of mail ballots yet to be counted in key states, it was apparent the outcome would not be known for days or weeks.


          Which means Democrats who doubted the (for them) positive poll prospects were right to be worried. Many felt like football fans whose team held a lead after three quarters, but had a history of blowing big advantages.


          Biden might yet sustain his early lead and the final results may show he actually padded it in the last pre-election weeks by campaigning repeatedly in battleground states from Wisconsin to Arizona, Nevada to Michigan.


          But Trump demonstrated that hard work and myriad rallies in key states have power even when a candidate is down in the polls and many big donors have deserted.


          Biden’s war chest rose to about $500 million in the pre-election weeks, while Trump’s fell below $300 million, one result of Trump’s early spending, but Trump’s hard work helped in states like Georgia and Florida, where almost all polls gave Biden pre-election leads, but Trump won handily.


          Another reason polls proved less reliable this year than in 2018’s mid-term election is that voters appeared more volatile than expected, many changing their minds months before the vote. Four years ago, every poll showed a narrow election, with the lead fluctuating back and forth and the likely margin projected at 2 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton. This year, Biden had poll-average leads of 5 percent or more since he essentially clinched the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday in early March.


          The bottom line: Polls were far from perfect this fall, about as unreliable as four years ago, especially in state-level polls outside the West.


    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